We all like to take a good book abroad, but resorts are now placing literature at the heart of holidays. Our writer heads to paradise to find the last word in relaxation.

The Times, Tracy Ramsden, Sunday 21st May 2023.

I’m more of a margaritas at midday kind of holidaymaker than a beach bookworm, so it’s unusual for me to be making my way to a bookshop, even if I am doing it barefoot and by bicycle, snaking between coconut palms and banyan trees.

I used to adopt the “switch it off and on again” approach to self-care for my frazzled brain, and it worked pretty well. But five years and one soul-crushing pandemic since our last family holiday I really wanted to know that this trip would do the trick. Is switching off really the answer?

“It is impossible to switch your brain off. You can’t force relaxation by simply emptying your mind,” says Lindsay Browning, a neuroscientist and sleep expert. “But pivoting your mind to a relatively complex distraction can be helpful. Engaging your ‘thinking brain’ with intellectual activities means you’re not at the whim of the part of our brain responsible for fight or flight, so your ‘lizard brain’ can rest.”

In a move I’m calling “taming the lizard”, I book the Maldives for our holiday. But I pick the destination at its most bookish: Soneva Fushi, in the Unesco-designated Baa Atoll biosphere reserve. It has form. This month some of the world’s greatest intellectuals and award-winning authors are convening beneath thatched canopies on driftwood stools to kick-start thought-provoking conversations on topics ranging from climate change to politics.

It’s an offshoot of the acclaimed Jaipur Literature Festival, which was founded in 2006 and has attracted luminaries including Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Hanif Kureishi and Bernardine Evaristo. Now it has gone global with pop-ups in Europe, the US, Australia and, for the second year running, in the Maldives. Last year headliners were Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s aide. This year the line-up includes Howard Jacobson, the classicist Mary Beard and Pico Iyer.

2. Literature in Cambridge A stay at the Regency-era University Arms is steeped in literary tradition, from the oak-panelled library (stocked floor to ceiling with titles chosen by Heywood Hill, the Mayfair bookshop) to the lavatories, which play loops of audiobooks read by Alan Bennett and the like. Suites are named after writers, including Virginia Woolf and Stephen Hawking, who have passed through the city. Guests are allocated a personal “book butler” to tailor a recommended reading list. This year the hotel will host Janice Hallett, a crime and mystery writer, and Bonnie Garmus for talks and masterclasses. It partners with the Cambridge Literary Festival in the autumn. Details  from £253 (universityarms.com)