As much as the delightful British weather wants to confuse us and deny that sunshine ever happens here, it is summertime. We’ve had the first ‘official’ day of summer, when lots of us hopefully get a bit of a holiday. For me, one of the most important parts of any good holiday is the reading.
Everyone likes something different in a Holiday Read, but for me, I want something well-written but not dense – I want enough brain-space left for all the other activities I like to do, and to genuinely relax rather than be sitting up into the night reading! If there’s anything besides reading that a holiday should provide, it’s a good amount of sleep, and I like to pick up books that are compatible with that. Holiday reads for me are ones I can nod off to. Tension does not belong on holiday.
I’ve usually been a big re-reader on holiday for the comfort factor, but there’s something special about discovering a new book while away that lingers. There are certain books that I will always associate with a particular trip, and that extra layer of association makes me happy. On the flip side, of course, I’ve read some books on holiday which I hated and weren’t what I expected, which overrode any positive association from the holiday (case in point: I read Ava Lavender while I was on a spa break).
A couple of these have that specific holiday connection for me, but all of them are ones I recommend for holiday reading!
Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern
Alternatively titled Love, Rosie since that awful film – I do apologise if you liked it, but while lacking detail is a common criticism of adaptations, I think going so far as to rewrite two completely different characters into one is taking the biscuit – this book is absolutely delightful, and because of the format Cecelia Ahern uses, telling us everything via notes, letters, instant messages and emails, it’s perfectly suited to reading a little at a time if you’re whizzing about having adventures – or equally, to sitting in the shade with a drink for hours at a time.
The book follows Rosie and Alex, best friends from age five living in Dublin, through more than fifty years of friendship. Their lives take very different paths, with plenty of heartbreak and heartwarming turns, and some truly lovely characters surrounding them to make you smile.
Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty
I first read this book while on holiday in France with my family as a teenager, having bought it second-hand from a library sale. This was one of my favourite young adult books as a teen, and among the first I read after Meg Cabot books.
The book follows three friends, Lydia, Emily and Cassie, whose private-school English teacher at Ashbury high runs a pen-pal program with nearby public school Brookfield. The girls all get a pen pal in an English class at the other school, and the book follows the events that unfold from their letters. This is actually the second in a series of Ashbury/Brookfield companion novels, although it isn’t necessary to read them all to appreciate one or to take them in the ‘right’ order.
Jaclyn Moriarty is fantastically funny, and this book has brilliant humour as well as very touching moments. The three girls the story focuses on and their friendships are memorable for me, and always take me back to sitting on a garden bench in the French sunshine…
The Ashbury/Brookfield books include Feeling Sorry for Celia, Finding Cassie Crazy, Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, and Dreaming of Amelia.
Us by David Nicholls
David Nicholls is obviously well known for One Day, which is a good holiday read as well, but personally I preferred Us – for its characters. As a holiday read though, this one has an advantage in being about a holiday – and your holiday is very likely going to be better than Douglas Petersen’s.
Douglas Petersen and his wife Connie are about to leave on a Grand Tour of Europe with their son Albie before he leaves home for his first year of University. Shortly before they leave, Connie informs Douglas that she thinks she wants a divorce. Their trip chronicles Douglas’ attempts to prevent the dissolution of his marriage, to connect with his teenage son and understand why their relationship has been so tense, and the whole family’s differing interests in art and artistry.
I loved the characters of this story, although for a long time I found the narrator the least likeable – which actually is a massive strength of the story. Douglas Petersen is very flawed, in a very recognisable way, and I adored the acknowledgement of why his relationship with his son is so strained at times. I absolutely recommend this one for family drama and a good strong dose of Britishness. See my full review from last year here.
Selected Poems & Letters by John Keats
This is another that I associate very strongly with a specific trip – in the September before I left home for University, my parents and I went on holiday together to Solva in Pembrokeshire. It was a pretty dreary week weather wise, and I remember being in a pretty sombre mood for most of it. I was eighteen and ready to move out of home in a way that made me unfairly irritable with my parents – so, being in a small flat for a week instead didn’t improve my temper much. It was still a lovely calm holiday though. I remember it now as a sort of pause – a lot of things were going on at the time, but for a week they pretty much stopped. I took with me my battered A-level copy of Keats’ Selected Letters and Poems, and it was the week I began properly enjoying his poetry outside the context of studying it for coursework. His preoccupation with nature also resonated strongly with me then, out in the damp Welsh landscape.
Poetry, especially calm poetry like Keats, I find especially good for holidays where you just want small chunks of reading, here and there.
So – these are some of my top favourites for summertime holiday reads, but ultimately it’s very difficult to recommend for a category which varies for everyone. Even just mine seem to vary quite a bit – between poetry, romance and YA fiction – but they have something in common, which is that they made me smile, and helped me relax.
I hope you all get lovely holidays this year!