The link below is to an article that looks at how to celebrate Spring Break (or any holiday for that matter) with a book nerd.
Hell is not, as Sartre suggested, other people – it’s a holiday without books. Holidays, with their promise of carefree pleasure seeking, might seem like the most materialistic of activities. Yet the name has sacred roots: the holy day suggests a time set apart from the ordinary flow of life.
I can tolerate zigzag queues and disappointing hotel rooms but a lack of literature would ruin my trip. For some of us there is no greater pleasure, or more sacred thing, than the imaginative travel afforded by a good book.
The great philosopher Blaise Pascal believed that human misfortune was the result of other people’s inability “to sit quietly in one’s room”. I’m not sure where Pascal liked to spend his summer break – Disneyland Paris hadn’t opened its gates in the 1600s – but if forced to leave the tranquillity of his room for adventure and the promise of ice cream, it’s probable that he would have filled his suitcase with literature as well as factor 50. And, if he were to ask for a few suggestions, I might recommend this mini-library of my all-time holiday reading favourites. Take note, if you want a real break on your travels.
Clive James’s absurdly funny and sad Unreliable Memoirs (1980) is the first book that I remember reading on a beach. I was 16 and should have been focusing on other things, like the exhilarating surf and real human beings, but this “novel disguised as an autobiography” snagged me and encouraged a lifelong belief that words placed in the right order are a kind of magic.
James’s rites of passage tales of suburban Sydney in the 1940s and 1950s are intense in their specificity, evoking a distant world and way of life. But his askew take on the ritual humiliations and surprising freedoms of childhood are so resonant that they might connect with anybody who remembers what it is to be young, awkward and excessively bookish.
The family saga
This evocation of the idiosyncrasies of family life anticipates the fiction of James’ fellow Australian, Tim Winton. I especially recommend Cloudstreet (1991), now widely regarded as a classic of world literature, which follows the fortunes of two families who are compelled by separate losses to share a house for two decades.
Winton writes with a distinctive lyricism about Western Australia but this is also a compelling family saga of the pious, industrious Lambs and their worldly, fortune-seeking peers, the Pickles. There are few better writers of landscape and this is a visceral narrative full of elemental detail, salty humour and raw feeling.
The page turner
Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London (2011) is likely to prompt less refined reader responses: fear, laughter and the need-to-know-what-happens-next are the big pleasures in the first of a rather Dickensian sequence that blends police procedural with the supernatural.
PC Peter Grant, a rare fictional detective who seems to be perfectly sociable, becomes a kind of wizard’s apprentice in the Met and investigates crimes that leave his peers clueless. The genre term “urban fantasy” may discourage but this is witty, smart contemporary fable that represents a mischievous rewriting of the rules of classic detective fiction.
A long break might create space to grapple with one of the big books of our time: Donna Tartt’s ambitious The Goldfinch (2013), which blends art, obsession and the search for home, is perhaps the closest thing to the experience of reading a 19th-century triple-decker published in recent years; it is rich with character, incident, plot twist and, yes, many pages. I found it utterly absorbing and the fact that it isn’t brief is part of the pleasure.
Holidays might encourage escape from everyday life but they’re also a good opportunity to reflect on our understanding of home and belonging. Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (2004), is a kind of hymn to the joys of not travelling: John Ames, a minister facing up to mortality, reflects on the ordinary mysteries of life in the titular mid-Western town in a series of letters to his young son.
Robinson, in common with otherwise very different novelists such as John Irving and Stephen King, is brilliant at world building. We might have little in common with a Calvinist minister living in 1950s Iowa but Robinson opens up his particular world in a way that encourages both thought and emotional connection. Gilead offers an alternative take on the velocity (and restlessness) of contemporary Western life.
In her brilliant poem, Questions of Travel (1956), partly inspired by Pascal’s defence of staying put, Elizabeth Bishop asks: “Should we have stayed at home, wherever that may be?” If you are similarly sceptical about tourism, I recommend this pile of books and the out-of-office reply as an alternative trek into new lands.
The link below is to an article that looks at how you can encourage your kids to read during the holiday break.
I thought I’d post a quick update on what is currently happening with me and posts to my Blog. It is a short story really. I live in a town which is a massive tourist destination during the holiday season – especially at this time of year. What this means for me – being reliant on wireless access to the Internet – is real difficulty gaining Internet access. There are so many people in the area, using so many gadgets and the like, that the Internet is locked into a constant traffic jam. It is practically impossible to get Internet access most of the time. You do get the odd time where you can get access, but it is so slow that it is pointless to try and use it. For example – it takes minutes and minutes just for one page of the Blog to load.
I’ll keep trying to access the Net every so often, but it is likely I’ll be unable to post much for the next couple of weeks. There is good news – the number of tourists in the shopping centre here have diminished, which probably means we are heading back to some form of normality.
The link below is to an article that looks at 10 tips for keeping up reading habits while on holiday.
I have decided to start reading this book again. I have mentioned ‘This Little Church Went to Market’ in an earlier post in At the BookShelf and this is linked to below:
Back in October 2010 when I started to read this book I put it aside for some reason – I may have gone on holiday and forgot about it on my return. Anyhow, I decided to take it up again and then to read the two other books that come after it as per my original post. So that is my plan over the next few weeks and months.
This Little Church Went to Market, by Gary Gilley, was first published in 2002 by Xulon Press (ISBN: 1 5916 0049 9). The edition I have is that published as a paperback by Evangelical Press in 2010 (ISBN: 0-85234-596-8 & ISBN-13 978-085234-596-2). The book was revised and updated in 2006. My edition has 142 pages, so it isn’t a large book by any means.
So about to start reading the book – feel free to read it also and join in the discussion on it.
I have added this book to read at the book group at BookClubIt. Please join in the discussion at the book group or add your thoughts here on the Blog.
At the BookShelf (book reading group at BookClubIt):
The Book – Get a Copy
Purchase a copy of the book at Amazon:
Note: This is a completely independent review – I have received nothing for it.
I have decided post a weekly update of my reading progress. I did post an update of what I was reading back in April, so this won’t be the first post of this kind. This will however be the first of regular weekly updates on my reading progress.
Some of the books below have been on the list since April, with very little progress due to a holiday break and a general break in reading activity over the last month or so. This is all set to change as I again get my head into a book or two.
My Current Reading List:
History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent – Volume 1, by George Bancroft
Life of George Washington – Volume 3, by Washington Irving
The Sermons of the Right Reverend Father in God, and Constant Martyr of Jesus Christ, Hugh Latimer, Some Time Bishop of Worcester – Volume 2
History of the English Baptists, from the Reformation to the Beginning of the Reign of King George I – Volume 1, by Thomas Crosby
Memoirs of the Life, Times, and Writings of Thomas Boston, of Ettrick
Bible and Bible Study
The Joy of Reading, by Charles Van Doren
Terrorism and the Illuminati – A Thousand Year History, by David Livingstone
Post War – A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt