Holiday Reading

Blame H. for this. She asked for recommendations for holiday reading. This got me started……

Holiday Reads

Initially I thought that there were two types of holiday read: the books you take away on holiday, and the books you read if you are lucky enough to have some extended time off (say, more than just a weekend). Of course, the two categories overlap so much as to make it pointless to distinguish greatly.

I am a notorious packer of books for holidays, although I have got better over time. When we went on an extended extra honeymoon with my in-laws (yes, really, my in-laws) I literally took a bag of books, to their muted incredulity. I now only recall a few books, which I would recommend to the right reader. First are I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves. I have re-read them and still find them absorbing: together they make a well-told historical story, based on fact but with Graves’s well known individual, not to say idiosyncratic views. On that holiday I also read Labyrinths, a collection of short stories by Jean Luis Borges. They are erudite fantasies. They are deep, dense and needful of concentration; but they are short and rewarding. The collection is very dippable. (Is that a word? It is now.) Please note that I have read that there are better collections of the Borges stories.

The Kindle, of course, makes it much easier to take a good number of books on holiday, but I Iike to have a physical book to take, particularly a new one. It seems so full of potential. It also can remind you of your holiday.

If you wish you can always take a pile of your favourites, or a Kindle full of them. Comforting books can enhance your holiday relaxation.The Jeeves books and anything else by P.G. Wodehouse works for me- after all, it’s a holiday, isn’t it?

Your holiday reading of course depends on your personal bookish interests. I have an abiding fascination with science fiction, and recommend The Martian, a recent best-seller (and the basis for a good film), written by Andy Weir. This is great hard sci-fi, in which engineering saves a stranded astronaut. I greatly enjoyed the technological aspects (others might differ), but it’s a gripping plot.

For fantasy enthusiasts there’s nothing like a holiday in the company of Terry Pratchett- but it’s good to find new adventures. As I have mentioned on more than one occasion, Ms Oblique #1 is a great provider of new reads, especially in the fantasy genre. I recently greatly enjoyed Cinder by Melissa Meyer. This is an updated version of the story of Cinderella; the heroine is a cyborg. There are others in the same vein.

There seems to be a feeling that holiday literature should somehow be escapist, should take you to different places. I picked Victoria Hislop‘s novel, The Sunrise, for this reason; sadly I just couldn’t get into it at any time, but others have recommended it for holiday entertainment. A good choice might be two books by Tove Jansson, author of the Moomin books. The Summer Book is a short novel, set on a small Finnish island, about a young girl and her grandmother; The Winter Book is a collection of short stories. They are charming.

Naturally, you could use your holidays to catch up on those classics you always meant to read, but I would advise you to have some back-up material and not to persist if you’re not enjoying your reading.

As far as newer material goes, I’m not a critic and I’m really not extensively read, but of my recent reads I’d recommend:

  • The Song of Achillesa refreshing retelling of the Greek myth by Madeline Miller

  • Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith– just a good detective story.

If you haven’t encountered the crime fiction of Ian Rankin, a holiday would be a good time to start. Or is that a bit grim? The volumes of Collected Short Stories by the now unfashionable W. Somerset Maugham are altogether a more relaxing and escapist read. Period pieces I suppose.

Just remember: holidays are meant to be fun.


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