It’s almost that time of the year when your bed is much warmer than the rest of your house, you have to get up early to scrape the snow off your car, and the sky is generally more grey than blue. There’s no better way to spend a cold winter day than to be curled up with a cup of coffee browsing #TravelPorn pictures on Instagram of idyllic European Christmas markets, the still-warm beaches of Thailand, or the envy-inducing blue lagoon pictures from Iceland. Whether you want to make your escape to another country or plan a staycation, brainstorming ideas can give you something to look forward to in the coming months and make the loss of days at the beach a tad more bearable. Plus, there are few pleasures as great as discovering a new city, learning about another culture, and creating memorable experiences with loved ones on a trip—aside from reading about it, that is.
So, if you’ve already read Eat, Pray, Love and watched Under the Tuscan Sun more than ten times last month (No? Just me?), or if you’re simply craving some travel inspo to kickstart your next great adventure, look no further than these sumptuous, consuming, fun reads.
The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino
If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring France but haven’t had the chance to go, Elaine Sciolino all but buys you a plane ticket in this account of a single street in Paris. As former Paris Bureau Chief of The New York Times, she’s a trustworthy source for all things Parisian. After living on the rue de Martyrs for years, Elanie regales us with stories of buttery brioches, engaging with cheesemongers, and the day-to-day of her neighbors’ lives on this historic stretch of road. By the last page, you’ll feel like you’ve lived there for years, and even then, you’ll be inspired to see it for yourself.
The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah
Part historical fiction, part mystery, and part romance, there’s a little something in this book for everyone—especially if you like wine. Pitched as Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale, Kate must return to the vineyard in Burgundy, France, that she ran away from years earlier to escape her ex-lover, Jean-Luc, in favor of making her own path as a sommelier in California. But when she reaches France, she discovers a mysterious wine cellar tied to World War II, and it proves to be a mystery worth sticking around for. Now faced with her remaining feelings for Jean-Luc, the Master of Wine examination looming, and a disturbing family history, Kate must decide what future she truly wants.
This book pairs well with a glass of wine in one hand and a cheese plate in another. It will have you longing for the rolling hills of the French countryside and a French love affair of your own.
The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker
Keep your bottle uncorked, because we’re staying in wine country for this one. Only, this time we’re in the idyllic Sonoma, California, where life is simple, but romance is complicated. When Hannah gives up a dream job, apartment, and boyfriend after her college graduation, she finds solace as the marketing manager of a family-run winery, and simultaneously finds herself falling for the owner’s son. Grab your ticket to the Napa Valley, book a wine tasting course, and relive Hannah’s journey all on your own after racing through to the last page of this intoxicating read.
Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude by Stephanie Rosenbloom
As a staff columnist for the Travel section of The New York Times, Stephanie was used to traveling the world. But on assignment to write about visiting Paris solo, she realizes that alone time had been the missing piece to the perfect vacation. In this incredibly detailed and mesmerizing account, Stephanie dines alone on a rainy night in Paris; she stumbles her way through the Turkish baths of Istanbul by herself; she disconnects in Florence and finds deeper meaning in art; and she learns how to love the city she calls home, New York, from a new perspective. This book will teach you how to savor an experience, change your attitude for the better, and learn to love spending time with yourself.
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman
Real talk: I don’t ever laugh when I read books. I’ve never read a book where the humor has jumped off the page—until I “met” Kristin Newman. In a memoir that spans her late 20s and early 30s, Kristin regales the reader with her incredible experiences while solo traveling. From the time that she slept with a Russian bartender so that “the terrorists don’t win” to her on-again-off-again love affair with Father Juan (yes, he’s a priest), you’ll laugh so hard that you’ll have to put the book down (I can attest to this). It’s hysterical, relatable, moving, and will make you want to pack your bags and find your own Brazilian lover immediately.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
This book is a beautiful meeting of two cultures—Nikki lives in West London with her parents who are Indian immigrants. She struggles to accept the traditional Sikh community she grew up in as her love for Western life grows. But after the death of her father, she becomes more involved in the Punjabi community than she ever could have imagined. This is an incredible story of friendship, love, and a mélange of two distinct cultures that will have you longing to learn more about both.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
It takes a really great writer to hook a reader with little to no dialogue, and that’s just one of the reasons why Peter Mayle may be one of the greatest travel writers of all time. After moving from the UK to Provence with his wife, Peter Mayle details the unique—and sometimes hysterical and frustrating—experiences he has while renovating his house in the Luberon region. His writing is seductive. You can practically taste the coveted truffles melting in your mouth. By the end of this read, you really will feel as though you spent a year in Provence.