You may not pack your pajamas until the last minute. You may not even worry about more than one pair of shoes. You’ll buy some toothpaste when you get there.

You are an experienced and low-maintenance traveler. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a weekend road trip or taking off to the other side of the world, you only leave home with the essentials.

Of course, everyone’s essentials are different. A few protein bars and a bag of dry roasted edamame are definitely essentials. So is a selection of thoughtfully chosen books.

Whether you’ve got hours on a plane, miles on the highway or lazy days on the beach, reading is the best part of summer vacation. Here’s a summer reading list to help you leave the day-to-day world behind and come home recharged.

Non-fiction books for a refreshed perspective

Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices by Thich Nhat Hahn – If you’re spending a peaceful weekend by the lake take this short volume on mindfulness with you. While you can read it straight through, you’ll find yourself wanting to stop and practice the exercises presented. If you find that life is passing you by too fast or you’re feeling stuck in the muck of the world, this book will help you find a more mindful approach to your daily tasks and give you insight into creating your own happiness.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay – She’s not scolding you, I promise. The opening essay in this collection is about drawing the line between feminism (how we personally choose to live our values and our quest for respect as women) and FEMINISM (how the highly visible leaders tends to draw a more perfect picture of being a modern woman.) My personal favorite essay is her induction into the world of competitive Scrabble and tournament play. Take along on a girls’ weekend to read before bed; it will lead to great conversation at breakfast.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k by Mark Manson – If you’re easily offended please don’t read this book. Certainly don’t listen to the audio version in public. The use of the f-word is prolific and it certainly does its job for shock value. However, if you can get past that you’ll find yourself questioning your priorities and how much time you spend on things that really don’t matter that much. It will also give you some insights into what’s standing in the way of your goals. If you want a book to read in chunks (say mornings when your eyes pop open due to jet lag and your spouse is still snoring away) here’s a perfect choice.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh – Perfect for an afternoon at the beach or a rainy day stuck inside, this classic is a must-read for every woman who feels a overwhelmed and is searching for her own inner calm. Written in 1955, her essays on the pressures of “modern” life and the need for a space of one’s own ring remarkably true today.

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, And Found Self-Help That Really Works by Dan Harris – Part meditation how-to and part autobiography, this books takes a fresh perspective on mindfulness through the eyes of a journalist and self-help skeptic. If you’ve ever felt like you’re meditating wrong or just don’t understand how it helps, this is the book for you. Read by the author, the audio book makes a perfect road trip companion.

by the pool reading list
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Fiction books to help distract you from the real world

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll – A thriller in the vein of Gone Girl, this novel makes a great read on Kindle, Audible or a good old-fashioned paperback. The story plays out slowly, winding between Ani’s life today and Tiffany’s life before and how one became the other. She does seem to have everything but Ani is a great reminder that nothing is ever as perfect as it appears on the outside. Hard to put down, you’ll want to save this one for a long flight or a lazy afternoon by the pool.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter – Don’t you love a book with a good twist in the middle? I won’t give too much a way but listening to this on the treadmill I had a “what just happened moment?”. This story of three sisters, one long dead and two struggling to live on, is not just a who-done-it but also a great study in relationships. The narrator of the audio version is amazing so I highly recommend this one for a long road trip.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin – From the author of The Aviator’s Wife, this is the story of Truman Capote and the beautiful society women he surrounded himself with at the height of his career. How much is truth and how much is fiction? Who can really say but you’ll try to figure it out. It’s a great beach read or perhaps for a stay-cation weekend at home.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See – If you want to a better understanding of China before World War II and Chairman Mao, read this book. If you love stories about sisters, mothers and daughters, read this book. If you just want a beautifully crafted tale, read this book. Really you should just read this story of two sisters who survive the perilous journey of escaping China during war time and coming to Los Angeles to chase the American Dream. Take it with you on a plane, train or automobile; just don’t try to read your Kindle while driving.

Still Life by Louise Penny – Do not read this book if you’re not ready to take on a whole series! The first in the list of Inspector Gamache mysteries, you’ll be hooked and eager for the next book. Here we meet the amazing cast of characters that you’ll come to know and love, including a Quebec village known as Three Pines. Armande Gamache, the main character, feels like the kind, wise and fair minded hero the world needs right now. If you want a long plane ride to go faster here is your secret weapon.

I don’t have many travels planned this summer but I will make plenty of time for reading. While my personal Goodreads list is out of control, I am always interested in hearing about good books. I would love to hear your summer reading recommendations!

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