18 Fantastic Holiday Reads for 2016: The Shortlist

Are you heading off on your dream holiday this year? There’s nothing like having a great book with you on your travels to flop down in the shade and relax with. So, to help you find your perfect literary holiday companion, we’ve put together our 2016 shortlist of the very best holiday reads ranging from fiery romances to tense thrillers. What’s more, we’ve also asked our featured authors to tell us in 140 characters or less what their perfect holiday would look like!

So, in no particular order, here are the brilliant books that made our shortlist:


1. Good on Paper – Rachel Cantor


Credit: Bennett Beckenstein

Photo credit: Bennett Beckenstein

Shira is a temp with a few short stories published in minor literary magazines. Living in Manhattan with her friend and daughter, she lives a quiet and altogether ordinary family life. That is until Romei, winner of last year’s Nobel Prize, asks her to translate his new book for him. Seeing a glorious new academic career as a literary translator ahead of her, she accepts.

However, she quickly notices something odd going on with the manuscript Romei sends her – is the book untranslatable?

With hints of romance, humour and mystery, Good on Paper is the ideal beach companion and will keep you guessing the whole time.

Rachel’s perfect holiday: “The perfect vacation: delay-free flight, astounding sight(s), food done right, beautiful light, views from a height, a great book at night.”

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: US


2. The Girl at Midnight – Melissa Grey

Young Adult/Fantasy

Photo credit: Dexter R .Jones

Photo credit: Dexter R .Jones

The Avicen, a magical, ancient race of people, live beneath the streets of New York City totally hidden from all humans, except one. Echo survives as a pickpocket, stealing treasures from the black market, and calls the Avicen her family.

When war threatens her whole world, Echo must seek out the legendary Firebird, their only hope of ending the conflict forever. But the quest may not be all that it seems…

This magical fantasy is the perfect way to unwind and truly escape into another world, take it on your next holiday and you’ll see what we mean.

Melissa’s perfect holiday: “The best vacation I can imagine: A stack of books, a pitcher of sangria, and absolutely no one asking me to do anything but read and nap.”

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: US


3. The Best Place on Earth – Ayelet Tsabari

 Cultural Fiction

Photo credit: Elsin Davidi

Photo credit: Elsin Davidi

The Best Place on Earth is a collection of 11 beautifully crafted short stories, with each telling the snapshot story of a different Israeli Jewish character trying to make their way in the world. In ‘Casualties’ a young Israeli army medic tempts dangerous consequences when he decides to bend the rules, and in ‘Tikkun’ a man and his free-spirited ex-girlfriend (who is now a married orthodox Jew) cross paths one day only for him to narrowly escape tragedy moments later.

Intrigued? You should be! If you like a holiday full of variety then this book will be the ideal companion.

Ayelet’s perfect holiday: A hut by the water. White sand beach. No shoes. Sunshine. Warm sea. Palm trees. Pineapple. Cold beer. Fresh food. Books. Romance. More books

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: US


4. The Day You Saved My Life – Louise Candlish

Contemporary Fiction

Photo credit: Joe Lord/Archant

Photo credit: Joe Lord/Archant

When a small boy falls into the Seine and disappears on a Parisian summer’s day, his mother can only stand and watch in horror. A perfect stranger leaps in to rescue him, completely changing four lives forever. What follows is a thought-provoking, tense tale of passion and heartbreak which will keep you turning the pages until the very end.

Exploring everything from love to loss, this is a perfect summer read if you want a touch of tension and excitement.

Louise’s perfect holiday: “Pure mountain air, probably Swiss. Wild flowers, daily massage, very good food and wine. No shouting. A very posh sanatorium, in essence.”

Buy the book


5. You and Me, Always – Jill Mansell


Photo credit: Paul Burns

Photo credit: Paul Burns

On Lily’s 25th birthday she opens a letter from her beloved mother, who died when she was eight. Here she learns more about her mother’s first and only love, and on the very same day meets Eddie, a man fleeing fame who could change her world forever.

However, her childhood friend Dan doesn’t want her to get too involved with this new arrival in her life, leading to the emergence of secrets and the inevitable involvement of her friends and family. It seems Lily’s life will never been the same again.

Whether you’re holidaying abroad or staying put, escaping to the beautiful English countryside in ‘You and Me, Always’ is a wonderful way to spend a summer’s day.

Jill’s perfect holiday: “For me, nothing beats a cruise! Friendly people, truly fabulous food, fantastic places to visit and so many brilliant things to do!”

Buy the book


6. The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson

 Young Adult/Romance

Photo credit: Meredith Zinner

Photo credit: Meredith Zinner

Andie is the politicians daughter who thinks she has it all planned out. With an important internship sorted, plenty of great friends and more guys than she knows what to do with, everything seems great.

But then came the scandal. She never expected she’d have to live in the same house as her father, or that she’d be walking an insane number of dogs, or to meet Clark who has the potential to change her whole life. Enter the Unexpected Everything.

Half the excitement of travelling is the unexpected, so take this book with you for those spare moments of me-time and surround yourself with it.

Morgan’s perfect holiday: “The perfect vacation – a nearly-empty beach, clear skies, good surf, and a wonderful book to get lost in.”

Buy the book (Pre-order): UK

Buy the book (Pre-order): US


7. Lovecraft Country – Matt Ruff

 Historical Fiction/Fantasy


Photo credit: Michael Hilliard

It’s 1954 in Chicago, Jim Crow America, and 22 year old army veteran Atticus Turner must set out on a journey to New England to find his missing father. His journey to the manor of Samuel Braithwhite – heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors – is fraught with the dangers of White America and malevolent spirits wishing him and his companions harm.

Atticus finds his father being held in chains by a secret cabal led by Braithwhite, who are gathering to perform a ritual centering on Atticus himself. What’s more, his only hope of salvation could also be his family’s downfall.

A novel that mixes the true terrors of racism with magic and a powerful storyline; it will make an incredible adventure read for your holiday.

Matt’s perfect holiday: “My dream getaway: A dramatic landscape where I can walk around talking to myself. Coffee essential. People optional. Strange animals a plus.”

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: US


8. Girl Through Glass – Sari Wilson

 Fiction/Coming of Age


Photo credit: Elena Seibert

New York, 1977, and 11 year old Mira is an aspiring ballerina in a highly competitive world. She is determined to succeed and Maurice DuPont, a 47 year old charismatic balletomane, agrees to be her mentor. Mira is accepted into the prestigious School of American Ballet and her talents grow to rarely seen heights. All the while, her relationship with Maurice intensifies and threatens to disrupt both their lives.

It’s the present day and Kate, a college professor of dance, begins a risky affair with a student which threatens to destroy her career and the new life she has so carefully rebuilt for herself. She receives a letter from a man she had long believed to be dead and is thrown back into her dramatic past.

With past and present elegantly interwoven in a gripping storyline, this makes the ideal beach book for those long days in the sunshine.

Sari’s perfect holiday: “Cape Cod beach, wild seals sunbathing, local oysters, pilsner, bonfire on beach, blaze of sunset.”

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: US


9. One Night in Italy – Lucy Diamond

 Women’s Fiction

Photo credit: Alexander James

Photo credit: Alexander James

Anna is a journalist with a dull life. The only mystery is that she’s never known her Dad, and her mum is refusing to tell her. After learning he is Italian she considers embarking on a journey to find him.

Sophie is serving Gelato to tourists in Italy when she learns her father has had a serious heart attack. She must now return home, somewhere she’s been avoiding for a long time. Taking a job teaching Italian to make ends meet, Sophie also must face up to the secrets in her past.

Catherine’s children have left home, her husband has left her for another woman and she has no money. She attends an Italian evening class which leads to her finding new friends, Anna and Sophie – friends whom she will need when the full extent of her husband’s lies are revealed.

A gripping story of three women’s lives punctuated with rich Italian culture, the perfect recipe for a relaxing holiday read.

Lucy’s perfect holiday: “Swimming in the sea, sunny beach days, a happy family, delicious food, adventures, ice cream – and of course an unputdownable book!”

Buy the book


10. The Guest Room – Chris Bohjalian



Photo credit: Victoria Blewer

Richard Chapman offers to host his younger brother’s bachelor party in his Westchester home and expects it to be wild. What he doesn’t expect is extreme drunkenness, an unexpectedly intimate experience in his guest bedroom and two naked women stabbing their Russian bodyguards and fleeing into the night.

The aftermath turns Richard’s life into a nightmare. His house is a crime scene and his wife cannot forgive him for what went on in the guest room with the dark haired girl. The girl, however, finds herself in even graver danger and must run for her life from the gangsters who want her dead.

This incredibly gripping tale of shame and danger will draw you in and keep you there; perfect for those long hours lounging by the pool.

Chris’ perfect holiday: “The Perfect Vacation? The unfamiliar but not unexpected. A rush but not a race. The fortuitous. The poignant. The new. Also? Wine and cheese”

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: US


11. The Lemon Grove – Helen Walsh

 Literary Romance/Contemporary Fiction


Photo credit: Jenny Lewis

In the beautiful village of Deia, Mallorca, Jenn and her older husband, Gregg are enjoying a relaxing holiday. However, the peace is disturbed by the arrival of Jenn’s stepdaughter, Emma and her boyfriend, Nathan. Jenn finds herself caught in a sexual compulsion with the arrival of this attractive young man who represents the promise of youth and passion. She must struggle with the conflict she now faces and the risk it poses to her quiet family life.

If this sexy and exotic novel set in beautiful Mallorcan surroundings doesn’t put you in holiday mode then nothing will!

Helen’s perfect holiday: “A cold San Miguel at the bar of Son Terrassa, watching the sun set over Santanyi.”

Buy the book


12. The Orphanmaster – Jean Zimmerman

 Historical Thriller/Romance


Photo credit: Maud Reavill

It’s 1663 and orphan children are disappearing from tiny Dutch colony, New Amsterdam. Trader Blandine von Couvering, herself an orphan, and British spy Edward Drummond are among those investigating the mystery and become entwined in a romance along the way.

Suspects include the governor’s wealthy, aristocratic nephew; a potentially demon-possessed Algonquin trapper and the colony’s corrupt oprhanmaster himself. Their search for the truth is endangered, however, when Blandine is accused of witchcraft and Edward is sentenced to hang for espionage.

If you love a murder mystery then this is the book for you. The accurate period detail and vivid storytelling will keep you hooked for your entire holiday, so you’ll have to work hard to put it down and be social!

Jean’s perfect holiday: “Bookish time travel’s the best vaca. Visit prehistoric caves, baths of Rome or towering forests of 17th c. Manhattan, no money down.”

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: US


13. Midnight Taxi Tango – Daniel José Older

 Urban Fantasy

Photo credit: Kevin Cane

Photo credit: Kevin Cane

Carlos Delacruz is an agent for the Council of the Dead, working to eliminate New York’s ghostly problems. A series of gruesome paranormal accidents have already taken the lives of several locals in Brooklyn’s Von King Park and more deaths are inevitable.

Kia has become close to Carlos and the deaths in the park have made her uneasy. She’s starting to see ghosts herself, and whatever is bringing out the dead is clearly only just getting started.

The second instalment in the Bone Street Rumba series, this gritty urban fantasy will take you on a very unique adventure into the world of the dead; ideal for the ultimate holiday escape.

Daniel’s perfect holiday: “The perfect vacation: good food, lots of sun, time to read, time to sleep, time to explore, long walks, and lots and lots of water.”

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: US


14. The Book of Memory – Petina Gappah

 Literary Fiction

Photo credit: Marina Cavazza

Photo credit: Marina Cavazza

Memory is an albino woman being held in a maximum security prison in Zimbabwe. Convicted of murder and facing the death penalty, she is advised by her lawyer to write down exactly what happened as she remembers it in order to make an appeal. Gradually, her story reveals that she is accused of killing Lloyd Hendricks, a white man and her adopted father.

But who is he? Why does she feel no remorse for his death? And could things have happened differently to how she remembers it?

A thoroughly absorbing story of love, fate and obsession which will keep you hooked right to the end. A great choice to keep your mind guessing whilst relaxing on the beach.

Petina’s perfect holiday: “Lots of love and plenty of laughter, lots of lounging and reading and sleeping, lots of eating and just enough drinking”

Buy the book 

Buy the book (Signed Copy)


15. The Lemon Orchard – Luanne Rice


Photo credit: Kristina Loggia

Photo credit: Kristina Loggia

It’s been five years since Julia last visited her aunt and uncle’s home in Malibu, and in that time her life has been upended by her daughter’s death. She seeks solitude and peace while she house-sits with Bonnie, her dog, but instead she finds herself drawn to Roberto, the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard.

They connect when Roberto reveals his own similar story of loss; but the difference is that his daughter was lost but never found, and he refuses to give up hope that he may find her one day.

This intense and wonderfully compassionate tale will sweep you away to the lemon-scented air of the Santa Monica Mountains; it doesn’t get much more holiday-perfect than that.

Luanne’s perfect holiday: “Moonlight on Laguna San Ignacio, picnic on the beach, California gray whales swimming close enough to hear them breathe.”

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: US


16. The Association of Small Bombs – Karan Mahajan

 Cultural/Contemporary Fiction

Photo credit: Molly Winters

Photo credit: Molly Winters

Young brothers, Tushar and Nakul Khurana, go to pick up their family’s television from a repair shop in Delhi with their friend Mansoor Ahmed. A small bomb detonates in the marketplace, claiming the lives of the Khurana brothers. Mansoor survives, but bears the physical and psychological scars of the explosion.

Later in life, Mansoor returns to Delhi and meets a fearless and mysterious young activist named Ayub with incredibly malleable beliefs and allegiances. Running alongside is the gripping tale of Kashmiri bomb maker, Shockie, who is willing to forsake his own life for the independence of his homeland.

This thought-provoking and dynamic tale of terrorism is told through the eyes of both victims and perpetrators, making it a unique and intriguingly alternative choice for your next holiday read.

Karan’s perfect holiday: “A weekend in Mexico City: café con leche at breakfast, mezcal with grasshoppers in the afternoon, dancing with snazzy oldfolk at night.”

Buy the book (Pre-order): UK

Buy the book (Pre-order): US


17. A Game for All the Family – Sophie Hannah


Photo credit: Mark Mather

Photo credit: Mark Mather

Justine Merrison flees a destructive career in London and plans a new life doing as little as possible. However, her daughter Ellen soon starts exhibiting strange behaviour. Deciding to check Ellen’s homework, she comes across a chillingly articulate story detailing a series of sinister murders committed at their new house, including a character Ellen has named after herself.

Justine’s fear soon turns to panic when she starts receiving anonymous phone calls from a stranger making threats and accusations, suggesting she and the caller share a traumatic past. When the caller mentions three graves, including one smaller one for a child, Justine must confront the danger herself as she fear’s for her family’s life.

Thrillers make fantastic holiday reads and ‘A Game for All the Family’ is a truly compelling contender. Curl up with your favourite drink and dive in.

Sophie’s perfect holiday: “5* hotel, colourful cocktails, sun, sun lounger, pool with Roman steps and lovely view, spa, beach nearby, at least ten great books to read.”

Buy the book: UK

Buy the book: US


18. I Heart London – Lindsey Kelk

 Women’s Fiction/Contemporary

Photo credit: Philippa Gedge

Photo credit: Philippa Gedge

Angela Clark was loving life in New York and it was starting to love her right back, so being summoned back home to London was the last thing she wanted. Having to leave her gorgeous boyfriend, Alex, behind was bad enough, without having to face her ex, Mark, who was the very reason she left London in the first place.

Being home also poses the problem of her mother, speaking to her as if she’s still 15, her best friend Louisa and her terrifying baby and – worst of all –  there’s a wedding on the horizon, and everyone remembers how Angela behaved at the last one. Can the arrival of Alex and her best friend Jenny save her from re-living her old life?

A perfect city book for a perfect city break – ‘I Heart London’ is full of quirky characters and will keep you entertained from start to finish.

Lindsey’s perfect holiday: “My perfect holiday is all about the three Fs – friends, fun and food! I love to mix it up, beachy relaxation combined with an adventure”

Buy the book

We hope this shortlist has given you plenty of inspiration for your next holiday book; get out there and start turning those pages!

Huge thanks to our fantastic authors for their perfect holiday contributions too.

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