Arts + Culture

Our 2016 Spring Break Reading List

There's nothing we love better than delving into a good book on vacation, especially when it transports us to far and away places. These 8 new novels do just that, taking us from the gritty streets of Hong Kong to the chic avenues of Paris to the Bohemian isle of Brazil's Ilha Grande. Read on.

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1

The Expatriates

Setting: Present-day Hong Kong.
The gist: Ever wondered what it’s like to live in a foreign country? Janice Y.K. Lee’s second novel is a poignant look at the expat experience as told in the memorable narrative voices of three Americans in Hong Kong. Both a social satire and a keen exploration of what it means to be a woman and a mother living abroad, the lyrical novel traces the personal journey of character as she navigates the strange, foreign, and often isolating setting in which the story takes place.
Perfect for ... An international excursion.

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2

The Road to Little Dribbling

Setting: Great Britain.
The gist: Nearly twenty years after publishing Notes From a Small Island, Bill Bryson is back to Great Britain—this time, to chronicle his travels along the country's coast. Employing his trademark dry and acerbic humor, the author's on-the-road remarks ("[Durham Cathedral] is essentially just a giant pile of rubble ...") and insights ("London isn't a place at all. It's a million little places") are sure to be a hit with anyone who has ever returned home to find it changed—and not necessarily for the better.
Perfect for ... A cross-country road trip.

RELATED: Literary-Inspired Destinations

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3

The High Mountains of Portugal

Setting: Portugal.
The gist: You won’t find any talking animals in Yann Martel’s (The Life of Pi) newest novel. But fret not—this tri-part novel (which circles throughout time and deals with not one, but three central characters) is nothing if not ambitious. In the first section, set in 1904, a grieving young man takes an epic road trip in search of a sacred artifact; in the second, set 35 years later, an Agatha-Christie-obsessed pathologist performs an autopsy at the request of a stranger; and in the third, a Canadian senator trades in his political career to retire to Portugal with a chimpanzee. Sounds zany, but if it's anything like The Life of Pi, we expect to devour it in a single sitting.
Perfect for ... A staycation.

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4

Ways to Disappear

Setting: Rio de Janeiro.
The gist: A famous Brazilian writer goes missing and a young American translator goes on a thrilling quest to find her—such is the page-turning plot of acclaimed poet, Idra Novey’s, brilliant debut novel, Ways to Disappear. Blending mystery, romance and noir, this exhilarating read will transport you to exotic locations including the bohemian isle of Ilha Grande and the colonial streets of Salvador.
Perfect for ... Your back pocket. (It's only 250 pages, so you can take it with you wherever you go!)

RELATED: What to See, Eat and Do in Rio

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5

The Lost Time Accidents

Setting: From turn-of-the-century Vienna to World War II and present-day Manhattan.
The gist: If you’re only going to lug around one hefty book this break, let it be John Wray’s time-traveling new novel, The Lost Time Accidents. It's long (roughly 500 pages), and chock full of esoteric philosophical musings, but stick with it, and we promise you won't be able to put it down. A madcap adventure story spanning decades, the book's centers around college dropout, Waldemar "Waldy" Tolliver, who wakes one morning to discover that he has been "excused from time." Magic, family drama, and intrigue ensues.
Perfect for ... Dream of time travel? This one's for you.

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6

Wreck and Order

Setting: Sri Lanka.
The gist: Elsie is a bright young woman with a dead-end job, a dysfunctional family and an abusive boyfriend. Desperate to find a way out of her aimless, self-destructive rut, she decides to skip college, and travel the world on the back of an inheritance. Her journey, which takes her from Paris to California, Brooklyn and finally, to Sri Lanka, is one of healing and self-discovery, and has led many readers to draw comparisons to Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. It's chick lit, but of the so-good-you-cant-turn-the-pages-fast-enough kind.
Perfect for ... Solo travel.

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7

Cities I've Never Lived In

Setting: Portland, Maine.
The gist: Stuck at work this spring break? A book of short stories is less of a time commitment than a full-length novel. And Sara Majka’s, Cities I’ve Never Lived In, is, a dazzling debut collection that's already garnered rave reviews. There are 14 stories in the book—a number of them interconnected and featuring a young American woman reeling from a recent divorce. As the character reflects on the places and people that has shaped her, it becomes clear that Majka is less concerned with cities and landscapes than she is with the emotional and spiritual spaces in between. Or, as the author writes, the sensation of "being nowhere, or in someone else's life, or between lives."
Perfect for ... A self-reflective retreat.

RELATED: A Summer Road Trip in Southern Maine

8

Why We Came to the City

Setting: New York City.
The gist: A brave and heartfelt coming-of-age tale, Kristopher Jansma's Why We Came to the City, tells the story of five twenty-something friends living in recession-era NYC. Jacob is a poet, who works at a treatment center for mentally-ill teenagers; Sara, an editor and social butterfly; George, a troubled astronomer with an increasing alcohol addiction; William, a classics major turned investment banker; and Irene, a visual artist with a mysterious past. When tragedy strikes, the friends must choose whether they'll collapse under the weight of the blow, or come together in solidarity.
Perfect for ... A day at the beach.