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The best classic novels to read on your travels

A cruise provides the perfect opportunity to become immersed in a good book, especially during those quiet sea days or at the poolside.

Woman reading a book

Posted on

05 Sep 2019

Cruise holidays are perfect for relaxing and unwinding, especially if you have been busy enjoying the activities onboard. 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. For this article, we asked bloggers which classic novels they recommend packing for a cruise.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

What is it about?


It’s time to read!!

Penned by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925, The Great Gatsby follows a cast of characters living on Long Island including protagonist Jay Gatsby. The novel is told from the perspective of Gatsby’s neighbour Nick Carraway as he recounts his time getting to know Gatsby in post-First World War America.

Waterstones says that 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 - Fitzgerald re-creates the universal conflict between illusion and reality.”

Recommend by Shy Strange Manic and Girls That Travel

Kariss from Shy Strange Manic told us why she packs The Great Gatsby on her travels: “The decadence of the 1920s spills off the pages as you read it and envelops you so you feel glamorous reading it, whether you’re on the deck of a cruise ship or backpacking through a rain forest. It has depth and drama without being too heavy to dip in and out of as well as a high re-readability factor. It's a book everyone should read - plus it's not too long so it’s perfect for carrying in your suitcase!”

Gemma from Girls That Travel also suggests The Great Gatsby to anyone looking for a classic novel to take on holiday: “It is beautifully written 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.”

A good book can help people escape and become immersed into another world, as Gemma explains: “Reading educates you just as travel educates you, I believe the two go hand in hand.”

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

What is it about?

Daphne du Maurier wrote her now-famous novel Rebecca in 1938 and it continues to be a popular read across generations. The novel tells the story of a protagonist who meets an older widower called Maxim in Monte Carlo. The protagonist falls in love with Maxim and the pair get swept up in a whirlwind romance and quickly tie the knot. Back home in the West Country, the unnamed protagonist is constantly compared to the late Rebecca who was adored by many and as time goes by, it becomes clear that Rebecca was not as angelic as many had believed.

Recommended by Tsundok Girl

Rebecca is a novel that has something for everyone - romance, horror, crime and mystery as Rhianna from Tsundoku Girl told us: “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 likes to enjoy leisurely reading on holiday because enjoying a book at home is mostly done in “snatched moments”, she explains: “When you're on holiday, it's about taking that time to relax and enjoy yourself and changing the scene up a bit to give yourself distance from your normal life and feel like you've actually had a break. Being able to sit down with a book means we get to enjoy the story without worrying that a task is unfinished or that another chapter means not enough sleep for work the next day. As lovely as the travel itself is, sometimes you want a change of scenery while you're en route, and a book is the perfect little piece of escapism.”

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

What is it about?

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 at their peaceful surroundings helps them rediscover hope for the future.

Recommended by The Foodie Travel Guide

The Enchanted April is a novel that Sally from The Foodie Travel Guide takes on holiday because “it’s a heart-warming, sunny and entertaining read.” Sally explained: “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?”

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

What is it about?


The fantasy adventure novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel could be deemed as a modern classic. Published in 2001, 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 sea adventures.

Recommended by Adventures with Nell

Nell, who blogs at Adventures with Nell, said Life of Pi is such a captivating book that she has read it several times. “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 that mind active.” 

Couple reading on a cruise ship


Reading is a way to detox from technology, Nell explains: “We seem to spend most of our time either working or comparing our lives to others on social media. Holidays are the perfect opportunity to take our eyes off our screens and enter a fictional world where work and comparison aren't relevant and our only worries revolve around the characters we’re reading about. Personally, I struggle to find the time to read at home, so it’s a real treat to be able to do so uninterrupted on holiday.”

Sage from A Virtual Postcard said she loves to read to discover new worlds and experience new cultures. “So much of this can be found from both reading and travelling. Books are a great companion during that solo holiday away, a long car journey or on a relaxing cruise,” she says.

It doesn’t matter whether you prefer mini cruises or all-inclusive cruises with a longer duration, you are sure to find some quiet moments to put your feet up and become entranced with an amazing classic novel.

The best classic novels to take on your travels

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