17 Books to Bring on Vacation, Based on Where You’re Traveling

published Jul 29, 2021
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There’s no better travel champion than a good book. If there’s a trip in your future, but you’re unsure of what to read, try using your surroundings as inspiration.

Leaning into a book based on the destination you’re venturing to can get you absorbed in both your trip and your latest read. From sandy beaches to dense woodlands, get into the mental state of travel with one (or several) of these book recs:

Sandy Beach

1. “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune

Get ready for your heart to explode. In this touching YA/Fantasy novel, a lonely queer soul finds family in an unexpected seaside place.

2. “Rock the Boat” by Beck Dorey-Stein

When NYC PR executive Kate Campbell has to move in with her parents and return to her quirky hometown of Sea Point, secrets and an unexpected romance bubble throughout the swelling summer.

3. “Cantoras” by Carolina De Robertis

It’s 1977, and a brutal military government takes power in Uruguay, which considers homosexuality a dangerous transgression. In defiance of this new leadership, five women create their own secret sanctuary in an uninhabited isolated cape.

4. “Homie” by Danez Smith

The quiet of the beach is the perfect place to enjoy poetry. “Homie” is a love letter to friendship — the good, the bad, the ugly.

Dry Desert

5. “Outlawed” by Anna North

Familiar with the tale of American Old West outlaw Billy the Kid? In this historical fiction western, “the kid” is a woman determined to create a safe haven for outcast women.

6. “A Burning” by Megha Majumdar

This debut novel from Megha Majumdar has so much to offer, including the perspective and voices of three distinct characters, excellent pacing, and a unique plot. It’s a story of political corruption, economic disparity, and gender identity in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India.

7. “Summer Fun” by Jeanne Thornton

While working at a hostel in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Gala, a directionless young trans woman, decides to write letters to the lead singer of the ’60s band The Get Happies. She is obsessed with the band and wants to discover why they broke up and never released their album “Summer Fun.” In doing so, she sheds light not only on the band but on herself.

8. “Winter Pasture: One Woman’s Journey with China’s Kazakh Herders” by Li Juan, translated by Jack Hargreaves

Imagine traveling alongside a family of Kazakh herders as they take 30 boisterous camels, 500 sheep, and over 100 cattle and horses to pasture for the Chinese winter. That’s what writer Li Jaun did, and she chronicles her experience in this nonfiction travel memoir.

Tropical Jungle or Island

9. “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding

Whether or not you had to read this in school, now is a great time to revisit this dystopian classic about a group of schoolboys who find themselves stranded and unsupervised on an uncharted island. Here’s hoping your island vacay is nothing like this book.

10. “Popisho” by Leone Ross

In this fantasy novel, Popisho, a fictional archipelago, is a place of stunning beauty and mystery that needs a change, as told through its unforgettable characters. “Everyone in Popisho was born with a little something-something, boy, a little something extra. The local name was cors,” Ross wrote. “Magic, but more than magic. A gift, nah?”

Busy City

11. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison

For Ralph Ellison’s unnamed narrator in this 1952 classic, being Black in America is synonymous with being invisible. Filled with Ellison’s witty, lyrical writing style, it’s a difficult, yet timeless story.

12. “Dominicana” by Angie Cruz

Unlike her peers, 15-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America away from the Dominican countryside. But when the opportunity arises for her to marry Juan Ruiz and move to NYC, she chooses the loveless marriage to a man twice her age.

13. “Harlem Shuffle” by Colson Whitehead

From the author of “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys” comes this love letter to 1960s Harlem. It doesn’t come out until Sep. 14, but if it’s anything like Whitehead’s other books, it’ll be the talk of the book (and general) world in no time.


14. “Sorrowland” by Rivers Solomon

Seven months pregnant, Vern flees to the woods to escape her strict religious cult. But demons find her even in the forest.

15. “Lakewood” by Megan Giddings

This book is part “Get Out,” part “The Handmaid’s Tale.” When Lena Johnson’s grandmother dies, leaving behind a large family debt, Lena leaves college and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan to help support her family. The position has all the perks; the catch is that Lena must lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood.

16. “The Whisper Man” by Alex North

If you’re easily spooked, don’t read this book at night. Tom Kennedy and his son Jake move to the town of Featherbank just as a little boy vanishes. He was hearing whispering at his window at night, and now Jake hears it, too.

17. “The Year of the Witching” by Alexis Henderson

Her entire life, Immanuelle Moore is certain of two things: she is considered an outsider for being of mixed race, and she should never go into the woods. But now the woods are calling her, and the spirits lurking there seem to want to help Immanuelle.