Holiday books: to pack or not to pack?

Whether for the plane, the beach or the pool, a holiday for me is the perfect (if not the only!) time that I get to completely unwind and properly immerse myself in a book.

Tunisian sunset

The Guardian has suggested that most MP’s will be reading Labour-centric books, particularly Peter Mandelson’s memoir The Third Man, alongside Tony Blair’s A Journey, Chris Mullen’s A View from the Foothills, and Andrew Rawnsley’s The End of the Party.

No thanks.

For me, poolside holidays have normally demanded the packing of at least three books – and being a Literature student, my choices were never trashy. A holiday usually meant I could make a start on some course reading (which made a change!). A few years back I read On the Road while in Spain – which, as much as I loved the book, was more effort than you really want to have to put in when reading on holiday. And needless to say I had to re-read it anyway.  

So this year, what with being a non-student, the world is my oyster (well the book world at least…).

In my opinion, holiday reading can be narrowed down to five categories:

The trashy novel

Something from the top ten book chart that you’ve had your eye on, but didn’t have the courage to read at the office for fear of isolation as an non-intellectual outcast. If this is you. A foreign country under the disguise of a large sombrero and even bigger sunglasses might be the best place to get your teeth into something badly written without the shame.

Here’s a top 5 list of the trashiest 2010 books – go mad.

The book you’ve always wanted to read but never have

This category includes the classics. The one that got away, the one you half-read at university, the one you never have time to read, and the one you most want to put on your Look-At-Me-And-Look-What-I’ve-Read list – nothing wrong with that. These are the books that I tend to reach for on holiday simply because they offer the ultimate satisfaction on completion, and a holiday is the ideal time to really focus on something more challenging than you might normally go for. Then again, unlike the trash, these books require effort and no one wants to have to put in too much of that on well-deserved holiday (unless it involves eating, drinking or sunbathing). Here are my picks:

Jack Kerouc in my beach bag 2008

  • Want something linguistically challenging then read Jack Keroac’s tale of exuberant excess On The Road, or a William
  • Combine stylistic difficulty with colossal size (for at least a two-week holiday I’d say) then try Ulysses – a modernist classic.
  • My recommended classic would be Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald – a story about a glamorous couple of expats Dick and Nicole Diver. I couldn’t put it down.
  • And don’t forget the other modern greats, Muriel Spark, Angela Carter, Rushdie, Zadie Smith… you get the idea.

Short stories

Combine satisfaction with little effort and say hello to short stories. They can be read quickly with less effort and there is no need to compromise on quality. There are a vast number of short story collections by renowned literary authors. I would personally recommend The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, Bluebeards Egg by Margaret Atwood, and any of the Sherlock Holmes collections. At only 126 pages, The Lonely Londeners by Sam Selvon is another classic read.

Autobiographies and memoirs

You either love this genre, or you don’t. Personally, I don’t. I just get bored. Maybe reading the autobiography of Yuri Gellar in high school put me off. But nevertheless they are a holiday favourite! Biographies are available from celebrities such as Jordan to heroes such as Nelson Mandela, and even the controversial, Tony Blair’s new one for instance – you never know it might just be riveting. There’s something for everyone so at least you can’t go wrong.


Zip, zero, nothing

Leave the books at home and go paragliding. They’ll still be there when you get back. (and don’t forget a magazine for the plane)

I’ll soon be off somewhere sunny for just a week, and in light of the above, this year I’ll take one for the plane… and go paragliding.


2 thoughts on “Holiday books: to pack or not to pack?

  1. I always tend to take something that has slip down tbr pile but I had really wanted to read at some point ussually a large book lol as not best at reading big books all the beat stu

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