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Great Summer Reads About Vacations That Go Horribly Wrong

scarybookcoversIf you’ve got some epic summer travel plans… well, good for you. But if work, family, or financial obligations are keeping you from taking a luxurious getaway this year, then do the next best thing and read about people whose vacations evolve into nightmarish ordeals. It’ll give you peace of mind — plus, we hear there’s even a place where you can pick up books free of charge!

1bookThe Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation

Here’s a little something for our younger summer readers. It’s a cautionary tale about the pratfalls of renting a vacation home without doing your homework, as well as a parable about making the most out of an unpleasant ordeal. Presumably, such unfortunate circumstances were done away with when the residents of Beartown learned about VRBO.

2bookCrazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa

Richard Grant is one of the most certifiably insane travel writers working today, so you can probably guess how his trip to Sub-Saharan Africa panned out. During his trek down the infamous Malagarasi River, Grant must evade predators both human (bandits, corrupt policemen) and non-human (hippos and crocs mostly, but hey, this is Africa). His depiction of Burundi at the height of its recent civil war are sobering, while his portrait of exotic Zanzibar feels like something out of a great spy novel.


You may put off that rafting trip with your buddies after you read this controversial thriller from James Dickey. During their infamous adventure, Ed, Bobby, Drew, and Lewis must outwit and outgun some seriously deranged mountain folk and survive the harsh natural elements of the Appalachian backwoods.

4bookThe Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

A family hiking trip turns into a nightmare for little Trisha, who becomes separated from her family and is pursued by forces both natural and supernatural. Trisha’s a tough kid, but it’s her affection for Tom Gordon, a career pitcher whose best seasons were spent with the Cubs and Yankees, that sustains her through the frightening ordeal.


Gary Paulsen’s iconic young adult novella follows Brian, an angsty teenager who finds himself stranded in the wilderness of northern Canada following a plane crash. He carves a bow and some arrows out of wood, squares off with a porcupine, and sustains himself on a diet of turtle eggs and roasted rabbit. Many young adult readers are familiar with this Newberry Medal-winning title.

6bookThe Magus

Things go from bad to worse for Nicholas Urfe, who becomes the caretaker for a mysterious landowner in the Greek Islands. At first, he’s a little weirded out by the masked figures in the surrounding woods who act out scenes from Greek mythology. Soon, he’s caught up in a web of Nazi war criminals, naked femme fatales, and ritual sacrifice.

7bookThe Ruins

If there’s a simple takeaway from this thriller by Scott Smith, it’s this: when visiting ancient Mayan ruins, watch out for carnivorous vines. Because they’ll eat you, your girlfriend, your travel buddies, the weird European guys who visit the ruins with you, etc. Worst spring break ever.

8bookA Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Every time Bill Bryson goes somewhere, he ends up with at least a dozen good stories to tell later. When Bill and his friend Stephen, a recovering alcoholic, attempt to hike the (in)famous Appalachian Trail, their journey is fraught with setbacks that, while hilarious, must have been infuriating at the time.

9bookYou Shall Know Our Velocity

Dave Eggers’ first novel follows two friends, Will and Hand, who come into a large sum of money and decide to spend it on a worldwide expedition of goodwill. At least, that’s how it sounds on paper. But after a treasure hunt in Estonia, heated disagreements with African farmers, an orgy in Latvia, and other setbacks, the two compadres realize that giving money to the world’ poorest people and genuinely helping them are two entirely different animals.


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