What Makes a Good Vacation Read?

It is the middle of summer and many of us are travelling–or dreaming of travelling!–and  looking for a good book to read on the plane or the train, on the beach or by the pool, or an audiobook for that family road trip. 

But what exactly do we look for in a vacation read?

Do we just revert to our tried and true authors and genres, reread old favorites, or decide to try something totally new? 

I know I personally like to try to mix it up, but there are some general patterns that my vacation and travel reading fall into. Here are a few elements I’ve found myself looking for in the books I’ve read on recent trips.

Escapism and Fantasy

I find myself reading fantasy specifically on planes a lot, not just because I love to read fantasy any time, but also because there’s something about travelling our world that inspires me to want to travel to imaginary worlds! I often read romance as a kind of fantasy or escape as well, so it sort of fits the pattern. But this idea could apply to whatever genre someone finds escapism through, whether that’s sci-fi, historical fiction, or anything else.

A few fantasy and romance books I first read while on a plane or on vacation are:

  • Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik
  • We Hunt the Flame, Hafsah Faizal 
  • The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, India Holton
  • That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon, Kimberly Lemming

Lighthearted Fun

I’ve also found that I enjoy reading a funny book on a plane or car trip, especially if I’m feeling a little anxious about the trip itself, for whatever reason. I’ll read a memoir by a comedian or actor that I like to ease that stress a little bit. Memoirs are especially fun as audiobooks narrated by the author, and audiobooks are also great for travelling if you get motion sickness and find it tough to read!

Some recent audiobooks I’ve enjoyed on various trips are:

  • Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham
  • Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling
  • The Last Black Unicorn, Tiffany Haddish
  • Yes, Please!, Amy Poehler

Education or Research 

This is for the nerds out there! Sometimes when I’m travelling to a new place I’ve never been before, I like to read a biography of someone who lived in that place or a book about its history or culture while traveling there. I find that increases my excitement to explore and gives me a greater appreciation for my destination!

A few books I’ve read for recent trips (and one I’m reading for an upcoming trip) are:

  • Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen, Liliuokalani
  • The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
  • The Refugees, Viet Thanh Nguyen 
  • Above Stairs: Social Life in Upper-Class Victoria, Valerie Green

What is your go-to genre for a vacation read? Do you “save” books to read on vacation? What upcoming trips and reads are you excited for? Let me know in the comments!


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