So many of us still associate vacations with childhood and family, not to mention being forced to spend time with all kinds of relatives who sometimes felt like strangers. Plenty of books have chronicled such vacations—childhood outings, camping trips, and even the odd summer spent at home—and these are some of the very best. Don’t you just feel like a kid again?
1. Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings
Be warned, Wolitzer’s 2013 novel isn’t meant for the younger set. Instead, it’s the perfect story for full-grown adults who long to return to the glory days of summer camp. Wolitzer’s book centers on a group of teen misfits—the so-called “interestings”—who meet at a summer camp for gifted kids and spend the rest of their lives trying to get back there (some more literally than others).
2. Kate Abbott’s Disneylanders
What could be better than a family trip to Disneyland? Well, if you’re an awkward teen like Casey (short for “Acacia”), just about anything. The Magic Kingdom doesn’t sound so appealing to the high school-bound Casey—and neither does that whole “hanging out with your parents for whole days” thing—but Abbott’s charming and funny 2013 novel reminds us that sometimes a little rest and relaxation (complete with Mickey ears) is the best thing anyone could ever receive.
3. Stan and Jan Berenstain’s The Bears’ Vacation
Before there was a Brother Bear, a Sister Bear, and a Honey Bear, there was just Little Bear (yes, that was Brother’s official name before the girl cubs came along), and he had to learn some hard lessons—like water safety! One of the original Berenstain Bear books, The Bears’ Vacation is packed with the kind of sweet sentimentality that vacationing little ones and wistful adults alike can appreciate.
4. Mark Teague’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation
A wild and rollicking tale about a summer vacation gone totally wild, Teague’s 1997 book introduced us to the indomitable Wallace Bleff. Is Wallace lying about his adventure-filled summer vacation? Is it pure convenience that all of his stories fit so neatly into rhyming verse? You’ll have to read it to find out.
5. Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer
A sensitively rendered graphic novel that every tween should read, the Tamakis’ This One Summer chronicles what happens when a beloved vacation tradition that brings friends Rose and Windy together every year suddenly highlights how much has changed in the intervening months.
6. Bennett Madison’s September Girls
The trick of Madison’s book is that it sounds like any other book about a childhood vacation—Sam and his dad and big brother head out for a beach vacation to bond and heal from a family upheaval—but it also holds a big secret. The kind that swims. The kind that lives under the sea. The kind that’s more than just a girl. (It’s about mermaids, okay?)
7. Anne Brashares’ The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Brashares’ first Pants novel spans an entire summer vacation as told by four very different narrators (the book’s eponymous sisters). As each of the book’s main characters experiences a summer apart from their best friends, the pants bind them, and Brashares’ novel satisfyingly covers a large spectrum of the vacation experience.
8. Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks Series
The four Penderwick sisters may be different, but they all love a good summer-set adventure, which is probably why Birdsall has already written three books about the sisters, including two about their vacations abroad. The Penderwicks are equally charming and interesting, but they really come alive when they hit their beloved vacation home in Maine.
9. Gerard Woodward’s August
Woodward has written a trilogy of novels that are loosely based on his own family and childhood, and August serves as the series’ lovingly penned opener. The book covers fifteen years of camping trips —all held at the same Welsh farm—and effectively tracks how things change for the Jones family (especially its youngest members).
10. Natasha Wing’s The Night Before Summer Vacation
Packing for a family vacation is never easy—something just always gets left behind—and Wing’s charming 2002 kids’ book works that idea to wonderful effect. Cute illustrations and fun rhymes make it an instant classic for the younger set.
11. Margriet Ruurs’ When We Go Camping
Ruurs’ book traces one (very full) day during a family camping trip, highlighting the many things an adventurous tribe can do out in nature, with a special emphasis on the animals her family finds along the way. Equal parts instructional and beautiful, When We Go Camping is just as enjoyable as the best family camping trip.
All images courtesy of Amazon.com