Vacation season is in full swing! As we’re headed to different places in the coming months, our totes are full books we’ve been saving just for our summer adventures. Here at Off the Shelf, we believe vacation is wherever your books is so as we staycation, beachcation, and bookcation, here are the reads we’ll be indulging in.
I usually find thrillers to be the best vacation reads because they’re quick, and they absolutely demand that you finish them before the plane lands. I usually stick with Ruth Ware, and during my vacation to Scandinavia I powered through THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10, which takes place on a Norwegian cruise! The mystery was so gripping I finished it with days to spare and had to pick up another one of her novels at the airport to read while heading home.
I devoured this book on a flight to California and it really hit home for me! Told in Sophie Kinsella’s light-hearted and humorous tone, this was such a compelling story of how we all seem to put our best lives on social media, even though our real lives are far from perfect. I left the story not only being thoroughly entertained but also started evaluating my own use of social media—especially when on vacation!
In my opinion, this is the most accurate look at what a friendship is over the years. It is riddled with petty jealousies, small victories, sweeping emotions, and an inexplicable bond. Elena Ferrante moves the friendship in the foreground while behind it a nation is also evolving, growing and ever changing. You’ll fall in love with Italy just as much as you fall in love with Elena and Lila.
Stuart’s Fictional Dinner Party Guests: Elena and Lila
I’d like to host a dinner with an eye on close friendships. Friendships are fascinating because they are the one relationship in life that you aren’t required to be in because of birth or bound to by law. Those in attendance would ideally have a multiple-decade friendship like Elena and Lila of MY BRILLIANT FRIEND. And even though he’s not fictional, I’d love for my best friend to be sitting at the table, too.
Since I’m going to be in Europe this summer, I decided to choose THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN as my vacation read. It takes place in the late 1700s in Stockholm, which was poor and dirty, not like the beautiful city we know today. Personally, I love a compelling murder mystery and this one does not fall short of that. Niklas Natt och Dag has such a way of setting the scene so vividly, with an unforgettable set of characters. It has plenty of violence and gore—to help remind me to be grateful that I won’t be visiting that version of Stockholm this summer. In fact, Niklas Natt och Dag’s last name translates to “Night and Day,” which I’m hoping resembles my experience compared to the experience of his characters in the book.
On a family vacation I like to spend my downtime engulfed in a plot-twisty and puzzling story. The mystery THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL is both devastating and spellbinding. When Abi Knight gets a call that her teenaged daughter, Olivia, has fallen off of a bridge, she never expects to learn her daughter is brain dead and pregnant. Then, she sees the bruises on her daughter’s wrists and is left with even more questions: Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or is there something more sinister at play?
In the vein of Big Little Lies and Reconstructing Amelia comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.
A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.
In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.
When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?
Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?
For vacation reading I tend to be really conservative with my selection and pick an author I know I will enjoy and dive into something I’ve never read before. For my last few trips I’ve packed along a Kurt Vonnegut book because I know it will be an easy, funny, and wacky ride. Next up is GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER.
In 2009, Alain de Botton spent a week as a writer-in-residence at London Heathrow airport. The result was this fascinating meditation on the profound nature of arrival and departure, something we rarely stop to consider while racing to our gate or waiting for our boarding group to be called. I devoured this 100-page book on my last vacation, reading each section as it corresponded to the stage of my flight.
One of the best vacation reads I have ever picked up was EROTIC STORIES FOR PUNJABI WIDOWS. It’s an extremely empathetic, laugh-out-loud funny, and touching book that I blew through in two beach days (in-between my sun naps!). Not only does it feature a great cast of characters, each experiencing their own grief and growth, but there’s also a mystery about a woman’s death weaved into the story—and, of course, erotic stories written by women. It’s a gripping and heartfelt novel perfect for a getaway.