Summer is here and should you be looking for your next adventure or considering some seasonal beach chair tourism, here are a few books that may help fuel your wanderlust.
The Book: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
The Location: Italian Coast and Los Angeles, California
Jess Walter’s book doesn’t just cross countries; it crosses decades. Beginning in 1962 in Italy, around the time of filming the big-budget bomb “Cleopatra,” it winds up in Hollywood some fifty years later. The story touches on the intertwining lives of multiple characters somehow touched by the movie. A satirical glimpse at Hollywood, this is less of a travel book and more inspiration for the things a memorable summer vacation might bring you: friendship, heartache, and a great story.
The Book: The Rocks by Peter Nichols
The Location: Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
Constructed around a seaside resort, you will immediately be in the mood to sit in the sun and drift into Peter Nichols’ sexy and mysterious romance at the turn of the first page. Similar to Beautiful Ruins, this book also runs through time, but in this case, backward: What could have happened in the past that would make a couple break up and not speak for sixty years? Mallorca itself is a romantic destination, attractive to all sorts of celebrities, like D. H. Lawrence and Grace Kelley. If you want a boutique village feel nestled in among the olive trees, head to Mallorca. And if you are looking for a novel that will satisfy your need to get lost in a foreign place, head for The Rocks.
The Book: Elephant Complex by John Gimlette
The Location: Sri Lanka
Author John Gimlette takes you inside Sri Lanka by detailing his encounters with the variety of people and creatures that make up the island’s culture and history. Offering a deep look at an unfamiliar place full of amazing stories, while still pointedly remarking on the current suffering from an only recently ended civil war, it is not your typical, easy beach read. However, the pages are filled with Gimlette’s humor and keen fascination with his surroundings, and his writing captures a unique perspective on both the country’s beauty and pain. Ultimately, you will be glad to have spent your time with this book – which will likely leave you feeling pulled to this small island country.
The Books: Jaws by Peter Benchley and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
The Location: Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
A book about shark attacks may not seem like a great idea for summer reading, but Peter Benchley’s famously adapted story cannot be left out, especially if you are considering going to the Vineyard. Although the book is set elsewhere, the film was shot on M.V., and it is a fun tie-in to read a book so much about “being an islander.” Watch the film, and then check out the bridge the massive shark swims underneath. It might be a sick way to enjoy your time in the water, but sometimes you want your fruity, umbrella-bearing, drink served with a little edge.
If you are looking for a read that is positively binge-able, Judy Blume delivers. This particular book is a fun one because it touches on a lot of your usual summer themes: escaping a city, life-changing events that only seem to happen when you are on vacation, and the relationships between best friends. Set on Martha’s Vineyard, it is a bit closer to home, but nothing screams summer the way your time on a New England beach does. Blume’s adult novel follows two characters, Caitlin and Vix, for six different summers, showing their development (or lack thereof) over time. This is a great, breezy choice for a summer book club, and Martha’s Vineyard, with its passage to and from via ferry, adorable shops, distinct towns, and rows of “gingerbread” houses, is a lovely place to while away the time.
The Book: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Location: Barcelona, Spain
A book about books, and a book about secrets. This gorgeous story, full of intrigue and texture, is about the young son of a bookshop owner who finds a novel written by an author with a mysterious history of his own. There is definitely a fantasy element to this tale, but it is a smooth read that will keep you turning pages. Set in 1950s Barcelona, Shadow of the Wind might just inspire you to hop a plane and check out the amazing city, with its fantastic weather, breathtaking architecture, and – though certainly different than what’s featured in the book – fabulous nightlife.
The Book: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
The Location: Tuscany, Italy
Summer can be a great time for starting over, and that is absolutely the spirit of Under the Tuscan Sun. Frances Mayes focuses mainly on her decision to buy and renovate a villa, and her descriptions of the Tuscan life, food, and atmosphere will be enough to have you searching online for your next ticket so you too can experience its incomparable vineyards and frescoes. Many people may be familiar with the Diane Lane film, but there is more depth to be found in pouring a glass of red and reading this slow-burn memoir.
The Book: The Beach by Alex Garland
The Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Although Alex Garland’s debut novel was written in 1998, one of its major themes may be even more relevant today: people in their twenties looking for sanctuary from the noise of media and culture. So while you could sit down and watch the Leonardo DiCaprio film, it might behoove you more to find a secluded spot and dive into the book. If you actually make your way to Bangkok, be sure to check out the floating markets, Temple of Dawn, and the Jim Thompson House. If what you really desire is an escape from the concrete jungle, look no further than a book that will take you into the depths of an actual one.
The Book: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Location: Pacific Crest Trail, California, Oregon, Washington
Summer is a great time to catch up on your reading, so if you haven’t experienced Wild yet, now’s your chance. Cheryl Strayed’s memoir (made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon) serves up emotional baggage in the shape of a backpack and with a side of hiking boots. After feeling her life has fallen apart, Strayed takes a 1,100-mile hike, alone, along the Pacific Crest Trail – a path that travels from the bottom of California, through Oregon, and into Washington. What follows is a trial of endurance and self-discovery. Should you want to spend your vacation doing more than getting a tan, this story is inspiration enough to hit the road, and discover more about both yourself and America’s awe-inspiring landscape. From national parks, to the Bridge of the Gods, the entire journey can take months to complete, but even just finding your way to a section of it – in any one of the states – will offer a memorable experience.
Vacations should always possess the feeling of escape. So if you can’t actually venture to one of these stirring destinations, you can, at the very least, hunker down and disappear among the pages of a fabulous book.