These days I’m all about books. If there are only two things I can’t imagine a holiday without, those would be my camera and a good book. Generally, I can’t imagine my existence without those two. My taste in books is diverse, ranging from young adult books, through cookbooks (yes, I’m one of those people who read cookbooks), to hard core science fiction. What I read depends on my mood, and sometimes for a while I don’t feel like reading at all. But when I do I devour anything I find remotely interesting.
Back in the day when going on a holiday, one of the hardest decisions I always faced was: which book to bring with me? What mood am I going to be in? How will the country I’m visiting affect me? Will I want to go for something light-hearted or a bit more sinister? I consider books a form of travelling without moving; I love being swept away to new places I normally can’t or won’t visit. Hence, it’s important to pick the right book for the occasion. Needless to say, I usually ended up with at least 2 books in my bag, convincing myself that it’s not that much extra weight.
With the introduction of e-readers my problem seems to be solved, since I can have hundreds of books in my pocket and they’re at my fingertips at any given time. Although in some cases I still prefer a paperback. Call me old-fashioned, but I like everything about actual books; the smell, the touch of the paper, the turning the pages and seeing how much I progressed. There is something magical about reading a paper book that I never experienced with my Kindle. But I digress.
While on a holiday, we’ve all encountered rainy days that interfered with our plans and had us confined to our hotel room. Those are the days when I whip out my book/Kindle and can get so engulfed in an engaging story that I forget the world around me. Hunger, exhaustion don’t matter anymore when I’m taking my metaphorical journey to another universe. But to be honest, I don’t need rain to justify my reading frenzy. Occasionally I get stuck in a cafe, just wanting to go through the next chapter, and then the chapter after that. Hours pass, which I only notice on my coffee turning ice cold. Substitute a park for the cafe and a take-away meal for coffee, the same thing can happen. Good books ruining my travel plans in a good way; I regretted it only on a few occasions.
So if you’re like me and like to get stuck in random places and be off to Never-Neverland with a book, here are a few of my favourite holiday reads for the summer. Mind you, the following list strongly reflects my taste in books; yet I hope you can find one to your liking:
Stray Souls by Kate Griffin
London has lost its soul. Our heroine attempts to find it to restore balance to the world, but how do you proceed if you’re only a budding shaman, and have to go up against enemies much more skilled in the magical art than yourself? You create a Facebook group called Magical Anonymous that welcomes all the outcast magical creatures. Are you sold on the story yet?
Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A relatively short, but heart-warming fairy tale for adults. The unnamed protagonist of the story returns to his childhood home, recalling events about a summer of friendship, the loss of childhood innocence in the face of death, and sacrifice. All thanks to a girl named Lettie who lives next door and insists that the pond at the end of the lane is in fact an ocean. Admittedly the most personal book Gaiman has ever written (probably because it’s the only one written in first person).
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
The first book in a series starred by ghouls, vampires, zombies, other mythical and mystical creatures and a walking-talking cursed skeleton who happens to be a private investigator and drives an old Bentley. And a young girl in her early teens trying to make sense of all this mess. Sometimes frightening, other times laugh-out-loud funny, this is one of the best young adult books of the past decade.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One of my favourite books of all time. It’s a classic and a Nobel prize winner for a reason, an excellent example of magical realism; the story is about love and death, traditions and heritage, fortune and loss, about life in short. It will make you laugh and cry, sometimes cry with laughter as you follow the lives of seven generations of the Buendia family in a metaphorical Colombian town.
The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
What do you do if you’re destined to wield magic, even graduated at the top of your class, but you’re assigned to a different type than what you always wanted? Who would want paper when you can bespell metal? Heavy-hearted Ceony reluctantly starts her internship at the paper magician’s cottage, but soon finds herself on a dark yet sometimes comical adventure that exceeds her wildest expectations, trying to save her master, using the only power she has: paper magic.
Lamb by Christopher Moore
If you’re not afraid to tackle religious subjects or put humour into the most widely known Bible story and read about Jesus’s “lost years” from the perspective of his childhood friend (Levi bar Alphaeus who’s called Biff), this book is a very fun summer read. Also if you want to learn humorous explanations about the origins of judo; the reasons that Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas; and how rabbits became associated with Easter, you turned to the right place.
Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic by Osho
Osho is a mystic, who does’t belong to any religion, and whose self-help publications still keep gaining popularity, even more than 2 decades after his death. He never wrote a single book yet published over a hundred. All his works are collections and transcripts of his lectures, just like this one is a collection of stories he shared about himself. Interested in spirituality but don’t want to submerge in deep philosophical debates? Like autobiographies that are fun to read? This book might be for you.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book became a classic very fast. If you’re looking for purpose in your life, Liz Gilbert might just be the person to help you. Based entirely on real life events, after she went through failed relationships, did but failed to enjoy the domestic life, Liz embarks on a journey that is much more than a physical trip. Filled with self-doubt in the beginning, she discovers new cultures, forms new relationships, rediscovers a purposeful life worth living, and slowly begins to heal.
Want something a bit heavier? How about some sci-fi or a good old fashioned murder?
The Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Set in a reality where jumping to (potentially infinite numbers of) parallel Earths becomes possible using a very simple device powered by a potato. Our recluse hero Joshua, who’s capable of “stepping” without using the device, accompanied by an AI called Lobsang, travels to distant worlds to discover other humanoid species and entities potentially endangering our (original) Earth. The books also deal with the consequences of aggressive colonisation efforts and new political movements spreading as they gain power in this newly discovered reality. The series was originally planned to contain 5 books, but with Terry Pratchett’s recent passing we will have to settle for 4. The last book was just released this month.
Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs
After I read the first book in the series, she quickly became one of my favourite authors. I like a good crime novel as much as the next person, but her books stand out of the crowd. Kathy Reichs is first and foremost a forensic anthropologist and managed to turn her lifelong career into a successful series of murder mysteries. Her stories are all based on the life and work of Temperance Brennan, who unlike Kathy Reichs herself, splits her time between Charlotte, NC and Montreal, Canada helping the police solve murder cases. No sketchy science here, she goes into sometimes gruesome forensic details, but the books never get boring and are very well paced. If you’re a bit squeamish, they might not be for you. I could’t pick a personal favourite, they are all very good, and recommend them over the very different TV show Bones that was based on the books.
The above list is far from complete. Summer holidays are also an excellent time to re-read old favourites that take you back to the first time you fell in love with them. A good book is a travel companion that can alter and amplify your experience. Pick something that suits your mood and it may ruin your travel plans, but may give you unexpected answers for life questions or make you realise what you’ve been missing. It’s all for the better, trust me!
Do you agree with my list? If not, what are your favourite holiday reads?
Let me know by leaving a comment below.