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The best classic novels to read on your travels

The best books for travellers

Best books for travellers

Posted on

02 Mar 2022

Cruise holidays are perfect for relaxing and unwinding, especially if you have been busy enjoying the activities on board. Hectic daily life means it can be tricky to find the time to settle down with a book, however, one of the unsung joys of cruising is the freedom to enjoy some guilt-free reading. Here, we ask travel bloggers which classic novels they would recommend when packing for a cruise:


Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier wrote her now-famous novel, Rebecca, in 1938. On a trip to the South of France, a shy heroine falls in love with Maxim, a handsome widower. The pair are swept up in a whirlwind romance and a marriage proposal quickly follows. Upon their return to the UK, the young bridge notices a change in Maxim and she realises she barely knows him. Surrounded by the memory of his first wife in the house they once shared, she is left walking in the shadow of Rebecca.

Recommended by Rhianna:

“There are lovely descriptions of flowers, beaches, sea air and sunshine that conjure up holiday memories for me. But the story itself is full of dark intrigue to keep you hooked while you travel,” Rhianna from Tsundoku Girl explains. “Travelling is about taking time to relax and enjoy yourself with a change of scenery in order to feel like you’ve actually had a break. Relaxing with a book during a cruise means you’re able to enjoy the story without worrying about unfinished tasks. As lovely as travel is itself, sometimes you want a change of scenery while you’re en route and a book is the perfect piece of escapism.”

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Penned by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925, The Great Gatsby tells of the mysterious Jay Gatsby’s grand effort to win the love of Daisy Buchanan, the rich girl who embodies, for him, the promise of the American dream. The novel is narrated from the perspective of Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s neighbour, who recounts his time getting to know the famous Gatsby.

“F. Scott Fitzgerald brilliantly captures both the disillusionment of post-war America and the moral failure of a society obsessed with wealth and status. But he does more than render the essence of a particular time and place, for - in chronicling Gatsby’s tragic pursuit of his dream - Fitgerald recreates the universal conflict between illusion and reality,” explains Waterstones.

Recommended by Kariss and Gemma:

Both Kariss from Shy Strange Manic and Gemma from Girls That Travel recommend packing The Great Gatsby for your next cruise. Kariss explains, “Whether you’re on the deck of a cruise ship or relaxing on a paradisical beach, the decadence of the 1920s spills off the page and envelopes you. It has depth and drama without being too heavy to dip in and out of.”

“It is so beautifully written,” Gemma says, “and so evocative of hedonistic times gone by in Long Island. F. Scott Fitzgerald whisks you away in a haze of 1930s society life, parties, mystery and tragedy. So captivating is the writing, you can almost smell the blossom in the air or taste the Gin Rickey at night. Not only is it hard to put down but it’s also the perfect length for a week away, or even a weekend if you’re a quick reader.”

Life of Pi

Yann Martel

Published in 2001, Life of Pi by Yann Martel could be deemed a modern classic. The protagonist, Pi Patel, explores issues surrounding spirituality from early in his youth. He survives 227 days on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger before the pair find land. The novel concludes with Pi telling people about his adventures at sea - how fitting for a cruise!

Recommended by Nell:

Nell from Adventures with Nell has read Life of Pi several times. She told us: “I would recommend it for anyone who wants to switch off from the real world and get completely lost in their imagination. I love that this book manages to entertain and make you think at the same time, questioning the importance of believability and truth versus storytelling with spiritual and religious undertones. The perfect mix for switching off on holiday whilst keeping the mind active.”

The Enchanted April

Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April was written in 1922 by Elizabeth von Arnim after a holiday to the Italian Riviera. The story is set in the 1920s and follows four women with very different personalities, struggles and ambitions. They meet during a month-long holiday at a medieval castle in the Mediterranean after answering an advertisement in a newspaper. While they experience tensions, the rejuvenation they find in their peaceful surroundings helps them rediscover hope for the future.

Recommended by Sally:

Sally from The Foodie Travel Guide recommends taking The Enchanted April on a cruise because, “It’s a heart-warming, sunny and entertaining read. When I travel abroad, I love to read stories about people who have escaped to the country I’m visiting and have been changed by the experience in some way. On a recent trip to Italy, I took The Enchanted April. The women are all dissatisfied with their dreary lives in the UK. Who hasn’t dreamt of such an escape in the depths of winter?”

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