I have a pile of books on the table by my bed, R2R, Ready To Read, and when I go on holiday I pick them up and fling them into the nearest suitcase. Even if I take my Kindle with its library on board, there is still the instinctive urge to gather up those bedside books and take them with me.
Coming to England this time, my R2R books included Another Country by Nicholas Rothwell, a story of his desert journeys in Northern and Central Australia and his encounters with mystics, explorers and healers. The book is peopled with eccentrics and includes detailed information on Aboriginal art and artists. I’ve also included witty and insightful Sane New World by Ruby Wax in which she describes returning to University in order to re-educate herself about the depressive illness from which she has suffered all her life. I am sure, as a contrast, I will enjoy AA Gill’s Here & There, a collection of humorous travel tales. I’ve brought The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama which I have been meaning to read for years; And finally, A Sex Manual for the Over Eighties by Clare Drysdale, the delightfully dotty octogenarian grand daughter of the Australian painter.
When these books fell out of my bag on arrival at Liz’s house, she was less than enthusiastic. “ If you didn’t read Obama’s book when it first came out you’re hardly likely to read it now,” she pompously announced.
Liz has a point, it is a good idea to take books on holiday that you will enjoy reading, not merely have a good intention to read. But I always like to take at least one ‘meaty’ one.
Liz ‘s reading matter is always directly related to the country she is visiting so on her upcoming visit to Albania she is taking Robert Carver’s The Accursed Mountains, a vivid account of his amazing journey through this virtually unknown country; Wild Europe by Bozidar Jezernik, which describes and analyses the altogether strange way western travelers over the centuries have viewed the Balkans. And finally her rucksack will hold a novel, Chronicle in Stone by Albania’s very special writer, Ismail Kadare about life in the town of Gjirokastra where Liz intends spending some time on her holiday.
Liz always visits Daunt’s Travel Bookshop in Marylebone Lane which not only has all the guide books for every country but also novels about the country on the same shelves.
Another friend, Willie, has a thoughtful approach to holiday reading. He looks up all the books he can find related to his latest preoccupations. So on his last holiday he took Bridge for Beginners to get him ready for his entry into the local bridge club and A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir to prepare him for the imminent death of his mother.
Liz’s workaholic friend Sian only takes books related to her work in the tourist industry. “A topic so tedious”, Liz says that she can hardly bring herself to relate their titles. Her husband, a mountaineer is bringing a bundle of Everest books which are flooding from the presses to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its ascent in 1953. He says he’s particularly looking forward to George Lowe’s Letters. They describe the actual ascent; Lowe was a key player in the detailed planning. Lowe’s photographs which show so graphically the intense difficulties of climbing the mountain have also been published. “Alas”, says Peter “ Too heavy to carry but I’ll be enjoying reading Wade Davies’ Into the Silence and Peter Hansen’s The Summits of Modern Man, both of which look more broadly than the actual climbing to visions of sovereignty and masculinity which in many cases underpin the achievements.”
Liz’s goddaughter Anita is a mindfulness counselor and she will be taking her notes for a book on mindfulness she intends to write. She is hoping for a few minutes of peace and quiet to test some of her ideas for the book.
When in doubt about a book to take on holiday ask a friend. Our friend Miranda asked her daughter what she should read on her holiday in England. She suggested The Secret River by Kate Grenville. Miranda was staying at Liz’s place very near the Thames and the book begins with a vivid description of life beside and on the river Thames in the eighteenth century. And it ends on the Hawkesbury River near where Miranda lives in Australia. What could be more appropriate for holiday reading.
I only know one person, Sam who is brave enough to go on holiday without a single book. “How on earth can you really enjoy a holiday properly when you’ve got your head in a book, even for the briefest moment?” she says. I suspect though that she’s got a kindle. Nobody to my mind could possibly be without a book on holiday.
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