Emily Henry, author of 'Book Lovers', on the lure of travel

Over the past three years, novelist Emily Henry has established a solid beachhead on the summer bestseller lists with a series of travel...


Over the past three years, novelist Emily Henry has established a solid beachhead on the summer bestseller lists with a series of travel-related romantic comedies, starting with “Beach Read” in 2020, and followed by “People We Meet on Vacation” and this year’s “Book Lovers”. All three novels currently share space on Combined list of print novels and e-books from The Times.

In her books, a young woman – a writer or writer-adjacent – ​​at a critical moment in her life, embarks on new territory where (to top it off) she finds her true calling – and her true love.

In “Beach Read,” dueling novelists occupy neighboring homes on a Michigan lake, arguing until they stop, of course. In “People We Meet on Vacation,” travel writer Poppy Wright spends part of each summer taking a trip with her best friend from college, Alex Nilsen, who, dear reader, you know from the start that he is Mr. Right, even as the two hide from the inevitable. In “Book Lovers,” it’s literary agent Nora Stephens who travels to the small North Carolina town of Sunshine Falls, to meet her nemesis from the Manhattan book scene, publisher Charlie Lastra.

Another theme of his books is family attraction. Mrs Henry, 31, grew up in Cincinnati with two older brothers, and she, her husband and their dog now live there, near her parents. She fondly recalls their family trips, even though they sometimes ended up fighting “like a beast with too many heads”, she said.

“We’re all still trying to take semi-regular trips together, which obviously can be total chaos, but I’m so nostalgic for it,” said Ms Henry, who is working on next summer’s novel. “I can’t talk about it yet,” she said of the project. “But I can say it’s travel related.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

A book is already built to be a kind of vacation — even if it’s not an escape book, even if it’s a very heavy literary novel, it’s still this trip that’s conditioned for you to a very specific way. And I think with travel-focused books, you amplify that even more.

On a trip, there’s this sense of possibility that you don’t necessarily have in your normal life because you’re going to be surrounded by all new people and all new things, and you don’t know what might happen and who you might meet. Everything looks exciting. From a story perspective, it lends itself to this big transformation because the characters are already on this kind of rough terrain. Travel works the same way it does for us in real life: to get things moving.

I think as a reader it also lends itself to this, because we already try to go to new places and meet new people when we read. We crave something, a new experience that we want to bring to ourselves.

I think there is something, yes, transformative and you get to know yourself more deeply in a new environment.

And those are the things that you don’t know about yourself, like the surprises, the risks that you take, that you wouldn’t expect, or the new foods that you try, that you didn’t think you like or whatever. be small like that. It’s also just seeing your usual life with new eyes.

‘Cause I think there’s places you go where you think, oh, I can imagine my life here, and there’s other places you go where you realize you’re just excited to get home home. It’s also one of the things I love so much about travel is that you can become so complacent or indifferent to your life, your real life, there’s really no such thing as that feeling of go home.

I haven’t traveled much abroad yet, but I grew up in a family that took road trips and that’s how I saw most of the United States. It was quite common to take a 14 hour road trip in Florida. We would leave in the middle of the night so we wouldn’t have to pay for that extra night and we would sleep in the back of the minibus and wake up and be there.

Now I find that every few months I feel this restlessness and urge to just be somewhere different, see new things, and eat foods that are not available to me. This is the rhythm that my family imposed on me. You have new experiences to carry you through the mundaneness of real life.

A lot of that was just research and there are Facebook groups for that sort of thing, but I haven’t really used them. I’m a huge Airbnb fan, like most of my generation. It’s been such a game-changer for travel, especially for extended travel. But I also think being raised by parents who were really good at this stuff helps. They would do resort tours to get deeply discounted Disney World tickets. That really went into a lot of writing about Poppy’s approach to travel.

Yeah, I’ve had a few. I don’t consider myself the cleanest person, but now I’m very careful to check reviews on the cleanliness of the place. I’ve definitely had some that are just a little disgusting. There is always artistic photography. There was one that said an extra bedroom and we got there and realized it was in an unfinished basement, and there was also like a hole in the wall of this other kind of storage room that looked like a peephole. It was disturbing.

My favorite trip is to fly to San Francisco and drive through Muir Woods and Muir Beach and then see the wine country. Besides, I have family in Oregon. I love this reader. I love that you can see the ocean, the bay, the mountains, the wine country, the redwoods, all in just a few hours.

Seeing a place as a visitor is so different from being a local and I think that’s why Elin Hilderbrand’s books are so good, because she really knows Nantucket and she just puts you there. The places I write about are only familiar to me as a guest and it’s a different experience. It’s a truly magical experience, but not the same thing a local would choose in their city.

I think if I lived somewhere more of a vacationer, I’d probably commit to somewhere too, but I can’t see writing a bunch of books about Cincinnati. I’m sure I’ll have an outright Cincinnati book, but it’s not naturally summery.

Oh my God. Not in the summer.


Amy Virshup is the Travel Editor.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Emily Henry, author of 'Book Lovers', on the lure of travel
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