The best books for a literary holiday

Summer might be shaping up a little differently this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get our wanderlust fix – in our imaginations, at least. As the days get warmer and the nights get longer, we want to dream and be inspired; so we’re seeking out a sun-soaked dash of escapism, fuelled by some brilliant summer reads. 

If you’ve already lost yourself in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and wandered with Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, here are seven more to stories to explore, wherever you want to go in the world. So, put the Aperol on ice, find the sunniest spot in your house, and prepare to get away from it all – by staying right here.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante 

If you haven’t fallen in love with Ferrante’s best-selling Neapolitan Quartet yet, escape to Naples with the first of the four-part series. Masterfully spanning the lifelong friendship of the fiery Lina and bookish Elena, My Brilliant Friend charts their very first meeting at school through to adolescence.

Buy My Brilliant Friend from Belgravia Books


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

With over 65 million copies sold, this allegorical novel from Brazilian author Coelho remains one of the best-loved (as well as best-selling) novels of all time. Not read it yet? Cherished by wanderers and dreamers everywhere, it tells the story of a young Andalusian shepherd who longs to travel the world in search of treasure. 

Buy The Alchemist from Foyles


The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

Elaine Dundy’s semi-autobiographical novel became an instant cult classic when it was first published in 1958 – and it’s easy to see why. Full of sex, smarts, slapstick and cocktails, it tells the invigorating tale of a young American woman seeking (and finding) misadventure in Paris. And, all these years later, it still inspires serious European wanderlust. 

Buy The Dud Avocado from Waterstones.


Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Billed as a tale where old-fashioned romance meets modern Japan, this lighthearted story follows the sweet-yet-hesitant relationship between Tsukiko and her old high-school teacher. Expect romance with a side of cherry blossoms, sake and sashimi that’ll leave you itching to book a flight to Tokyo.

Buy Strange Weather in Tokyo from Waterstones

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Like your escapes on the more mythical side? This gloriously captivating debut will transport you to the snow-covered Russia of folklore, where a young girl — Vasya — finds she is able to see and communicate with the magical spirits she was told stories about as a child. If you like your wanderlust sunny side up, save this for winter. But when it comes to truly getting away from it all, it’s the perfect read for now.

Buy The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden from Hive

The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith

No list is complete without the High Priestess of psychological thrillers herself, Patricia Highsmith. This nail-biting story begins with a fateful meeting in the picturesque streets of Athens that spirals into a sinister – and deadly – game of cat and mouse. Read it, then revisit the 2014 film starring Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensten (it’s essential viewing). 

Buy The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith from Waterstones