Travelling in the summer break is one of the best advantages of being a student. You have two whole months to go to exciting places, see new things, or visit friends who are further afield. On the other hand, you may be having to spend summer at home working, clawing your way back from the significant overdraft you’ve accumulated after the last few weeks of term with no student loan top you. If you’re one of the lucky few who can jet off to exotic locations, then here are some recommended reads for your chosen destinations. And for those of us who are stuck at home, we can just read and pretend we’re doing otherwise. 

America 

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a must for anyone travelling to America. It’s short, and therefore lightweight for hand-luggage, but is also an exceptionally well-written story. The book follows Nick Carraway in 1920’s New York as he searches for the American Dream but becomes entangled in the fantastical plans of his millionaire neighbour, Jay Gatsby.  (From experience, this read is about as long as the flight from London to New York- a perfect match!)

If 1920’s decadence isn’t your thing, then perhaps try Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale, presenting a much darker, dystopian Gilead, which was once a part of America.  This totalitarian society, in the wake of environmental disasters, treats women as property of the state and follows the life of Offred as she tries to escape such oppression. 

Greece

Louis de Bernières’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a tale set on the Greek island Cephalonia. Captain Antonio Corelli is a young officer posted on the island as a young Italian officer as a part of the occupying forces. The locals ostracise him at first, but between peacemaking efforts, love, and music, they face the savagery of war together. This is a slightly longer read, but as a multimillion bestseller, it’s certainly worth a read. 

Spain

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee tells the extraordinary memoir of Lee’s year walking across Spain with only a blanket and a violin to make his way.  This book is not only beautifully written and humorous but might even shed some light on extreme budget travel.  

Image by Ruth Walbank

Japan

Haruki Murakami is arguably one of the most famous writers of our time. And luckily for us, his short story collection Men Without Women has recently been translated into English. While this collection is about men who have lost women in their lives, it offers the perfect introduction to this Japanese writer’s unique style. 

France

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince is a book that can remind you of your childhood self, the importance of creativity and the value of friendship all within 100 pages. And it even has pictures. This beautiful novella has quickly become a classic, recently being adapted into a Netflix film, and is a must read from this acclaimed French writer. 

Italy

If you want some light reading while travelling, and also happen to the curious about the current political landscape, then The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli is for you. This Italian diplomat’s political treatise from 1532 still retains extraordinary relevance today’s world leaders and behaviours of politicians and is surprisingly easy to read. (I would recommend Penguin’s Great Idea’s edition as an excellent abridged translation at a reasonable price). 

Argentina

Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentinian short-story writer and essayist, who also lived in Switzerland and Spain in his lifetime. His famous collection Labyrinths showcases his imaginative style in a series of thought-provoking philosophical paradoxes and parables, leading you down a maze of literary mystery.