18 Books That Are Better Than a Summer Vacation
Summer is synonymous with vacation, but that doesn't mean everyone will jet off to fabulous beaches or exotic locales just because the weather is getting warmer. Sometimes you can't take time off from work, or a getaway simply isn't in the budget. That doesn't mean you have to settle for nursing vacation envy while you scroll through your Instagram feed. Instead, you can pick up a book that's way better than a Summer vacation, because let's face it: No matter how great a trip is in real life, they all come with their downsides (jellyfish stings, standing in endless lines at amusement parks, all of the sunburn). Books provide all of the adventure, romance, and fun without any of the mosquito bites or plane delays.
The books on this list all feature characters who are hitting the road so that you don't have to. From an unexpected honeymoon for a decidedly not married couple to three sisters' emotional pilgrimage to India, these novels are the perfect antidote to your Summer blues.
Writing duo Christina Lauren have outdone themselves with The Unhoneymooners. These two authors always weave romances that are steamy and swoonworthy, but Olive and Ethan's story is in a class of its own. At the start, they hate each other, but as the maid of honor and best man at Olive's sister's wedding, they have to play nice — then the entire wedding party gets food poisoning except for them, and Olive's sister proposes the unlikely pair go on her honeymoon together so it doesn't go to waste. What follows is a funny, hot, and delightful tropical vacation with two people who start to realize they don't hate each other so much after all.
In her first novel Montauk, Nicola Harrison takes readers back in time to 1938 to spend the Summer with rich socialites and the people who call the stunning locale home all year round. Thanks to Beatrice Bordeaux, we get to spend time in the elegant hotel that houses New York's elite while they vacation, and enjoy lush descriptions of the village as she finds herself drawn to a man who is very much not her husband.
Sicily is the backdrop for a psychological tale of strained marriages and friendships in Delia Ephron's Siracusa. Two couples jet off to one of the most gorgeous vacation destinations possible, only to find that they can't escape the growing unease that exists among them, no matter how much natural beauty there is to appreciate in the stunning seaside town.
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal is a rich and emotional story of three sisters carrying out their mother's dying wish for them to journey to the Golden Temple in Amritsar in order to carry out her last rites. Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirnia have never been close, but this trip of a lifetime will bring them together as they bond over their mother, their heritage, and the family secrets they're finally ready to share.
Two weeks in Mallorca quickly turns into a tangled web of old resentments and familial tension for the family at the center of Emma Straub's The Vacationers. While no one wants their real vacation to be quite so dramatic, watching these characters deal with the many issues that exist among them is the dose of pool-side therapy you didn't even know that you needed.
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
Historical drama fans, this one's for you. Mackenzi Lee's The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue follows a young bisexual lord as he embarks on a grand tour of 18th century Europe with his best friend in hopes of indulging in every pleasure that destinations like Rome and Paris have to offer. Of course things quickly go awry, but the more complicated this adventure gets, the more fun it is to go along for the ride.
Did you miss out on Summer camp as a kid? Then it's time to pick up Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings. Six artsy teens form a life-long bond at camp, but that bond is tested again and again as they enter adulthood. Only a portion of this fascinating novel takes place during their vacation, but it's a reminder of just how much a single Summer can change a person's life forever.
Daisy Jones and the Six
Going on the road with a '70s rock band at the height of their fame isn't a viable vacation option in real life, but thanks to Taylor Jenkins Reid's electric Daisy Jones and the Six anyone can get a taste of the hedonistic rock and roll lifestyle. Following soulful rocker Daisy at the height of her career is a dizzying, exhilarating experience that will leave you turning the pages way after your bedtime.
The Shortest Way Home
Hannah's life is turning out exactly like she wants it to in Miriam Parker's The Shortest Way Home. She has the perfect job, a flawless Manhattan apartment, and a boyfriend who is about to pop the question. Then a weekend in the sun-soaked vineyards of Sonoma leads Hannah to reexamine everything she thought she wanted and embark on a new journey that could turn her relaxing vacation into a way of life.
The Golden Hour
Beatriz Williams loves sweeping her readers away to sunny locales, but there's something extra special about The Golden Hour. Her new novel takes place in World War II-era Nassau, where intrigue and secrets are abound. Shortly after arriving on the island, journalist Leonora "Lulu" Randolph finds herself embroiled in the mysteries surrounding the willfully exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor and their many unseemly companions. What follows is a delicious trip back in time that melds fact and fiction to form an unforgettable tale of high society backstabbing.
A destination wedding brings all sorts of issues to the surface in Maggie Shipstead's Seating Arrangements. As the Van Meters family descends on the island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of Daphne, everything that can go wrong does. And yes, that includes a whale washing up on the beach.
Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins takes you from the scenic coast of 1962 Italy to the sunny streets of modern-day Hollywood to tell the sweeping story of an almost love affair. This funny, touching, and achingly romantic book jet-sets around the world, but it's the richly drawn characters that will make you fall hard for this engrossing novel.
Forget a beach vacation: If you read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, you'll spend your Summer traipsing around 1743 Scotland with the hunky Jamie Fraser. This time travel fantasy is a luscious romantic epic that begins when a World War II nurse named Claire's belated honeymoon in Scotland sends her on an epic journey into the past that will change her life forever.
The Shark Club
A shark bite wouldn't inspire many people to dedicate their life to studying the creatures, but that's exactly what happens to Maeve in Ann Kidd Taylor's exuberant The Shark Club. Years after being bitten by a shark, Maeve returns to Florida to spend the Summer with her grandmother and reconnect with her roots. What she finds is a potential new romance among the palm trees and key lime pies that defined her youth.
Judy Blume was no doubt a staple of your summers growing up, and the author's works still make for the perfect warm weather reads. In Summer Sisters a young woman named Caitlin is befriended by the intoxicating Vix who shows her how to vacation in style at Martha's Vineyard. Their bond forms the perfect backdrop for this beachy read.
In J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine, a family cottage is teeming with life during the Summer as the Kellehers descend on their home away from home. However, for the three generations of women trying to coexist and keep the peace, the beautiful getaway is less of an oasis and more of an incubator for the fears and resentments lurking beneath the family's carefully crafted facade.
You Me Everything
France is its own character in Catherine Isaac's You Me Everything. This weepy, but hopeful novel follows a woman on a mission to make her son bond with his father, and it's just a happy bonus that along the way there are endless bottles of wine and vivid descriptions of the French countryside to appreciate.
In Amy Mason Doan's Summer Hours the heroine must reckon with the reality hiding behind her nostalgia for the Summer she fell in love with a man who cost her everything. She's heading to the stunning California coast for a wedding that will find the past and present colliding in surprising and affecting ways in this bittersweet story of Summers past.