Ah, spring break. The time of tall, colorful plastic bottles full of an icy rum concoction, loud music blaring from live performances, and loads of college kids dancing the entire day away in their bikinis on the beach — at least that's what all the movies and TV shows seem to tell us. So why would you need a list of the best books to read on spring break? Well, if your spring break was instead a bit more like mine, there is plenty of time for reading, especially if you plan on spending your days lounging by the ocean. (And if so, jealous.)
But because you finally have a break from teachers, schedules, and homework, the books you should tote along on your journey should be far less textbook and far more captivating. They range from short stories to memoirs and fiction, both adult and YA, and they were all published in the last few years — often the last few months. And hey, if you're stuck at home in winter weather (because this is seriously still happening), sometimes a book is the best way to get away. You won't find anything too sad, depressing, or dark here, unless you're talking darkly humorous. But you'll find engaging stories that will make it difficult to put the book down and head to the bar for another frozen margarita. Hey, it is spring break after all.
Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny
Even the cover of Single, Carefree, Mellow screams spring break, though the title is a bit ironic because most everyone in his collection of short stories is neither single, carefree, nor mellow. There's Maya, who is in love with both her boyfriend and her boss; the teenager who loses her virginity to her history teacher; Gwen who crushes hard on her male roommate; and there's Sasha, who meets her married boyfriend's wife for drinks. Heiny's women aren't sugar-coated goodie-two-shoes, but they aren't villains either. Like most of us, they're somewhere in between, and you'll laugh along at the author's keen insights.
Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
Reading Tiphanie Yanique's novel is like setting foot in the Caribbean yourself, even if you're not already lucky enough to be vacationing there. Land of Love and Drowning tells the story of the Virgin Islands through the eyes of three generations of one family and the magic they all possess. Yanique embraces her stunning setting to tell a family saga that embodies the spirit and magic of the Caribbean.
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
When the stranger Roza blows into Bone Gap, brothers Finn and Sean are entranced. Which is why that, when she disappears from the cornfields, the brothers feel it's their duty to find her. Laura Ruby weaves in fables, mythology, and lots of magical realism to tell a story not just of the kidnapping, but of Bone Gap itself, the place where people fall into the gaps and are never found.
Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
"Hausfrau" can be translated into "Housewife," and that housewife is Anne. Anne lives a cushy, charmed life with her Swiss banker husband on the outskirts of Zurich, but she grows weary of her existence, trading it all for a descent into a series of affairs that will steam up any spring break. Many have likened Anne to classical anti-heroines (or anti-heroines), such as Madam Bovary or Anna Karenina, but her story will fascinate and thrill the most modern readers, even if you don't agree with her decisions.
Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor
"Kabu Kabu," Nnedi Okorafor explains, are the unregistered, illegal Nigerian taxis. And just like those taxis Okorador takes readers on a ride that is thrilling, dangerous, and unexpected all at the same time. Some of the stories in her collection are laugh-out-loud hilarious, and each will captivate you the end with their sometimes outlandish and magical plotlines. But they all have Okorafor's parent's homeland of Nigeria as the lifeblood.
The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty by Amanda Filipacchi
The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty is what you get if you combine a murder mystery, hijinks, absurdity, and an enlightened discourse on beauty standards. It's darkly hilarious and magical and pretty much unlike anything you've read recently. Filipacchi's story centers on a group of talented, artistic friends in New York City who call themselves "The Knights of Creation," specifically the "extremely ugly" Lily and the stunningly gorgeous Barb.
Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova
In a statement juxtaposing some of the most different works of literature in existence, Wildalone has been called a "bewitching blend of Twilight, The Secret History, Jane Eyre, and A Discovery of Witches." Which is to say there is romance, mystery, and of course some magic, along with both Greek and Bulgarian mythology all wrapped up in this novel. Thea Slavin traveled from Eastern Europe to attend college at Princeton, and once there she falls into a love triangle with two brothers and discovers a family secret.
I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
There's always time for some romance on spring break, but Skyler and Josh don't exactly have that sunkissed swoony love story you might long for at the beach. Instead, in I'll Meet You There , Heather Demetrios paints a realistic, but still heart-pumping and yes, even a little swoony, story about falling in love amid life's struggles of poverty, mental illness, and war.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Heather Macdonald knows the healing power pets can bring, which is why after her father passes away, she brings an animal into her life. It's just that the pet she chooses isn't a cat or a dog but a goshawk, a fierce predator. The result is a partly-true memoir mixed with a nature and animal story that discusses the rejuvenating power of testing your own limits. It's an inspiring story clearly told from the heart, though I have to admit I'm still happy with just a dog as a pet.
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Even if you're not getting into trouble on spring break, Kelly Link's new collection of short stories is the perfect time-off companion. Link is a master at dark storytelling, and Get into Trouble combines several fantastical and unforgettable stories into one collection showcasing the strengths of human beings. Between two covers are stories of Ouija boards, evil twins, hurricanes, the swamps of Florida, slumber parties, and so, so much more.
Night at the Fiestas by Kirstin Valdez Quade
Kirstin Valdez Quade's name has already been echoing through the lit community after she was named to the list of National Book Foundation’s 2014 5 Under 35, before her first work was even published. And it seems that Night at the Fiestas is living up to even the loftiest expectations. Quade's short story collection is set in northern New Mexico, a place that comes alive in the stories, from the depictions of the hot red sands to the people and families she introduces us to along the way.
In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen
Beginning one night in 1992, In Some Other World, Maybe cuts through 20 years in the lives of a group of characters as they come together and break apart in relationships and tragedies. Back in 1992, three groups of teenagers each have a reason to go see the movie adaptation of the Eons & Empires comic book in their own corners of the country. There's the real comic fan Sharon, first-daters Phoebe and Ollie, and Adam, who really just wants to connect with the girl he's crushing on. Each is entirely human, and the story is as moving as it is hilarious.
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Lauren Oliver's haunting new book about sisterhood and the secrets that can break even the strongest bonds is one of those kind of books that get their hook into you and don't let go until you're done reading. Nick and Dara are inseparable friends as well as sisters, until the night of an accident. Nick's memory is fuzzy about the night her car crashed with her sister in the passenger seat, but it has left Dara withdrawn and angry. But when Dara vanishes around the same time an 8-year-old girl goes missing in their town, Nick isn't about to let her sister down, so she goes in search of her.
Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa
Every summer, Noo Saro-Wiwa was forced to travel from her home in England to her birthplace in Nigeria, and she hated it. She hated feeling like she lost her individuality and yes, she hated having to ditch the comforts England had made her used to. But when her activist father was killed in Nigeria, she didn't have to return anymore. Ten years later, however, Saro-Wiwa felt the pull of Nigeria and gave it another chance as an adult, seeing the lush beauty and stunning memorials with fresh eyes. There's even Transwonderland Amusement Park, the Nigerian version of Disneyland, though much more decrepit. But what really captivated her, and will captivate readers, were the people.
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