Destination Literature

by Jamie Klingler

Skyline pops up out of a book


The London Book Club members are an erudite bunch and never far from a book – especially when they’re on holiday (have you checked out the lists of summer reading?). But one of our members, the lovely Molly, goes one step further than just packing a few books into her suitcase before she goes away…

I like to start ramping up to a state of near-hysteria about my hols a good few weeks before I actually go away, so a novel – or a bit of history, although to be honest that’s far less common – that’s set in my intended destination is the perfect way to count down the remaining tube journeys. The Imperfectionists was the starting gun for a riotous long weekend in Rome a few years ago; Summer Lightning (and almost anything else by Wodehouse) is the perfect companion for a train ride into the English countryside; I struggled with Moby Dick heading to Massachusetts in the spring and delighted in The Rules of Civility before an autumnal trip to New York last year (we stayed in Brooklyn, but let’s not split hairs).

Conversely, when I am away and miserable, all I want to read are books that will take me home, for however brief a time. A disastrous experiment as an English tutor in Mantua did afford the luxury of all six Austens, and a sizeable chunk of The Forsyte Saga to boot. I’m going to Cornwall in September, so currently re-reading Rebecca with The Camomile Lawn on its way – but a week with virtually no activities planned brings its own challenges: how many paperbacks can possibly fit in one suitcase?

It’s not something I’ve ever thought about doing, but it appears Molly isn’t on her own, because several other people get into the holiday mood in the same way. In case you’re off somewhere this summer, here are a few recommendations for destination literature… And we’d love to hear your favourites, too – which book do you love about a place? Let us know in the comments, or find us on Twitter over at the #LondonBookClub hashtag.


The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón (@sam_cookney)

Channel Islands

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (@flemingsean)


A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Yiyun Li (@photogirluk)

Burying the Bones, Hilary Spurling (@photogirluk)


Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter (@photogirluk)


The Forgiven, Lawrence Osborne (@tripfiction)

New York

Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín (@misshclose)


Le Spleen de Paris, Charles Baudelaire (@sam_cookney)


The Food of Love, Anthony Capella (@superlativelyLJ)

Trinidad and Tobago

Early CLR James & VS Naipaul (@mhd_bass)


The Trader of Saigon, Lucy Cruickshanks (@tripfiction)