I’ve already shared my best beach reads for 2023, but there are so many other books that are perfect to read on vacation but don’t quite fit the “beach read” category.
To give you the most varied book recommendations to read on vacation (or on holiday, if you’re British like me), here are some of the best gripping books, romance books, feel-good books, and more to read during your time off.
Whether you’re on vacation in the mountains, on a city break, in nature, on staycation, or anything else, I hope you can find your next favourite book below.
The best books to read on vacation in 2023
Bestselling books to read on vacation
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow for… one of the most wonderfully creative and gripping books I’ve read in a long time, named Goodreads Fiction Book of the Year 2022.
This fiction bestseller is the story of two nerdy kids who meet in a hospital, bond over video games, and years later start their own game company. This brings them money and fame, but also loss. I adored it.
The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand
Read The Five-Star Weekend for… a captivating, sunshine-filled story about friendship, love, and self-discovery from the bestselling author of The Hotel Nantucket.
In this bestselling beach read for 2023, Hollis Shaw seems to have the perfect life: she’s the creator of a popular food blog and married to Matthew, a dreamy heart surgeon.
Although the book is brimming with summer vibes, it begins with loss, exposing the cracks in Hollis’s marriage and relationship with her daughter, Caroline.
When Hollis hears about something called a “Five-Star Weekend”, she decides to host her own to get her life back on track, bringing together four friends from different stages in her life.
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
Read Tom Lake for… a hazy evocation of slow, dreamy sunny days under cherry trees in Ann Patchet’s latest book.
In this new novel that’s perfect for laid-back summer reading, the wonderful narrator (who reminded me of Elizabeth Strout’s Lucy Barton) shares with her three daughters the story of her time as an actress in her twenties.
I loved escaping into the pages of this peaceful book – Patchett creates a world that’s hopeful, cozy, and reassuring, painting a masterful picture of motherhood, family, and the moments that make us.
Gripping books to read on vacation
Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Daniel Silva
I think this gripping thriller would be a perfect vacation read for 2023 – I flew through it in just a few days. It’s also one of my choices for the best books for men in 2023.
As Book 22 in the Gabriel Allon series (which is fine to read as standalone), the story opens with renowned spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon settling into his quiet retirement in Venice.
However, when London art dealer Julian Isherwood requests his help in investigating the origins of a lucrative sale of a supposedly centuries-old painting, Gabriel is pulled back into the dangerous world he thought he’d left behind.
On a Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass
Suspecting her husband of keeping secrets, Cora is determined to catch him in the act. Her neighbor Paige, who tragically lost her son last year, agrees to help. Meanwhile, their new young neighbor Georgia seems to be concealing something.
Brighton Hills on the coast of Oregon offers an unparalleled blend of luxury and natural beauty. The residents of the community look out for each other, but perhaps a little too attentively… and that means that secrets will never stay hidden for long.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Read Project Hail Mary for… a fantastically well-researched, nerdy, and lighthearted show of world-building that’s easy to read and difficult to put down. It’s not a brand-new book, but it’s still fantastic.
If you loved The Martian, give Andy Weir’s bestseller from 2021 a read next. In Project Hail Mary, Ryland Grace, the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission to save both humanity and the earth, is left to singlehandedly complete the mission in uncharted territory.
Historical fiction to read on vacation
Weyward by Emilia Hart
Read Weyward for… a spellbinding novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.
In this enchanting novel, Emilia Hart weaves together stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries.
Weyward begins in 1942 as World War II rages, and takes us all the way to 2019, where one character flees London for a ramshackle cottage inherited from a long-forgotten great aunt.
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
Read The Marriage Portrait for… an engrossing historical fiction novel about a strong woman in a confined world.
Right from the start of the book, we know that fifteen-year-old Lucrezia de’ Medici will live for just one year after marrying Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara.
The official cause was ‘putrid fever’, but it was rumoured that her husband was really to blame. What follows is a spellbinding book that’s gorgeously crafted, infused with life, and difficult to put down.
The Codebreaker’s Secret by Sara Ackerman
Read The Codebreaker’s Secret for… a dazzling historical fiction set in Hawaii and packed with love and intrigue, about a brilliant female codebreaker in WWII.
It’s 1943 and Isabel Cooper and her codebreaker colleagues in Pearl Harbor decipher secrets plucked from the airwaves in a race to bring down the enemy.
Jump to 1965, and fledgling journalist Lu Freitas comes home to Hawaii to cover the grand opening of the glamorous Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Rockefeller’s newest and grandest project.
But when a high-profile guest goes missing, Lu forms an unlikely alliance with an intimidating veteran photographer to unravel the mystery.
Romance books to read on vacation
Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune
Fern Brookbanks isn’t where she thought she’d be in life at thirty-two. Instead of living in the city, she’s back home running her mother’s lakeside resort.
Fern has also wasted far too much of her adult life thinking about Will Baxter: a man she spent just twenty-four hours with in her twenties.
Although he promised to meet her one year later, he never showed up… at least, not until nine years later, with a suitcase in tow.
Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan
Read Same Time Next Summer for… one of the best summer reads for 2023, described by author Carley Fortune as “bursting with the magic of first love”.
In this new summer romance by the bestselling author of Nora Goes Off Script, everything in Sam’s life is on track, including her upcoming marriage to her doctor fiancé, Jack.
But when Sam tours a wedding venue near her family’s Long Island beach house – and bumps into Wyatt, the guy who broke her heart when she was seventeen – she starts questioning everything.
Happy Place by Emily Henry
If you want easygoing, lighthearted romance, read Happy Place. This is Emily Henry’s latest book about a seemingly perfect couple who broke up months ago but pretend to still be together for their annual weeklong vacation with their best friends.
Feel-good books to read on vacation
The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Bramer
Read The Collected Regrets of Clover for… a heartwarming and life-affirming book about Clover, an end-of-life doula who, in caring for others at the end of their life, has forgotten how to celebrate her own.
After her beloved grandfather passes away while she is traveling, Clover Brooks dedicates her life to guiding people through their end-of-life journey with peace and dignity.
However, while spending so much time granting other people’s final wishes, Clover realises that she has ignored her own life – until the final words of a feisty old woman send her on a trip across the country.
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
This instant bestseller for 2022 is the story of Tova Sullivan, who began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium after losing her husband.
It’s here that Tova meets curmudgeonly Marcellus, an octopus who knows more than anyone can imagine… and deduces exactly what happened on the night that Tova’s son mysteriously disappeared over thirty years ago.
Darling by India Knight
Read Darling for… India Knight’s modern-day retelling of Nancy Mitford’s classic The Pursuit of Love. I recently discovered this gem of a book and fell utterly, hopelessly in love with it.
In this delightfully charming, funny, and witty comfort read, Teenage Linda Radlett feels herself destined for greater things – and a love story that she absolutely won’t find in her family’s sprawling farmhouse in Norfolk.
When she moves to London to become a model, Linda achieves a fresh start: but life is unromantic, dark, and complicated.
But one day, feeling at her lowest, she spontaneously boards the Eurostar train to Paris where love and transformation await. The novel isn’t without its tragedy (there’s one page you might want to rip out), but overall, I adored it.
Non-fiction books to read on vacation
Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper
Read Better Living Through Birding for… a journey into the world of Central Park birder Christian Cooper’s avian adventures and lessons learned from a lifetime of looking up.
As a self-described “Blerd” (Black nerd), Christian Cooper is an expert birder who devotes every spring to observing the migratory birds that stop to rest in Central Park.
While watching the birds one morning in May 2020, a routine encounter with a dog walker resulted in a viral video that highlighted the difficulties of being a gay, Black man in America today.
Equal parts memoir, travelogue, and primer on the art of birding, this is Christian Cooper’s much-needed story of the wonderful world of birds and all they can teach us if we only look up.
We Should Not Be Friends: The Story of a Friendship by Will Schwalbe
Read We Should Not Be Friends for… a warm and funny memoir that follows the course of an improbable and life-changing friendship over forty years.
I adored Will Schwalbe’s 2013 celebration of the comfort of reading, The End of Your Life Book Club. Now in 2023, Will has shared a rare and joyful view of male friendship, starting with the first time he met Maxey as a junior in college.
While Will was nerdy and creative, Maxey was physically imposing, loud, and a star wrestler who was determined to become a Navy SEAL. But thanks to a little-known secret society at Yale, the two forged a bond that transcended their differences and would remain throughout each others’ lives.
Strong Female Character by Fern Brady
Read Strong Female Character for… a new memoir of womanhood and neurodiversity that’s soaring up bestselling lists (you should believe the average rating on Goodreads).
Like Fern Brady, I’m also autistic, but Strong Female Character is one of the best books for anyone to read in 2023. It’s fiercely witty, heartbreaking, and oh-so-required.
This is the Scottish comedian’s memoir of finally being diagnosed with autism, years after telling her doctor that she had it, ending up at a psychiatric facility when neither her parents nor school knew what to do with her, and never becoming the “right kind” of woman.