Summer Reading

16 days of scorching sunshine, freshly squeezed orange juice, egyptian cotton sheets and an infinity pool. 16 days of quiet, of the coconut-and-lime smell of suncream, cold showers and ‘Now That’s What I Call The Movies’ on the iPod. On repeat. Approximately 5 days of worrying that our friends would forget to feed the kittens and water the vegetable garden, 11 days of forgetting that there was a world outside of us. There was a wedding anniversary. Our first. It was wonderful.

The only slightly acceptable ‘taken at arms length because I’m too embarrassed to ask anyone else to take it for us’ shot. He’s yummy, isn’t he?


With one teeeeeny problem. You see, I’m a reader. A big reader. And a scan reader too, so I finish the average paperback in a couple of hours, which is not overly helpful on a 16 day holiday. I don’t have an e-reader of any description and I honestly can’t imagine having one in the near future. That’s just not what books are to me. Books are dog-eared, slightly water damaged from being read in long, indulgent baths. Their spines are cracked, often giving away a readers favourite part of a tale. They have dedications, declarations of ownership. ‘THIS BUK IS THE POPARTY OF FREDDIE’ declares a 13 year old copy of The Hobbit belonging to my then 6 year old brother. Books have history. Holding a book in my hands is the only way I’ll read .

So I planned and I researched and I ended up with 14 books in total. 3 for Phil (but ones that I could very definitely read after him!) and 11 for me. Some were easy beach reads, there were 2 autobiographies, a couple from Richard and Judy’s book club (I’m an official dweeb, I know) a handful of unknowns and a classic I’d never read before. Half came from Waterstones (taking advantage of the 3 for 2 offer!) and the rest came from one of our local charity shops…£1 for 6 paperbacks? Why, yes please!

I thought I’d share a handful of my favourites with you, in the hope that you’ll give me some recommendations too! Anna and Clare have already widened my literary horizons and I’m desperate to have them stretched some more!

The Beach Reads

Tasmina Perry-Kiss Heaven Goodbye

Cheesy. Cheesy, cheesy, awesomely cheesy goodness. A handful of stories spanning 30 years and the entire globe, with expensive dresses and private islands agogo. It’s unbelievably easy to read, you’ll need approximately 3% of your brain power to really understand it, but golly gosh it’s enjoyable.

Tilly Bagshawe-Fame

Again, this is not taxing stuff. It’s sex, money, some more sex and the Oscars. Amazeballs. On a serious note, there’s a plot thread on Wuthering Heights running through the book, so that gave it a kick for me. Though, I shan’t lie, I’d have devoured it regardless. An easy, happy-go-lucky way to pass an afternoon in the African sunshine.

Autobiographies

General Sir Richard Dannatt-Leading from the Front

This was one of Phil’s books, I only even picked it up because I’d finished all of mine and we still had 3 days left of the holiday! Once I did pick it up though, I was hooked. Really and truly, I was obsessing about it. Bringing it up at dinner, starting indignant arguments about Bosnia and Sierra Leone and the MOD. I love a decent autobiography, mostly for the gossip if I’m honest. I love a life story with all the gory details. The Dannatt family story is an interesting and captivating one, certainly, I enjoyed reading about them very much. But it is General Sir Dannatt’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Army’s thoughts and theories and plans-both failed and successful-that really grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I’m in danger of reviewing this book in it’s entirety, so I’ll be succint. If you have any interest at all in the last 40 years of the British Army, read this book. I have learnt SO much. I love it when a book teaches me something about life, this does exactly that.

Nelson Mandela-A Long Walk to Freedom

Do I really need to tell you why you should read this? Whatever you do, don’t start it when you have a lunch reservation in an hour and it takes you 45 minutes to get ready. Also, don’t read it without tissues. Or within eyesight of a very passionate German man who will tell you, over and over and over again, in pidgin English; that Nelson Mandela is a God. Not that he was wrong, he just kept.repeating.himself. Anyway, read the book. Please.

Authors and Books I hadn’t heard of before

Isabel Allende-The House of Spirits

‘Everyone has a book that makes their heart stop. This is mine, and if I know you at all, I think it might become yours’. The dedication in this book that was given to me by a very wonderful friend as a birthday gift. I started to read it with trepidation, my book that makes my heart stop is Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ and since I was 19, not a single word on any page of any book has come close to that one. I should have known better, of course she knows me. Allende writes mystically, beautifully, a little strangely at times. It has a similar quality to ‘The Shadow of the Wind’, in that it has gained an inexplicable charm through translation. If ever there was a book to drink in, devour slowly, it is this one.

Pittacus Lore-I Am Number Four

Ok. So, I’ve lost the plot a little here. Pittacus Lore is not a real person-thanks be to goodness, what parent would call their child Pittacus?! The ‘About the Author’ page tells us that Pittacus Lore is an Elder of an alien race who has been entrusted with this story….weird, certainly. Childish, probably. Intriguing, definitely. I knew this was also a film (with Quinn from Glee and a kid who looks too much like my little brother for comfort) and a kids film, at that. But I was interested. If you read and loved the Twilight saga (yup, that’s me. I’m sorry, Anna. So sorry.) then I’d wager you’ll enjoy this.

There you go. I’m no literary snob, that’s for sure! I don’t think it’s worth being uppity about books-I don’t think I’ve ever not finished a novel and I’d like to think I’ve learnt something from every story I’ve read. Even if it’s not always a positive lesson. I learnt from ‘A Child Called It’ that the ‘true story/child abuse’ genre was the only one I could not embrace.

Oh, the classic I’d not read before? ‘Huckleberry Finn’. It rocked my socks.

                                                                                   Me in my favourite dress. I loves it.

If you’ve been on holiday, I’m going to need to now exactly what books you read and what you thought of them. Or which ones you’re planning to read on your holiday/staycation/honeymoon. Or just your favourites. I like favourites!
Categories: Books
41 interesting thoughts on this

38 Comments

  1. Posted June 16, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Your holiday sounds divine! It also made me feel bad because i used to be just like you reading book after book, then i got my galaxy tab and now i read blogs! I did make an effort recently to read a book i'd received via readitswapit (a great website for die hard actual book lovers!) it was 1984 and i felt obliged to read it, what with it being a classic. I waded through it much like the literary version of walking through treacle and at the end just thought 'seriously? Ffs!' i read my first e-book recently -Until Tuesday, a true story about an ex-soldier with ptsd and how a service dog (called Tuesday) changed his life. I loved it and spent much of it filling up because of the love a dog can bring to your life!
    Sorry that was a saga! 1 more thing-heartstopping book- Mitch Albom 'the five people you meet in heaven' just a beautiful story.

  2. Posted June 16, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Firstly, you and Phil look hawt. Really. All summery and satisfied. Because THAT's the point of this post…

    Secondly, I feel like I know you a little better from reading your recommendations. I would never have pegged you for reading an army autobiography. Or any of my friends, actually. And I would certainly never have thought you'd be able to sell it to me. But you've made me want to go out and get that book right now, right this second. And stick my face in it.

    Totally with you on the e-readers, and you phrased it perfectly. Books are a tangible joy, made to be swapped, that take a part of you with them wherever they go. Turning the page is the simplest joy there is. Giving someone a book is like offering up a bit of your heart. Fie, Kindle! (personal preference. Don't lynch me)

    I read Jane Eyre recently for the first time. My mum told me she's a lesbian icon. Is that common knowledge?!

  3. Posted June 16, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I am currently reading Lolita in book form and listening to audio books on my 45 minute drive to take husband to and from the station every Monday and Thursday. I am listening to Pride & Prejudice and also Mini Shopaholic. Gotta mix the classics with what is known in our house as 'Rachie's crap' (extends to music as well as books).

    It's always a chore deciding how many books one will read on holiday vs suitcase space. I like to read books which relate to the destination – last year on Gozo I read the Kappillan of Malta by Nicholas Monsarrat as well as Homer's Odyssey – which was a re-read from my Classics Alevel.

  4. Fee
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Anna- I heard that too!

    My current reading (which I am miss-my-stop-on-the-tube immersed in) is The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde- using different voices in my head for all the characters in the plays is adding a whole new dimension to my reading pleasure!

    My 'crazy lady laughing to herself on public transport' transformation is complete, oh dear…..

  5. Katie
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Aisling, you look so stunning. I love your dress. Such a gorgeous tan too. I am so jealous, I have an allergy to sunscreen and do not venture out of the shade, without an enormous hat and oversized t-shirt.

    I have actually read Nelson Mandela – A Long Walk to Freedom. It is the fattest non-fiction book I have ever read, and I loved it.

    Also read A Child called It. Many years ago. Heartwrenching, and similarly have never wanted to read a child abuse book since.

    I love the Twilight saga too, so may have to buy I Am Number Four. Team Edward!

    Currently reading Where Soldiers Fear to Tread. The book gets better as it goes on. I had to persevere through the first half. It is more of a blokes book (relief work in Somalia), but it is an eye opener and I’m glad I bought it.

    Anna, I didnt know Jane Eyre's a lesbian icon either. I cant read a book, once I have watched the film/ TV adaptation. I dont have the attention span to read the book, knowing how it will end. As a result, I have never read a Jane Austen book. I do still keep meaning to read A Room With A View, as its my favourite film.

    Also, if I have read the book first, I dont enjoy the film. It is always a letdown. Memoirs of a Geisha and Captain Corelli's Mandolin are two films I didnt enjoy, as I'd read the books first.

    xx

  6. Fee
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    A Jane Eyre related p.s. Add Wide Sargasso Sea and After Mrs Rochester to your reading list!

  7. Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Enduring Love by Iain McEwan is my fvourite book ever. The film? Meh, nothing special even with Daniel Craig it was decidedly average. I always prefer the book to the film.

    Also, The Crow Road or The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks are quite random but goodies. And Down and Out inParis and London is way better than 1984, in my opinion obviously!

    Last time I went on holiday the hotel and quite a few of the bars around had bookshelves where you could leave your books and swap them for others. It was brilliant, and meant I didn't run out of books! Although there were some gems in there such as the Lorraine Kelly autobiography which I gave a miss

  8. Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Ah…1984. Just brings back memories of GCSE English to be honest. Which was exactly like swimming through golden syrup Pointy Pix, excellent analogy. I wasn't a fan either! Though 'The Five People you'll Meet in Heaven' was a killer. What a glorious book…

    PFDR-Lolita is such an awesome book. I always feel vaguely naughty when I take my battered and clearly well-thumbed copy on a train journey. I feel like the whole carriage is watching me read it! I love an audio book too-the obvious favourite is Stephen Fry doing the HP books, but I love Wuthering Heights too.

    Fee-I LOVE Wide Sargasso Sea! Love it! The BBC did a dramatization of it about 7 years ago and it was epically stunning. I'd not really thought about it recently-I'll have to dig that out for a re-read!

    Katie-why thank you for the lovely comments, I promise I did apply my factor 30 diligently every day! I'm totally in agreement on the books vs films argument. For me, the only film that had ever come close to being as perfect ad the original story, was The Green Mile.

    Linsey-I hadn't heard of Enduring Love, I'm going to find myself a copy and read it this very weekend. It's meant to chick it down so I won't be able to do the gardening…! Shame…

    This is fantastic ladies-keep them coming!

    X

  9. Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Oooh I love a good book discussion. A small group of friends formed a book group last year but it kind of turned into a meet for wine and cake group so it fizzled out. Personally I'll read pretty much anything but I hate things which are badly written, especially cringeworthy dialogue(I always finish a book though).

    My friend and her fella have a book review blog if anyone's interested: http://www.thebookmonkeys.co.uk/

  10. Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Forget the books – you look stunning in that dress!

  11. Posted June 16, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Oh and my all time favourites are really predictable – Austen, Rowling, Dahl, Gaarder.
    Amy x

  12. Posted June 16, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    The opening chapter to Enduting Love is the greatest opening chapter to any novel I have ever read.

    The problem is, by the end of the book, I wanted to slap Ian McEwen round the chops with my copy.

    I just find him a bit self-indulgently smart. The story is beautiful. So beautiful. I just think he ruined it by being smug and intellectual.

    Lolita however…can you BELIEVE English is Nabakov's third language and he WROTE IT IN ENGLISH? Lo-li-ta…like a young girl tripping lightly down the stairs…(just try saying that in GSCE French)

  13. Fee
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Aisling, you MUST read After Mrs Rochester if you love Wide Sargasso sea- or better yet, see it performed somewhere, is marvellous!

  14. Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Pointy Pix is spot on, readitswaptit is fabulous if you belt through books at light speed.

    And I loved the Wasp Factory and the Crow Road but yet to read Enduring Love (although I loved the film!)

    My personal faves tend towards hardboiled tough guy stuff, and even if that's not your normal bag I would really recommend Don Winslow's The Power Of The Dog -if you've ever been gripped by programmes like 24 or The Sopranos you won't be able to put it down. I think I actually squealed aloud at several points! Brilliantly crafted book, really excellent.

    Love the blog by the way!

    Px

  15. Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    This could not have come at a more perfect time for me. Living over here means I invariably buy about 20 books every time I come back to the UK and then desperately try to make them last until my next visit home.

    But last week I finished my last book, and this week in desperation have read all of Andy's spy/ken follett/boy books, the last one of which I finished last night. There is not a book I haven't read in the house.

    BUT, when things get really desperate I have been known to download books onto the iPad, and it's not been so bad. And as I have a month to go until my next trip to the UK, I was wondering what I could possibly download – browsing amazon online is not quite like picking up books and weighing them up, and reading the back, and looking at the cover, so I always feel a bit lost. And now I have a great long list from you guys (and Aisling, obvs.) of awesome books to download.

    This is why I love the AOW community – you are all seriously lovely AND have great taste in books.

    Xx

  16. Becca
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Aisling. I am you. Apart from when I go on holiday I take two bikini's, one kaftan, a pair of flipflops and about 25 books.

    I have just finished One Day.

    Read it.

    It will make you sob and turn to your beloved at 5am in the morning, lean over him and have him whisper "stop bloody sobbing on my shoulder" at you whilst you mutter "I love you" over and over again.

    Also. Anything by Audrey Howard. Yes they are books that my fiancees grandmother read and I inherited them but by GOD they are amazing. True trouble at Mill bonkbuster books. But less vivid than Martina Cole.

    Totally a guilty pleasure.

    And bonus. They are long and will take you a couple of days.

  17. Esme
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    THANK YOU Anna – That is EXACTLY how I feel about Ian McEwan! I've read about 4 of his books (I kept thinking, maybe it's just me?) and although the stories are incredible, I just can't stand his 'I'm so good, everyone will be studying this for A Level soon so I'll put in lots of clever bits'. Argh!

    Love Lolita – in fact, all of my favourite books are by Russian authors: Dr Zhivago, Master and Margarita and Tolstoy. Fantastic.

    I also recently loved One Day by David Mitchel and always recommend Kate Atkinson and Donna Leon's books – the characterisation is second to none.

    Clare – really sympathise with you about buying books in Russia. Crap Russian paper backs are dirt cheap, but anything in English is x4 the price!

    xxx

  18. Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    By the way Aisling, if you love Isabelle Allende you would definitely enjoy The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Lush prose style, really affecting story beautifully told. Read it if you haven't already!

    Px

  19. Esme
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Snap Becca! It's good, isn't it? x

  20. Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Esme the Master and Margarita is amazing! And re. the Russians, Nabokov's Invitation To A Beheading is my favourite book of all time, although I hardly ever recommend it as nobody else seems to get it!

    Right I'll shut up now, first ever comment has turned into three! Love books too much.

    Px

  21. Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Esme that is exactly it. And even the four-times-as-expensive books are really limited, and I've read most of the ones that I want to read.

    Keep the book recommendations coming ladies I am loving them (amazon will also be thanking you for the sudden upturn in profits)

    Xx

  22. Posted June 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Penny – never shut up! Especially with the great books you're coming out with. Obviously I have a bit of an interest in Russian writers so 'Invitation to a Beheading' has just been downloaded!

    Esme – I meant to ask – where were you un Russia? And how long for?

    Xx

  23. Posted June 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    The God Of Small Things! Gulp. That book is the only book I have read 3 TIMES IN A ROW. Wilfully.

  24. Katie
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    This is such fun, I'm not such an avid reader, compared to AOW team, but books I have enjoyed recently include: The Secret History by Donna Tart, The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy (and the next two books in the trilogy) by James Anderson, and Rosamunde Pilcher Coming Home.

    I’d not even considered a honeymoon reading list, but I’m now off to compile such a list. xx

  25. Posted June 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I love posts about reading! I recently spent 6 weeks in Germany in winter and read some great books.

    Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
    The Help, Kathryn Stockett
    Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
    Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

  26. Esme
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Clare – Not in Russia anymore I'm afraid. I lived in St P for 3 months and then Moscow for the rest of the year a few years ago now during my degree. I NEED to go back at some point (the boy only visited me in Moscow and so is yet to experience the joys of St P). Living there was the best and worst time of my life! My heart belongs to Russia xx

  27. Posted June 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Erm… I'm not a fan of One Day.

    Sorry. I appreciate the story and the construction and yes, it's very sad at the end but… I found it to be marvelously frustrating and very predictable. And I don't appreciate the casting of Anne Hathaway as Emma so I'm unlikely to care much for the film, either.

    I did like Starter for Ten, though…

    I'm positively giddy with anticipation-I cannot WAIT to read Enduring Love, Invitation to a Beheading and After Mrs Rochester… It's going to be a weekend of Big Fat Nothing. Can't wait!

    anotherringcoming-if you liked Great Expectations you should try Bleak House. It's my absolute favorite Dickens, ever.

    Also, George's Marvellous Medicine. I cannot believe o forgot to mention ol' George.

    X

  28. Posted June 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Agree with your Ian McEwan comments about every other one of his books I've read – Atonement WTF was all the fuss about??
    But I really like Enduring Love, I find the story so gripping, and the random hot air balloon on the cover makes me smile, not sure why!

    Definitely picking up some new book ideas from this post – thanks ladies! I don't tend to buy books as I have no space at all for them and rarely reread them, so the library is my second home. And the one near me has it's own bar!

  29. Posted June 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Aisling – thank god I'm not the only freak in the land who doesn't like One Day. I couldn't even finish it.

    If you read only one book between now and forever, make it Stef Pennys 'The Tenderness of Wolves' It's stunning. I gave it to my mum to read (who with a PhD has read a LOT) and she couldn't even articulate how good it was.

    I also have a great soft spot for Nicholas Evans (The Horse Whisperer is one of his weakest, try the others, may I suggest The Loop?

    Kate Morton and Maggie O'Farrell are another two of my favourites, along with *whisper* Jodi Picoult.

    Goes to sit quietly in the corner…

  30. Posted June 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I scan-read too, and when we were in Asia recently I. ran. out. of. books. It was diabolical. And then I found a dog-eared, seawater-mouldy copy of 'Little Bee' by Chris Cleave (published in the UK under the title 'The other hand') and it was amazing. my husband read it after I did and we couldn't stop talking about it.

  31. Posted June 16, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh Gemma. The Other Hand is INSANE. I have never read anything else like it. It gave me the most massive right hook of any book I've ever read, ever.

    Have you read his other one – Incendiary? It's not as good but it packs an equal punch.

  32. Posted June 16, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Gemma and Anna – ditto.

    I don't think I stopped thinking about that book for a long time afterwards. It absolutely slayed me.

  33. Posted June 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    ooooh what a lovely post and comments..
    Please can you do a post about The Other Hand I can't decide whether I'd love it or loathe it…
    Big love for A. Roy, Maggie O'F, Charles D (I think he's perfect for holidays lots of time to get into the story.) I also really like Anne Tyler and Rose Tremain for good female reads.
    Final thought, I really like short stories for holidays…
    Oh I want to be on holiday lazing by a pool reading with Warmth beside me…

  34. Becca
    Posted June 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    WHAT?

    They're doing a film?

    Noooooo

  35. Sarah
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I'm late to this! Such an apt post as I'm already really panicking re. honeymoon reading/suitcase space/should I buy a Kindle/should I talk to my new husband mania!!

    For my 2p worth I totally agree that The God of Small Things is one of the most brilliant books I've ever read. The story and the prose will stay with you forever. Also amazed to see two of my other all time favourites, The Wasp Factory and The Crow Road popping up on here! Thought they might be a bit dark or under the radar! x

  36. Sarah
    Posted June 17, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    PS. Hooray, I also felt the same about One Day. It was ok, very readable, but just a bit contrived, especially all the '90s references!!

  37. Posted June 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    How could I have forgotten about The Other Hand *shame* It's a wonderful book. Started to read Incendiary by the same author, really must go back and finish

  38. Roz
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Love this post! I too will never swap from actual books to some ebook reader so you lovely ladies have literally changed my life by introducing me to read it swap it :0) Currently on holiday so cannot wait to get home and start swapping!!

    For those of you who love the twilight saga, have you all read Midnight Sun? It's the first book, Twilight, written from Edward's perspective. I loves it! It's not complete though and only available on Stephenie's website as someone stole the manuscript and posted it online so she refuses to finish it :0( Love Lee Child's books too, that maybe cause I'm slightly in love with Jack Reacher, lol!! Xx

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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