The Best Books to Bring On Your European Summer Holiday

James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room book cover

These are some of the best books to pack for your European summer holiday.

Finding books to bring on your vacation can be difficult. You don’t want to bring too many, but you also don’t want to bring only one, especially if you’re a quick reader; those plane rides can be long.

Not only that, but there isn’t a worse feeling than reading a book you don’t like while having an enjoyable time. Bondi Beauty has curated a short list of some of the best books to bring to your European summer if you can’t decide.

Insider travel hack – be sure to download your travel books to Audible so you don’t have extra weight in your luggage. Or even invest in a Kindle.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (28 August 2012)

Book cover with a light green blue background and a gold greek battle helmet with the words The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Genre: Fantasy, historical fiction.

Best for: Celebrating pride month and lovers of Greek mythology.

Best holiday destination: Greece.

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.” – The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller.

This beautiful coming-of-age story is one that’ll stay with readers forever. The Song of Achilles is a telling of great lovers in Greek mythology, but not Zeus and Hera, or Aphrodite and Ares, but Patroclus and Achilles.

The story is told from the point of view of Patroclus, a young prince who has been exiled to the court of King Peleus for a crime. It wasn’t long until Peleus’s golden boy Achilles befriended Patroclus, despite their differences. As you read on, you are able to watch them grow into young men together, forming a rare connection like no other. Miller has a rare way of writing the romance and connection of these characters that is so painfully beautiful. It’s no doubt a few tears may shed.

Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship seems unbreakable, despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother, the sea goddess Theis. Together they are trained by Centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine. During this, word gets out that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, and Achilles must fulfil his profit and go to war in distant Troy. Despite Patroclus’ limited ability to fight, he goes with Achilles to war, and they fight together.

Filled with amazing descriptions of Greek mythology and architecture, it’s a perfect choice for those who are always interested in mythology. Miller has a way with words; you are able to feel the conflict, love and fear through her words so easily. This a perfect choice for a Greek vacation and celebrating pride month this June.

Bondi Beauty rating: 4/5

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid (30 August 2022)

Books image. Book cover with ombre cover, starting from pink orange at the top to blue green at the bottom. White text over front saying Carrie Soto is Back, with woman posing in tennis outfit on a tennis court.
Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction.

Best for: Women empowering women, tennis lovers.

Best holiday destinations: London & Paris.

“Some men’s childhoods are permitted to last forever, but women are so often reminded that there is work to be done.” – Carrie Soto is Back, Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Taylor Jenkins Reid knows how to write a fun and addictive book. Author of some of the biggest contemporary hits, including The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & The Six, Carrie Soto is Back, is the one to look out for.

Carrie Soto is powerful and an icon. Her determination has not made her well-liked, especially by men in the tennis industry, but that has not stopped her from making her way to becoming the best tennis player in the world. And she did just that. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Slam titles. Carrie sacrificed so much to become the best, and her father, who is also her coach, has been there with her every step of the way.

Six years after Carrie’s retirement, at the 1994 US Open, she sees first-hand British player Nicki Chan take her record. At thirty-seven years old, Carrie decides to come out of her retirement after six years and be coached by her father for one more year to reclaim her title as the best tennis player in the world. It’s difficult, her body doesn’t move as fast as it did, and many aren’t happy with her announcement. Despite this, she works hard, even if that means swallowing her pride and training with an ex-lover Bow Huntley, who, like her, also has something to prove.

Carrie Soto is Back is fun, fresh and exciting, taking you on a journey of love, family and friendship. It speaks of struggles as a woman, particularly a Latin woman, in a male-dominating industry and just how strong and amazing women are. As fun, as it is, it also brings you on an emotional rollercoaster. You don’t even need to like tennis to enjoy reading it!

Bondi Beauty Rating: 5/5

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956)

Best books for European summer. Pegnuin classic book cover with silhouettes of men, one red taking up the whole cover, the other yellow and smaller. Text saying Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin.

Genre: LGBTQI+ Fiction.

Best for: If looking for an LGBTQI+ classic novel.

Best holiday destination: Paris.

“And yet- when one begins to search for the crucial, the definitive moment, the moment which changed all others, one finds oneself pressing, in great pain, through a maze of false signals and abruptly locking doors” – Giovanni’s room, James Baldwin.

If you’re visiting Paris during your European summer, the late James Baldwin is the perfect author to indulge in. The late author is one of the most talented and emotional we have come across while reading. Famous Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company even housed James Baldwin during his time in Paris. So we recommend visiting, not only for Baldwin’s collection of novels but many other authors who visited at stayed at the bookstore.

Giovanni’s Room was rejected at first Esteemed editor Henry Carlisle notified Baldwin that the company was turning the book down because it had so few credible characters and would do nothing to serve Baldwin’s reputation. As well as the book’s failure has nothing to do with the subject matter, despite the view of the time, being published in 1956.

The novel is set in the contemporary Paris of American emigrants, violence and liaisons. After a queer experience in his childhood, the protagonist, David, represses the impulsive feelings many find unacceptable.

After moving to Paris, David finds himself caught between desire and traditional ethics for the 50s. He meets Hella Lincoln, has an affair and proposes marriage. She leaves for Spain to consider his proposal, but things are going differently for David in Paris.

He meets Italian bartender Giovanni. David soon moves into Giovanni’s small room, and together, they have a secret and devoted affair. David describes Giovanni’s room throughout the novel, slowly getting more intense towards the end of the story. Giovanni’s intentions and actions slowly start to unravel as David discovers more about him.

Baldwin’s distinguished narrative delves into themes of love, death and passion that reveal the unspoken complications of the heart. Despite its saddening end, it’s one of the many classic works and authors worth committing to. The raw and heartbreaking nature of the novel brings you on an emotional rollercoaster with the characters from start to end.

Bondi Beauty Rating: 5/5

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney (11 July 2017)

Best books for european summer. Yellow book cover with white writing saying Sally Rooney, Conversations with friends. Two simple cartoons of two women with their eyes crossed out.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction.

Best for: Those discovering the complexities of relationships with friends.

Best holiday destinations: Dublin, Croatia & France.

“You live through certain things before you understand them. You can’t always take the analytical position.” – Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney.

We’ve recommended Sally Rooney’s Normal People before at Bondi Beauty. One of our personal favourites from the Irish author is Conversations with Friend. The ongoing Marxist theme and attitude towards the patriarchy create an addictive and visual reading environment. It’s also set in Ireland, perfect for anyone planning a trip to Ireland. 

Conversations With Friends’ protagonist, Frances, is twenty-one years old. She’s darkly observant, awkward and composed. Frances is an aspiring writer and devotes herself to a life of the mind and her other half, Bobbi.

They were lovers in school but now perform spoken-word poetry together in Dublin. During this time, a journalist named Melissa spots their potential and reaches out to them. Both girls are instantly impressed by her, Bobbi even gaining a slight crush on her. Melissa invites both of them into their home, and Frances is instantly impressed by Melissa’s sophisticated home and handsome husband, which is where things get all tangled.

What seems to be an amusing flirtation soon becomes a strange, unexpected intimacy between Melissa’s husband, Nick and Frances. In an attempt to resist the temptations, Frances’ relationship with Bobbi and Melissa starts to break down. Her intellectual certainties begin to turn into something she didn’t expect—a painful and disconcerting way of life from moment to moment.

The bluntness and perfectly awkward dialogue give a different perspective on stability, trust, and healthy relationships. Each word is thoughtfully chosen and provides a perfect visualisation for the reader. We find Rooney’s books some of the most enjoyable and eye-catching to read, and luckily for those who love to watch, there is a show adaptation available on Amazon Prime Video, which brings the words to life.

Bondi Beauty Rating: 4/5

New Release: Happy Place by Emily Henry (25 April 2023)

Best books for european summer. Pink book cover with white writing saying emily henry, happy place. cartoon figure seen  jumping in a pool and two figure floating on two different pool floaties.
Happy Place by Emily Henry.

Genre: Romance Fiction.

Best For: A relatable and passionate telling of the second chance trope.

Best holiday destinations: Switzerland & Sicily.

“My best friends taught me a new kind of quiet, the peaceful stillness of knowing one another so well you don’t need to fill the space. And a new kind of loud: noise as a celebration, as the overflow of joy at being alive, here, now.” – Happy Place, Emily Henry.

Emily Henry’s collection of books screams summer. The #1 New York Times bestselling author has written some of BookTok’s favourite books, including Book Lovers, People We Meet on Vacation and Beach Read. You’ll enjoy the comfort of sitting back and reading a summery romance with any of her books.

Henry’s new release, Happy Place, starts with Harriet and Wyn. The perfect couple since they met in college, they’re perfect for each other, and everyone agrees…Well, so everyone thought. The couple broke up six months ago and still haven’t told their best friends.

They soon regret this decision because they find themselves sharing the largest bedroom at the Maine cottage, their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual holiday is the one time a year when they get to settle down for a blue and exciting week, leaving behind their everyday lives.

It’s different this year as Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth to their whole friend group while simultaneously failing to notice how badly they still want each other. Together they don’t want to break their friend’s heart, so they keep on pretending. But faking it for one week in front of those who know them best isn’t as easy and flawless as they thought.

It’s a perfect choice for a passionate second chance and fake relationship story. Henry has a charm of taking deep inner emotions of people are articulating them in a way that is relatable to most people. With a passion for describing the complexities of adult life while making it fun and easy to read, Happy Place makes a great choice for a great addition to a European summer.

Bondi Beauty Rating: 4/5

Check out our May book story: The Best Memoirs and Autobiographies to Read in May

Amber Grech
Amber Grech

Writer and Video Producer

Amber is a writer and content producer who has a passion for reading, films and collecting vinyl records. You’ll can always find her with a book in hand, or with her headphones on, listening to her favourite music and podcasts. She loves all things entertainment and pop culture, especially movies, actors and books. It’s always been a dream of her's to work with actors and write about them, their work and travel the world.

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