Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

5 Qualities for the Perfect Vacation Read

Kim Ukura

Staff Writer

Kim Ukura is a book lover, recovering journalist, library advocate, cat mom, and lover of a good gin cocktail. In addition to co-hosting Book Riot’s nonfiction podcast, For Real, and co-editing Book Riot’s nonfiction newsletter, True Story, Kim spends her days working in communications at a county library system in the Twin Cities area. Kim has a BA in English and journalism from a small liberal arts college in Minnesota, and a master’s in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. When not getting to bed before 10 p.m., Kim loves to read nonfiction, do needlework projects, drink tea, and watch the Great British Baking Show. Instagram: @kimthedork Twitter: @kimthedork

One of my favorite things about going on vacation in the summer — usually to my parent’s cabin on a lake up north — is deciding what books to bring. I get a lot of quality reading time in while sitting on the pontoon, and I don’t want to squander it with a mediocre books. Through my extensive experience choosing vacation reads, I’ve found there are some qualities that make some books better for vacation that others. These are some of the highly scientific things I look at when packing up my books:

1. Plot: When I’m on vacation I need books have a strong plot, books that I can pick up and put down without losing my place in the narrative. I am never in the mood for something slow or meandering at the beach. On the other hand, I often vacation with my family or friends, so I don’t want a book that is such a page turner that I don’t want to put it down when the people I care about are around. I want to enjoy reading, but I also want to enjoy vacationing. With nonfiction, the idea of plot really just has to do with forward momentum — is it clear this book is going somewhere? If so, it has a space in my beach bag.

2. Anticipation: There is nothing like that feeling of cracking open a book I have been waiting to read. It is especially satisfying on vacation when there is absolutely nothing else I am supposed to be doing. I tend to save books I am really excited about for a vacation read.

3. Obligation Free: I rarely bring books I have to read on vacation. For me that often means skipping books I am planning to review or otherwise write about on my blog or here at Book Riot. I also avoid a book club reads and books I’ve borrowed from friends who might want to talk about them later. I have a hard time being articulate about books I finished at the same time I finished a margarita.

4. Format: I never bring library books or books I’ve borrowed on vacation. I don’t want to worry about them getting damaged. I have an e-reader, but I’m wary I’m bringing it near the lake. Most of my vacation reads are physical books, even if they take up more space in my suitcase. Luckily, this summer I’m going on a road trip so space/weight isn’t much of an issue.

5. That Special Feeling: I have been going back and forth about which books to bring with me for a couple of weeks. In the end, I will probably stuff at least a couple books in my bag on impulse that will end up being my favorite vacation reads. Sometimes you have to go with your gut when it comes to figuring out what you want to read right now.

How do you decide which books will take up valuable real estate in your suitcase when you travel? Any favorite vacation reads to recommend?


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