Reading lists

Books to make you feel like you’re on holiday, as chosen by our readers

Travelling in the traditional sense might be trickier than normal this summer, but our readers have recommended the books that make them feel like they're on holiday wherever they read them. Grab a book, and get travelling.

Compiled by Francesca Pymm and Sarah Shaffi
The books that make our readers feel like they're on holiday.
Mica Murphy/Penguin

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Oneworld)

We say: Marlon James' Booker Prize-winning novel fictionalises the little-known story of a 1976 incident in Jamaica when seven gunmen stormed Bob Marley's house; the musician survived, but the gunmen were never caught.

Deftly bringing together a vast cast of characters over different decades and continents, James tells a story that's gripping and inventive.

You say: Jamaica in surround-sound, sight, smell and feeling.

@__melissahall on Twitter

The White Album by Joan Didion (4th Estate)

We say: This collection of essays by the legendary Joan Didion is a journey into the America of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The book's title essay begins with the line "we tell ourselves stories in order to live", which would become one of Didion's best known sayings, and which become the title of a 2006 collection by the writer.

You say: The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion because these essays get in your head like a soundtrack to California.

Joost Vormeer on Facebook

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (Atlantic)

We say: Andre Aciman's coming-of-age story takes place during a sun-soaked summer on the Italian Rivera, as 17-year-old Elio falls for Oliver, a scholar staying with his family. Fascinating, heartbreaking and full of emotion, this is an intimate look at first love.

You say: It brings me back to summers in Italy, down to the taste of ripe peaches on the beach!

@imjsmn on Instagram

The Lake House by Kate Morton (Pan Macmillan)

We say: Set over two timelines, this is the story of a country house, Loeanneth, a forbidden love and an unsolved mystery. In 1933, Alice Edevane and her family are preparing for a much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. Seventy years later, Alice lives a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Then a young police detective starts asking questions about her family's past, and Alice has to face up to secrets she's spent her life trying to run away from. 

You say: I read it on summer vacation in England, and every time I read it I just remember that place and the warmth and that summer.

@dani_lange_a on Instagram

Outline by Rachel Cusk (Faber)

We say: In Outline, Rachel Cusk's narrator teaches a creative writing course during an oppressively hot summer in Athens. Through stories of her students and her dinners with other writers, we soon learn that the narrator is a woman learning how to face a great loss.

You say: The way she portrays Greece and its crystal-clear waters is so summerish it hurts.

@emanuelebero on Instagram

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland (Pan Macmillan)

We say: Get swept away by the story of nine-year-old Alice Hart, who goes to live with a grandmother she never knew existed on a native flower farm that gives refuge to women who are lost or broken. In the Victorian tradition, every flower has a meaning; Alice uses this language to say the things that are too hard to speak. But as she grows older, she begins to realise that she needs to find the courage to take control of her own story.

You say: I read it at the start of the year in Australia. It was the perfect on location read, with its gorgeous descriptions of the Australian landscape. It brings back happy memories of travelling.

@glenjenreads on Instagram

Calypso by David Sedaris (Abacus)

We say: Described as "beach reading for those who detest beaches", Calypso is a witty and comic look at middle age and mortality. When he buys a beach house, which he names the Sea Section, David Sedaris imagines long, relaxing holidays spent lounging in the sun with loved ones. But he soon discovers perfection is marred by the fact that you can’t take a holiday from yourself.

You say: Makes me feel like I'm at a beach house with family.

@amberlimshin on Instagram

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (Bloomsbury)

We say: This memoir about Elizabeth Gilbert's search for pleasure, devotion and balance through travel is iconic. From Rome to India to Bali, it's the inspiring tale of searching out happiness from within.

You say: I booked a holiday to Italy (one of the best holidays ever!) just because Rome and the pizza were so well described in the book.

@kajaschuelke on Instagram

All God's Children Need Travelling Shoes by Maya Angelou (Virago)

We say: In the fifth volume of her autobiography, Maya Angelou emigrates to Ghana, where she comes to a new awareness of love, friendship, civil rights and slavery.

You say: The story highlights the warmth shown by the Ghanaian people and the rich cultures and traditions held there. It was transportive and perfect for a read in the sun.

@bookstagramthoughts on Instagram

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