Reading your way into your next vacation

One can never be too prepared to embark on a new adventure somewhere in the world. Our blog post Getting Ready for the Big Trip shows some of the unique ways we like to prepare for our journeys.  One of my favorites is to find books set in the places we plan to visit. This is especially great for kids who may not have the frame of reference yet to develop an expectation of the place they are visiting.  Not only does it help them to get excited about a trip they probably don’t yet understand, it also helps them to be more engaged when they arrive.  There are countless incredible travel books out there for all ages.   Especially in places like England and France.  We haven’t read them all but we’ve read some pretty good ones and now we’ve rounded them up for you and your kids below!


  • The Diary of Melanie Martin – by Carol Weston – tweenage Melanie goes to Italy with her family.  For KIDS and TWEENS.
  • Under the Tuscan Sun – by Frances Mayes – set in Tuscany where author buys and restores a Tuscan villa. Can be for TEENS.
  • Beautiful Ruins – by Jess Walter – set in Cinque Terra in the early 60’s and in Hollywood 50 years later
  • The Enchanted April – by Elizabeth von Arnim – set in Portofino and tells the story of several women spending a month on vacation there.
  • A Room With a View – by E.M. Forster – set in Florence, and Surrey, England where an Englishwoman falls in love on holiday in Italy.
  • Angels & Demons – by Dan Brown – set in Rome – adventure, intrigue and wit creates a war between science and religion.



  • The DaVinci Code – by Dan Brown – set in Paris – a murder in the Louvre starts an international murder mystery.
  • The Royal Diaries – Marie Antoinette – by Kathryn Lansky – set in Paris and Versailles, these are the diaries of Marie Antoinette – great for KIDS and TEENs
  • Just One Day – by Gayle Forman – set in Paris – post HS girls goes on a 3-week European tour and has a magical 24 hrs in Paris. For TEENs.
  • A Year in Provence – by Peter Mayle – set in Southern France -Peter buys a 200 yr old farmhouse in Provence.
  • Lessons in French – by Hilary Reyl – set in Paris -story about a Yale graduate’s year in Paris as an assistant to a legendary American photographer. For TEENs too.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog – by Muriel Barbery – set in Paris – explores the upstairs-downstairs goings-on of a posh Parisian apartment building.
  • A Moveable Feast – by Ernest Hemingway – Ernest Hemingway’s classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s.  A classic.
  • The Paris Wife – by Paula McLain – read in conjunction with A Moveable Feast – same story but told from the prosepective of Hadley Richardson, his wife.


  • Winter in Madrid – by CJ Sansom – set in Madrid post Spanish civil war
  • I, Juan de Pareja – by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino – set in Sevilla and tells the story of the slave of the famous painter Velazquez.  For KIDS and TEENS!
  • SASS Spain or Shine – by Michelle Jellan – set in San Sebastian and tells the story of a college student studying abroad.  For TWEENS and TEENS!
  • The Time in Between – by María Dueñas – set in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War and WWII
  • Driving Over Lemons – An Optimist in Spain- by Chris Stewart –  set in Andalucia – about Americans who buy an isolated sheep farm in the Alpujarra Mountains.  Can be for TEENS.
  • The Sun Also Rises – by Ernest Hemingway – set in Paris and in Pamplona, Spain – about 2 characters during the post WWI generation
  • Don Quijote – by Miguel de Cervantes – an adventure set in 16th century Spain


  • Londoners – by Craig Taylor – a portrait of modern day London that is as rich and lively as the city itself
  • Madeline in London – by Ludwig Bemelmans – Follow the adventures of Madeline and her friends as they visit a friend in London.  For KIDs.
  • Notes from a Small Island – by Bill Bryson – witty and detailed observations of life in a variety of towns and villages of England.
  • Harry Potter series – J.K Rowling – This very famous series of books about wizards is set in London.  Great for TWEENs and TEENs.
  • Love, Nina – by Nina Stebbe – Nina Stibbe moved to London in 1982, hired as a nanny to the sons of London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers and her ex-husband, director Stephan Frears.  Also good for TEENs.
  • Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf – A day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares to host a party in her affluent Westminster home.
  • Tunnel Vision – Keith Lowe – On the eve of his wedding, Andy makes a drunken bet that he can travel through every single Tube station in a single day.  Great study on the Tube!


  • Angela’s Ashes – by Frank McCourt – A memoir of an Irish family’s struggles during the Great Depression.  Good for TEENs too.
  • Circle of Friends – by Maeve Binchy – two kids who grow up in a small town in Ireland and head off to a university in Dublin.  Good for TEENs too.
  • A Secret Map of Ireland – by Rosita Boland – Author visits each of the counties on the island and brings back unusual tales of Ireland.
  • The Spinning Heart – by Donal Ryan – A modern day look at Ireland after the financial collapse.



  • My Dam Life – Three Years in Holland – by Sean Condon – Australian humorist talks about his life in Amsterdam.
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl– by Anne Frank – diary of a 13yr old girl who flees her home in Amsterdam with her family and goes into hiding during Nazi occupation of Holland.  For TWEENs and TEENs too.
  • Just One Year – by Gayle Forman – Follow up to Just One Day (see Paris).  Set in Amsterdam, India and Mexico.  For TEENs.


  • Time’s Magpie: A Walk in Prague – by Myla Goldberg – Life in Prague just as westernization was getting underway.
  • The Unbearable lightness of being – by Milan Kundera – set in Czechoslovakia in the 70’s, is a class philosophical story of love.
  • The Castle – by Franz Kafka – set in a castle in Czechoslovakia, Kafka is the most renowned Czech writer.



  • Prague: A Novel – by Arthur Phillips – despite its title, this novel follows five American expats who come to Budapest in the early 1990s to seek their fortune
  • The Good Master – by Kate Seredy -a girl from Budapest who spends summers with her cousin on his father’s ranch in Hungary.  For TWEENs and TEENs.


  • The Painted Kiss – by Elizabeth Hickey – set in Vienna and reimagines the relationship between Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge, the woman who posed for his masterpiece The Kiss, and whose name he uttered with his dying breath.
  • The story of the Trapp family singers – by Maria Augusta Trapp -Baroness Maria Augusta Trapp tells the story of her romance with the baron, their escape from Nazi-occupied Austria, and their life in America. For TEENs too.


  • The Book Thief – by Markus Zusak – a foster girl living outside of Munich steals books and shares them during Nazi Germany.  For TWEENs and TEENs too.
  • Cafe Berlin – by Harold Nebenzal – a portrayal of the feverish, decadent world of Berlin clubgoers in the months leading up to the Nazi rise to power.
  • Sophie Scholl and the White Rose – by Jud Newborn and Annette Dumbach – a true story set in Munich of German resistance to the Third Reich
  • The Innocent: A Novel – by Ian McEwan – psychological thriller set in Berlin during the Cold War


  • Names for the Sea : Strangers in Iceland – by Sarah Moss – a British family moves to Iceland and learns a new way to live.
  • Independent People – by Halldór Laxness – Nobel Prize winning story of an Icelandic sheep farmer.


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