Ah, summer vacations. The crowds. The traffic. The high gas prices and/or airfare. The long waits at airport security. The HEAT. These are the reasons that I, like any sensible person, schedule my yearly trips for spring or fall. But once my Instagram and Facebook feeds start filling up with waterfront photos, I confess to craving a little more escapism in my fiction. If you've got the staycation blues, here are 10 books with creative settings that will take you a world away . . . even if you're still in your easy chair.


Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill. Cotterill has made a name for himself with offbeat mysteries set in East Asia. The first in a new series, Killed provides "a beautifully crafted look at life with a Thai twist," not to mention a hero named Sticky Rice. Escapism, indeed! 

The Ruins by Scott Smith. Got friends visiting Mexico? Well, that trip will seem a lot less desirable after reading Smith's dark, suspenseful story of four friends whose excursion to a Mayan temple doesn't go exactly as planned.

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann. This debut takes you away in place and time—and throws in a murder to boot. Set in a wealthy enclave on Martha's Vineyard (is there any other sort of enclave on Martha's Vineyard?), it follows two families whose fortunes and fates are changed by World War II—and by one fateful night.

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson. The titular hero of Jonasson's quirky second novel goes around the world and back again on a madcap journey from 1960s Soweto to modern-day Sweden that will thrill fans of Forrest Gump or François Lelord

Beach House No. 9 by Christie Ridgway. The first installment of Ridgway's best-selling series set in coastal California is a sexy and sun-kissed escape that follows the slowly developing romance of a memoirist and the woman sent to help him finish his latest publishing project.

The Red House by Mark Haddon. If you're stuck at home idealizing the "family summer vacation" thing, here's your antidote. Told in multiple voices, Haddon's creative third novel from adults is set in a cottage in Wales, where a family reunion slowly falls apart.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub. Longing for a taste of Europe? Straub's second novel follows a family on a visit to the idyllic island of Mallorca, off the coast of Spain. But amid the olive trees, family drama lurks.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. An isolated lighthouse off the Australian coast, on an island full of natural wonders, is the setting for Stedman's debut, which follows the consequences of a couple's morally ambiguous decision to raise a foundling child as their own.

The Girl with No Shadow by Joanne Harris. Is there anyone out there who would turn down a trip to Paris? I didn't think so. Take one in this sequel to the bestseller Chocolat, which finds chocolatier Vianne Rocher and her daughters living in Montmartre and opening shop in the big city.

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. This second novel from Sullivan is set on the Maine coast, which is as lovingly detailed as the family drama between the characters, who are visiting a weather-worn beachfront cottage packed with memories.

This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park. Midcentury South Korea is the unusual setting of this heartfelt love story, which Park says was inspired by Pride & Prejudice

Have you read any books with a memorable setting lately? Share in the comments!


P.S. Enter this week's Monday contest for a chance to win two of these books, plus more great armchair travel reads.

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