Books to inspire your next holiday destination

Can’t decide where to go on holiday this year? Leafing through the pages of classic and new novels and travelogues could point you in some interesting directions.

Whether you want the warm, sunny climes of Peter Mayle’s A Year In Provence, the classic architecture of Florence and Rome in Henry James’ The Portrait Of A Lady or to explore different cultures and climates, a handful of good reads could provide the inspiration for a bucket load of travel.

Get ready to map out your wish list of locations with these top reads.


History buffs with a penchant for island-hopping will be glued to Victoria Hislop’s stories, transporting you to a Greece full of colour that began with her 2005 debut novel The Island – which gives a vivid description of Cretan life, weaving in the story of Greece’s leper colony on Spinalonga. It has sold more than two million copies worldwide to date and was made into a hit Greek TV series (both Ms Hislop and her husband, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, had walk-on parts).

The sequel, One August Night reveals what happened when the leper colony closed and how its inhabitants fared when they returned to the mainland.

For some sun-soaked escapism, bag Mandy Baggot’s light-hearted romcom Staying Out For Summer, which sees a young nurse’s holiday in Corfu throw up some romantic possibilities with the village doctor.


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Fancy a city break to Paris? Debut Amanda Bestor-Siegal’s The Caretakers focuses on several dynamic women in a wealthy suburb of Paris and an event that changes their lives, told through six women who are living very different city existences. Film rights have been snapped up by Emma Stone’s production company.

Peter Mayle’s witty classic memoir A Year In Provence, in which he charts his funny and sometimes fraught experiences of moving into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in southern France, will bring a huge ray of sunshine to travellers and non-travellers alike.

Read: Checking in: France’s best hostel


As a former travel guide in Rome who lived in Italy for many years, Donna Leon has an insider’s eye for detail. Her new novel Give Unto Others, in which she examines the corruption within an Italian charitable organisation, weaves in the magnificent architecture of Venice, the constant, mouth-watering presence of food, the loving and loyal Brunetti family, and the sense of menace which lurks around the corner.

Timeless classic novels that will have you salivating over Italy include A Room With A View by E. M. Forster, where a young woman’s repressed, rigid upbringing is thrown off balance when she visits Florence, a city that offers a wealth of romantic opportunities; and The Portrait Of A Lady by Henry James, featuring beautiful descriptions of both Florence and Rome.


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Even though Dune is a sci-fi book, Stadlandet in Norway comes into the frame in the latest film adaptation to let the imagination take readers to ‘Caladan’, the stark, inhospitable, windswept planet 20 light years from Earth, first created by author Frank Herbert in 1965. The film has boosted tourism to the region, but as well as reimagining the book’s dramatic setting, visitors may also want to follow the winding road of the Atlantic Ocean Road, as another film icon James Bond does in No Time To Die.

The United Kingdom

From the Shetlands to Cornwall, no literary stone will be left unturned, whether you want to investigate Brighton with top crime writer Peter James, through his famous Det Supt Roy Grace, or Edinburgh with Rebus creator Ian Rankin, or disappear into romance and relationships in Cornwall with Fern Britton, Judy Finnigan and a raft of other novelists.

If you’re keen on exploring Britain’s lost cities, Matthew Green’s factual book Shadowlands: A Journey Through Britain takes you on an atmospheric tour of ghost towns and disappeared villages, from a Neolithic settlement in Orkney buried in sand, to a medieval city swept from a shingle island.

The Island Home by Libby Page is set on a remote Scottish island in the Hebrides, based on the Isle of Eigg, in which a woman returns with her daughter to the island where she grew up and where her family might mend itself. Her descriptions of the dramatic landscapes, the black lochs, coves and jagged hills will make you feel like you’ve been there – or certainly make you want to visit.

Continuing the Scottish theme, Close To Where The Heart Gives Out by Malcolm Alexander charts the true story of a young vet’s move from suburban Glasgow to Eday (with a population of 125) in the Orkneys, where he provides a deeply moving account of island life.

Those considering visiting the east of England should look out for writer Elly Griffiths, where Norfolk is a huge part of the storyline of each novel in her bestselling Dr Ruth Galloway crime series, the latest of which, The Locked Room, sees her archaeologist sleuth helping solve a series of mysterious deaths.

Meanwhile, award-winning crime writer Ann Cleeves, already well known for her Northumberland detective Vera and Shetland Island mystery series, has her sights set on North Devon for her latest book, The Heron’s Cry. It’s set in a glorious summer packed with tourists, where Detective Matthew Venn investigates an elaborately staged murder among a group of artists.

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Of course, who could forget Ireland, the setting of so many inspiring reads – from Sally Rooney’s emotionally charged Normal People, to bestselling author Marian Keyes’ latest exploration of families, friendships and relationships in Again, Rachel, her sequel to Rachel’s Holiday.

Read: Author Marian Keyes on love, life and addiction


It’s not all fly and flop in the Caribbean, as readers discover in What A Mother’s Love Don’t Teach You by Sharma Taylor. It’s a novel set in Kingston, Jamaica, about a woman who is reunited with her son, 18 years after giving him as a baby to the rich couple she worked for before they left. A story of belonging and identity, it brings together a chorus of voices to evoke Jamaica’s dance halls and criminal underworld, at the heart of which is a mother’s love for her son.


Anyone planning a safari should pick up a copy of The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, a South African conservationist who accepted a herd of ‘rogue’ elephants to his Thula Thula game reserve. Risking his life to bond with the elephants, he assumes a hugely special relationship with the herd, the wise matriarch Nana and her warrior sister Frankie. This ultimately heart-warming recollection sheds great light on the emotional intelligence of these majestic animals.

Read: Why a sustainable safari should be your next holiday


A land full of colour, culture and fascinating history, many writers have been drawn to the storyboard of India. Arundhati Roy won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel The God Of Small Things, a story about Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala.

And who can resist Salman Rushdie’s acclaimed Booker Prize-winning second novel, Midnight’s Children? This much-loved historical fantasy reflects on the issues India faced post-independence, including culture, language and religion.

– With PA

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Written by Hannah Stephenson