The Books To Pack On Your Summer Vacation

by E. Ce Miller

As someone who recently spent five hours buckled in seat 25A of a plane stranded on the runway of the Knoxville, Tennessee airport (the specific length of time and the airport may vary, but most of us have been there, amirite?) I am deeply aware of the absolute necessity of curating a cannot-beat list of books to pack on vacation. (And the equally-important task of making sure that at least two of those books fit into your carry-on luggage.) I might complain, but despite the painstaking ordeal of actually getting from point A to point B, at heart I am a lover of life on the road — and a lover of the books that have accompanied me there. For me, travel and reading have always gone hand-in-hand, whether I’m trapped on the tarmac, riding shotgun on a road trip, or stocking my beach bag with the latest can’t-miss fiction.

Whether you’re seeking some much-needed in-flight entertainment, or ready to dive into that next great beach read, there are plenty of new books that are perfect for wherever your next adventure might take you (and may you venture further than the Knoxville, Tennessee airport.)

Check out these 10 new books to pack on vacation this year.


‘The Whole Thing Together’ by Ann Brashares

Ann Brashares’ The Whole Thing Together is a YA title that readers of any age will love, transporting you to a Long Island beach house in the heart of summer. This particular beach house, however, is highly contested territory — belonging to a now-divorced couple, both of whom refuse to give up the property to their ex-spouse. New families, old dramas, (and a bit of summer romance) converge in this sweet and big-hearted summer read about loyalty, love, secrets, and forgiveness.

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‘The Garden of Small Beginnings’ by Abbi Waxman

A perfect-for-summer novel by debut author Abbi Waxman, The Garden of Small Beginnings introduces readers to the quirky and irreverent Lilian Girvan, a widow and now-single mother of two daughters, who is just starting to get used to her new normal after the untimely death of her husband. Three years post-loss, Lilian is starting to rejoin the world — via a surprisingly engaging textbook illustrating job that takes her to the Los Angeles Botanical Garden and down into the dirt (literally.) This novel is filled with characters you’ll love and wish you lived next door to in real life.

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‘The Hollywood Daughter' by Kate Alcott

Kate Alcott’s The Hollywood Daughter takes readers to the glamour (and drama) of 1950s Hollywood, where actress and idol Ingrid Bergman has a jarring fall from grace when she suddenly becomes pregnant out of wedlock. While McCarthy-era Hollywood is a-buzz with scandal, Ingrid’s downfall is particularly hard for one girl — Jessica Malloy, whose father worked with Ingrid and who saw Ingrid as the perfect mother-figure Jessica herself never had. In-the-spotlight dramas meet behind-the-scenes coming-of-age journeys in this novel.

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‘Traveling Light’ by Lynne Branard

If you love (love, LOVE) road trip stories as much as I do, then be sure to pick up Traveling Light, by Lynne Branard, before your next on the road adventure. In Traveling Light, Alissa Wells is driving from North Carolina to New Mexico with her three-legged dog and a waitress named Blossom, on a journey to reunite the ashes of a man (found in an abandoned storage unit) with his family. Along the way, the girls try their hand at Facebook fame, snapping photos of themselves and Roger’s urn at every stop along the way. Some good-humored irreverence never hurt anyone.

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‘One Summer Day in Rome’ by Mark Lamprell

Landing on bookstore shelves just in time to greet the last few weeks of summer, Mark Lamprell’s One Summer Day in Rome is a novel with an unlikely narrator — the city itself. Other characters include Connie and Lizzie, elderly sisters-in-law traveling to Rome as they imagine the great loves of their lives are behind them. Alice, who is leaving her predictable life in New York City behind at the advice of her art professor. And Meg and Alec, who have returned to Rome — the city they fell in love in — in search of tile for their home renovation, only to realize their marriage might need a little fixing up as well. You’ll fall in love with its cast of characters faster than they fall in love themselves (and that’s saying something.)

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‘Rabbit Cake’ by Annie Hartnett

Analytical, fact-loving, 12-year-old Elvis Babbitt likes the kinds of questions that have only one answer (how much should a healthy, male giraffe weigh, for example?) But in the wake of her mother’s death she begins to realize that life is sometimes filled with more unanswerable questions than most of us would like — but she'll try to answer them anyway.

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‘Into the Water’ by Paula Hawkins

There's nothing like a page-turning thriller to add a little excitement to your relaxing summer vacay. If you loved The Girl on the Train then gear up for the next title from bestselling author Paula Hawkins. Into the Water takes readers to a small town, where a teenage girl and later a single mother are found drowned in the nearby river — two deaths that bring long-buried local mysteries back to the surface of daily living, disturbing the town and its residents in ways that will haunt you long after this book is over.

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‘The Shark Club’ by Ann Kidd Taylor

At 12-years-old Maeve Donnelly is attacked by a blacktip shark — fast forward 18 years and Maeve, dubbed the “shark whisperer” by her peers, is now a marine biologist who spends her life studying the same animals who once attacked her. And when she's tasked with shutting down an illegal shark-finning operation off the coast of Florida, it will be her job to save the lives of the creatures that once threatened hers (and, to be honest, that’s only the beginning of the drama in store for Maeve.) Out June 6, The Shark Club, by Ann Kidd Taylor, is an environmental mystery and a story of love, family, and fate.

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‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney

Coming to bookstores in early July, Sally Rooney’s debut novel, Conversations with Friends, introduces readers to Frances and Bobbi — a former couple and spoken word poets, who are about to have their relationship (and their lives) upended by Melissa and Nick — an older, married couple who take a more-than-casual interest in both girls. As Frances finds herself drawn to Nick, her feelings put the other conflicted relationships in her life into sharp focus as well: her relationship with her dad, her friendship with Bobbi, and even her understanding of herself. This novel is all about the discoveries and failures, and pain and empowerment of living through your early twenties.

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‘The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley’ by Hannah Tinti

Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley blends coming-of-age story with mysterious thriller, introducing readers to Samuel and Loo Hawley, a father/daughter duo who are struggling to reconcile Loo’s mother’s death and Samuel’s less-than-spotless criminal history — one that almost killed him too. Alternating between past and present, and traversing rough terrain (Alaska to the Adirondacks) these unlikely family members will have to heal their scars, literally and metaphorically, in order to protect the present from the still-lingering past.

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