What’s the one thing that you have to take on holiday (besides all the obvious essentials like passport, credit card, money and clothes, that is)? What would you be bereft without?
For me it is, and always has been, books – or now, my Kindle.
When I was young, mum would always buy us one, or sometimes two, new books to take away on our holidays.Usually bought a few weeks before we went, it was agony for me to know that there were books I wanted to read but I wasn’t allowed to – not until we reached our destination, that is, when I would then have to choose between devouring them in one glorious feast of reading – and risk ending the holiday with nothing to read – or spread them out, a chapter a day, prolonging the pleasure, but restricting myself (never one of my strong points!). Because we often went to stay in a friend’s appartment in Geneva, I knew I could count on re-reading a couple of classics from his collection: every year I would read “Doctor Dolittle’s Zoo” and “Doctor Dolittle’s Circus” both of which could be found on his bookshelves. I loved the Doctor Dolittle series and read them all, I think. I would sometimes try to persuade my brother to choose a book that I would enjoy so I could borrow that, and I would pack several old favourites from home, or possibly from the library (although mum frowned on that, in case I lost or damaged them)
As I grew older, books were still a very important addition to my suitcase. Luckily we usually drove to our holiday destination, so weight wasn’t an issue, but the years when we flew saw me in agonies over what books I could take. I would usually rely on 6 for a two week holiday, although that could be reduced if Mr D had books I wanted to read (although that might cause arguments, as he is a slower reader than I am, and we might both want to read the same book at the same time!)
Even when, a couple of years ago, (before I had my Kindle) I was going away for 5 weeks to work, and I knew my free time would be limited, I took three books – the Girl With the Dragon Tatoo series – which I read in the time I had. Every Saturday morning would see me stretched out on the sofa, cup of coffee to hand, galloping through the book…”Just one more chapter” I would mutter to myself, knowing full-well that in reality I should have been preparing for the week ahead.
Now I have my Kindle, life is easier – I don’t need to worry about cramming books into my limited luggage space for one thing – but I find it difficult to bring myself to pay much over £1 for a Kindle book, because it doesn’t feel real. All the books that I really want to read I want to have “in the flesh”, as it were. An electronic version just won’t do…so a new Inspector Banks, or Elizabeth George, I still want a paper copy, partly so I can keep my collection up to date. I also love to share my books and to lend them to friends. It becomes harder to do this by Kindle, and so we still have parcels from Amazon arriving from time to time!
When I was in the UK I popped into a couple of charity shops and bought some books – this one was wonderful:
It is the story of Honor Bright, a young Quaker girl who goes to Ohio in the year 1850. For a modest English Quaker stranded far from home, life is a trial. Untethered from the moment she leaves England, fleeing personal disappointment, Honor Bright is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in an alien, untamed landscape. Drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two exceptional people who embody the startling power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal cost.
I have enjoyed everything that this author has written, and personally I think this is her best. I found it very difficult to put down, and was often reading “Just one chapter more” when I should have been doing many other things around the house. I was genuinely sorry when the story ended, because there was no more of it! It was also pleasurable to be reading a “real” book again. I immediately lent it to a friend. I am now reading some uninspiring dross on my Kindle – probably costing me 99p! – where frankly I couldn’t give a monkey’s about any of the characters. I suppose because I read so quickly I am reluctant to spend lots of money…
PomPom has recently been discovering Rumer Godden, an author I have loved for a while. Her “The Greengage Summer” about young love and intrigue in the post war years in France still haunts me, while her books about nuns are remarkably powerful “In this House of Brede” being one. The other that I love “Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy” is a story of forgiveness, betrayal, love and resentment, which touches me every time I read it…Oh! And her children’s book “The Kitchen Madonna”
I had forgotten that until I saw it on the Amazon page. As one reviewer sums it up:
A little classic about a curmudgeon of a boy opening up for the sake of his Ukrainian housekeeper. Marta (who has brought order and warmth to their dual-working-parents’ London home) misses the small shrine she had at home in her kitchen in Ukraine. Gregory and his little sister research then and sneak around finding, buying and begging materials to make her a “kitchen Madonna.” All of this is way outside of Gregory’s comfort zone, and by the end he has discovered new interests and abilities, and the rewards of doing something kind for someone else. This would be a lovely way to broach the subject of selflessness/generosity with your kids.
Here are a few of my favourite authors, and books:
CRIME: Peter Robinson (Inspector Banks series); Elizabeth George; Ian Rankin (Mr D has bought the last few Rankins on Kindle, so it’s trickier getting to read them!)
HUMOUR: Tim Moore (particularly “Spanish Steps”, the story of his time on the road to Santiago de Compostella with a donkey called Shinto, and “French Revolutions”, the time he rode the route of the Tour de France with no training); Bill Bryson; Tony Hawks (not the skateboarding bloke, but this one)
“GOOD READS”: Rosie Thomas (especially “The Kashmir shawl”, “Ruby and Iris”, “Bad Girls Good Women” and “Other People’s Marriages”); Tracy Chevalier; Joanne Harris (I particularly liked “Gentleman & Players”) and Patrick Gale – an author I discovered whe I picked up his book “Rough Music” at Waterstones on a 99p “We think you will love this author” promotion.
They were right! I loved it, and his book “Notes from an Exhibition” is another wonderful, wonderful read.
“CHILDREN’S BOOKS”: Elizabeth George Speare (“The Bronze Bow” “The Witch of Blackbird Pond”) and, for young adults, “The L-Shaped Room” by Lynne Reid Banks is a poignant story of a young single mother finding her way in the world. Robert Westall’s book “The Wind Eye” is another great read for older teens too.
It’s no good – I think I will just have to go and order some books on Amazon!
What about you? What books do you love? And what are your thoughts about Kindles and other e-readers?
*”Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them” an apt quotation from Lemony Snickett (not a series I have read).