Monday, August 20, 2012

Choosing Holiday Reading

I know I'm leaving my holiday a little late this year, but I'm heading off to foreign climes for the last two weeks of September.

Which brings me to the tricky subject of holiday reading.

Firstly, I don't agree that a holiday read needs to be fluffy or light. Last year, while exploring Bavaria, I read lots of Alice Hoffman, Kiersten White's Supernaturally (which is light-hearted in tone but not in content) and Giles Foden's Last King of Scotland, a novel about the dictator Idi Amin. Not exactly the kind of thing that's marketed to be read on a beach - but then I wasn't on the beach, so maybe my holiday reading needs are different!

With that in mind, I saw a photo of the covers of Louise Phillips's upcoming Irish crime novel, Red Ribbons. I am very keen to read it - psychological crime set in Dublin? Bring it on! - and it is being released about a week or so before I fly out. Seems like a great candidate for a holiday read, right?

Well, not quite.

When I am away, where possible I like to read something connected with the place I am visiting. I didn't manage that last year (although I did thoroughly enjoy the history sections of my travel guide). This year, I'm off to France and Belgium. My French reading list currently consists of Antonia Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette, which I've been planning to read for ages anyway,  several Kindle-only travel books, my trusty Rough Guide and a phrasebook.

My Belgian reading list is somewhat shorter. It consists of several Kindle-only travel guides, and a vague notion of finally trying some of Agatha Christie's Poirot novels.

But I think my list - my French list anyway - is flawed.

I'll only be there for six days. Is that really enough time to plough through one of Fraser's biographies? Won't it be annoying, travelling to Belgium while reading about the country I'm leaving and not the country I'm going to? And wouldn't the trip to France be more rewarding if I knew more about the history before I arrived, rather than learning it while there?

So I think instead, I will read Marie Antoinette (and Red Ribbons!) before I go, and choose something shorter and less historical for reading while I'm there. Given that France exerts a powerful pull over Western imaginations, I imagine I'll have no trouble finding something good. I'm still a little stumped for Belgium - can anyone recommend any modern Belgian novels that are available in English?

What are your favourite holiday books? Do your holiday reading tastes change depending on where you go - or is that just me?


  1. Have a great trip! Fraser's book about Marie Antoinette is one of my all-time favorites. We were in Vienna this summer, and I stood in front of the palace and imagined her riding her pony. Did you see the movie Kiersten Dunst starred in about MA? (I think it's best seen after reading the book as Hollywood had to condense a few things, etc.)

    1. I haven't seen the movie, Kittie, and thanks to your advice, I'll keep it til after I've finished the book!

      I'd love to go to Vienna, it's on the list!

  2. I tend not to mind what I'm reading while on holiday. Though I can be a bit funny about continuing a book I've already started before the trip. Maybe a part of my brain refuses to accept that it's a holiday if I'm continuing something I started beforehand?

    1. I'm a bit similar, Paul, but I find it hard to get into a new book in the airport or on the plane, so usually I'll read a chapter or two before I leave, just so I'm properly involved in the book, but not enough that I associate the book with being at home.

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  4. I'd be more inclined to just want any book to read along with me while on vacation. Don't know any Belgian writers...


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