When we're on holiday we read in slightly different way. It could be a time to really throw yourself into a classic novel or to read something gloriously trashy without any guilt. We're big fans of 'location reading' or matching your book to the place you're travelling to. The oldest of our collection was published in 1856 (Madame Bovary) and the newest came out last July (Cathi Unsworth's Weirdo). You can follow fish around India and bath toys around the Pacific, take a good long look at Vancouver and Marrakesh or find out how it feels to have your sister elope with a ghost. We'd love to know what you think of these choices and if you do take any on holiday with you.
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A Room With A View, E M Forster
Oh, to be kissed in an Italian field of violets… A young Edwardian lady, Lucy Honeychurch, travels to Italy with her cousin and meets a father and son in the same pensione. But does she love George Emmerson?
Why is it a holiday read? Italy is a place of passion, art and violence in E M Forster’s novel, whereas England is a place where people in Surrey get cross about games of tennis.
Swamplandia, Karen Russell
The Bigtree family run an alligator-themed amusement park deep in the Florida swamp. Mother Hilola has died, grandfather Sawtooth is in a nursing home and father Chief is becoming increasingly erratic. The story is told from the point-of-view of youngest child Ava as she watches her brother run away to the mainland and her sister fall in love with a ghost.
Why is it a holiday read? Swamplandia, Russell’s debut, was one of the best books published in 2011 and, amongst other things, she captures both the humid, strange side of Florida and its air-conditioned corporate theme parks.
Bonjour Tristesse, Francois Sagan
Sagan’s narrator Cecile has a chic life, living in Paris with her charming father and holidaying on the French Riviera. Despite being 17, Cecile initially appears world-weary, but the more adolescent aspects of her character come through
Why is it a holiday read? The Riviera sections contain enough glamorous description to leave you starry-eyed whilst the plot gradually winds up the psychological tension.
Hideous Kinky, Esther Freud
A single mother and her two children head to Marrakech in the 1970s in search of love, nirvana and a break from the norm. Freud delves into her own hippie past to deliver this delightful and often hilarious tale, conjuring up crowded medina alleyways, incense and the heady scent of adventure from a child’s eye.
Why is it a holiday read? If this doesn’t inspire you throw a pair of flip-flops into a rucksack and go exploring, nothing will.
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Laurie Lee
The follow up memoir to Cider with Rosie sees Laurie Lee leave his home in Gloucestershire for London, and then Spain, as he treks from coast to coast during the Spanish Civil War.
Why is it a holiday read? The rustic romance of Laurie Lee’s epic Spanish trip, from camping out under the stars to making friends with the locals will appeal to any intrepid traveller.
Kitchen Confidential, Antony Bordain
Bordain is a chef, writer and TV presenter. He’s totally unapologetic about his own drug-taking and hellraising. Kitchen Confidential lifts the lid of the bad behaviour and the strange characters (Adam Real-Last-Name-Unknown stands out for us) behind the swinging kitchen doors of most restaurants.
Why is it a holiday read? Reading about his youthful stint in the Cape Cod beach town of Provincetown will make you look more than twice at everyone wearing chef’s whites in your own resort.
50 Shades of Grey, EL James
Rich entrepreneur Christian meets sweet, virginal Anastasia. A lot of bondage-based sex ensues. But you probably knew that much anyway.
Why is it a holiday read? It’s the fastest-selling paperback in the UK to date. Don’t you want to know what all the fuss is about?
The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins
Set in a future version of what was the United States, the three books, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, follow Katniss Everdeen as she rebels against the repressive state.
Why is it a holiday read? The three are pacey, female-centric action reads. Plus, once again, you can see what all the fuss is about.
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
Hemmingway’s 1926 novel captures the indolence and heavy drinking of expatriate Paris between the wars. The narrator Jake and the independent-yet-selfish Lady Brett Ashley then head to Spain, but as Jake points out: “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.”
Why is it a holiday read? You may always take yourself when travelling, but Jake and Brett make for interesting companions. The description of the fiesta is also one of the best descriptions of a large party ever written.
The Beach, Alex Garland
The Beach is part of a grand tradition of novels exploring the dark side of paradise, this time set amongst a mid-Nineties backpacker set who form a supposedly idyllic community on a remote Thai beach.
Why is it a holiday read? Garland’s debut novel perfectly captures the characters and the scenery of the backpacker trail. Although you may become more wary about who you talk to in bars.
The Camomile Lawn, Mary Wesley
A very British holiday book, The Camomile Lawn follows five cousins and their surrounding friends and family throughout the Second World War. Lots of bed hoping, but done in a wonderfully matter-of-fact way.
Why is it a holiday read? Set mostly in Cornwall, The Camomile Lawn will make you yearn for the sound of the sea and parties outdoors. If you are heading south west, the tangled relationships will give you something absorbing to read on your epic English journey.
Riders, Jilly Cooper
Sex, show jumping, posh people and the deeply-annoying-but-still-doable Rupert Campbell Black, Riders is bawdy and what its characters would describe as “damned good sport.”
Why is it a holiday read? It’s so much fun. This is classic bonkbuster territory.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
Made up of several love stories, all set on the Greek island of Cephellonia in the middle of World War II, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is romantic and heart-wrenching.
Why is it a holiday read? Passion, blue water and stringed instruments – it’s what the Mediterranean is supposed to be about.
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
This is the book you go to when you want an epic, classic novel. Covering politics, but truly leaping along when it comes to war and domestic life, Tolstoy’s novel is one of the best.
Why is it a holiday read? The Penguin classic edition weighs in at 864 pages. If you want to concentrate and throw yourself into a book take Anna on holiday.
My Life in France, Julia Child
The entertaining memoir of beloved cookbook author and TV Chef Julia Child (her Mastering the Art of French Cooking was revolutionary when it was released) tells of her journey from an American in Paris, confused by local cuisine, to Cordon Bleu trained chef.
Why is it a holiday read? Child’s origins as an awkward food tourist will strike a chord with anyone who has ever tried (and failed) to eat like a local, and her passion for what she does will make you fall in love with French food all over again.
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Florentino Ariza falls deeply in love with Fermina Daza and, even though she rejects him, he waits for her as they both age. Lush and wonderfully written, Love in the Time of Cholera likens obsessive love to a disease and makes the slightly sinister Florentino seem thoroughly understandable. (An interesting side question for those who have read the book: do you think camomile tea tastes like windows?)
Why is it a holiday read? Heat, midges, obsession and beauty.
Strands, Jean Sprackland
Strands covers a year of walking on the beaches between Liverpool and Blackpool and Jean Sprackland is a highly poetic beachcomber. Strange things wash up on beaches and are often washed away again.
Why is it a holiday read? Wild and windy beaches have just as much charm as calm sunbathing spots.
The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford
The first part of the book is a charming childhood account, based quite closely on Mitford’s own, of the upper-class Radlett family and their cousin Fanny. We then follow Linda Radlett, who has always longed for romance, through a series of unsuitable relationships.
Why is it a holiday read? Linda life in Paris is initially the stuff of romantic fantasy, wildly in love, clothed in couture and living in an apartment filled with mirrored art deco furniture.
Like Water For Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
The number one bestselling novel in Mexico for two years, this heady mix of romance, tragedies, and home recipes centres around the history of the all-female De La Garza family.
Why is it a holiday read? Passionate love affairs, exotic food and family drama: the novel sounds like a classic summer holiday and makes the perfect accompaniment to one, especially if you’re heading South of the Border.
Weirdo, Cathi Unsworth
Who are the locals in your seaside town? Unsworth’s novel is a fascinating slice of British noir, set in small resort on the coast of Norfolk. A private investigator picks up a cold case, a 15 year-old school girl convicted of murdering a classmate, and Unsworth uses it to look at ideas of belonging, the occult and the strangeness of our flat, eastern counties.
Why is it a holiday read? Conjure up dark imaginings about the people around you.
The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
Countess Ellen Olenska has separated from her husband, scandalising her high-society relations on her return to America. Newland Archer, engaged to Ellen’s sweet-but-dull cousin May, falls in love with the Countess.Love is powerful, but is it a match for the expectations of 1870s New York society? Wharton won a Pulitzer prize for Age of Innocence, the first ever awarded to a woman.
Why is it a holiday read? Newland and Ellen meet again whilst spending August in Newport, Rhode Island. Find out what America’s great industrialists did on holiday.
My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell
Durrell’s eccentric family moved to Corfu in the 1930s and this is an account of their time there, living in villas filled strange friends and lizards. Durrell, as a child, roams all over the Greek island pursuing his interest in natural history.
Why is it a holiday read? Durrell’s book, and the two TV adaptations in 1987 and 2005, are responsible for how many people in the UK picture Greece.
The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean
A brilliant non-fiction story, beginning with a group accused of poaching rare ghost orchids from a Florida swamp, but spreading outwards into those who are obsessed with orchids and the nature of obsession in general. This is the book the central character in the Charlie Kaufmann film Adaptation fails to adapt.
Why is this a holiday read? Orlean is fascinating on most topics, but top notch at describing humidity.
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
Le Cirque des Rêves is a wandering circus, travelling through Victorian-era England but only open at night, where magical sights such as a fire-breathing paper dragon astound guests. But behind the black and white striped tents, a battle between two young magicians, Celia and Marco is heating up – a fight which gets ever more complicated as the pair fall in love.
Why is it a holiday read? The magical plot offers the perfect dose of escapism for a holiday – especially if you had to swap a sunny beach for a rainy staycation.
The Voices of Marrakesh, Elias Canetti
Nobel Prize Winner Canetti visited Marrakech in the mid-1950s, and was so affected by what he saw and the people he met, he wrote this book of beautifully crafted essays on the city. A different kind of travel read that truly captures its destination.
Why is it a holiday read? If you’re visiting Marrakesh (or Morocco), these essays provide an evocative background to the city, from the buzz of the souks to the smell of spices and camel markets and the cries of beggars and street children.
Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
Just as good as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility revolves around lives and loves of the Dashwood sisters – rational Elinor and wildly romantic Marianne. Unsuitable suitors, comic characters, and the ability to see ourselves in each sister show why this classic has been adapted on screen so many times.
Why is it a holiday read? If you haven’t already read this Austen classic, the beach is the perfect place to discover her sharp wit and strong female leads. If you studied it at school, or read it years ago, reacquaint yourself with the Dashwood sisters – Austen novels are even better the second time around.
Moby Duck, Donovan Hohn
This non-fiction book traces the fate of a shipping container full of plastic bath toys which went overboard in the Pacific in 1992. The ducks and other toys are still floating around the world and have become cult objects for beachcombers.
Why is it a holiday read? Moby Duck is a modern adventure story that will make you stare at the sea and marvel.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami
Toru Okada loses his job, his cat and then his wife. His pursuit of the latter leads him to a motley crew of unusual characters and situations, from two psychic sisters to sleazy politician.
Why is it a holiday read? An unsettling and sometimes frustrating book, the bizarre chain of events leave you desperate to keep reading and find a conclusion. It’s also a fascinating picture of contemporary Japan, so pack it in your suitcase if you’re visiting.
Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Thanks to grandiose Oscar-winning film, most of us know the love story of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, can hum the classic theme tune, and know “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” is one of the greatest one-liners in movie history. But have you read the historical epic that inspired the film? Mitchell’s tome captures the tragedy of the American Civil War and Rhett and Scarlett’s feisty romance in all the more detail.
Why is it a holiday read? Firstly, it’s got everything – love, drama, tragedy – that a good beach read needs. Secondly, it’s a hefty tome – so it’ll last you most of the holiday.
Tales of the City, Armstead Maupin
While holidaying in San Francisco during the 70s, country bumpkin Mary Ann Singleton does what most of only dream of when we fall in love with someplace new – she likes it so much that she decides to stay. Her new life in the city is something of a baptism of fire for naïve Mary Ann as she gets to know her neighbours in her apartment block in 28 Barbary Lane, from her pot-growing landlady Mrs Madrigal to members of San Francisco’s growing gay community, including gay best friend Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver and boho bisexual Mona Ramsey.
Why is it a holiday read? A contemporary portrait of San Francisco in the 1970s, Tales of the City serves as a brilliant reminder of the interesting and unexpected people you can meet when you open yourself to travel.
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Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
Adored by her best friends and parents alike – but still unable to meet the perfect man - thirty-something singleton Bridget Jones is plagued by angst about the state of her love life, her career and her weight, making for a laugh-out-loud treat.
Why is it a holiday read? A fun and easy read, a holiday is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with Bridget Jones; Fielding’s Bridget is even more witty and personable than the character we’ve got to know on the big screen.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles
A classic tale of lust, shame and the repression of Victorian society, The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a slow-burning but evocative read with stunning descriptions of coastal England.
Why is it a holiday read? With intricate prose and three different endings to choose from, this book is perfect for those who like a bit of a challenge from the comfort of their sun-lounger.
On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
Just 22, Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting embark on their honeymoon to Chesil Beach. It’s 1962, but instead of wild nights of passion, they painfully face the reality of their relationship: Florence is terrified of it.
Why is it a holiday read? McEwan deftly handles subtleties of Edward and Florence’s relationship, covering extensive ground in a short novella. You’ll wish the outcome could have been different.
The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
This gripping crime thriller follows Tom Ripley, a man given the chance to escape the law and start over in Europe. His pursuit of the good life and what he’d do to keep it make this a shocking and expertly crafted novel.
Why is it a holiday read? Even if you aren’t living the high life on the Amalfi Coast like Ripley and Dickie, this book is the perfect companion to your own Grand Tour of Italy. Plus the twists and turns of the crime plot will have you hooked for the whole trip.
The Enchanted April, Elizabeth Von Arnim
Four very different women leave their life in London behind to stay in a medieval castle on the Italian Riviera. Together they truly unwind and ‘find themselves’ in foreign surroundings.
Why is it a holiday read? First published in 1922, this novel still charms with its descriptive and peaceful, calming prose. A relaxing beach read that proves holidays really are good for us.
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
Meet Mrs Rochester – before she was locked in the attic. Wide Sargasso Sea tells the story of how Antoinette ‘Bertha’ Cosway became Jane Eyre’s violent, disturbed Mrs Rochester.
Why is it a holiday read? Rhys’ eloquent prose, set in the West Indies, gives a much-needed voice to the fiery, alienated Antoinette. Dramatic, full of energy and heart-breaking.
I Don’t Care About Your Band, Julie Klausner
Better known in the US than the UK, Julie Klausner is a comic and writer. This wonderfully-named book is a memoir detailing her bad relationship choices. She’s hilarious, even as you keep shouting “Julie! Dump him!”
Why is it a holiday read? If anything will put a stop to an ill-advised holiday fling it’s this book.
Salt, Jeremy Page
This is a Norfolk novel through-and-through, starting in the coastal salt marshes and moving through to the fenland. Silent Pip tries to piece together his family history, starting with his grandmother, Goose, reading messages into the clouds.
Why is it a holiday read? Take this with you if you go to Norfolk, reading it you can almost taste the samphire.
The Bastard of Istanbul, Elif Shafak
This book was first published in English, but when released in Turkey the author, Elif Shafak, was almost jailed for ‘insulting Turkishness’ and talking about the Armenian genocide. The two central characters are Turkish Asya and Armenian-American Armanoush who explore their intertwined families.
Why is it a holiday read? The book is as crammed with life as the city in its title.
The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough
Known as the Australian Gone with the Wind, The Thorn Birds is an epic, rambling saga that tells the story of the Cleary family from Drogheda, a fictional sheep station in the Australian outback.
Why is it a holiday read? The vivid descriptions of life in the Australian outback will make you want to book a ticket Down Under, and you’ll become so engrossed in the families lives it’ll take falling asleep to make you put it down.
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Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
William Boot, owing to an editorial mix up, is taken away from his column of nature notes and sent to a (fictional) African country as a war reporter. He is innocent and inept and eventually ends up in the middle of a civil war stirred up by the British press. Scoop is one of Waugh’s funniest novels.
Why is it a holiday read? Steal Boot’s telegram style for postcards home: “Weather here good stop no news today.”
The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike
Three divorced women in a Rhode Island beach town discover they have beyond-ordinary powers. Their coven is shaken up by the arrival of the mysterious and devil-like Darrell Van Horne. Updike’s novel is far, far better than the film adaptation, so don’t discount the book if you’ve seen the film.
Why is it a holiday read? See the beach as a place to conjure storms and mischief.
Hollywood Wives, Jackie Collins
One of the greatest bonkbuster’s ever written, Collin’s novel covers the glamorous and seedy sides of LA. There’s sex, shopping, naive startlets, aging leading men and a serial killer. What more could you want?
Why is it a holiday read? This book was pretty much written to be read by a pool.
The Shining, Stephen King
Ever wondered what it’s like to be possessed by a hotel? Aspiring writer Jack Torrance takes a caretaking job at the remote Overlook lodge and is driven towards alcoholism and insanity by the building’s spirits, spirits sensed by his small son Danny. Intensely creepy and one of King’s best.
Why is it a holiday read? Have you ever walked down an empty hotel corridor and wondered what’s going on behind all those closed doors?
Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” says the narrator of Rebecca in the famous opening line. Manderley was the English stately home owned by her husband Max de Winter, filled with memories of his dead first wife and the sinister, but very-much-living housekeeper, Mrs Danvers.
Why is it a holiday read? Most people focus on the central Manderley-set chunk of Rebecca, but the narrator and Max meet on the French Riviera.
Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie’s descriptions on 1930s society are always a joy. Death on the Nile follows detective Hercule Poirot and a mixture of socialites, archaeologists and an erotic novelist along an Egyptian river cruise. Yes, people die, but Christie brings her usual sense of glamour to even the most upsetting events.
Why is it a holiday read? It’s very easy to imagine you are the kind of person who could take a Grand Tour whilst you are reading Christie.
The Dud Avocado, Elaine Dundy
Sally Jay Gorce is an American girl hanging around Paris in the late 1950s, hoping to be an actress. She’s also an absolute treasure, with her pink hair and a habit of wearing evening gowns in the day as she has mismanaged her laundry. Read this, not for the screwball plot, but for Sally’s way with words.
Why is it a holiday read? Sally tears around France, being young and interested in everything. Perfect for a holiday in mainland Europe.
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Kerala, where The God of Small Things is set, is known by the locals as ‘God’s own country’. When you get there you’ll see what they mean. Roy’s tale of twins growing up is a lyrical depiction in the state and the complications of family.
Why is it a holiday read? Mangos, palm trees, quiet backwaters.
The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye, AS Byatt
The title story in this collection is the last and the longest and the one you should turn to. A middle aged English academic buys a bottle whilst at a conference in Istanbul, unleashing a genie.
Why is it a holiday read? A wonderful story, with several smaller stories contained within and a very easy way to pick up on history, myths and legends.
One Day, David Nicholls
A believable almost-romance between two university friends, spanning many years. One to gallop through and shed a tear or two over.
Why is it a holiday read? If you didn’t read it last summer you really should this year.
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A Visit From The Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
Shifting through characters, times and places, Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winner should be a cacophony, but the chapters all hang together and you quickly become immersed in the flow.
Why is it a holiday read? This novel contains the most moving description of a power Point presentation we’ve ever come across. You’d never believe that at work.
The Code of the Woosters, PG Wodehouse
One of the most popular Jeeves and Wooster books, this tale of engagement mix ups and antique silverware will keep you entertained.
Why is it a holiday read? A paperback in a foreign field that will be forever England.
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
Flawed as she is (all that racking up debt and infidelity) Emma Bovary isn’t completely without sympathy. Almost, but not quite.
Why is it a holiday read? Emma’s most thoughtless acts are a result of her feeling trapped by the society she lives in. What is a holiday if not a temporary escape from the society you live in?
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
An autobiographical graphic novel, Persepolis tells the story of Satrapi’s childhood and adolescence in Iran. It’s funny and sincere.
Why is it a holiday read? Very good at showing how real life continues in and around political upheaval.
The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach
One of the most talked about books of 2011, The Art of Fielding, follows the characters around a baseball team at a university in the Midwestern US.
Why is it a holiday read? Chunky and absorbing, this will carry you through the longest layover. Plus you don’t need to enjoy sport to love it.
The Song of Achilles, Madeleine Miller
Boy prince Patroclus is a disappointment to his father pretty much from birth. After an incident which comes to define his life, Patroclus is sent away to live in a kingdom which hails demi-god and Greece’s greatest fighter, Achilles, as its prince. This year’s Orange Prize winner is a beautiful retelling of one of the most famous stories in Greek history.
Why is it a holiday read? From the white-sand beaches of Achilles and Patroclus’ childhood to the sea-bound journey to Troy, the southern Greek coast setting of The Song of Achilles makes it an obvious destination read, and one which brings to life the ancient history steeped along the shoreline.
Tender is the Night, F Scott Fitzgerald
Set on the French Riviera, the decadent lives of the two main characters – Dick and Nicole Driver – are as sparkling as the sea. However – as with Fitzgerald’s earlier novel The Great Gatsby – all is not as it seems, as the couple’s relationship, and they themselves, begin to break down.
Why is it a holiday read? A great way to be transported back to the glamorous hey-day of the French Riviera, but Tender is the Night packs a punch with enough psychological depth and tragedy to elevate it beyond a frivolous beach read.
Bring up the Bodies, Hillary Mantell
The sequel to the Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies is set in Tudor England in 1535, exploring the destruction of Anne Boleyn through the eyes of Henry VIII’s Chief Minister, Thomas Cromwell.
Why is it a holiday read? Historical Fiction at its best, the sexual politics, gossip and power struggles of the Tudor Court make for a riveting read. Mantel is a gifted storyteller, and whilst her books aren’t an easy skim on a sun lounger, you’ll be hooked after the first few pages (and get nods of approval from fellow holidaymakers).
Charlotte Street, Danny Wallace
The first novel from comedy writer (and ShortList columnist) Danny Wallace is a classic boy meets girl tale with a (slighty stalker-ish) twist, in which the amusingly named Jason Priestley tries to track down the object of his affection using photos from her disposable camera.
Why is it a holiday read? If there was ever a time for an uplifting, romantic but not schmaltzy, and well, fun book it’s on holiday. Wallace’s amiable style and protagonist’s amusing mishaps make Charlotte Street this year’s One Day.
The Stars In The Bright Sky, Allan Warner
Six girls, once members of their school choir, reunite for a cheap holiday and a whole lot of drinking. Not one of them is the heroine and Warner allows you equal access to each girl’s mind.
Why is it a holiday read? The book is mostly set in and around Gatwick airport. Use it to hide behind if you come across a real-life character like Manda.
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The Accidental, Ali Smith
No one else writes like Ali Smith, but we do wish they could. The Accidental drops in on one family in a holiday cottage, as does a wandering stranger, Amber, who somehow manages to stay with them for several weeks and weaves into their lives.
Why is it a holiday read? Astrid, aged 12, is a perfect character, switching neatly between boredom, anxiety and pleasure. You probably felt like Astrid on childhood holidays.
The Rotter’s Club, Jonathan Coe
It’s the 1970s and a group of teenagers are discovering music, politics and one another in a suburb of Birmingham. Coe’s novel has some great comic moments, but also focuses on wider events and the whole “ungodly strangeness” (the author’s words) of the decade.
Why is it a holiday read? Holidays, in Wales and Denmark, provide the settings for some of the books pivotal scenes.
Exile and the Kingdom, Albert Camus
The six short stories in this collection all explore what it is to feel like an outsider, even in your own country. They are dark, as you might expect from an existentialist writer, but alive and vivid.
Why is it a holiday read? Algeria, Brazil, France: Camus looks squarely at a good range of the world.
Following Fish, Samanth Subramanian
A wonderful collection of journalistic essays from different points on the Indian coast, Following Fish is more about people, places and food than aquatic life. It’s beautifully written and full of good stories too.
Why is it a holiday read? Sunramanian covers more of India than you could ever hope to in one trip. By reading this book you can travel with him.
Hey Yeah Right Get A Life, Helen Simpson
Harried mothers raising small children feature in most of these short stories. They can make somewhat brutal reading (and certainly induce a level of fear and thankfulness in the childless), but Simpson is alert to humour and tenderness throughout.
Why is it a holiday read? The final story takes on the family holiday and is both vicious and gentle. Read it with understanding or relief, depending on your situation.
The Constant Gardener, John le Carré
A reserved British diplomat finds his life thrown into turmoil after his impassioned young wife is murdered in a remote area of Kenya. Will he cut through the political intrigue surrounding her death before it’s too late?
Why is it a holiday read? Fusing conspiracy theory with a strong sense of place, le Carré’s story will carry you through even the most bum-numbing of bus rides.
Twelve Bar Blues, Patrick Neate
Split between New Orleans, a fictional African country and London, Twelve Bar Blues is a cracking story, full of jazz and magic and interweaving tales.
Why is it a holiday read? You’ll never read a more entertaining depiction of trying to discover your place in the world.
Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto
Relationships, food and, more unexpectedly, cross-dressing are all themes that crop up in Kitchen. The book consists of two stories, both set in Yoshimoto’s time and place of writing 1980s Japan.
Why is it a holiday read? Most of the Japanese literature translated into English can be categorised as Murakami, geishas or gangsters. Not Kitchen, which is a passionate look at modern Japan.
The Summer Book, Tove Jansson
The Summer Book is an adult novel by Jansson, most famous for creating the Moomin series for children. In it a small girl and her grandmother explore their holiday island in the Finnish archipelago and no detail is too small for a story.
Why is it a holiday read? A charming account of time spent away.
Wish You Were Here, Travis Edelborough
Full of facts, yet highly personal, Wish You Were Here looks at the British coast and how we feel about it. From a place to fish through to holiday destination, Elborough studies what makes the seaside both saucy and seedy.
Why is it a holiday read? Sex under the pier, memories of pirate themed restaurants, investigating immigration, seaside boarding houses and the magik of Alistair Crowley: how could you not want to slot it in next to the Kiss-Me-Quick hat?
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After You’d Gone, Maggie O’Farrell
Set in nineties London and Edinburgh, this brilliant debut novel pits a family saga against probably the best love story you’ll ever read.
Why is it a holiday read? Who doesn’t love a good romance on the beach? Be warned though, this is not light stuff and you may need some tissues handy
The Quiet American, Graham Greene
A cynical British journalist, an idealistic American diplomat and a beautiful Vietnamese woman become entwined in one another’s lives on the cusp of chaos in 1950s Saigon.
Why is it a holiday read? Greene presents a beautiful and nuanced portrait of pre-war Vietnam and anyone heading for South East Asia will appreciate the historical snap shot.
Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, Peter Godwin
Witch doctors, arrow fishing and jungle insurgents are the order of the day as Peter Godwin presents an unflinching memoir of his colonial childhood in former Rhodesia and its violent transformation to Zimbabwe.
Why is it a holiday read? A spirit of gung-ho adventure emanates from each page and it’s a must-read for anyone who loves Africa.
The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam, Lauren Liebenberg
Liebenberg’s debut novel is told through the eyes of a young girl growing up in 1970s Rhodesia and explores how her world is turned on its head by the arrival of a sinister teenage house guest.
Why is it a holiday read? Part fairy tale, part coming-of-age, this lyrical tale is infused with the sights and smells of Africa.
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
Mississippi, 1962. Aspiring writer Miss Skeeter persuades two black maids to document their experiences as “the help”, caring for white children against a backdrop of segregation and prejudice. The results shake their small-town society to the very core.
Why is it a holiday read? Combining humour and rage with some brilliant characters, The Help will have you hooked from plane to train and beyond; the perfect antidote to travel boredom.
Winter in Madrid, C. J. Sansom
Love, deceit and shady dealings are put on a collision course as three very different characters come together in Madrid in 1940, in the aftermath of the civil war and with the shadow of Nazi Europe lurking.
Why is it a holiday read? It’s a thinking man’s spy novel - riveting enough to persuade you away from the poolside bar (at least for a few hours).
The Kite Runner, Khalid Hosseini
The changing face of 20th century Afghanistan – from hippie haven to Soviet war zone and the rise of the Taliban – is examined via the story of Amir, a boy whose life is changed forever through his friendship with his family servant’s son, Hassan.
Why is it a holiday read? Culture shock is at the heart of Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel and it provides a personal angle that goes way beyond the headlines typically associated with modern-day Afghanistan.
The Other Hand, Chris Cleave
A freak incident on a beach in Nigeria resonates in Middle England in Cleave’s shocking narrative told through the voice of an asylum seeker and a recently widowed mum.
Why is it a holiday read? It perfectly captures the transience, danger and thrill of travel – wherever it is you’re going.
A Good Man in Africa, William Boyd
Morgan Leafy is working for the British High Commission in the fictional African country of Kinjanja. He’s selfish and corrupt and not the greatest proponent of either feminism or global understanding. But in Boyd’s hands his downfall is oddly fun.
Why is it a holiday read? Laugh and then make a good effort to understand the culture around you.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells
Wells’ hilariously poignant book intertwines the tale of a mother-daughter rift with that of the Ya-Yas, a group of fiercely loyal and eccentric women whose unique friendship see them through the highs and lows of their lives in small-town Louisiana.
Why is it a holiday read? As the title suggests, it is a divine holiday book that re-affirms the power of female friendships (if you’re on a girlie break) and paints a hypnotic picture of Louisiana.
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Breakfast At Tiffany's, Truman Capote
Darker and sadder than the 1961 film, Capote’s book is more open about just what it is Holly does for money. She’s still the same free spirit though and ‘Fred’ is still fascinated her unconventional life.
Why is it a holiday read? Breakfast at Tiffany’s isn’t just about Holly, it’s also a love letter to New York.
Sex and the City, Candace Bushnell
While a collection of essays may sound like a pretty dull thing to take on holiday, Sex and the City – a collection of Candace Bushnell’s New York Observer columns about the sex lives of her and her friends - provides the perfect antidote to this way of thinking.
Why is it a holiday read? An ode to modern day Manhattan in all its many and vibrant guises
Close Range – Annie Proulx
You’ve seen Brokeback Mountain, now read the story it was based on. Close Range is a collection of short stories, set in hardscrabble towns or high on the range in Wyoming.
Why is it a holiday read? Proulx allows you to experience the wide skies of the American west from anywhere in the world.
Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracey Chevalier
Inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s painting of the same name, Girl with a Pearl Earring author Tracey Chevalier creates a back story for the painting and the girl’s ambiguous look. The result is a historical novel about illicit love and desire set in Vermeer’s bustling household in 17th century Delft.
Why is it a holiday read? Chevalier did her research while writing the novel, visiting Holland and immersing herself in the work of Vermeer and his contemporaries – and it shows. Like Vermeer before her, Chevalier paints an amazing picture of life in Delft during the golden age of Dutch painting.
City of Djinns, William Dalrymple
The city the title refers to is India’s capital, Delhi, and describes Dalrymple’s first year of living there. The book combs through the city’s extravagant history, taking in Mughal emperors, supernatural djinns and British colonialists, but also allows space for gently comic portraits of the author’s friends and neighbours.
Why is it a holiday read? Dalrymple is based in Delhi for half the year and has a better chance than most of understanding this old and chaotic city.
A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
In mid-century India, 19-year-old Lata is unmarried and desperately trying to fend off her mother’s quest to find her a suitor. Who will she choose out of Kabir, Amit and Haresh?
Why is it a holiday read? Love, family drama and the changing face of India: Seth’s weighty, passionate saga is a masterpiece and one that will leave you hopeful, sad and wishing for more (there is A Suitable Girl is in the pipeline).
Apples are from Kazakhstan, Christopher Robbins
Not much has been written about Kazakhstan and Borat was far from accurate, but Robbins’ book is fascinating. He begins a journey to the central Asian country when he hears it’s the birthplace of the apple. He finds a modern business community, men who hunt with golden eagles and a disappearing sea.
Why is it a holiday read? Robbins appetite for travel and discovery are infectious, this is wanderlust bound in paper.
Wild Swans, Jung Chang
The lives of three generations of women – Chang, her mother and her grandmother – are documented against a backdrop of China during a period of massive political and social upheaval, from foot-binding to the brutality of the Cultural Revolution and beyond.
Why is it a holiday read? It’s the kind of gripping book that stays with you a long time beyond reading it, so you’ll need the down time to digest it.
A Case of Exploding Mangoes, Mohammed Hanif
Mohammed Hanif’s comic novel aims to cut through the conspiracy theories, and reveal what actually caused the (real life) plane crash which killed General Zia, the president of Pakistan from 1977 to 1988. However, things are not quite so clear cut. The novel’s narrator, Ali Shigri, is a Junior Officer in the Pakistani Air Force who seeks revenge for the death of his father, which he is convinced - although apparently a suicide - was orchestrated by General Zia himself.
Why is it a holiday read? Filled with superstition, subtle humour and a witty portrait of US relations with Pakistan, A Case of Exploding Mangoes is an entertaining page-turner for by the beach.
Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
Golden’s haunting story follows the changing fortunes of a poor village girl sold to a Geisha boarding house in pre-war Kyoto. With intricate language and detail, it builds up a fascinating picture of Geisha culture, an area surrounded by myth and mystery.
Why is it a holiday read? Golden’s evocative descriptions of pre and post-War Japan are as colourful and exotic as they are mesmerising: a delight for all wanderlusters.
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The Tiger’s Wife, Tea Obrecht
A very worthy winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, The Tiger’s Wife tells many stories – the tale of a little boy his fascination with Tigers, of a granddaughter in search for her grandpa’s past, and of our relationship with life and death.
Why is it a holiday read? As well as a fantastically plotted narrative told in a series of enjoyable anecdotes, this book is an interesting insight into the people, history and culture of the Balkan states. And despite the ‘death’ theme, it’s an uplifting read.
Career Girls, Louise Bagshawe
Louise Bagshawe (or Mensch, as she’s now more commonly known) has had a prolific career writing ‘Chick Lit’ or romantic novels – this is her first, and arguably her best. Posh girl Rowena Gordon and American Topaz Rossi become the best of friends at Oxford, and stay close as they embark upon careers in Music promotions and journalism. But once a man gets in the way, their friendship turns sour…
Why is it a holiday read? An easy to read, enjoyable romp, with more plot twists and turns that you can shake a stick at, this was made for devouring by the pool
The Owl Service, Alan Garner
A contemporary re-telling of the legend of Blodeuwedd, a woman created from flowers by a Welsh wizard, who betrays her husband with another man and is later turned into an owl as punishment. Garner’s story sees three teenagers - step-brother and sister Roger and Alison, and outsider Gwyn -re-enacting the legend, which they discover has been a part of their family for generations.
Why is it a holiday read? Be sure to take this if you’re planning a holiday in Wales - set in the rolling hills and valleys near Aberystwyth, The Owl Service is a brilliant introduction to the mysteries of the ancient land.
City of Glass: Douglas Coupland’s Vancouver
Inspired by all the (annoying) people who pestered him for an insight into his home town of Vancouver, Douglas Coupland’s City of Glass is a collection of short essays and stories written about different aspects of the city.
Why is it a holiday read? Answering all the questions you ever had about Vancouver – before you go or while you’re there - City of Glass is also a tribute to the city from one of its most prominent insiders.
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Set in Nigeria during the Nigerian-Biafran War which took place from 1967 to 1970, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Orange Prize-winning novel tells the story of two sisters, intellectual Olanna and witty Kainene, and their respective partners Odenigbo and Richard. Half of a Yellow Sun explores how the relationships of the foursome come under pressure as conflict takes hold.
Why is it a holiday read? An intelligent and gripping page-turner that will enthral you no matter where you're going
A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Flannery O'Connor
One of the finest American short story writers of the 20th Century, O’Connor’s evocative tales conjure up a dark, gothic image of the American Deep South.
Why is it a holiday read? Got a bit of time to fill at the airport, in a car journey or by the pool? O’Connor’s short stories come in deeply engrossing, bite-sized chunks and will make you laugh, cry, and long to visit the Southern States.
The Africa House, Christina Lamb
The real life story of uptight aristocrat Stewart Gore-Brown and his attempt to build an English manor in the midst of what is now Zambia, in the twilight years of the British Empire.
Why is it a holiday read? From leopards on the lawn to thermal baths in a swamp and the struggle for majority black rule, this is an all-encompassing read that can't help but draw you in, with Africa - in all its beauty and might - the true heroine.
The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende's epic family saga unfolds in post-colonial Chile during a period of massive social upheaval, combining enchanting mystical detail with grittier themes of personal rifts and political repression.
Why is it a holiday read? The magical realism that abounds in Allende's award-winning read is irresistible and will leave you yearning for the exotic vitality of not just Chile, but South America in general.
On the Road, Jack Kerouac
Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty’s journey through 1950s America epitomizes the Beat culture and it tells a winding tale of sex, jazz, drugs and underground culture. We’re a bit excited about the film version.
Why is it a holiday read? It’s the original road trip companion – so if you’ve got a long car journey ahead, this is the perfect thing to dig into when you get sick of staring out the window.
Down Under, Bill Bryson
You can't go wrong with any of Bill Bryson's wryly observed travel books, but Down Under is a particularly funny read - as the ever-feckless author overcomes a fear of sharks, a near-miss with a pack of dogs in the outback and a killer hangover in a bar in the middle of nowhere.
Why is it a holiday read? Bryson's affection for a country that - as he points out - is sometimes overlooked, is infectious. We challenge you not to want to visit Australia after reading this.
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