Books to inspire your next vacation destination

Not sure where to go on vacation this year? Flipping through the pages of classic and new novels and travelogues could point you in some interesting directions.

Whether you want the warm, sunny climes of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, the classical architecture of Florence and Rome in Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady, or exploring different cultures and climates, a few good reads might have you covered. Inspire. a travel bucket load.

Get ready to build your wish list with these best reads…


History buffs with a penchant for island-hopping will be glued to Victoria Hislop’s stories, transporting you to a colorful Greece, which began with her 2005 debut novel. The Island (Headline Review) – which gives a vivid description of Cretan life, weaving in the history of Greece’s leper colony on Spinalonga. It has sold over two million copies worldwide to date and has been made into a hit Greek TV series (Victoria and her husband, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, had roles as extras).

The following, One August night (Headline Review) reveals what happened when the leper colony closed and how its inhabitants behaved when they returned to the mainland.

For a sunny escape, opt for Mandy Baggot’s light romantic comedy Stay out for the summer (Head Of Zeus), which sees a young nurse’s vacation in Corfu open up romantic possibilities with the village doctor.


Fancy a city break in Paris? The beginnings of Amanda Bestor-Siegal The gardians (Little, Brown, out April 12) focuses on several dynamic women from an affluent suburb of Paris and a life-changing event, told through six women who live very different urban existences. The film rights were picked up by Emma Stone’s production company.

The Witty Classic Memoirs of Peter Mayle A year in Provence (Penguin), in which he recounts his amusing and sometimes tense experiences of moving into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the south of France, will bring a huge ray of sunshine to travelers and non-travelers alike.


As a former Rome travel guide who lived in Italy for many years, Donna Leon has an eye for detail. Her new novel give to others (Hutchinson Heinemann, out March 3), in which she examines the corruption within an Italian charity, weaves into Venice’s magnificent architecture, the constant and tantalizing presence of food, the loving and loyal Brunetti family, and the sense of menace lurking around the corner.

Timeless classic novels that will have you salivating over Italy include A room with a view from EM Forster (Penguin Classics), where a young woman’s rigid and repressed upbringing is turned upside down when she visits Florence, a city that offers a wealth of romantic opportunities; and The portrait of a lady by Henry James (William Collins), with fine descriptions of Florence and Rome.


Although Dunes (Hodder Paperbacks) is a sci-fi book, Stadlandet in Norway comes in as the latest film adaptation to let the imagination take readers to ‘Caladan’, the stark, inhospitable, windswept planet 20 years -light of the Earth, first created by author Frank Herbert in 1965. The film boosted tourism in the area, but in addition to reinventing the dramatic setting of the book, visitors may also want to follow the winding road of the Atlantic Ocean road, as another James Bond film icon does in No Time To Die.

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From Shetlands to Cornwall, no literary stone will be left unturned, whether you want to investigate Brighton with famed writer Peter James, through his acclaimed Det Supt Roy Grace, or Edinburgh with Rebus creator Ian Rankin, or disappear into the romance and relationships in Cornwall with Fern Britton, Judy Finnigan and a host of other novelists.

If you want to explore Britain’s lost cities, Matthew Green’s factual book Shadowlands: A Journey Through Britain (Faber & Faber, March 17) takes you on an atmospheric tour of ghost towns and vanished villages, from a Neolithic Orkney settlement buried in the sand to a medieval town swept away from a shingle island.

The island house by Libby Page (Orion) is set on a remote Scottish island in the Hebrides, based on the Isle of Eigg, in which a woman returns with her daughter to the island where she grew up and where her family could mend. His descriptions of the dramatic scenery, black lochs, coves and jagged hills will make you feel like you’ve been there – or certainly make you want to visit.

Continuing the Scottish theme, Close to where the heart drops by Malcolm Alexander (Michael O’Mara) tells the true story of a young vet’s move from suburban Glasgow to Eday (with a population of 125) in Orkney, where he delivers a deeply moving account of island life .

Those planning to visit the East of England should seek out writer Elly Griffiths, whose Norfolk is a big part of the story in every novel in her best-selling detective series Dr Ruth Galloway, the latest of which, The closed room (Quercus), sees his archaeologist detective help solve a series of mysterious deaths.

Meanwhile, award-winning detective writer Ann Cleeves, already well known for her Northumberland Vera and Shetland Island detective series, has her sights set on North Devon for her latest book, The cry of the heron (Pan Macmillan). It’s set in a glorious summer filled with tourists, where Detective Matthew Venn investigates an elaborately staged murder among a group of entertainers.

Of course, who could forget Ireland, the setting for so many inspiring reads – from Sally Rooney’s emotionally charged book normal people (Faber & Faber), about the complex relationship between two teenagers Connell and Marianne and set in and around Dublin, to best-selling author Marian Keyes’ latest exploration of families, friendships and relationships in Rachel again (Michael Joseph), his sequel to Rachel’s Holiday.


It’s not all flight and flop in the Caribbean, as readers find out in What a mother’s love doesn’t teach you by Sharma Taylor (Virago, released July 7). It’s a novel set in Kingston, Jamaica, about a woman who reunites with her son, 18 years after giving him a baby to the wealthy couple she worked for before they left. A story of belonging and identity, it brings together a chorus of voices to evoke Jamaica’s dance halls and underworld, at the heart of which is a mother’s love for her son.


Anyone planning a safari should get a copy of The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony (Pan), a South African conservationist who accepted a herd of “rogue” elephants into his Thula Thula Game Reserve. Risking his life to bond with the elephants, he assumes an extremely special relationship with the herd, the wise matriarch Nana and her warrior sister Frankie. This ultimately heartwarming memory shines a light on the emotional intelligence of these majestic animals.


A land full of color, culture and fascinating history, many writers have been drawn to storyboarding India. Arundhati Roy won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel The God of Little Things (Harper Perennial), a story about Rahel and Estha, twin girls growing up among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala.

And who can resist Booker Prize-winning Salman Rushdie’s second novel The Midnight Children (Vintage Classics)? This much-loved historical fantasy reflects the issues that India faced after independence, including culture, language, and religion.

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Colin L. Johnson