One of my favorite prompts from a past reading challenge was to read a book set in the location of your current vacation. Thanks to this prompt, I read The Wright Brothers by David McCullough while on a trip to the Outer Banks and Learning to Die in Miami by Carlos Eire while soaking up the South Beach sun. Being in the locale where the books took place allowed me to connect with the books in a way that I would not have otherwise.
Whether you’re in the dreaming phase of vacation planning or on vacation as you’re reading this, if you’d like to add a bookish spin to your time away, here are a few options for your next vacation-inspired read.
According to Newsweek these five locations are some of the most popular places to vacation stateside, so I’ve included two fiction and a nonfiction recommendation for each destination.
New York City
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie NYPD cops, are neighbors in the suburbs. What happens behind closed doors in both houses–the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit.
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing (Nonfiction)
When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by the most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art.
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion…she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.
The Descendents by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors were financially and culturally progressive – one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners. Now his luck has changed.
Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii by James L. Haley (Nonfiction)
Tells the story of King Kamehameha I, The Conqueror, who unified the islands through terror and bloodshed, but whose dynasty succumbed to inbreeding; of Gilded Age tycoons like Claus Spreckels who brilliantly outmaneuvered his competitors; of firebrand Lorrin Thurston, who was determined that Hawaii be ruled by whites; of President McKinley, who presided over the eventual annexation of the islands.
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
On the veranda of a great New Orleans house, now faded, a mute and fragile woman sits rocking . . . and The Witching Hour begins. It begins in our time with a rescue at sea. Rowan Mayfair, a beautiful woman, a brilliant practitioner of neurosurgery–aware that she has special powers but unaware that she comes from an ancient line of witches–finds the drowned body of a man off the coast of California and brings him to life.
A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Evelyn is a Creole woman who comes of age in New Orleans at the height of World War II. In 1982, Evelyn’s daughter, Jackie, is a frazzled single mother grappling with her absent husband’s drug addiction. Jackie’s son, T.C., loves the creative process of growing marijuana more than the weed itself. He was a square before Hurricane Katrina, but the New Orleans he knew didn’t survive the storm.
The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette (Nonfiction)
New Orleans is the most elusive of American cities. The product of the centuries-long struggle among three mighty empires–France, Spain, and England–and among their respective American colonies and enslaved African peoples, it has always seemed like a foreign port to most Americans, baffled as they are by its complex cultural inheritance.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, 17-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance – and the subsequent cover-up – will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth.
The Neighbors Are Watching by Debra Ginsberg
Set against the backdrop of the deadly 2007 wildfires that forced the evacuation of half a million San Diego residents, the dark side of suburbia is examined–a place where everyone has something to hide.
Alta California by Nick Neely (Nonfiction)
Despite having grown up in California, Nick Neely realized how little he knew about its history. So he set off to learn it bodily, with just a backpack and a tent, trekking through stretches of California both lonely and urban.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has “a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs” is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living.
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of Washington, D.C., his only companions two fellow African immigrants who share his bitter nostalgia and longing for his home continent.
This Town by Mark Leibovich (Nonfiction)
Washington This Town might be loathed from every corner of the nation, yet these are fun and busy days at this nexus of bug politics, big money, big media, and big vanity. There are no Democrats and Republicans anymore in the nation’s capital, just millionaires. That is the grubby secret of the place in the twenty-first century.
Enjoy your trip!