What the Fodor's team is packing in their carry-ons this summer.
With border restrictions listed, travel in 2022 looks much different compared to the chaos of the last two years. Not that it’ll be all smooth sailing—inflation, flight cancelations, and fear of catching COVID-19 (and now monkeypox) are still making travelers anxious.
Nonetheless, around 87% of Americans are planning to travel this summer. This includes Fodor’s team! We, too, are dreaming of sunny beaches and pretty cocktails, and reading a good book on flights and by the poolside. Hence, this month’s booklist is personal because these titles are on our own summer reading lists. Here’s what we’re taking along for the ride (even if it’s to our own backyard).
Top Picks for You
'Wanderess' by Elise Fitzsimmons and Nikki Vargas
Traveling is a rewarding experience, but sometimes, it comes with discomfort, especially as a woman. You want to be safe and comfortable and not miss out on the world’s most amazing experiences. And that’s where Wanderess comes in.
The book by Fodor’s editor Nikki Vargas and co-author Elise Fitzsimmons is a treasure trove of wisdom from experienced women on how to stay safe and have fun on the road. For people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and mommy travelers, there are segments to address their specific concerns. Readers will also find volunteering opportunities, tips and hacks (from packing to finances), and a list of apps in this book. A fun read for any woman who wants to get out there.
Why It’s on the List: “When this book came out, I knew I wanted to read it and gift it to other women as a guide to navigating this world better. I’m planning to comb through it for sage tips and trip ideas!” — Apeksha Bhateja, Staff Writer
'Funeral Nights' by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih
Author and poet Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s first fiction novel is a grand 1,000+ pages based in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya. A group of friends travels to a remote location in the West Khasi Hills to attend a funeral ceremony of the Lyngngams, a sub-tribe of Khasi community. But they arrived a week early for the six-day ceremony. So for eleven nights, they sit around a fire and exchange stories.
The Khasis are an indigenous community in the northeast and this novel is a great introduction to their culture, stories, and history. The author, born and raised in Meghalaya, writes poetry and prose in English and Khasi, and has also penned legends and folktales in his book, Around the Hearth: Khasi Legends.
Why It’s on the List: “I walked into a bookstore and the owner introduced me to authors and stories I would have never discovered otherwise. One of them was Funeral Nights and I can’t wait to read this hefty book about the Khasis that I know absolutely nothing about.” — Apeksha Bhateja, Staff Writer
'Over the Top' by Jonathan Van Ness
TV host, hairstylist, podcaster, and entrepreneur Jonathan Van Ness is positive, passionate, and just plain lovely. But he wasn’t always the JVN we see today. In his memoir, Over the Top, he talks about his painful past and his journey to self-love and acceptance. Nothing is off-limits: he writes about his struggles with addiction, bullies and homophobia, getting diagnosed with HIV, and mental health issues.
If you’ve loved him on Queer Eye and Getting Curious, this is a must-read.
Why It’s on the List: “JVN is my favorite American TV personality (sorry, Tan). I love watching him dance every morning as he makes coffee for his Insta-Fam. His deeply personal and moving memoir has been patiently waiting in my Kindle library for weeks and after Shoe Dog, this is the next autobiography on my list.” — Apeksha Bhateja, Staff Writer
'Lonely Castle in the Mirror' by Mizuki Tsujimura
Lonely Castle in the Mirror is a Japanese fantasy novel that will be the perfect escape this summer. It revolves around seven children in a neighborhood in Tokyo who refuse to go to school and hide in their bedrooms. Their bedroom mirrors start shining and with one touch, they are in a castle, away from their troubled real lives. Now they are having their own adventure trying to find a key that will grant one of them a wish, but there’s one catch: they need to leave the castle every day before 5 p.m. or they will die.
Why It’s on the List: “I love a reimagined fairy tale and this novel seems like it could be in the vein of Angela Carter’s stories. As a bonus, it’s translated by Philip Gabriel, who frequently translates Haruki Murakami’s work.” — Jeremy Tarr, Digital Editorial Director
'On Java Road' by Lawrence Osborne
Novelist Lawrence Osborne takes readers to Hong Kong. Veteran British journalist Adrian Gayle has been in the city for two decades, but his career hasn’t been remarkable. Before a final goodbye, Adrian reflects on the city and his closest friend, Jimmy Tang, an influential individual in Hong Kong. The city has erupted into pro-democracy demands and violence and Jimmy’s girlfriend, a student protestor, has disappeared. With Jimmy in hiding, Adrian takes up one last task: piecing together what happened to Rebecca in her final hours.
On Java Road will be released on August 2, 2022.
Why It’s on the List: “Lawrence Osborne’s novels are often compared to Graham Greene’s. And like Greene, place is hugely important for Osborne, who was once a travel writer. This one is set in Hong Kong and like his other novels, is sure to be dripping with an eerie atmosphere and peculiar twists.” — Jeremy Tarr, Digital Editorial Director
'How to Kill Your Family' by Bella Mackie
Twenty-eight-year-old Grace Bernard calculatedly killed six members of her family and managed to get away with it. Ironically, she lands up in jail for a crime she didn’t commit. She decides to write her story so people will one day find out about her real deeds. How to Kill Your Family is as dark and bloody as the antiheroine—and written by Bella Mackie with irreverent humor.
Why It’s on the List: “I’ve only read the prologue so far, but it’s hilarious and wicked, and is at the very top of my reading list. The title alone cracks me up (even though I love my family very much and only wish them well).” — Jeremy Tarr, Digital Editorial Director
'Siren Queen' by Nghi Vo
It’s the Golden Age of Hollywood and magic and monsters are real in Nghi Vo’s Siren Queen. Chinese-American Luli Wei wants to be a star, but Asian-Americans are cast into stereotypical roles and monsters control the studios, and bargains are made in blood. She refuses to play a maid or a straight woman on screen, and does whatever it takes to rise on her own terms in the industry that exploits and suppresses those like her.
Why It’s on the List: “Early Hollywood meets monsters, magical realism, and social commentary.” — Jeremy Tarr, Digital Editorial Director
'The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano' by Donna Freita
Professor Rose Napolitano doesn’t want to have kids. Her husband Luke promised he doesn’t either, but now he’s changed his mind. The book starts with Luke confronting Rose about failing to take her prenatal vitamins and progresses with nine versions of Rose in the same situation. In each life, she explores if she wants to be a mother, if their relationship can survive this, and if the decision she has made about motherhood is unbending and final.
Why It’s on the List: “Just picked this up in Santa Fe, which has amazing bookshops! I really love the premise of this book about ‘what ifs’ and tough decisions. And it really touches upon the issue that a lot of couples encounter like ‘should we have kids?’ I love anything that examines relationships, and as I grow and age and examine these issues myself, it’s comforting knowing others are unpacking them, too. Also, it’s just supposed to be romantic and beautifully written and wistful. Check check check!” — Eva Morreale, Assignments Editor
'The Lonely Hunter' by Aimée Lutkin
In this memoir with cultural analyses and social commentary, single writer Aimée sets out to answer why there’s so much pressure to find The One. She talks to sociologists and relationship experts, goes on dates, and shares her own stories, as she scientifically explores the feelings of loneliness, societal structures, and complexities of relationships. And how does it all start? With a dinner party where everyone around her is coupled up and giving her advice on how she can, too, find love.
Why It’s on the List: “This memoir-slash-cultural observation about online dating fascinates me! A.) I love hearing about other people’s dating lives; and B.) I love talking about online dating. In fact, I’ve written about it! Thinking about the way we date and society’s modern approach to love, intimacy, community, and loneliness in the age of technology is an important discussion. Plus, I also realized I interned with Aimee back in the day, and while we didn’t interact much, she came across as very smart and very cool, so even better!” — Eva Morreale, Assignments Editor
'The Club' by Ellery Lloyd
Ellery Lloyd is a pseudonym for London-based husband-wife writers Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos. In this mystery/thriller, celebrities are part of the most exclusive club for the elite and the rich, with hotels around the world where they can party without inhibitions. The most glamorous resort is set to open off the English coast, and the three-day launch party is the event to attend. Behind the scenes, CEO Ned Groom has been working his team hard and his overworked staff is stressed to the limit. And now there have been murders and the weekend isn’t what it was promised to be.
Why It’s on the List: “It’s finally summer and I want two things: spice (read: sexiness!) and DRAMA. It is written by a husband and wife duo, and it’s this steamy, murder mystery about celebrities that are members of a secret club. Orient Express meets L.A. influencers circa 2022. I can’t wait to ‘Ooooooooh!!!! over this one!” — Eva Morreale, Assignments Editor
'The Sentence' by Louise Eldrich
Louise Eldrich is a Pulitzer-winning author, who often introduces readers to Native American characters and cultures. The Sentence’s heroine is Tookie, a Native American who is given a prison sentence of 60 years. While serving time, books become her solace and when she is unexpectedly released, she finds a job in a small, independent bookstore in Minnesota. Then an annoying customer dies on November 2, All Souls’ Day, and begins to haunt the bookstore. The pandemic strikes and the world spins. As Tookie investigates why the spirit is still present in her life, the country faces its racial reckoning of 2020.
The book is funny, mystical, and covers topical events of the past few years interwoven with themes of grief, injustice, and racism.
Why It’s on the List: “Ghosts and bookstores are two of my favorite things!”— Rachael Levitt, Managing Editor
'Popisho' by Leone Ross
A tale of magical realism, Popisho is set on a fictional island of the same name, where residents are born with magical powers, or cors. Readers are introduced to a character who can heal people, someone who knows when another is lying, and someone who is tasked by gods to cook the perfect meal for each resident on the island. Each of them is dealing with their own issues on an island where anything is possible.
One day, all the women on Popisho are affected by the same problem and strange events unfold.
Why It’s on the List: “Tropical magical realism that explores Caribbean island mythos beyond its sandy beaches.”— Rachael Levitt, Managing Editor
'All Good People Here' by Ashley Flowers
This is a murder mystery by podcaster Ashley Flowers. Margot, a big-city journalist, returns to her hometown to care for her sick uncle when the disappearance of a five-year-old brings back memories of a similar tragedy 20 years before: Her six-year-old neighbor was found dead in a ditch hours after she disappeared and the murderer was never found. This time, she digs deeper to find out what happened, but everyone is harboring secrets they don’t want to share.
All Good People will be released on August 16, 2022.
Why It’s on the List: “This is the debut novel by Ashley Flowers, who is the host of my absolute favorite true-crime podcast, Crime Junkies.” — Nikki Vargas, Editor
'The Catch Me If You Can' by Jessica Nabongo
In October 2019, Jessica Nabongo became the first Black woman on record to visit all 195 U.N.-recognized countries. In this book, she narrates her adventures around the world, in destinations close and far. The travelogue is complemented by her photographs. You can also follow her on her blog, where she regularly regales her readers with her stories, anecdotes, and must-dos.
The Catch Me If You Can will be released on June 14, 2022.
Why It’s on the List: “She was the first Black woman to document her travels to every country on earth. I’ve had the joy of interviewing her in the past as well as meeting her at travel conferences.” — Nikki Vargas, Editor
'Where the Crawdads Sing' by Delia Owens
Author Delia Owens is a zoologist who has spent years in Africa. In her 70s, she published her debut novel (she has written multiple non-fiction) and became a bestselling author in 2018. Where the Crawdads Sing is as much an ode to nature as it is about an independent girl who has learned to rely on herself after her family members, one by one, abandoned her. She lives in isolation in the Marsh of North Carolina. The town, too, has turned its back on her—she is called “the Marsh Girl” and bullied. But she learns to survive and takes a deep interest in nature. Her brother’s friend and a friendly couple help her, but trouble brews when a young man from town is murdered and she becomes a suspect.
Why It’s on the List: “I actually read this during the pandemic, but loved it so much I want to read it again in anticipation of the movie adaptation this July!” — Nikki Vargas, Editor