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19 May 2022

A Book Title for Every Destination

By Clara Diez Tejero

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy...

Those first notes out of Louis Armstrong’s trumpet magically capture the mysterious, languid lavishness of long summer days—days that are slow and almost viscous. Big cities become vacant as residents flock to coastal towns or to the mountains, a preferred destination for anyone whose feet pound pavement the rest of the year.

But where ought one go? What a beautiful conundrum! Choosing a vacation spot is one of those decisions that stir up debates with one's partner, a topic that provides fodder for hours of online research, and a common theme at get-togethers with family and friends that prompts energized conversations and fervorous recommendations (Not Santorini, it's not worth it. Have you looked at that country house I told you about in Portugal?) that only make us want to teleport ourselves, right then and there, to the destinations praised, to fuse ourselves into those picturesque postcard scenes in our minds, and to submerge ourselves in that summer story that is as idyllic as it is real.

When you’ve decided on a location for your vacation, there are two other decisions to be made that are nearly as important: the clothes you’ll bring and your reading material.

When you tuck books into your suitcase, you’re making a declaration of intent and thus should take into account the destination: your title selections need a raison d'être. Summer reading is an essential part of the vacation experience you’ve likely been curating in your imagination, where every last detail is relevant, and your chosen books become an extension of the storyline of your travels. Your own memory will be complemented by the stories told in the books you’ve chosen to accompany you, enriching and enhancing the experience.

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Let your final destination be a guide as you select the perfect reading material for your trip. If you are planning to stay in the city, there’s no better time to immerse yourself in books that let you rediscover urban landscapes through the eyes and stories of others. Explore—or re-explore—New York City through the sharp wit of Vivian Gornick in Fierce Attachments, as she mesmerizes readers with her account of an intense mother-daughter relationship in modern-day NY that delves into family relationships and how they intertwine and impact one another, making us the people we are today, for better or for worse. Let yourself be swept away by the prose of Ottessa Moshfegh, who digs deep into the topic of the solitude of large cities and offers us a window into the apathy and burnout of a young woman who decides to disconnect from the outside noise, taking refuge in her apartment in My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

If your summer plans take you to the country, mountains, or into the splendor of nature, I recommend female-led classics that will transport you to the expansive greenery of the English countryside, as in Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen), or to nineteenth-century rural Massachusetts with Little Women (Louisa May Alcott). Both tell endearing coming-of-age stories of women in rural backdrops that will bestow your summer with a true sense of nostalgia and anchor you in your surroundings as you daydream of the experiences of the strong-willed protagonists, women as fierce and empowering as the ones who put their stories on paper and brought them to life. Often under a male pseudonym, afraid of the societal repercussions of being women writers.

Have you decided on the peace and tranquility of a finca by the sea? Are you looking to disconnect from the constant buzz of the city to reunite with yourself in a quiet village, waking up in the morning with the only purpose of immersing yourself in the rush of waves and laying out on the warm sand? If so, try these books that will keep you absorbed from cover to cover: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett; Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid; Circe by Madeline Miller; or The End of the Story by Lydia Davis.

Wherever your vacation takes you, literature has the undeniable power of taking hold, connecting with you, and filling your life with color, vibrance, and a chance to open your eyes to previously unlocked desires within. Perhaps it’s because we want, in some way, to see a reflection of ourselves in writing, and we want to be represented by a place that takes us in during the part of the year when we feel most at liberty to be ourselves, without the tethers of work and our other day-to-day responsibilities. Books can invaluably enrich your time away—in nature or when you’re reunited with the sea, feeling, ultimately, the highest embodiment of the lightness.

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