8 Summer reads based on your holiday destination

Meg Walters 3 August 2022

Next time you're packing your bags for a holiday, why not pick out summer read that is set in the place you're visiting? 

It's become very fashionable to travel with a freshly purchased copy of the latest “summer read”. We've all seen the many perfect Instagram shots of a Sally Rooney book positioned perfectly against a beachy backdrop

When choosing my next summer holiday read, I avoid reaching for the latest hyped up hit. Instead, I prefer to search for something set in my destination.

After all, by immersing myself in my holiday destination with fiction, I find myself diving into the local culture and seeing my surroundings with new eyes. 

Read on to discover your next on-location holiday read that is sure to help you romanticise your vacation more than ever.  

Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter—Southern Italy

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter book cover by Penguin Books

A little-known gem, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter sends us spinning into the glamorous world of 1960s Hollywood.

Flitting between a sun-soaked Italian Riviera, the set of Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra and the grimy Edinburgh Fringe Festival, this novel offers sweeping romance, a salacious affair and the sordid allure of old school Hollywood.

Read this luscious novel on a beach in the south of Italy and you will be left with the richly satisfying taste of charcuterie and crisp white wine on your tongue just in time for aperitivos. 

Tender is the Night, F Scott Fitzgerald—French Riviera

Tender Is The Night by F Scott Fitzgerald book cover published by Simon and Schuster

This novel opens with a young up-and-coming American actress, Rosemary Hoyt, on a (seemingly) perfect vacation on the French Riviera.

It's the 1920s. The air is hot and the water is a calm, clear blue. Jazz music plays till dawn. Everyone is rich and charismatic.

But when Rosemary strikes up a complicated romance with an older psychologist, her picture-perfect holiday takes a turn for the worse.

Read this Jazz Age classic on location, and you'll yearn for an illicit affair—along with a cigarette holder and a high waisted retro bikini.

The Island of Missing Trees, Elif Shafak—Cyprus, Greece

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak book cover

Rich as a velvet tapestry, The Island of Missing Trees will make you fall in love with the magical culture and history of Cyprus.

When two teenagers, one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot, meet, they begin a secret romance under the protective branches of a fig tree in a taverna.

Elif Shafak's sumptuous novel spans multiple decades and generations—but at its centre is a heartfelt story about love and belonging in Cyprus.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami—Tokyo, Japan

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami book cover

In Haruki Murakami's mesmerising The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, we enter a mystical, phantasmagoric netherworld beneath Tokyo.

What begins as a man looking for a missing cat soon transforms into a bewildering and beautiful journey through time.

Like an abstract dream, this book will constantly take you by surprise, throwing you into surreal and fantastical worlds.

For those travelling through Tokyo, this book will give you a whole new perspective on famous spots like the Tocho skyscraper, the Imperial Palace East Gardens and Ueno Zoo.

The Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys—The Caribbean

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys book cover

Delve into the dark, evocative allure of the Caribbean islands with Jean Rhys' The Wide Sargasso Sea.

A prequel to Charlotte Bronte's seminal Jane Eyre, Rhys' rich and sensual novel puts the spotlight on the "madwoman in the attic"—that is, before she went mad.

Set in Jamaica and Dominica, the mysterious thriller is laced with the scent of smoke and spice and filled with luscious, tropical locations that practically explode off the page. 

Tangerine, Christine Mangan—Morocco, North Africa

Tangerine Dream by Christine Mangan book cover

Fans of the stylish, female-centric psychological thrillers of Daphne du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith, this one's for you. If you're planning a trip to Morocco, Christine Mangan's Tangerine is the perfect companion.

A nostalgic, sinister tale of two old college friends who reunite in 1950s Tangier, this novel sends you on a breathless, gothic ride that heaps on the Hitchockian atmosphere.

By picking this book up on a quiet afternoon in Morocco, the oppressive warmth and bustling medinas around you will take on a whole new meaning.

Dream Story, Arthur Schnitzler—Vienna, Austria

Dream Story by Arthur Schnitzler book cover

A decadent, erotic novella from 1926, Arthur Schnitzler's Dream Story begins with a wife's sexual confession before we are sent spinning on a lurid nightmarish journey through Jazz Age Vienna.

Schnitzler's smoke-filled, velvet-lined Vienna will simultaneously push you away and draw you in deeper, giving you a brand new sense of the city's rich and sensual cultural history. 

Happy Hour, Marlowe Granados—New York City

Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados book cover

In Marlowe Granados's Happy Hour, modern day New York City comes roaring to life.

In this stylised tale of two affected young women hustling their way through one sticky summer in the big city, it's a ceaseless stream of yellow cabs, dirty martinis, long summer nights, strangers in bars, shared cigarettes and clouds of smoke pouring from grates in the street.

It's a hot, sweaty, messy, wild, spontaneous New York that will leave you anxious to dive into the beating heart of the city for yourself.

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