As schools in the area let out, many adults must once again confront the cold notion that grown-ups don’t get the summer off. Most of us, if we’re lucky, get two weeks to rest and relax.
It’s a difficult truth to swallow, made even more difficult by the serious FOMO that comes from seeing friends and celebrities posting on social media carefully framed shots of a Caribbean sunset or real Italian gelato in front of the Trevi fountain.
A trick to make cubicle life more bearable during this time of year is to remember that vacations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sand is hot and burns the bottom of your feet! Bees swarm sweet, melting gelato! Kids get cranky and totally don’t appreciate historical forts, even if the tour guide is full of arcane knowledge!
Here are few books with major vacation drama to help you until it’s your turn under the sun.
Summer’s Lease by John Mortimer
Forty-something Molly Pargeter is tired of her London life. Her husband is cheating on her. Her daughters don’t seem to want her around anymore. She’s frustrated that life has turned out to be less than what she had once imagined. She decides the family will lease a rustic Tuscan villa for a month—a perfect chance to reconnect and take in the vistas and art the area is known for. Her plans go awry, starting with her opinionated father joining the family and continuing all the way to the dead body in an empty pool.
WHAT IT WILL CURE YOU OF: The disillusionment that “rustic” equals “charming and quaint.”
Do Not Become Alarmed Maile Meloy
Sisters Liv and Nora pack up their families for a Caribbean cruise. There’s something for everyone—entertainment, pools, childcare, all-you-can-eat buffets. But when a series of miscalculations at a port of call results in the children disappearing, everyone turns on each other. Told from both the parents’ and children’s points of view, this is a gripping tale of every parent’s worst nightmare.
WHAT IT WILL CURE YOU OF: The idea that cruise vacations are “easy.”
The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty Vendela Vida
The novel’s premise is simple: Almost immediately after arriving in Casablanca, all of your identification is stolen. You are without a passport, a license, a credit card, a phone. What do you do? If you’re the main character of this novel—referred to only in the second-person “you,” making the whole thing feel kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure story in which the adventure has been chosen—you adopt a new identity, which begins with becoming a stand-in for a famous film star who happens to be staying at the same hotel as you…
WHAT IT WILL CURE YOU OF: The fantasy of creating a “vacation self.”
The Vacationers Emma Straub
Franny and Jim decide to head to Mallorca to celebrate their wedding anniversary and their daughter’s high school graduation. Extended family and friends come along. Unfortunately, so do secrets, rivalries, and years-old resentments.
WHAT IT WILL CURE YOU OF: The desire for multigenerational getaways.
The Madman’s Daughter Megan Shepherd
Inspired by HG Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, Juliet has struggled to rebuild her life after it crumbled following accusations that her scientist father was responsible for gruesome experiments. But when word comes that her father may very well still be alive, she heads to the tropical island he’s hiding out on, only to discover that his madness may in fact run deeper than she ever could have imagined.
WHAT IT WILL CURE YOU OF: The longing for a tropical island getaway.
Visit Sunny Chernobyl Andrew Blackwell
Blackwell takes his reporter’s eye to some of the most polluted, barren places in the world—the nuclear dead-zone of Chernobyl, the lunar landscape of Canada’s oil sand strip mines, the Pacific garbage patch. Told with humor and grace, the book is a reminder that not everywhere is picturesque and we would be wise to protect the places that still are.
WHAT IT WILL CURE YOU OF: The sway of all those “eco-tour” ads on Facebook.
Tracks Robyn Davidson
Decades before Bill Bryson hit the Appalachian Trail or Cheryl Strayed went wild, Davidson trekked across 1700 miles of the Australian Outback with only four camels and a dog to keep her company. While insights and empathy abound, easy travelling does not. Davidson’s memoir doesn’t shy away from all the struggles and dangers—and in Australia, there are a lot.
WHAT IT WILL CURE YOU OF: The fantasy of hitting the trails for emotional enlightenment.
Long Way Round Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
After Star Wars, Moulin Rogue!, and Big Fish, what’s a Hollywood actor to do? If you’re Ewan McGregor, you enlist your best friend and a barebones camera crew to pack up motorcycles and travel from London to New York City—overland. From the familiar sights of Western Europe to the Mongolian steppe to the North American continent, the team has thrilling highs and rock-bottom lows. Just know that a long portion of their trip is on “The Road of Bones”—and that’s a nice part of the journey!
WHAT IT WILL CURE YOU OF: The pining for the open road.
1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die Patricia Schultz
There aren’t vacation disasters here, not really. There are things that aren’t up your alley, to be sure, and things that your kids will groan about, but secretly love, and things that you do because you’re there and why not, you’ll be thankful for the memories someday. But this is a book filled with vacation ideas—including some right here in our own backyard (seriously, Wolf’s Bar-B-Q, on Evansville’s North Side, makes the list). You may not have the time or money to travel the world, but you may find that the best things aren’t all that far away.
WHAT IT WILL CURE YOU OF: Nothing—wanderlust is good, vacations are great, and when you go, it’s all going to turn out fine.