With a major holiday on the horizon, it has got me thinking about holiday reading. Kate recently mentioned two books that she read whilst lying poolside in her latest #6degrees meme; one was a good choice, one not so much.
We’ve all done it.
In the excitement of planning a holiday; we forget one of the most important elements. What will we read on the plane? at the end of each day? on a rainy day? or by the pool?
As an avid reader, I have rarely been caught without a book and I usually go home with more books than I originally packed! My ability to pick the right book for each holiday has almost become an art form in and of itself. But I have got it wrong occasionally.
Reading Stephen King’s Pet Semetary in a quiet, dark caravan park on the north coast of NSW surrounded by rustling trees was one of those not so inspired choices. Attempting a reread of The Odyssey as I was travelling around Europe in 1991 seemed like a good idea at the time, but Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs was the more practical (& social) thing to do. After reading it, I simply passed it on the next person on the bus – it gave us all something to talk about and scare each other with for the rest of the trip. With The Odyssey I was on my own!
My holiday reading depends on the reason for the travel in the first place and the choice of destination. If I’m heading off to a beachside resort or bungalow with a pool for a relaxing break, then my book selection is very different than if I’m planning a major overseas jaunt to somewhere new and exciting. Poolside reads often have nothing to do with my location, but major overseas holidays are definite candidates for book matching.
My first trip skiing saw me travel with Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg – perfect!
My first trip to England saw me read so many books (I was in London for 6 months) it’s hard to recall all of them, but the highlights were Forever Amber by Kathleen Windsor, discovering Monica Dickens and binge watching Police Rescue when I felt homesick!
On my second trip to the UK, I read On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, on Chesil Beach.
We also visited Lyme Regis in honour of Persuasion and The French Lieutenant’s Woman and we watched a performance of The Merchant of Venice in The Globe Theatre. And thanks to a little library in a B&B near Hadrian’s Wall, I discovered Daphne du Maurier’s Mary Anne. Curiously I had taken my much loved copy of Brideshead Revisited on the holiday with me, but couldn’t read it at all. The tone and atmosphere was all wrong. It was too hard to be ironic and satirical whilst in happy holiday mode.
In Adelaide I read Kerry Goldsworthy’s Adelaide and on a soccer trip to Canberra I read The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers. In New Zealand, many years ago, I made myself read Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff.
My first time in WA was with Salmon Rushdie oddly enough. Midnight’s Children had nothing to do what I was seeing and experiencing, yet the book was so powerful that it will now forever be linked with WA and WA with Midnight’s Children. My second time in WA seemed the perfect opportunity to reread Cloudstreet by Tim Winton. It was. My third time in WA revisited some of the same ground that I had explored in the first. It was really weird having memories of India pop into my head in certain places! The book I actually took on this trip, though, was a disaster. It was my CCspin book The Brother’s Karamazov – most definitely NOT a holiday read.
My first time in Bali saw me pack Inspector Singh Investigates: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul which was a great choice. But even better was the book I found in a local Seminyak bookshop, Love and Death in Bali by Vicki Baum.
Our trip to Vietnam was busy and tiring and I didn’t have much time for reading, so a book of short stories was the right choice in the end. The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith was beautifully written and slightly creepy at the same time. The stories were set in the USA and Vietnam and they were full of fascinating characters both real and spectral.
In Cuba I read Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana – the descriptions of Havana and Santiago de Cuba were so spot on thanks to the time-stood-still feel in much of this country.
Our honeymoon in Hawaii was a Kiana Davenport-fest. Song of Exile was a vivid, memorable story whilst House of Many Gods didn’t leave as big an impression. Whilst in Honolulu, at the end of our trip, I picked up a copy of Moloka’i and Honolulu by Alan Brennert. Not the cheeriest of topics, but if you’re ever going to read a book about leprosy (then Korean brides), then Hawaii is the place to do it.
In Hong Kong I found a copy of Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses to see me home from my adventures in China.
My fast approaching trip to Japan has been filled with oodles of travel guides and preparatory reading but going with me on the trip is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (light and easy for the plane and when I’m tired & weary), The Narrow Road to the Interior by Basho for the train trip to our overnight stop in Yamadera and Kafka on the Shore by Murakami for a more modern version of Japan. All three are relative slim, B-format books – another factor to consider when packing holiday reading – when you refuse to embrace e-readers!
What have been your best (& worst) holiday reads?