There is almost nothing I like better than vacationing. Scratch that, there is nothing I like better. Put simply, everything is more fabulous on vacation: coffee, wine, food, sex. (What? You know I’m right.)
And while I am indeed a fan of those annual-ish beach or mountain vacation trips where everything is familiar – and you return to your favorite restaurant and bike trail and landmark year after year, I am an even bigger fan of the first-time-we’ve-ever-been here trips. If you’ve opened any of my novels, you know I’m a fan of incorporating my own personal destination favorites into my storylines, from Central America to the Caribbean to the Chesapeake Bay to the seaside town in New York that I called home for many years.
While my Kindle is overflowing with to-be-read books, I am careful to forego the digital versions of certain books for hardcover or trade paperback. Those books, I set lovingly aside for vacations, or for times I just want to pretend I’m somewhere more fabulous.
Ok, right off the bat, I’m cheating on this list of 10, by including a whole series. But I can’t resist. Harvey’s trilogy, capped off by this summer’s The Southern Side of Paradise, is everything vacation reading is meant to be. Centered around the three Murphy sisters and their mother, and set in the idyllic fictional seaside town of Peachtree Bluff, Harvey weaves a tale of multi-generational secrets, love and loss. Conjuring up all the real emotions of first love and summer loves (swoon!), Harvey will have you laughing and crying and wanting more, even after the very last chapter closes. You’ll be wondering which way to head for your own little bit of Peachtree Bluff magic. Hint: head SOUTH.
Oh, this book. On her 42nd birthday, surrounded by her husband and closest friends, Sophie Bloom discovers that her husband has been fooling around with members of the scandalous married dating site, Ashley Madison. And of course that overachieving husband of hers has been caught with his pants down more times than any other registered user of the cheating site in their suburban Chicago town. (I know! Right?) So begins journalist/author Lisa Barr’s second novel, The Unbreakables, in which Barr immediately sends Sophie (and the reader, of course!) to Paris, where her daughter is studying abroad, and ultimately to the South of France, where Sophie Bloom figures out how to re-ignite her life, her sense of self, and her passions. It’s a sexy, sensual read that transports you to the cafes and museums and gardens (and bedrooms!) that it describes. Plus, it’s so smart and well-written that you won’t have to hide on the beach when you find yourself reading and re-reading it.
It’s been two years since I first read this novel – set in a rugged Irish coastline town that is trying to block the opening of a new copper mine — but I still can’t stop thinking about it. Julie Christine Johnson’s lyrical novel draws from ancient mythology and Gaelic tradition, to tell a contemporary, fresh tale about a town full of unlikely heroes and villains, with decidedly ancient themes. You will hear the waves crashing and feel the wind in your face, and even if you aren’t reading it in some wild and exotic place, you will feel like you are.
One of my favorite reads of the last decade, Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins juxtaposes two timelines – one taking place in a 1960’s Italian coastal hotel and one taking place in modern Hollywood. Real-life players make small but significant, appearances, including Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Part media satire, part epic love story, this book is so intricately written and the female perspectives so interestingly portrayed, I often forget when I get lost in this tale, that it was actually written by a dude. It will make you laugh at contemporary Hollywood, but it will make you want to live in a seaside town – preferably Italian.
Last Christmas in Paris co-authors, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, have teamed up for another collaboration, this time set against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s glamorous wedding to Prince Ranier of Monaco. In Meet Me in Monaco, a persistent British photographer, a movie star and a perfumer cross paths, launching a tale that spans three decades. This much buzzed about historical fiction new release is already garnering rave reviews and will certainly make you wish you were on the guest list of a gorgeous summer destination wedding.
In her newest novel, Elizabeth Gilbert brings to life the theatre world of 1940 New York City with all the powerful wisdom and insight we’ve come to expect from the famed author of Eat, Pray, Love. While this novel doesn’t take the reader on the same geographic journey as Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, it certainly begs for a place in your vacation bag – as it spins a coming of age tale of true adventure.
The follow-up to Susan Gloss’s successful debut, Vintage, is a charming story of art and re-invention. Struggling in grief, Nell Parker takes a job managing an unconventional artist-in-residency program operating out of the lakeside mansion bequeathed by a wealthy late society dame and collector of modern art, Betsy Barrett. With quirky characters and a beautiful story, Gloss will make you wish you had your own artists’ colony to run away to.
Meg Donahue’s reinvention of Wuthering Heights is set at Horseshoe Cliff, a small farm on the coast of Northern California, where Merrow Shawe lives in an idyllic setting while struggling against a not-so-idyllic backdrop of family secrets and cruelty. When mysterious and lovely Amir arrives at Horseshoe Cliff by way of India and New York City, a tale unfolds of love and danger and of finding one’s way. You’ll find yourself swept away by the setting, which is its own character in this book.
In this new Amazon Charts and Washington Post best-seller, Kelly Harms tells the story of an overworked and underappreciated mom, Amy Byler, who needs a break from her life. When her estranged husband shows up with an offer to take the kids for the summer, Amy escapes her life in rural Pennsylvania for a more glamorous, sophisticated one in New York City. By the end of the book (and Amy’s summer), you’ll find yourself wanting a #momspringa of your own!
Tembi Locke’s memoir of food, love, loss, and renewal is one of the most compelling reads of the year (so far!) The story begins with the author’s semester abroad in Florence, where she meets and falls in love with her husband, a Sicilian chef named Saro. The two marry and forge a life together despite the disapproval of Saro’s traditional Sicilian family who objects to their interracial relationship. Later, after Saro becomes ill and dies, Locke and her daughter spend three summers in Sicily connecting with Saro’s mother, a widow herself. Beautiful and poignant, this story will leave you both hungry and satisfied, and definitely yearning for a Sicilian sojourn all your own.