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18 of the best books to read on vacation in 2023

best vacation books 2023
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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, 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 tragedy. I adored it.

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Carrie Soto is back cover

Read Carrie Soto is Back for… Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest bestseller about a tennis legend brought back to the court for one last attempt at defending her record.

If you loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & the Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new book should be one of your best vacation reads for 2023.

Carrie Soto is Back is her story of a tennis legend supposedly past her prime at thirty-seven, brought back to the tennis court to give everything she’s got to defend her record.

Violeta by Isabel Allende

Read Violeta for… a gripping novel about Violeta Del Valle, whose passion-filled life spans one hundred years and bears witness to the greatest upheavals of the twentieth century.

When Isabel Allende (best known for The House of the Spirits) releases a new novel, it’s probably going to be good.

Her latest book, Violeta, spans the century that follows 1920, beginning with the birth of a feisty girl during a storm whose life will be shaped by her courage, passion, and humour.

Gripping books to read on vacation

Stone Cold Fox by Rachel Koller Croft

Read Stone Cold Fox for… a compelling mystery thriller about an ambitious woman who’s ready to cash in on what she’s earned.

Bea’s well-versed in the art of swindling men – her mother made sure of that. Now, she’s ready to escape her shadow and disappear into the quiet bliss of marriage. Her target? Dull and blue-blooded Collin Case, the offspring of one of the country’s wealthiest families.

However, what begins as a straightforward goal turns into a dangerous chase, and the truth of Bea’s past threatens to ruin everything.

For more thrillers, you might like my pick of the best thrillers to read in 2023.

The It Girl by Ruth Ware

Read The It Girl for… a gripping murder mystery set in the hallowed halls of academia.

April Coutts-Cliveden is vivacious, bright, and the ultimate It Girl. She’s the first person Hannah Jones meets at Oxford, and soon they’re inseparable. But by the end of the second term, April is dead.

In this 2022 bestselling thriller by Ruth Ware, a woman searches for answers a decade after her friend’s murder.

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

If you loved The Martian, give Andy Weir’s latest bestseller 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 witchcraft, 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.

Published in 2022, The Marriage Portrait is one of the best historical fiction books to read on vacation in 2023.

Right from the start of the book, we know that less than a year after fifteen-year-old Lucrezia de’ Medici marries Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, she will be dead.

The official cause of death was ‘putrid fever’, but it was rumoured that she had been murdered by her husband. 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

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan

Read Nora Goes Off Script for… fresh starts, warmth, wit, and the kind of love story that doesn’t shy away from life’s emotional baggage.

Nora Goes Off Script is about a romance screenwriter who is well-versed in the formula for love. But when her husband leaves her and their two kids, Nora turns her marriage’s collapse into cash and writes the best script of her life.

Happy Place by Emily Henry

Read Happy Place for… Emily Henry’s anticipated beach read for 2023, oozing summer vibes in Maine and a romance that isn’t quite what it seems.

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.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Kiss Quotient

Read The Kiss Quotient for… a nerdy romance vacation book to retreat into (with two more books in the series).

I love Helen Hoang’s books. Not only are they quirky and clever, but they also have incredibly well-rounded autistic characters. (As a woman with autism spectrum disorder, I didn’t know this was something I needed.)

As Helen Hoang tried to make sense of her own ASD diagnosis, she folded her experiences into the story of Stella, a young and ambitious woman on the autism spectrum grappling not just with her love life, but who she really is.

Feel-good books to read on vacation

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Read Remarkably Bright Creatures for… feel-good story of an unlikely friendship between a widow and a giant Pacific octopus, perfect for fans of A Man Called Ove.

This instant bestseller for 2022 is the story of Tova Sullivan, who began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium after her husband died, mopping floors and tidying up.

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.

Amazing Grace Adams by Fran Littlewood

Read Amazing Grace Adams for… 2023’s answer to Bernadette, Eleanor Oliphant, Rosie, and Ove.

Amazing Grace Adams is a funny, touching story of an invisible everywoman pushed to the brink. Meet Grace Adams, forty-five, perimenopausal, stalled, and finally losing it. 

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

Read The Shell Seekers for… one of the most warming, cozy, and feel-good books ever written, about one English family’s bonds, divisions, and long-hidden pieces of art that have the power to change their futures.

The Shell Seekers feels like a vacation in a book, namely to England’s south-west coast. Here, we meet artist’s daughter Penelope Keeling, who looks back on her rich and varied life as she contends with her three children and refuses to settle into pensioned-off old age.

Non-fiction books to read on vacation

Bewildered by Laura Waters

Read Bewildered for… an inspiring travel memoir about Laura Waters’ 3000-kilometre solo hike on the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand.

Usually there’s a reason why someone wants to take off into the wild for five months (even if it’s just peace and quiet). For Laura Waters, it was the implosion of a toxic relationship and a crippling bout of anxiety.

Armed with maps, a compass, and her life in a backpack, Laura Waters set out to walk 3000 kilometres of raw, wild, and mountainous nature winding from the top of New Zealand’s North Island to the frosty tip of the South Island. What’s more, when her walking partner suddenly drops out, she’s left to face the journey alone.

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 ratings on Goodreads and Amazon).

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.

What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo

Read What My Bones Know for… a deeply personal book about the hold of the past over the present, the mind over the body, and one woman’s ability to reclaim agency from her trauma.

If you’re one of the millions of readers enlightened by The Body Keeps the Score, you should absolutely read What My Bones Know; one of the best new memoirs for 2023.

Acclaimed journalist Stephanie Foo explores innovative therapies for trauma, investigates the effects of immigrant trauma on her California hometown, and learns how trauma can be inherited through generations.

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