Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

What is your ultimate holiday read?


There are few greater pleasures in life than getting your teeth into a truly brilliant book on holiday. But what constitutes the perfect read depends on who and where you are. Jackie Collins might be ideal for crashing out in a hammock in Thailand, for example, yet something meatier is required for that 10-hour stopover in Addis Ababa airport. Some people are drawn to heavy biographical tomes as they while away time on a sunbed, others prefer the escapism of sci-fi fantasy fiction.

We've shared some of our favourite holiday books here at Stylist HQ, with a few unusual choices along the way. Take a look below and let us know your own go-to beach read on Twitter - or grab some inspiration from Stylist's selection of the 100 best holiday reads.

Emerald Street sub editor Siobhan Morrin on 1984 by George Orwell

"I always think holidays are a good time to take on literary classics, and reading and re-reading 1984 inevitably turns up another parallel with the modern world you hadn't noticed before.

"Dystopian fiction might seem heavy going for a holiday, but there can't be many better places than lying on a beach for convincing yourself things aren't all that bad."

Perfect for: A 10-hour bus journey through northern Laos, with plenty of time to foster an Orwellian view of the world. Outstanding scenery will help for pondering the bigger issues, while boredom will enhance the general feeling of foreboding.

Don't pack it if: The idea of futuristic satire has you running for the nearest tequila bar.

Freelancer Anna Pollitt on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson

"A trip to the topsy-turvy fantasy land of Las Vegas deserves some appropriately flamboyant pool-side reading - roll up Thompson's great American novel about a drug-addled road trip across the desert to Sin City.

"Symbolic, subliminal and lacking plot, it may not be a typical holiday read, but it definitely provides escapism."

Perfect for: A hedonistic weekend in Sin City (where else?). You'll either be inspired to cancel that flight home and embark on the ultimate road trip, or you'll be reassured in the knowledge that your own holiday antics are tame in comparison.

Don't pack it if: You like a clear, logical plot and storyline.

Stylist online editorial assistant Sejal Kapadia on The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

"After sitting on a beach or pool-side for an hour or two my impatient nature gets the better of me and I have to do other activities.

"The Time Traveler's Wife is made up of lots of mini stories which allows me to pull away from it when it’s time for lunch, a water activity or an excursion. Plus, you’re not cheated out of that giant, gut-wrenching climax you want from a novel."

Perfect for: A boat trip in the Seychelles. The Indian Ocean is the ideal backdrop for this moving time travel romance and you can dip in and out in-between sunbathing.

Don't pack it if: You're turned off by sentimentality. Niffenegger's fantastical and sweetly played out narrative might grate.

Stylist online writer Anna Brech on Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"I love to get swept up by an epic, drama-filled storyline on holiday - and Half of a Yellow Sun delivers exactly that. Set in Nigeria during the Nigerian-Biafran War of the 60s, it follows the lives and relationships of two, very different, sisters as conflict takes hold.

It's the kind of tragic, eye-opening read that you can spend a whole day wallowing in, before looking up to realise the sun's gone down and everyone else has left for the nearest bar."

Perfect for: A 600-mile train trip through Tanzania. The adventure of it will bring even more gravitas to the book's plot and it's gripping enough to ease you through any number of delays.

Don't pack it if: You're drawn to easy, carefree holiday reads. This is a complex tear-jerker.

Freelancer Sharon Forrester on A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

"I took this book with me on a break in the south of France and even though it's set in Italy, the beautiful descriptions of the landscape and scenery still fit somehow.

"It's a very European novel, especially with the terribly British characters!"

Perfect for: A city break in Florence would be the obvious choice - imagine reading this as you wander around the Piazza della Signoria or Il Duomo.

Failing that, A Room With a View's subtle charm will complement any number of rustic settings across Europe.

Don't pack it if: You veer away from slow-moving, carefully coaxed out plots and quite dense text.

Emerald Street deputy editor Mollie McGuigan on The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

"On his 100th birthday, Allan Karlsson decides he’s had enough of living in an old people’s home – so he hot foots it out the window, heads to the bus station and steals a stranger’s suitcase.

"It kicks-off a lovely story filled with black humour and touching encounters."

Perfect for: Good old-fashioned escapism. Tuck in as you embark on a camper van trip round New Zealand to appreciate Allan Karlsson's escapades as a fellow adventurer. The book's unremittingly cheerful outlook is a great complement to NZ's sun-dabbled landscape.

Don't pack it if: You prefer Scandi-Noir. This is a hit Swedish novel without a glimmer of darkness.

Stylist online writer Elinor Block on the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

"If you’ve not read any of Harry Potter, then I imagine you’ll look at this, roll your eyes and think this is for kids.

"But it’s not just children who can enjoy J.K’s best work. In fact, if you’ve got a Kindle, I suggest you download all seven books."

Perfect for: A two-week holiday to Ibiza. J.K. Rowling's compulsively readable style will take the edge off any hangover and there's plenty of pool time to get through the whole series. Plus, when the plot gets a bit oppressive (especially in the later books), you can take the pressure off with a dose of sublime island scenery.

Don't pack it if: You don't have a Kindle. Lugging seven books around an airport is no-one's idea of fun.

What's your all-time favourite holiday read and why? Let us know on Twitter #beachread or come top up your collection with our pick of the top 100 holiday reads



Inspirational Quotes From Female Writers


Surreal opening lines from literature


Top 10 must-reads of August



JK Rowling invented Quidditch to ‘annoy men’ after row with her ex

The Harry Potter author is such a badass

by Kayleigh Dray
07 Dec 2016

Watch Emma Watson star in chilling new trailer for The Circle

We’re getting serious Black Mirror vibes from this social media thriller

by Kayleigh Dray
07 Dec 2016

Read an exclusive extract from 2017's most hotly anticipated novel

Devour the first three chapters of the psychological thriller here

by Sarah Biddlecombe
06 Dec 2016

Stylist's pick of the best new books for 2017

From family sagas to crime thrillers

by Sarah Shaffi
05 Dec 2016

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: First look at new TV series

Elisabeth Moss dons Offred’s famous red gown for the first time

by Kayleigh Dray
05 Dec 2016

The Girl on the Train author, Paula Hawkins, is back with second book

In a Stylist.co.uk exclusive, here's everything you need to know

by Sarah Biddlecombe
29 Nov 2016

You can now spend the night in the world's first library hotel

Why not cosy up in your own book nook?

by Sarah Biddlecombe
29 Nov 2016

You can now read Jane Eyre in Charlotte Brontë’s own handwriting

A luxury edition of Brontë’s original manuscript has been reprinted.

by Moya Crockett
28 Nov 2016

Mary Berry to meet with ‘civilised’ bookworms who shun #BlackFriday

Forget #BlackFriday; Mary Berry is all about #CivilisedSaturday

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Nov 2016

10 beautiful books to buy as Christmas presents this season

by Scarlett Cayford
24 Nov 2016