11 Summer Vacation Reads for All Ages

As a school library media specialist, I do a lot of reading and am often asked for book recommendations.

This time of year always puts me in the traveling mood, as I’m sure it does for many of you as well. Whether you are taking a road trip, going to a beach, exploring faraway lands, or staying in your own backyard this summer, you’re sure to find some entertainment and travel inspiration from these great books.I love books that either explore the experience of travel, or take me to places I want to visit. Here are some of my favorites.

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Books for Grown-Ups

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – This nonfiction memoir wasn’t high on my list until the movie came out, and since Julia Roberts never lets me down, I thought I’d give the book a chance before seeing the movie. (I’m more of a fiction kind of girl). I was pleasantly surprised by this well-written story of self discovery set in Italy, India, and Bali, where Gilbert headed after facing personal turmoil. Her journey to find meaning in her life will resonate with many readers, and the countries she visited and experiences she had will inspire you to see these places for yourself.

We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir by Jennifer Coburn – I just said that I was more of a fiction girl, but here I am recommending another memoir. I picked this one up because it was about a mom traveling to Paris with her daughter, and we were planning our family trip to Europe, including Paris. Jennifer Coburn used her fear of dying young to inspire her to take her daughter on summer trips to Europe without the help of her husband who could not join them. She worked through her fears, navigated the countries with a few bumps along the way, and penned a funny, yet heartwarming story as a result.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – This psychological thriller appealed to me because I liked Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I had heard of this title before heading to London, but once there, I saw it featured in bookstores all over the city. This book was a great read for me because I could really visualize the trains that the unreliable narrator, Rachel, was on when she witnessed the shocking events of the story. Even if you haven’t ridden the trains in and out of London, this book is well worth your time, especially since the movie is soon to be in theaters.

Books for Young Adults

Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae – No one will accuse this of being the world’s greatest literary masterpiece, but when you take it for what it is, you will find a fun, fast-paced, adventure romance for teens. Pippa must discover the magic of Italy for herself, and she does just that when she skips out on her summer art program and embarks on a quest to discover who she wants to be. A little love triangle, romantic Italian guys, and all the great tourist attractions are rolled into one fun summer read.

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall – This is one of my favorite new young adult series right now, and I am just going to borrow the words of Goodreads.com to describe it – A fast-paced international escapade, laced with adrenaline, glamour, and romance.” That about sums it up. Avery West has discovered who she really is, and she is not only a member of an elite family of powerful people, she is also the key to an ancient prophecy. This has all the ingredients of a great YA novel – danger, check; mystery, check; identity crisis, check; love triangle, check. Not only that, but the setting will transport you to Paris and Istanbul, and it might make you wish for your own trip to these amazing cities.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson – In this story, two teens with a lot of emotional baggage set out on a cross country road trip in which they work on their issues and learn about life, love, and friendship along the way. Matson includes playlists and her own road trip photos in the text, and readers are sure to enjoy discovering new places along with the characters.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – I can’t say enough wonderful things about the writing of Ruta Sepetys. She is an amazing writer of historical fiction, and she goes to great lengths to research her subject matter. I recommend all of her books, but for a summer read, Out of the Easy is your best bet. This book takes readers on a journey to the underbelly of 1950s New Orleans, and Josie, the daughter of a brothel prostitute, finds herself entwined in a mafia crime. She dreams of more than the Big Easy has to offer her, and as she navigates the secrets of the city, she finds out what she is really made of. This is an uplifting story in a great historical setting, and it kind of makes me want to go have a beignet and listen to some jazz.

Books for Kids

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans – This was a Caldecott Honor book in 1940, and its gorgeous illustrations of Paris landmarks will transport readers of all ages to this enchanting city. We purchased a copy before our trip to Paris to spark our kids’ interest in the places they would see. A definite classic.

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond – Paddington Bear was a favorite of my librarian aunt, so I have fond memories of this character. The cute illustrations and classic story of an adventurous bear will delight young readers. Who wouldn’t want to see Paddington Station in London after reading this story?

Not for Parents London: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Lonely Planet; Klay Lamprell – This book is a must if you are taking your kids to London, but even if you’re not traveling there, kids will love it just the same. This book has every weird thing you’d ever want to know about the city, from strange foods to funny phrases. It has histories of people and places, and it will teach your kids some fun facts about the landmarks as well. Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a parent, and I read it behind the kids’ backs.

Not for Parents Paris: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Lonely Planet; Klay Lamprell – Just like the London counterpart, Not for Parents Paris has weird facts that kids will find entertaining and informative. This is the book that taught our daughter there is an ice skating rink on the Eiffel Tower in the winter, a fact she surprised us with as we visited the site. We really love these books!

What are some books that you’re going to read this summer?