7 Novels to Take With You on Vacay

ecause our 6 Travel Bucket List Ideas to Add to Your Netflix Queue feature was so popular, we knew we wanted to pull together the literary world into our favorite travel-inspired picks. From Africa to England to Australia to Yugoslavia, this list will have you hopping all over the globe as you honeymoon in some place fabulous. Warning, these will likely have you planning your next vacay before you're headed back home! So whether one of these is an introduction to a new destination or is just holding you over until you can actually visit, enjoy these favorites. No passport required.

Traveling Light by Lynne Branard (2017)

Setting: United States // Genre: Humor, Contemporary Fiction
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Driving from North Carolina to New Mexico with her three-legged dog, a strange man's ashes, and a waitress named Blossom riding shotgun isn't exactly what Alissa Wells ever wanted to be doing. But it's exactly what she needs...

Road trip adventures are always the perfect setting for new discoveries -- destinations and for the self. If you love novels that dare to explore and see quirky characters chart their own paths with a dash of comedy along the way, Traveling Light could be a new favorite of yours. Told in first person and in the present tense, you're front seat with Alissa as she goes on the trip of a lifetime.

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason (2003)

Setting: Myanmar // Genre: Historical Fiction
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In 1886, a shy, middle-aged piano tuner named Edgar Drake receives an unusual commission from the British War Office: to travel to the remote jungles of northeast Burma and there repair a rare piano belonging to an eccentric army surgeon who has proven mysteriously indispensable to the imperial design...

You can tell when an author does his research to weave a tale of exotic places, history, and his own story. With beautiful imagery and perspectives in lengthy detail, The Piano Tuner is definitely a must-read for those who love 19th Century British Literature literary style and captivating destinations in southeast Asia. It's insta-travel in your hammock!

Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann (2007)

Setting: Ireland // Genre: Murder Mystery
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On a hillside near the cozy Irish village of Glennkill, a flock of sheep gathers around their shepherd, George, whose body lies pinned to the ground with a spade. George has cared devotedly for the flock, even reading them books every night. Led by Miss Maple, the smartest sheep in Glennkill (and possibly the world), they set out to find George's killer...

What better story can you get when sheep (yes, you read that right) are determined detectives?! Charming Irish countryside with a whodunit spin is just what a light-hearted vacation orders. If you love Agatha Christie (catch the sheep named Ms. Maple?), the Emerald Isle, and adorably clever animals, Three Bags Full has the cast of characters and the right amount of sleuthing to keep you entertained an afternoon.

Big Little Lies by Liana Moriarty (2014)

Setting: Australia // Genre: Suspense, Contemporary Fiction
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Sometimes it's the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal... A murder, a tragic accident, or just parents behaving badly? What's indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what? ...

Set in Australia suburbia surrounded by three distinctive women's lives, there's a reason that Big Little Lies is a huge favorite amongst readers. With a funny skilled writer at the helm, Big Little Lies is a domestic tale that weaves in interesting characters and surprising plot twists to keep you intrigued until the very end. It shows how every marriage is different, especially in a small beach town. Even if you don't have kids but are a fan of Desperate Housewives, this would be one to stash in your straw bag!

That Summer by Lauren Willig (2014)

Setting: England // Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
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2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it's a joke. She hasn't been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six, an event she remembers only in her nightmares. But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house―with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas―bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house's shrouded history begins to open...

1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur's collection of medieval artifacts...

For fans of Willig's Pink Carnation series who want to live in her editorial world but experience a fresh new story arch, That Summer is going to be the perfect escape. With insight into Pre-Raphaelite England and modern-day self-discovery, it's a Anglophile's dream and has everyone wishing for an inheritance in the UK somewhere. (And if you're fond of classic painters and poets, you'll see some wonderful cameos that will make you smile!)

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn (2013)

Setting: France, Kenya // Genre: Historical Fiction
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Paris, 1923: The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even among Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather's savanna manor house until gossip subsides...

It takes a talented writer to literally paint a world with her words. In A Spear of Summer Grass, the human characters almost fade in comparison to the breathtaking setting and portrait of the African country of Kenya. Safari life, brilliantly painted sunsets, and vibrant red dust all become important to the story but also to the reader. If you love books that transport you to its destination, this is a must read and might have you wanting to book the next flight to Nairobi.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (1934)

Setting: Syria, Turkey, Croatia, Yugoslavia // Genre: Murder Mystery
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Just after midnight, a snowstorm stops the Orient Express dead in its tracks in the middle of Yugoslavia. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for this time of year. But by morning there is one passenger less. A 'respectable American gentleman' lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside . . . Hercule Poirot is also aboard, having arrived in the nick of time to claim a second-class compartment -- and the most astounding case of his illustrious career...

It's an oldie, but a classic goodie for train travelers and murder mystery lovers alike. Famous for her sleuthy detectives, Agatha Christie created worlds of whodunits and brain bogglers. Thankfully each of her novels can be standalones, so when you dive into Murder on the Orient Express, you won't be left wondering what happened before. Likely this might be a re-read for you or you might be discovering Hercule Poirot for the first time, either way, you'll feel like you're in the board game, Clue as you read by moonlight on your hotel's balcony!

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (1997)

Setting: London, England // Genre: Fantasy
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Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere...

As the king of urban fantasy, Gaiman pulls, no, actually yanks, in every reader into worlds your imagination didn't even have one iota of dreaming up. With a twist at every corner and a bit of a dark story (one you might not think of bringing on a happily ever after honeymoon!), Neverwhere gives you appetizers of Wizard of Oz and Milton's Paradise Lost allusions which will make any literature fanatic stoked. If you love mythology, a rollercoaster feast of characters, and an upside-down London, then who says poolside reads always have to be light-hearted?! Not us!

- Chelsea LaVere

(Special thanks to friends who suggested some of the above and inspired new additions to our Goodreads "want to read" bookshelves!)

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