When you’re packing light for your trip, it can often seem like a waste of precious space to stick a book in there. However, a good read can be an invaluable addition to your travel kit. If you’re stuck in airports, on long bus rides, or just in need of a quiet evening, there’s no better way to pass the time.
But not just any book will do if you’re taking it backpacking. In our opinion, it needs to be three things:
- A paperback – for the sake of your shoulders!
- Under 300 pages – because no one wants to be taking War & Peace on holiday…
- Unputdownable – if it’s taking up space, it should be worth the read!
We’ve collected some of the best books for backpackers from 2022 & 2023, which we think will sit perfectly between your socks and your toiletries. Whether you’re a historical fiction lover or a non-fiction reader – your next holiday read is here!
For the thrill-seeker: The Old Woman With the Knife by Gu Byeong-mo
If you like crime fiction with a difference, this new release – translated from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim – turns the genre on its head. Hornclaw is a sixty-five-year-old female assassin starting to consider retiring. But after she makes an out-of-character error on the job, she sets off a series of events that brings her past back to haunt her. Complete with the threat of sabotage from a young new upstart, it’s up to Hornclaw to prove that, regardless of age, it’s the female of the species that are more dangerous than the male.
For the curious mind: Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
What if you stopped trying to do everything, so that you could finally get round to what counts? This the question that Oliver Burkeman posits in his book. Our everyday lives are filled with full inboxes, ‘life admin’, and a growing list of things to get done – but can we? We spend an estimated four thousand weeks on the planet, but it’s tough to know how to spend this time best. Burkeman rejects the idea that we have to get through it all, and instead teaches readers how to work out the most meaningful use of time. Using philosophy and psychology, as well as exploring society-wide views on time, Burkeman sets out to reevaluate our relationship with time.
For the literary fiction lover: Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield
Lauded by Florence Welch as ‘contemporary gothic fairy tale, sublime in its creepiness’, Julia Armfield’s debut novel deftly explores a relationship blighted by tragedy. After Leah returns home from a deep-sea mission that ended in disaster, her wife Miri knows instinctively that something is wrong. She may have gone down in that submarine one woman, but whatever happened, she came up another. This gorgeous novel is part-love story, part-thriller – but a complete must-read.
For the fantasy fiend: Medusa by Jessie Burton
The Greek retelling trend is here to stay, and Jessie Burton’s latest contribution is another beautiful myth reworking. Sent to live in exile on a remote island, Medusa’s only company are the snakes on her head. Haunted by a traumatic past, she’s forced to come to terms with her new present. But when the mysterious Perseus arrives, her solitary life is disrupted. Filled with love, desire and betrayal, Burton’s new take on Medusa sets out to rewrite the myth – and give her a voice back.
For the politically-minded: We Are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins
There’s an investigative team with a twist at the heart of Eliot Higgins’ nonfiction smash hit. Bellingcat are a homegrown UK team of internet sleuths who, armed with their computers and smartphones, are solving some of the most intriguing cases in the world. From the MK17 flight to the Salisbury poison scandal, Bellingcat’s operations see citizens unpick disinformation and global crime. The book charts the development of the team, explaining who they are – and why they do it.
For the historical fiction fan: The Picture Bride by Lee Geum-yi
Now, we’ve overrun our page limit by 20 pages, but it’s in service of a truly brilliant historical read. The Picture Bride (translated from the Korean by An Seon Jae) follows three women who leave Korea for Hawai’i in 1918, bound to marry men of whom they’ve only seen photographs. Geum-yi deftly follows the three stories, as the women’s fates meet and diverge in their new lives. It’s an accessible and engaging introduction into a lesser-known historical moment, written in a compelling voice.