A change is as good as a holiday, and sometimes a book is too. When a real-world holiday isn’t possible, you can turn to these fictional worlds to take you away. Here are fifteen books that will make you feel like you’re on vacation.

15 Books That Will Make You Feel Like You're On Vacation - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Help top up a book reviewer’s holiday fund by making a purchase through one of the affiliate links on this page.

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read - Emily Henry - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The title is apt, and Beach Read is definitely fit-for-purpose. Emily Henry is a modern queen of books that will make you feel like you’re on vacation, and this is the shining jewel in her crown. Plus, it’s a good one for booklovers, as the two main players are authors. One is a romance writer who no longer believes in love, the other a writer of literary fiction who finds himself stuck in a rut. They find themselves holidaying in neighbouring beach houses and challenge each other to write themselves out of their respective blocks. It’s a rom-com, so you can probably guess what happens next…

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Call Me By Your Name - Andre Aciman - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you want a book that will take you back to the heady summer vacations of your youth, you can pick up Call Me By Your Name. It’s a story of young (and not-so-young, yikes) love, the obsessive kind that threatens to suffocate you and everyone in your company. In a cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera, 17-year-old Elio Perlman meets 24-year-old visiting scholar Oliver and quickly falls head-over-heels. The story is told in retrospect, with grown-up Elio recalling the events of that fateful summer, and it’s a deeply evocative tale. Read my full review of Call Me By Your Name here.

Calypso by David Sedaris

Calypso - David Sedaris - Keeping Up With The Penguins

As per the blurb, Calypso is “beach reading for people who detest beaches”. When David Sedaris buys a beach house on the Carolina coast (that he names the Sea Section, naturally), he’s envisaging long sun-soaked vacations with his loved ones and relaxing holiday pastimes. Of course, reality doesn’t even come close to his hopes and dreams. Not many non-fiction books will make you feel like you’re on vacation, but this one does – vacation with your hilarious, snarky cousin who can’t help but comment on everything that irks them. Read my full review of Calypso here.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less - Andrew Sean Greer - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you suffer from any social anxieties, Less is going to be one of the best books you can read to make you feel like you’re on vacation. Arthur Less is a middle-age mid-career author, already struggling to keep it together when he receives an invitation to his ex’s wedding to a more age-appropriate suitor. In desperation, he accepts a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world, and sets off on a working holiday that’s both humbling and rejuvenating. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel will take you around the world, and make you fall just a little bit in love with Arthur Less. Read my full review of Less here.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild - Cheryl Strayed - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Not all holidays are fun, frolic-on-the-beach types of getaways. You might find yourself, like Cheryl Strayed, desperate to escape your ‘real’ life and grasping at the only opportunity to do so. Wild is more of a pilgrimage than a vacation, really – an account of her grueling solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail. Her thousand-mile journey (literally!) takes her from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State, and along the way she finds the clarity she’s been seeking since the death of her mother in her early 20s. Read my full review of Wild here.

The Concierge by Abby Corson

The Concierge - Abby Corson - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you’re a traveller who loves a sneak-peek behind-the-scenes, you’ll love The Concierge. The main characters in this murder mystery aren’t on vacation themselves, but they’re the workers who make our vacations (real and fictional) possible. Hector Harrow has worked at Cavengreen Hotel for his entire adult life. He’s the hotel concierge, which means he sees everything and says nothing… until now. He’s finally ready to spill the beans about what happened the night of the murder. Read my full review of The Concierge here.

Reputation by Lex Croucher

Reputation - Lex Croucher - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Were you ever sent away to stay with relatives over the holidays as a kid? Did you find yourself bored out of your brains, desperate for friends and entertainment? Then you’ll definitely relate to Georgiana, the main character of Regency-era rom-com Reputation. Her parents have deposited her with her well-meaning but stuffy aunt and uncle, and they’ve just about driven her all the way around the bend when she meets the enigmatic and charming Frances Campbell. Suddenly, she’s thrust into a world of high-society debauchery, and she couldn’t be more thrilled… until she learns that all that high living comes at a high price. Read my full review of Reputation here.

The One-Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Allan Karlsson really needs a holiday – and, at a hundred years old, surely he’s earned it. Rather than face a depressing excuse for a birthday party in his retirement home, he seizes the day and jumps out the window. So begins an epic adventure, a ’round-the-world romp that conveniently aligns with Allan’s larger-than-life backstory. The One-Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared is not only delightful to read, it’s a wonderful reminder that there’s no age limit on adventures. Read my full review of The One-Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared here.

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

Did You See Melody - Sophie Hannah - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Imagine this: you’re over-worked, stressed to the breaking point, and you finally manage a blessed escape to a five-star resort. Sounds like heaven, right? Well, it would be, except that you accidentally stumble into the wrong room and see someone, the most famous murder victim in the country, alive and well. Did You See Melody? is a book that will make you feel like you’re on vacation, but the kind of vacation where things go about as wrong as they can possibly go. You’ll be relieved to be home again by the time you’re done.

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into The Wild - Jon Krakauer - Keeping Up With The Penguins

At first, it’s a bit hard to feel sorry for Christopher Johnson McCandless. He was born into privilege, and had the kind of savings account that most of us can only dream about. How, then, did he end up a decomposing body, undiscovered for four months in the Alaskan wilderness? He left behind just a few notes in a journal to tell us. Jon Krakauer became obsessed with the mystery of McCandless’s life and death, and thus he wrote Into The Wild. It’s an unsentimental but passionate account of what it really means to go off the map, and the impact on those who are left behind.

The Catch by Amy Lea

The Catch - Amy Lea - Keeping Up With The Penguins

When a floundering fashion influencer discovers that her all-expenses-paid vacation at a Canadian resort isn’t booked for the week she arrived, she has no choice but to take up residence at the only AirBNB available in a small fishing village nearby. Of course, this being a vacation rom-com, there she meets a gruff and grumpy proprietor who will become her fake fiance just days later. Soon enough, the sparks that fly between them become real, but can this romance last all the way home? The Catch is the perfect combination of swoony and spicy, a romantic comedy that will let you escape without insulting your intelligence. Read my full review of The Catch here.

The Other Side Of Beautiful by Kim Lock

The Other Side Of Beautiful - Kim Lock - Keeping Up With The Penguins

A road-trip vacation sounds delightful to most of us, but to Mercy Blain, the protagonist of The Other Side Of Beautiful, it’s a panic-inducing prospect. Mercy hasn’t been outside her own home in two years, but she has no other choice when it burns to the ground. Relegated to living out of the back of a cult classic campervan, she and her trusty sausage dog sidekick hit the road, driving the length of Australia from south to north. This is a surprising, heartwarming, and insightful story about an odyssey undertaken by the most unlikely adventurers. Read my full review of The Other Side Of Beautiful here.

The Nancys by R.W.R. McDonald

The Nancys - RWR McDonald - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The Nancys will awaken the nostalgia and tickle the funny-bone of anyone who read Nancy Drew mysteries over school holidays as a kid. When Tippy Chan’s mother wins a two-week cruise holiday, her non-traditional family expands to include her Uncle Pike (who bears a startling resemblance to Santa Claus) and his fabulous boyfriend, Devon, fresh off the plane from Sydney. Together, they form a group dedicated to solving the mystery of a local school teacher’s murder (and they do makeovers, on the side). Only they can stop the killer before Tippy’s mother returns and real life starts again.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers - Liane Moriarty - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Tranquillum House is one of those retreats that offers everything you need: escape, relaxation, mindfulness, and a little pampering. Nine people gather at the remote retreat, each in search of their own solution to life’s problems. But is Tranquillum House really offering answers? Or is there a nefarious scheme afoot? Nine Perfect Strangers affirms the old maxim that, when it comes to vacations and getaways, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No one writes a domestic thriller like Liane Moriarty, and this is her at the top of her game.

The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman In Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Lo Blacklock, a travel journalist, has just been given the plummest of assignments: writing a review of a week-long luxury cruise. She boards the Aurora ready to relax on the still waters of the North Sea, and everything is as picturesque as the press release promised. Only, as the cruise sails on, things start to turn: first the weather, then Lo’s own mind. She’s sure she saw a woman thrown overboard, but all of the passengers are accounted for. Why does nobody believe her? What really happened? The Woman In Cabin 10 will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end, and you’ll definitely think twice before you book your next cruise vacation.