Thursday, 21 June 2012

My Summer Reading List

I have always been a voracious reader, teaching myself as quickly as possible even before school started, so that I could enter the magical world of books.  Growing up I was, literally, surrounded by books, and to this day I feel uncomfortable in houses which don't have obvious collections of books.

Don't get me wrong, ten foot teetering towers you have to squeeze through to get to a chair in your study (JBC you know who you are ;o)) may not be quite my cup of tea, but I need to have books around me, and even at my busiest times will have a couple on the go, preferably ones I can dip in and out of.

To my regret, I dropped English Literature after O level (yep I'm that old, just!), but have since mugged up on what I would have missed and more; but during my first degree, wallowing in the joy of reading and reading and reading, I found Russian literature.  For that I will be eternally grateful to the lovely Stephen and Joscelyn Carter at LGU.  That discovery led me on to studying for a Masters in Russian Literature, and beginning a, later aborted, PhD in the same.

However, my reading tastes are not solely literary, and are - um - eclectic to say the least!  Everything from heavyweight history and politics to popular fiction, and from biography to anthropology.  I read like a crazy person during my first pregnancy, learning everything possible about pregnancy, labour, birth and parenting, and it took me on the most incredible journey into attachment parenting.  I have continued to read as much parenting literature as I can get my hands on, but novels have largely fallen by the wayside of late.

I was therefore delighted last week to hear that I had been chosen as one of the Idealo Holiday Reads Challenge bloggers.  We were asked to create a wish list of books we would like to read this summer, up to the value of £25.

I already have lengthy wish lists on Amazon for myself, the girls, etc, but I decided this list would be pure reading pleasure.  Nothing I thought I 'should' read, nothing too serious, just some jolly good reads, just for me, and novels only.  I thought this was also probably most in keeping with the idea of the challenge itself, the idea of 'holiday reads', even though we have no holiday planned yet, but that's another story!

Being slightly Greek island mad, I was recommended Victoria Hislop's The Islandfollowing our mini-moon in Crete, and it was a great read.  I know a number of people have said it is poorly researched, and very inaccurate, but unless you're in the habit of using novels and films as your history reference points, I'm not sure that's relevant to something which claims only to be a work of fiction based on historical fact and memory.  Of course, no-one wants to read or watch something entirely anachronistic, or full of glaring holes and errors, but for pure entertainment, the odd cheesy Robin Hood re-make or slightly dodgy historical novel is fine by me.

Having said that, I am looking forward to reading The Thread, Hislop's third novel and another Greek-set one.  This time Thessaloniki, but similar to The Island in that it crosses from an earlier time period, in this case 1917, to the present day, using the recollections of the protagonist's grandparents to tell the story of the island's history, including its sufferings under German occupation.  As a reviewer in The Observer put it "a beach book with heart".  Just the kind of easy read, escapist stuff one wants for a holiday, in my opinion.

My second choice was one I had seen reviewed in a few publications and had caused quite a stir when first published.  It is The Paris Wife, the story of the great Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley, during their 1920s Paris sojourn, as imagined by Paula McLain.  I have heard great things about this writer, so am anticipating another good read.

I am never entirely sure of how I feel about Hemingway, beyond how wonderful his writing is.  He was such a difficult man in life, and in legend, and it is hard to know whether to admire or despise, or both in equal measure.  What has become known colloquially as the Marmite effect!  I rather suspect that reading this novel will send me off on a Hemingway reading trip, both his own work and the plethora of biographies, probably starting with Hemingway's own account of his 1920s Paris, A Moveable Feast, although a number of people have recommended Jeffrey Meyers Hemingway: A Biography to me.

The third in my list is, to me, trash with a capital T!  I'm not the greatest fan of the chick lit genre, finding most of it rather tedious, mawkish, and atrociously written, I'm afraid.  However, I have been known to read the odd one or two if they break the mould slightly, and Just Another Manic Mum-Day sounds as though it might.

The follow-on from The Pissed-Off Parents Club, which was well-received at the time, it catches up with the same characters as they prepare for the arrival of baby number two - and have moved to Australia.  The Australia factor alone sounds good to me, a nice blast of Antipodean sunshine in our non-existent summer.  I'm hoping it'll be the paper version of watching the delightful Phil Down Under!

The other book I'm expecting a few laughs from is The Uncommon Reader, by the wonderful Alan Bennett.  This was published a fw years ago, and I'm ashamed to say I have never got round to reading it, until now.  It is back on the radar this year with a re-realease due to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, as it is about Her Majesty, and her ever-present corgis.

In this tautly written novella (how is it Bennett manages to never waste a word?!), The Queen discovers a mobile library whilst out walking and, not wanting to seem rude, borrows a book.  Then another, and another.  Once bitten by the bug, she works her way through everything she can get her hands on, finding her view on her world, and ours, changed irrevocably.  This hilarious, satirical tale will be the first on my reading list radar when it arrives.

And finally, from one of my favourite writers, comes The Greatcoat, a rather beautiful ghost story, which examines the residual effects of the Second World War on the 1950s, as much as Helen Dunmore's ongoing fascination with human nature and its vagaries and foibles.  I have long been a fan of Dunmore's engaging, haunting writing, and this new novel looks not to disappoint.  I shall say no more about this one now, and hope to bring you a full review when it's read.

So that's my little holiday reading list, now I just have to book a holiday...

What's on your summer reading list?

And don't forget to enter our competitions!


  1. I'm reading The Thread this summer too, look forward to comapring notes. Great book choices, can't wait to read your reviews.


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