How to Pack for the Perfect Bookish Vacation

October 19 2017

My best friend and I have a running bit about packing for vacation. Whenever one of us asks how many books to pack, the other says to keep adding books until you’re physically unable to lift your suitcase. We say this in jest, but there is an embarrassing degree of truth to our approach.

Every time I go on vacation, I end up lugging way too many books along and still neglect to bring that perfect combination of genres to satiate my literary appetite on any given day. But not this time. This time I have a plan. This time I’m making a list of bookish packing guidelines guaranteed to work for any vacation.

Here goes.

Pachinko
by Min Jin Lee

1. Do not pack more than seven books. Even if you’re going to the beach for an entire week. Even if you’re going on an international trip for two weeks. Even if you’re going away for a long weekend away to a secluded cabin. Even if your vacation is longer than a month . . . well, okay maybe then you can bring a few more. But sabbaticals excluded, seven books is usually sufficient for one vacation. I’m already saving PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee as one of my next seven vacation reads.

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Pachinko
Min Jin Lee

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The Secrets She Keeps
by Michael Robotham

2. Bring a variety of genres. One or two thrillers, for sure. These books are easy to read and the perfection distraction from jet lag. I highly recommend THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS by Michael Robotham. I’d also bring a literary novel, a memoir, a funny book, a short story collection, a historical fiction, or a love story.

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The Secrets She Keeps
Michael Robotham

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
by Lisa See

3. Stick with what you know. Bring books by authors you already love. This is a great way to ensure you’ll enjoy the books you’re bringing and to avoid wasting space on a dud. Loved SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN? Throw THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE in your bag.

Read the full review of THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE.

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
Lisa See

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The German Girl
by Armando Lucas Correa

4. Ask for recommendations. Consider books that your friends (or Off the Shelvers) have highly recommended. Again, you don’t want to lug around a dud. If you’re asking me, you can’t go wrong with THE GERMAN GIRL by Armando Lucas Correa. It’s a fantastic historical fiction novel perfect for fans of THE NIGHTINGALE and ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE.

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The German Girl
Armando Lucas Correa

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When God Was a Rabbit
by Sarah Winman

5. Pack paperbacks and books you wouldn’t mind leaving behind. The paperbacks will keep your luggage light and bringing books you don’t feel guilty leaving behind opens up room for . . . more books! I always end up at an indie bookstore on my travels and can’t resist buying a new book as a souvenir. On my last vacation I visisted several bookstores in London and bought close to 10 books, including the charming WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT.

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When God Was a Rabbit
Sarah Winman

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State of Wonder
by Ann Patchett

6. Take that one book you’ve been meaning to read for ages. It will feel so good to finally get it off your TBR pile! I’m looking at you, STATE OF WONDER.

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State of Wonder
Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett’s deep research and lush worlds are nowhere more evident than in this novel of morality and miracles, science and sacrifice. Set in the Amazon, where pharmaceutical researcher Marina Singh investigates the enigmatic Dr. Annick Swenson, whose mysterious research is being jealously guarded in the most remote areas of the rainforest.

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The Shark Club
by Ann Kidd Taylor

7. Keep it light. If you’re like me, your brain needs a vacation, too. Leave the serious, high-brow literature at home. And, publishing friends, don’t even think about bringing work books. It can be difficult to get into these books and you may end up hating a book you would have liked in nonvacation mode. I read THE SHARK CLUB on my summer vacation and loved it.

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The Shark Club
Ann Kidd Taylor

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Beautiful Ruins
by Jess Walter

8. Match your destination. Be it the beach, the mountains, or a magnificent European city, it can be really fun to read a book set where you’re vacationing. It may also teach you more about the history of the place you’re touring. I’m sure reading BEAUTIFUL RUINS in Cinque Terre is a magical experience.

Read the full review of BEAUTIFUL RUINS.

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Beautiful Ruins
Jess Walter

Hailed by critics, loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, and featuring what is arguably one of the most iconic covers of recent years, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline in 1962. Funny and romantic, the beauty and wisdom of Jess Walter’s writing in the last chapter alone will leave musical lines of prose engraved in your memory.

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The Nix
by Nathan Hill

9. Bring one long book. If you’re like me, you inevitably get stuck in an airport or in the car for many more hours than you expected. This can be a great time to get power through an extra long, extra good read like THE NIX.

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The Nix
Nathan Hill

If your favorite character is Nancy Wheeler

If you’re a Nancy supporter at the end, you loathe a “traditional female character.” You appreciate Nancy for being a natural gunslinger, choosing the thick-haired hottie over the greasy paparazzo, and not letting her grandma-closet-raiding friend slut-shame her. THE NIX follows a whole gaggle of odd characters but centers on the mystery of a woman who is an intellectual, mother, student, daughter, protestor, lover, and—most of all—recluse.

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Did You Ever Have a Family
by Bill Clegg

10. When in doubt, load up an e-reader with any other books you just couldn’t resist packing. This is a sure-fire way to make sure you never run out things to read without punishing your back. You should probably download DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY. I just read the e-book and it’s incredible.

Safe travels and happy reading!

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Did You Ever Have a Family
Bill Clegg

DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY asks how one goes on after the worst happens. This tender novel shows how we are all connected and how that very connection is the basis for redemption and hope. We won’t lie; you might need Kleenex for this one.

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