How Do I Choose!? 15 Tips for Choosing Which Books to Take on Vacation

“A reader lives a thousand times before he dies…the man who never reads lives only one.”–George R. R. Martin


I’m one of those people that always brings a book anywhere I go. If I don’t have a book to read at home or in my purse I feel incomplete. I’m also that person who comes out of the library looking like I robbed the place. Reading for me is an escape as much as it is fun. It’s a way to expand and enhance my imagination, a way to learn new things and perspectives, and a way to de-stress and forget about problems for a while.

Vacation or business travel means lots of downtime during the travel and depending on the vacation you may have lots of spare time where you just want to relax, enjoy the scenery and just enjoy being where you are without site seeing. This is where books are your best friend. Packing them is a completely different story (I’ll tackle that in a later post) but I’ve got some great tips on how to choose the perfect book to read plus some of my all time favorites.

1. Don’t Bring a Tearjerker

Sometimes we all need a good cry from a book that makes you feel all of the emotions in a way you didn’t think possible. But do you really want to be the person who looks like they’re having a breakdown on a plane/bus/terminal/train? Downtime should be about uplifting yourself and being positive especially while you’re on vacation. Bring a book that makes you laugh so hard you cry. That’s the best way if you really want to shed some tears.

2, Bring Longer Books

Some people read at a pace of turtles stampeding through peanut butter while others read a book in the blink of an eye which I deem to be a superpower. Try and calculate how much time you will have to read and go from there. To be on the safe side bring a longer book just in case you have more time than you thought in that bus station or airport terminal, or (even better) on that sandy beach in a tropical paradise. If you tend to go for shorter books why not find a trilogy or series you will love.

3. Find a Free Library

This is different from a public library, but yes the books there are free too..until you lose or damage them. Some destinations may not have these, but many hostels or hotels will have a lender wall for free books you can pick and choose from. Free libraries are much, much smaller. There are several in my city. One is a repurposed mini fridge, another an extra large birdhouse. They are anything creative that you can put books in. Anyone can donate books and anyone can take books. While the selection will never be as amazing as your local public library they are an easy way to find a book quickly and you never know you could find something new you never thought you would be interested in!

4. Bring Magazines

Magazines are a good way to mix up the genres of reading you have. They are easy to dispose of or even give to a stranger. If you only have one book with you and can’t fit anymore try some magazines! I bring a book or two and catch up on my magazines that I usually put on the back burner when I have a stack of books waiting to be read.

5. Bring Books You Can Leave Behind

Chances are you might buy souvenirs when you’re traveling and the space in your suitcase becomes prime real estate. Don’t bring your favorite book that you would never dream of leaving behind. Bring one you’ve been meaning to read or one that someone gave you and you won’t feel heartache over donating to another traveler.

6. Stock Up on eBooks/Audiobooks/Kindle books

You can pack fifty books without needing to look like you packed the entire library with you. Don’t forget the chargers though!

7. Books About/Set In Your Travel Destination

There are so many reasons to do this. You can learn something about your destination, find more places to visit, get a better feel for the culture, etc. Reading about where you’re going can get you more excited for your next big adventure, remind you of past experiences and make you feel more connected in a place where you might not know a single person.

8. Books Written in a Foreign Language

This is the ultimate reading challenge. You might want to download or bring a dictionary in case you aren’t fluent. This is also fantastic for someone trying to improve their language skills in a certain language or for people who normally breeze through books in a few hours.

9. True Adventure Stories

Nothing will get you motivated to travel or keep traveling like adventure stories. Reading about people doing incredible things around the globe can have a profound effect on you and inspire you to do things you might never have considered before. Plus it’s the kind of book you will never get bored with.

10. Books That Will Hold Your Attention/Multiple Genres

Have you ever checked out a few books from the library and opened one to realize you aren’t in the mood to read it? That can be a huge buzz kill on a trip. An easy way to fix that is to bring something that genuinely interests you or to bring multiple genres just in case you get picky, which we all do.

11. Bring a Back-Up Book

Ever thought you would only need one book and by day two of your week-long vacation you have nothing left to read and 5 more days of lounging on the beach? Yep. We’ve all been there. Even if you only bring one physical book you will most likely be happy you brought an extra or an ebook.

12. Bring a Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read

I have about 10 books on my shelf that I own and have been meaning to read. I always go for the ones I check out of the library first and the others collect dust for a little while. These are usually the first books I put in my suitcase when I travel. Plus you get to check that book off of your to-do list and that is always a great feeling.

13. Don’t Bring A Library Book

Nothing looks like a million bucks coming out of a suitcase after a trip. Everything looks like it went through a traumatic experience in the black hole of suitcases so please respect library books. They are for everyone and no one likes finding sticky pages, torn or missing pages, questionable bite marks or a pile of sand when they open a book they’ve been wanting to read. Bring something you own so if it gets messed up or lost then you don’t have to pay the library for a replacement.

14. Bring Books by Authors You Know You Love

Brown, McClellan, Preston and Child, Lawson, etc are my go-to authors for books. I’ve now read everything by them, but I have researched authors that are similar and have developed a massive to-read list so I can find books by authors I know I like. Bringing a book on vacation shouldn’t be a gamble. If you end up hating the book you’re stuck with it for a while. Bring something you know you will enjoy and your experience will be much more pleasant.

15. Buy Books at Your Destination or at the Airport

Airports tend to always have new and exciting books. They also tend to have BOGO deals.  It’s a great way to read something new from your favorite authors while also making sure you have a backup book. Local bookstores are always a fun place to visit. You get to speak to the locals and get their recommendations as well.


Recommended books: I have trouble prying all of these books from my hands so I hope you enjoy them just as much.

  1. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
    • Hysterical
    • Came from her blogging success
    • You will laugh until you cry
    • Bizarrely charming
  2. The Accidental Adventurer by Ben Fogle
    • Inspirational
    • Will make you want to do the same crazy and incredible things he’s done
    • Adventure and lots of it
    • Personal writing style
  3. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks
    • Nonfiction
    • Intriguing and intelligent
    • Scientific, but easy to follow
    • About neurological disorders/case studies he studied during his career
  4. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
    • Heartwarming
    • Funny
    • Lovable
  5. Noises Off by Michael Frayn
    • Funniest play I’ve ever read or seen
    • Hardest play I’ve ever acted in
    • Hysterical
    • Sex Farce
  6. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
    • Based on the 1960s
    • Empowering
    • Touching
    • Culturally significant
  7. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
    • A spoof on a Shakespeare play
    • Very funny
    • Witty
    • Quick read


What are your favorite books you’ve brought with you while traveling? Comment below!


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