How to Choose the Best Vacation Reads

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There’s a week of peace and relaxation ahead of you. Nothing can get between you and your book, except your choices about which books to bring… This guide will help you bring books that you will actually read and enjoy.

How Many Books To Bring

While the above photo may be slightly misleading there was a (not too distant) time when I would bring a ridiculous number of books on a trip with me. I didn’t want to run out. There have been very few times where I’ve actually read all the books that I brought with me. I’ve never had to buy more (though I’ve always secretly wanted to). The best way to decide how many books you’re bringing with you is to realistically think about the number of books you will actually read. Think about this seriously, and use past trips as a guide. For most people, that number is one. Then you should add another book, just in case you don’t like the first one or you need a change of pace.

If I were to write this out in an equation it would look like (where n=number of books read) n+1= number of books to bring. I’m bringing four books with me on this trip because I’m going to be spending time with my parents first. I’ll probably read at least three of the books, and I’ll make sure to have at least two with me on the trip.

Bring Paperbacks

This seems like a no brainer, but you have no idea the number of times I’ve convinced myself that a hardcover was a smarter choice, and indeed the only choice. There are always more books. It may be worth going to your local thrift store and picking up a few paperbacks rather than taking up more room and adding more weight with awkward hardcovers. Obviously, if you’re an e-reader fan, this won’t apply to you. In that case, my advice is to bring your charger and make sure all your books are downloaded onto your device.

Be Careful About Bringing Library Books

Libraries are a wonderful resource, but if the book gets lost or damaged, you feel bad and you have to replace it. If you’re downloading eBooks onto your eReader from the library, make sure that you check the dates carefully, so the book won’t be returned just when you’ve gotten to the best part.

Bring a Book You’d be Caught Dead With

Lurid covers have their place, but I try to keep the covers simple and without half-naked people and blood spatter. I mean–there are children around.

Choose Shorter Books

Although you might look like a genius lounging at the pool with your 500+ page book, chances are you won’t finish it, and even if you do, what were you missing while you were reading? And, back to the heaviness aspect, large books are heavy, and if you drop them on your face while you’re reading on your back, they hurt way more than other books (trust me, I know this from experience). A perfect vacation read is about 200-300 pages in length.

Skip the Classics

Again, you look awesome and serious with Wuthering Heights or War and Peace in your lap, but even when you’re used to reading heavy literature, it just doesn’t sit well on vacation. You read a few sentences and then fall asleep. Those are the books that always seem to get left at the bottom of the suitcase. A great choice in genre is contemporary literary fiction or contemporary nonfiction. You want memorable characters over plot, so that you can follow the story more easily and lazily.  If you can explain the book’s story in two-three sentences, you’re on the right track. I also really love historical fiction for trips–it makes everything feel sort of timeless.

Skip Straight Genre Fiction

Romances, westerns, mysteries, and intense sci-fi and fantasy all have their place, but in the normal, everyday world we typically use these books as an escape. They’re typically written in a formulaic style, requiring little of the reader. But guess what–you’re already on vacation. You’ve escaped. The goal now, is to be transported–taken on a journey that parallels your own. If you’re super into your genre, that’s great. Maybe try a more literary take on your favorite so that reading becomes an interesting activity in its own right. If you’re not invested in the book you brought, you’re probably not going to read it.

Try Young Adult 

Even if you’re not a huge young adult reader, you might want to give the genre a try. Young adult authors typically focus on strong protagonists and gripping, easy to follow stories. The writers have more freedom within the genre to take risks and it often pays off.

Pick a Book You’ll Actually Like

This is not a time for penance reading. Vacation reads are for pleasure. They should be fun, light but not too light. This isn’t a time to read about depressing subject matter (I don’t bring books about the Holocaust on vacation)–they bring the tone down and you can’t devote your full attention to them. This is also not the time to catch up with your academic list (you know you’re not going to read a book you have to anyway, why bother bringing it?) or the book your friend begged you to try but really you have no interest in.

Read a little of the books you’re thinking of bringing and see if you like them before you take them with you. If you’re going to toss it aside after twenty pages, better to know now before lugging it halfway around the world. This is a time to read the things you want to read!

Embrace the Exceptions

Sometimes you just need to bring Song of Ice and Fire with you. The whole series. If you need to tell yourself it’s really, finally time to get through Catcher in the Rye or Don Quixote that’s perfectly fine. We’ve all been there, or at least I have. Even if you feel you’ve made a mistake with what you’ve brought, remember reading is just a supplement to your trip and (though it kills me to say it) if you never pick up a book at all, you’ll still have a wonderful time.

Happy reading and happy adventures!

What’s the best book you’ve ever brought on vacation? Have any tips for vacation reading I missed? Anything you disagreed with? Put your comments down below.

I hope this helps make your vacation reading as pleasurable as possible. This is a list of books I’m bringing with me:

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (YA)
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
  • The Piano Teacher by Janice K. Lee (historical fiction)
  • Last Voyage of the Valentina by Santa Montefiore (historical fiction)

This is a list of books I’ve reviewed on Aliza Shandel that I think would make good vacation reading:

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