We all know that we’re not really having a summer this year, but rather a Narnia-esque eternal winter. Which is why many of us are heading off to foreign, sunnier climes (I went to Porto in Portugal a few weeks ago for a festival Where, of course, it rained). And apart from the sheer relief of spending a few days in a country where it’s at least not raining EVERY day, for many of us one of the best things about going on holiday is finally reading the contents of our To-Read pile. Yes, summer holidays mean summer books – but what makes a good holiday tome? The papers are full of summer reading recommendations – in fact, I wrote one myself, for the Irish Times.
But choosing what to put in the list was really tricky. For several weeks, I had to view every book on my longlist with two thoughts: could someone happily read it on a sun lounger, and would it keep them entertained on a long flight (or even worse, a long wait in an airport)? I needed to get a good balance of books, and I needed to include lots of the big titles of recent months, but they all had to be entertaining and not too heavy – literally as well as mentally. Sometimes on holiday you want total fluff, but even if you’re looking for something a bit more challenging, you generally don’t want something incredibly grueling.It’s a fine art, choosing a holiday read – for yourself and for other people (the other people bit is hardest, because you’ve got to pick books that are good but not really your sort of thing).
Personally, I like to bring a good mix of books on holiday. Some total fluff (I am currently re-reading Shirley Conran’s Lace for the first time since I was about 16 and it is BRILLIANT. Perfect holiday reading), some non-fiction (when I went to Porto I brought Kate Summerscale’s brilliant Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace, the true story of a Victorian divorce scandal) and a decent book that’s smart and interesting without being too weighty (I strongly recommend Maria Semple’s utterly fantastic and very funny and sad Where’d Do You, Bernadette, which is about a girl who tries to find out why her eccentric mother, a reclusive architect, has disappeared). As far as I’m concerned, this combo will give you a balanced literary diet while you get reacquainted with that giant hot ball of gas in the sky that apparently no longer shines in Ireland (or my corner of north Dublin, anyway).
So what do you demand from a summer read? And what are you packing in your suitcase this year?