Most of us consider a good summer vacation book to be something brainless, a sappy romance where you know how it ends, or perhaps the story of a simple friendship.
However, this year we offer the opportunity to see your vacation as a way to activate your thinking and provide you with the best ice breakers for when you re-enter the company lunch room. Follow along on this list of brain-tickling vacation reads.
Reading might be one of the most well-loved vacation shenanigans, both due to its fantastical storytelling and imaginative elements, but also due to its practicality. Whether you are a mass-reader or someone who tends to forget that you bought a book two months ago and only made it twenty pages in, the books in this list are granted to get you hooked.
Luck, Love & Lemon Pie – Amy E Reichert
The first book on our list will be most closely related to the traditional holiday rom-coms. The story of Luck, Love & Lemon Pie looks at MJ Bordeaux, an American mother and wife whose husband spends more time at the card games than with her.
In order to reinvent quality time with her husband, MJ begins to pick up gambling and soon realizes she is quite skilled. After a while, MJ finds that poker has given her a new identity outside of the boxed-in family life, and she soon faces difficult decisions between her hobby career and her family.
This novel brings a fascinating perspective on the balance between love and career, and how good decisions can be crippling despite their intentions. The book can be combined with a scan of popular casino sites for an immersive and vacation-like experience.
The Last Resort: A Chronicle of Paradise, Profit, and Peril at the Beach – Sarah Stodola
Sarah Stodola takes us away from the land of romance in order to motivate us to think critically about how we actually spend our vacation. The Last Resort talks critically about the rise of the concept of beach vacation as a paradise in relation to its previous connotations of being a fearsome foe filled with danger. Furthermore, Stodola discusses both psychology and politics behind the obsession with sand-filled towels, as well as its environmental implication.
Though this book might be viewed as a party-pooper for those who love the ocean waves, it invites its readers to begin being aware of their surroundings. By breaking down one of the most widespread societal dreams, it can provide a wake-up call to explore similar issues in other parts of our lives and inspire us to live more sustainably.
What Time Is Love? – Holly Williams
Though the next book on our list will come back to the topic of love, it is unique in its philosophical perspective. As a matter of fact, What Time is Love? features the same couple, Viola and Albert, falling in love not once, but three times.
The times, however, differ in that they are set in three different decades. The novel brings up the issues of social change, culture, and ambition in order to ask the question: to what extent can we rely on the concept of “Mr Right”?
Kumukanda – Kayo Chingonyi
In a similar fashion to Williams’ novel, Chingonyi writes about the element of time and traditions in the experiences of initiation rites into childhood. His debut poetry collection focuses on the Luvale tribe initiation rites, or kumukanda, while simultaneously commenting on race and identity as a black British man.
The book has received several awards, including the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2018, and is featured on the Readers Digest’s list of brilliant young authors to look out for.
Notes on Heartbreak – Annie Lord
Notes on Heartbreak once more bring us back to the world of romance, but not in the way that you’d expect. Rather than providing the classic tales of meeting and falling in love, Lord backtraces romance from the end, the heartbreak, in order to more deeply explore the processes of love.
Though this book takes on a sadder tone, it can be an inspiring read for both the heartbroken readers and the honeymooners. It invites us to think more closely about the little moments through which love happens, the laughs and the shared in-jokes and the tears. We recommend that you bring a box of tissues.
The Last White Man – Mohsin Hamid
Lastly, Mohsin Hamid’s novel The Last White Man offers a unique take on race and identity through a magical format. Whilst living their regular life, people like Anders and Oona wake to find that their skin tone has darkened from white to brown overnight. From there, the novel deals with racism and destabilization in creating multicultural and healthy societies.
In an interview with Oprah Daily, Hamid stated that the idea for this book stemmed from his experience moving from Pakistan to the United States as a child, as well as his experiences in both the US and Britain since. Overall, the book provides a hands-on theoretical experiment of taking a walk in someone else’s shoes and the identity-related consequences of that experience.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.