One of the things I did while I was in Australia was get back into reading for pleasure. As an English Literature student at university, I was required to read at least one novel per week, as well as one play, and a number of literary reviews and research papers as background reading. By the time I left Exeter with my degree in hand, I felt well and truly tired of literature.

I had definitely forgotten what it was I loved about books to begin with, so I decided to take a little break. In fact, one of the first things I did after I handed in my 55-page dissertation was to buy several trashy magazines – along with a large pizza and a bottle of wine – and read them without feeling guilty or analysing the text critically.

However, while I was away, having a lot of spare time on my hands and a lack of reliable Wi-Fi prompted me to pick up my kindle and start reading again. So, without further ado, here are the five best books I read while I was travelling, that you absolutely have to rush out and buy yourselves.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared 
by Jonas Jonasson
There’s a running joke in my family where we all recommend this book at every moment possible because my mother loves this book. She was the one who insisted that I read it and I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a light-hearted read and it definitely made me laugh out loud at some points. Think Forrest Gump in book-form with a Swedish centenarian as the protagonist. Definitely a brilliant holiday read.

The Secret Life of Bees 
by Sue Monk Kidd
Ok, so I’d already read this one once. But it’s completely life-affirming and heart-warming so it was one of those books that I felt a compulsion to go back to. It’s set in South Carolina in 1964 and it’s essentially a coming of age story. Oh, and it was a New York Times bestseller for two and a half years. One of those ‘you have to read this’ books, especially as a feminist and as a woman.

The Goldfinch 
by Donna Tart
I think you can probably tell by the picture that this book casts a rather large shadow. It’s a marathon of a book but I’m telling you, you’ll be sad to see it end. The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014 so you know it’s going to be good!

It definitely has a slightly heavier subject matter than some of the other books on this list. It focuses on the emotional impact of loss, after the main character miraculously survives a catastrophe. I was completely drawn in and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so connected to a character’s struggle. It’s heart-breaking and beautiful and philosophical and it will have you completely mesmerised from page one. It’s so worth spending the time to experience this book.

All the Light We Cannot See 
by Anthony Doerr
I am one of those people who are fascinated by WWII so this novel was definitely very interesting to me, being set both in France and Germany in the 1930s and 40s. I found it slightly harder to get into than The Goldfinch but I was so glad I stuck it out, because it has ended up being one of my favourite books of all time.  Another Pulitzer Prize winner, this book really is a gem.

A Place Called Winter 
by Patrick Gale
This book also found its way onto my all-time favourite books list. The story was completely captivating partially, I think, because of its originality in subject matter. Patrick Gale must have done some meticulously detailed research for this novel, because I feel like I learnt so much about the Canadian pioneers. Not only did it feel like an education, it was also incredibly moving. The story focuses on a character that is struggling with his homosexuality in a time where to be gay was something unspeakably bad. I cried my eyes out in the final chapter, and I loved it.

If you have any recommendations of your own I would love to hear from you so please do comment below. In the meantime: get reading!

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