You’ve packed your clothes. You’ve zipped up your toiletries. Now the age-old question: What book should you bring? Perfect for long flights, layovers, beach time, or, say, to wile the way an afternoon at a Parisian cafe, a book is truly the perfect travel companion.
It’s no wonder travelers are always in search of their next great read. Each month, Jinnie Lee and Maura Lynch, who together run STET, a website devoted to emerging writers and new books, present a few titles — some new, some that just feel relevant right now — that are worth bookmarking for your next trip.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Whether you’re embarking on an exciting trip or just want to feel like you are, this entertaining family drama is a worthy companion. It begins with the disappearance of eccentric maternal figure and known recluse Bernadette Fox, and follows her teenage daughter Bee’s attempt to find her. Enter: detective-style sleuthing and an unexpected journey to the edge of the world. Finish it before the Cate Blanchett-starring film comes out this August so that you can say you knew Bernadette way back when.
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
It’s possible you missed this haunting novel when it debuted in 2017. But once you pick it up, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever forget it. A woman named Amanda lies in a hospital bed with a young boy named David at her side. Though we're never sure how they know each other, it's clear they share a bond. They talk of death, loss, and dark memories through fragmented dialogue. Is it a nightmare? An end-of-life hallucination? Fever Dream is as brief and intense as its title implies — it's an unsettling page-turner you'll quickly get lost in.
The Good Immigrant: 26 Writers Reflect on America edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
People who frequently travel abroad tend to love immersing themselves in other cultures, but in America, multiculturalism and ethnic people aren’t always viewed with the same appreciation. This illuminating collection of essays, featuring contemporary writers like Jenny Zhang and Chigozie Obioma, allows readers into the complicated and pained first- and second-generation immigrant experience. The essays are challenging and layered, but short enough to fill brief moments with gorgeous, enlightening prose.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
This isn’t your classic Cinderella story: A teenaged Parisian prince (who is pressured into a royal marriage by his parents) hires a poor-but-visionary fashion designer to make opulent gowns for his secret nightclub drag persona, Lady Crystallia. It’s a stunning fairy tale told through a genderqueer lens that is at once laugh-out-loud funny, tearily heartbreaking, and visually joyous. While this graphic novel will surely infatuate any adult, it’s a wonderful comic for middle grade or YA-aged travelers as well.
Personal Days by Ed Park
If going on too many work trips gets you down, you can at least rest assured that you’re still employed. This isn’t the case in Ed Park’s satirical workplace novel where massive layoffs have hit an unnamed business like the plague. Personal Days was released in 2008, but the story radically holds up — probably because the monotony of “office culture” has unfortunately (but hilariously) remained a constant. In other words, there are plenty of weird coworkers, terrible email etiquettes, coffee runs, and pink slips to go around in this sharp novel. It’s for anyone who’s deep in the 9-to-5 grind.
Normal People by Sally Rooney (Out April 16, 2019)
Irish novelist Sally Rooney has such a knack for writing about the growing pains and melancholia of young love that it feels like a punch in the gut. In her follow-up to 2017’s Conversations With Friends, schoolmates Marianne and Connell, two seemingly different people, connect in profound ways. Though their (secret) romance ebbs and flows through see-sawing confidence, family troubles, and other lovers throughout their college years, their undeniable impact on each other’s lives remains strong. Normal People isn’t out in the U.S. until April, but it had already been long-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. Pre-order the book now so that you can devour it on your next jaunt.