When the weather warms up and the days stretch longer, there is nothing I love more than reading outside. Sunglasses on, legs draped across a pool lounger, the buzz of insects and the smell of chlorine filling the air—it’s my ideal way to pass the hazy, humid time between May and August. But even though my perfect summer days are spent hunkered down in one familiar place, my perfect summer reads are almost always about the trips we take (or dream of taking) during those sunlit middle-of-the-year months.
Actually, I love books about summer travel so much, I even wrote one—The Summer of Us is about five friends embarking on the ten-day European interrail trip of their dreams only to have it completely derailed by their messy love stories and complicated relationships. But, because one summer travel book is never enough, here are five of my all-time, personal favorites. Fill your backpack with them and get ready to explore the world!
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
You might expect a long flight to be the least fun part of any big trip, but that’s not the case in this thoughtful, witty, and completely swoony novel in which a dreaded transatlantic journey becomes the setting for the romantic adventure of a lifetime. Hadley meets Oliver when they sit next to each other on a plane ride from New York to London, and, over the course of 24 hours, discover how unexpected and magical love can be. I promise, you will never be bored by the idea of air travel again.
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
This isn’t just the first YA novel I ever read, it’s also one of the best. Ginny is spending her summer following a course plotted through Europe by her Aunt Peg via 13 messages in 13 little blue envelopes. The writing is sharp and funny; the descriptions of European cities vivid and memorable; and the series of adventures and mishaps that befall Ginny are seriously page-turning. This might be my ideal summer—or, let’s face it, any time of year—read.
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Nina LaCour has written some truly remarkable books, but I think this one about an all-girl band embarking on a summer tour right after high school graduation is probably my favorite. Read it to be transported to the warm California coast, grungy motel room after grungy motel room, and the messy, eclectic lives of four artistic teenagers first learning to strike out on their own.
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Emery Lord’s debut novel about best friends, country music, fireworks (in every sense), and bouncing from American city to American city in a giant tour bus had me hooked from the very first page. I guarantee some very happy tears and a phone call to your own best friend afterward to tell them how much they mean to you.
French Milk by Lucy Knisley
Okay, okay, I’m totally cheating here. This book doesn’t actually take place in the summer—in fact, it takes place in, er, the middle of winter. But I couldn’t resist adding a graphic novel because they are one of the best mediums for travelogues, in my opinion. I love that we get to see the artist’s visual interpretation of the places they visit, and Lucy Knisley does such a fantastic job of bringing Paris to life on a trip she takes with her mom to celebrate both of their birthdays. Brava!