Tomorrow I fly to the States for my little brother’s wedding. Leaving aside how weird it is that tiny sticky-handed brothers can grow up to become nice people and get married to other nice people anyway, like what business is it of theirs getting older, I have a fair few things to ponder over this morning. Not least: narrowing down the book pile that will go into my carry-on.
(No, I don’t have a Kindle. Yes, I can finally see the value in it and probably will succumb at some point, but today is not that day.)
I have a fail-safe rule when it comes to holiday books, and this applies even if you do have a schmancy e-reader and are wondering what to download. It goes:
If you’re thinking that this holiday is the chance you’ll get to finally get through the Booker shortlist, I’m here to tell you that’s probably not going to happen. Holiday brain is real. By the time you’ve got over the dribbling relief of being away from your normal routine and in a pretty place by a pool, you can forget the Serious Novel.
Here’s my pile for the Arizona desert:
old: Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None
By ‘old’ I mean an old favourite – one you’ve read and reread till you can quote the opening sentence on the first dog-eared page. Agatha is my go-to comfort read, as you probably know. And Then There Were None is so forties it hurts, and fiendishly, blood-curdlingly clever. I know exactly whodunnit and I still can’t leave it alone.
new: Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park
By which I mean, again, new to you. There’s nothing like discovering something magnificent in a new place. The two become forever linked in your head, and thinking about one will remind you, beautifully, of the other. I am ashamed to say that I haven’t yet read Mansfield Park, and a seventeen-hour travelling day will probably leave me enough time to get stuck in. Besides, wouldn’t a dash of Regency manners be a perfect antidote to sitting in economy like a trussed-up chicken?
funny: Terry Pratchett’s Mort*
You don’t want to be hammering through some literary theory when you hit turbulence or are waiting for your third delayed flight. You want something quick and hilarious. Terry Pratchett might not be your laugh-magnet of choice – choose whoever is – but Mort is one of my oldest and most beloved of funny books.
*NOTE: ‘funny’ can here be replaced with ‘trashy’, and the effect is the same. If you go with ‘trashy’ I would recommend some good corset-and-codpiece historical fiction, or else a magazine, if you can find one that doesn’t make you want to stab your eyes out.
true: Nine Stibbe’s Love Nina
I do like a bit of holiday non-fiction. This book has been the most joyous thing I’ve discovered this year – the journal of a resolutely unimpressed nanny in a houseful of literary celebrities and precocious children. I wanted to start it again the minute I finished, and this weekend I’ll finally have time. (Warning: bohemian households containing Alan Bennett swear a lot.)
Now all I have to do is work out what to do when it’s FORTY DEGREES CELCIUS AT FIVE PM. Apart from weep tears that immediately evaporate into steam. I’m excited! (I’ll also be away from here for the next week. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, lovers.)