It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be cashing in their vacation time, but maybe a tropical getaway or European paradise isn’t in the budget this year. Life as a travel nurse can be lonely, and there is no denying that nurses need a break after trying days working at homes, in hospitals or throughout rehab facilities.
Without breaking the bank and traveling further than your favorite hammock or local coffee shop, visit new places, meet new people and gain new perspectives with the flip of a page or swipe of a finger. One beautiful thing about literature is that each struggle, longing or hardship we face has been felt before, and through the words of a book, we can escape and connect to others—no matter where we are.
Below is a list of books that are engaging, while remaining easy to read and relatable to anyone who finds themselves far from home or in need of a mental getaway.
1. The Book of Speculation: A Novel by Deckle Edge
In a crumbling home by the shores of Long Island Sound, young librarian Simon Watson lives alone after losing his family to death and escapement. His mother drowned in the water right below the home, after making a living holding her breath as a circus mermaid, and his sister Enola ran away with a traveling carnival with whom she specializes in reading tarot cards.
One June day, an old, delicate looking book arrives on Simon’s doorstep. Water damaged and purchased on speculation by an antiquarian bookseller, the book dates back to the 1700s and holds record of strange and magical occurrences, including the death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of “mermaids” in Simon’s family have drowned —always on June 24, which is only weeks away.
Upon reading through the mysterious book, Simon becomes worried about his sister. Is his family cursed? What does Simon have to do with this book, and can he unlock century old secrets in time to save Enola?
2. In The Country: Stories by Mia Alvar
Broken down into nine segments, this book follows the stories of the wanderers, the exiles and the emigrants as they begin new lives scattered across the globe. This book speaks to the universal experiences of loss, displacement and the longing to connect to both real and imagined borders. As the pages turn, Alvar’s enchanting voice will resonate with anyone who has searched for a place to call home.
3. The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
When sisters Phaedra and Dionne, ages ten and sixteen, are exiled from their Brooklyn home after their mother can no longer care for them, they find themselves in Bird Hill, Barbados with their grandmother, a midwife and practitioner of local folk magic and sorcery, during the summer of 1989.
During this coming of age novel, Phaedra tries to uncover secrets of her mother’s mysterious life and accompanies her grandmother during her practices. Dionne, on the other hand, spends her summer searching for love, testing her grandmother’s patience and longing to go home to Brooklyn. Crisis emerges for the sisters when their father, whom they barely know, arrives in Barbados and tries to re-claim his daughters. The girls much now choose between the life they knew in Brooklyn or their family roots in Barbados.
4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Rachel makes the same commute every morning, taking the train from a London suburb into town. After losing her husband to another woman after being unable to conceive, thirty-something Rachel falls heavily into alcoholism. Rachel’s alcohol use contributes to losing her job, and being too embarrassed to tell her friend whom she lives with, Rachel still takes the train into town every day. Each day, Rachel watches a presumably perfect couple from the windows of the train, watching them so much that she believes she know them, naming them Jess and Jason.
The couple, whose real names are Megan and Scott, live a few houses away from the home Rachel and her ex-husband Tom used to occupy. When Megan goes missing, Rachel finds herself in the middle of a police investigation and discovers more than she could have imagined. Filled with adultery, murder, blackouts and the recovery of lost memories, Hawkins’ book is sure to take you on a psychological thrill ride.
5. Infinite Home by Kathleen Alcott
Widowed landlady Edith rents apartments out in Brooklyn to an unlikely mix of humans, all in need of shelter. The tenants struggle to navigate through everyday life, each crippled in mind, body or heart. As Edith’s mind deteriorates, the tenants face the threat of eviction from her estranged son Owen, who has plans to renovate the building.
Alcott writes with humor and grace as the reader follows each tenant’s search for connection, a life worth living and a home to call their own.