15 Books To Read Before The End Of Summer If You’re Still Dreaming Of A European Getaway

Is it just me, or does it feel like everyone is going to Europe this summer?

By Ella Carroll-Smith4 min read

It seems like every time you open Instagram, another one of your friends is posting pictures of themselves visiting ancient stone locales in Italy, wine tasting in France, or traipsing through the scenic Swiss countryside like a bonafide von Trapp. And all the while, you’re back at home working.   

If you find yourself stuck stateside this summer and dreaming of a European getaway, here are a few books that will provide you with a much-needed mental escape. 

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One Italian Summer, by Rebecca Serle

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle is one of my favorite books I’ve read recently. It tells the story of a young woman, Katy, who’s reeling from the death of her mother. Just before her death, the two of them had booked a dream vacation to the idyllic town of Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. In an effort to heal, Katy decides to go on the trip by herself. And who does she run into? Her mother, Carol – only she’s 30 years old and has no idea who Katy is. By befriending this young, vivacious version of Carol, Katy learns more about her mother and is able to heal from the loss, all the while traipsing from one dreamy Italian locale to the next. This book will make you laugh, cry, and immediately check flight prices to Italy so you too can visit Positano.

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

Vacations are supposed to be an escape, but Emma Straub’s novel The Vacationers is proof that life’s dramas will always follow you even to the most romantic of destinations. Franny and Jim Post take their extended family to the dreamy island of Mallorca, just off the coast of Spain. They’re all there to celebrate the Post’s 35th wedding anniversary, but throughout their two-week stay, family tensions and deep secrets come to light. 

The Book of Lost and Found, by Lucy Foley

If you can’t decide where you’d like to go on your next European getaway, then this is the book for you. Lucy Foley’s The Book of Lost and Found follows Kate Darling from London to Corsica to Paris as she attempts to discover the truth about her late mother, a once-famous ballerina who took her secrets to the grave. As Kate traipses from one amazing country to the next, she begins uncovering details that paint a new picture of who her mother really was, and the truth is beyond Kate’s wildest imagination. 

Outlander, by Diane Gabaldon

These days, Outlander is better known for the TV series, but Gabaldon’s novel – the first in a long series – is the book that started it all. Initially set in 1945 just after the end of WW2, Outlander tells the story of Claire Randall, an English woman who falls through an ancient, magic stone while on a vacation in Scotland with her husband, only to find herself transported back to 1743. At this time, the Scottish highlands were war-torn and dangerous, but lucky for Claire, she quickly falls in love with a handsome and heroic Scottish warrior, Jaime Fraser. Jaime and Claire’s epic love spans time and space. If you’re looking for a series that will truly transport you to another world, then buckle up. 

The Guest List, by Lucy Foley

If you prefer a good thriller but still want to experience a European getaway, then this is the book for you. Lucy Foley’s The Guest List is set on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, where guests are arriving for a wedding weekend that they’ll remember forever, but for all the wrong reasons. The bride and groom are a rich, beautiful power couple who seem to have it all, but over the course of the weekend, dark secrets are revealed about the wedding party that threatens to ruin not only the wedding but multiple people’s lives. 

The Villa, by Rachel Hawkins

What do Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein all have in common? They inspired this novel by Rachel Hawkins. Set in the town of Orvieto, Italy, The Villa follows best friends Chess and Emily as they take a trip to reconnect. They think they’re staying in a high-end vacation home, but the Villa Aestos was once the scene of a grisly crime back in 1974 that involved a famous rock star, Noel Gordon. As Emily digs into the truth of the villa’s history, tensions rise between her and Chess. Will they survive their stay?

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert

Are you allowed to write a list of books set in Europe and not include Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert? The now-famous memoir that was adapted into a film starring Julia Roberts follows Gilbert around the globe as she attempts to heal from her divorce. She eats herself into a larger pair of jeans in Italy, rekindles her spirituality by praying in India, and finds new love as she wraps up her year in Bali, Indonesia. This is a book about adventure and self-discovery in far-flung places. 

Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie

One of Christie’s most famous mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express follows famed detective Hercule Poirot on his travels aboard a luxurious train as it weaves its way through the mountainous Balkans in southeastern Europe. When one of the passengers is discovered stabbed to death, it’s up to Poirot to figure out who the killer is before he or she strikes again. 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This work of historical fiction is set in both London and the picturesque isle of Guernsey off the French coast, in the wake of WW2. When writer Juliet Ashton is contacted by a resident of the island who tells her about a secret society formed during the German occupation, she’s intrigued and believes it would make a great subject for her next book. Through her correspondence with this man, Juliet falls in love with the stories of the residents of Guernsey and travels to the island so that she can bring their stories to life.

Under the Tuscan Sun, by Francis Mayes

While it would be a total dream to renovate a historic villa in Tuscany, it’s unfortunately out of most people’s price range. In Under the Tuscan Sun, you can live vicariously through author Francis Mayes as she renovates her dreamy Italian villa called Bramasole. You’ll fall in love with the people, the place, and the food. And if you find yourself wanting more when you finish reading, be sure to watch the movie adaptation starring none other than Diane Lane!

The Girl with the Pearl Earring, by Tracey Chevalier

Chevalier’s Girl with the Pearl Earring is a work of historical fiction inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting of the same name. It was even turned into a feature film starring Scarlett Johansson. Set in scenic Delft, Netherlands in the 17th century, the story follows 16-year-old Griet. The young girl is hired as Vermeer’s assistant only to find herself immortalized in one of the painter’s most famous works.  

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter

This New York Times bestseller takes you from the Italian coast to Hollywood as it weaves facts with historical fiction. It’s a social satire of old Hollywood and loosely based on the story of the love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra. Equal parts heartbreaking and humorous, this story will keep you entertained as it keeps you guessing. 

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

Yes, you probably had to read this book for your high school English class, but that doesn’t mean you can’t read it again! In one of his most famous novels, Hemingway takes us from the streets of Paris to bullfighting rings in Pamplona. It tells the story of war veteran Jake Barnes and his complicated love for Lady Brett Ashley. Written nearly a century ago, this book is still well worth your while. 

That Month in Tuscany, by Inglath Cooper

For whatever reason, this year seems to be the year that everyone is visiting Italy, so why not one more book that’s set there? That Month in Tuscany by Inglath Cooper follows two opposite people who find themselves in one another. Ren Sawyer is a troubled rock star looking for an escape. Lizzy Harper is a normal woman whose husband stood her up on their anniversary trip. Lizzy and Ren’s chance encounter in Italy changes them forever. 

Chocolat, by Joanne Harris

Are you a chocoholic and a Francophile? Then this is the perfect book for you. Joanne Harris’s Chocolat follows Vianne Rocher as she arrives in the sleepy town of Lansquenet, France and immediately sends the townspeople into a tizzy when she opens up a chocolate shop. Pro tip: Make sure you have a snack before you sit down to read because the descriptions of the chocolates in this book will make your mouth water. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully, something on this list will scratch your wanderlust itch if you can’t take your own European getaway this summer. And maybe you’ll even get a few ideas so you can start planning a trip for next year!

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