Whether you’re reminiscing about your study abroad days in Prague or dreaming of quitting your day job and taking on an international gig, when wanderlust hits, it can hit really, really hard. Sure, a little bit of bikini shopping can sometimes do the trick, but when flights — no matter how cheap — aren’t in the budget, there’s no cure like a steamy book set in a land far, far away. No one knows this better than Andrea Dunlop, the debut author of Losing the Light.
Set in France, Andrea’s novel explores powerful friendships, deep infatuation and bitter betrayals. Losing the Light takes place over the course of one very tumultuous year abroad — a year that changes everything for Brooke, a bookish girl who dreams of breaking free of her small California town and making it as a writer. When she befriends Sophie, the classic girl who has it all, (or does she?) and they take on Nantes together, Brooke finds her life taking a turn from the dramatic.
Add some dreamboat French men and lots of kissing and you’ve got the makings of your favorite new read. Reading this book is like booking a plane ticket to the fanciest estate in the French countryside, wine glass in hand — all from the comfort of your couch. Today, Andrea is sharing her favorite books that serve up vacation without any of the planning. Scroll on to discover 10 novels that will soothe your wanderlust.
1. Abroad by Katie Crouch ($7): Taking place in the fictional Italian city of Grifonia, Katie Crouch’s enthralling novel draws inspiration from the sensational Amanda Knox coverage to weave a dark, page-turning tale about young girls coming of age in foreign lands. It’s eerie and addictive; I read it travelling through Italy and occasionally became convinced there were ghosts in my hotel room.
2. Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois ($26): This novel also riffs off the Knox imbroglio (the title refers to the infamous alleged cartwheel Knox turned when called in for questioning), though this takes us to Buenos Aires rather than Italy. The characters are wicked and dark and the setting is utterly haunting. Do not neglect to read the author’s note at the end; it contains a stirring surprise.
3. Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead ($5): I don’t love watching the ballet, but I do love reading about it (and watching cheeseball movies about it: a little cinematic masterpiece called Center Stage, anyone?). Shipstead depicts her dancers — both American and Soviet — and the brutal, glorious world of professional ballet in sparkling detail. Plus there is a love triangle, a complex female friendship and Paris. Yes, please.
4. The Vacationers by Emma Straub ($19): Though the setting is delicious — a villa on the Spanish isle of Majorca — it was the cast of characters, chiefly comprised of the members of the Post family, who really made this novel for me. From bookish recent high school grad Sylvia who is hell-bent on cashing her V-card to her loser brother’s fitness-crazed girlfriend to Franny, the mother at the heart of the book — I still find myself thinking about this lovable, dysfunctional clan.
5. The Beautiful Americans trilogy by Lucy Silag ($7): This trilogy is technically YA, and I found it deeply satisfying in that it connected me with my younger self in the way that great YA books do when you read them as an adult. This features a lovable quartet of American teenagers studying abroad in France who get into all manners of trouble. Loved it.
6. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith ($5): The anachronisms in this 1955 novel — Ripley travels to Europe by steamer, they keep food in an icebox in the villa — make the setting for this dark, twisted tale of Americans-abroad-gone-bad all the more enthralling when read now. Ripley is the ultimate anti-hero, a sociopath you shock yourself by rooting for.
7. The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh ($25): This super sexy novel also takes place on Majorca, and could almost serve as the evil twin of The Vacationers. Like Straub’s novel, it features a family abroad: a couple struggling to maintain their marriage, plus their daughter, and her very out-of-place significant other. Add lots of booze, remove all semblance of healthy boundaries, shake well and serve with a twist.
8. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter ($22): This decadent masterpiece spans decades and follows an eclectic cast of characters from Hollywood to Italy and beyond. History blurs with fiction in an enticing way, and this complex multi-layered tale comes to a rare, perfectly satisfying ending.
9. Trouble by Kate Christensen ($10): It’s one thing to go abroad and get up to shenanigans when you’re in your twenties, but what about when about you’re a little older and have far more to lose? The two best friends in this novel — a rock star in the midst of a scandal and wife whose just left her husband — escape to Mexico City to let their respective storms blow over. A flurry of art, men, tequila and trouble with a capital T follow.
10. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman ($12): This is one of the most beautiful, sensual books I’ve ever read about young love and its lasting consequences. When a teenage boy falls for a house guest spending the summer at his parents’ villa on the Italian Riviera, they have a brief romance that will continue to affect both men throughout their lives. It is psychologically thrilling, emotionally moving and, it must be said: hot, hot, hot.
Did your favorite book make the list? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know!
(Featured photo via Getty)