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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Maybe you're counting down the last days of summer and longing for the vacation you didn't take. Well, you could always audition a few hot vacation spots with some recent books.

Heidi Durrow suggests stories where the characters discover the pleasures of traveling and idyllic landscapes, and sometimes they also find themselves.

Ms. HEIDI DURROW (Author, "The Girl Who Fell from the Sky"): First stop, the Hamptons, in Colson Whitehead's coming-of-age tale "Sag Harbor." Teenaged Benji and his brother spend a mostly parent-free summer getting into low-key mischief with fake IDs and beer. The guys while away long afternoons swimming in the bay and prowling for the fabled stretch of nude beach. Benji's adolescent fumblings make for funny and cringe-inducing moments. Who knew your elbow could be an erogenous zone?

But the heart of this story takes you back to members-only jackets and the New Coke debacle. Whitehead has created a witty and nostalgic tale about a summer beach vacation, you know, the one when you landed your first kiss.

How about a journey to the picturesque French countryside? In "The Hundred-Foot Journey," a delicious fairy-tale-like read, our young hero, Hassan Haji, begins his quest to become an international celebrity chef. Tragedy soon befalls the Muslim Hajis when extremists burn the family restaurant to the ground. Hassan's family flees first to London, and not long thereafter, the family becomes the newest transplants in a small, enchanting town in the French Alps.

It is there that Hassan begins his journey to star chefdom. Ultimately, Hassan's ambition is city-bound, and he travels to Paris, where he seeks to realize his dream of heading a three-star Michelin restaurant.

Ann Vanderhoof's "The Spice Necklace" documents a woman's delightful monthlong journey to the heart of a new culture through food.

Vanderhoof, along with her husband, sets sail to the Caribbean in search of spices. The couple travels by boat, visiting more than a dozen islands, including Grenada, Trinidad, St. Martin and St. Lucia. The two spend their days market shopping, fishing, cooking, eating, and most of all, celebrating each island's specialties.

Vanderhoof gives her narrative's center stage to the colorful cooks and animated guides who are the book's most vivid characters. They generously introduce the pair to the heart of island life on adventures of crayfish hunting and diving for conch in deep waters.

A warning: Don't read this book when you're hungry.

In "Picturing Hemingway's Michigan," Michael Federspiel takes us on a tour of the lush region up north where the young Ernest Hemingway's imagination bloomed.

In this hybrid coffee table/literary history book, Federspiel provides a rich history of the lake area that first developed as a vacation destination in the late 1800s and served as the Hemingway family summer getaway for many years starting when Hemingway was just 6 weeks old.

Federspiel expertly pairs Hemingway's vacation snapshots with vivid passages from "The Nick Adams Stories" and "A Moveable Feast."

Now, if only we could all vacation the way Hemingway did - where each vacation not only revitalizes us but also inspires us to create something great.

BLOCK: Heidi Durrow is the author of "The Girl Who Fell from the Sky." You can see pictures of young Ernest and the other Hemingways on vacation and read excerpts from all of Heidi Durrow's recommendations in the Summer Book section of our website, npr.org.

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