It is not too much exaggeration to say that the weight of reading material we have brought with us on holiday exceeds that of the clothes we packed.
The selection of books by each individual demanded much forethought. Heaven forbid that space should be wasted by including tomes no one else would be likely to read. People leave little leaning towers around the house for days before departure demanding a certificate of acceptability, and the highest accolade is someone else rooting through the pile and saying “Ooh, that looks good, ooh yes, great.”
There is, it seems, no greater pleasure than having one’s choice of reading material vindicated by the family at large.
You might think that in pursuit of reading efficiencies of scale, we would be forced into reams of chick lit and airport trash. Not so. There’s not a pastel and gold book cover in sight. It’s one of the times in life as a parent I can breathe a sigh of relief as I note that everyone without exception plans to use the holiday to enrich their lives to a praiseworthy degree.
Not that there’s no place for quick and easy reading matter in life. With my penchant for crime fiction, I’d be a lost soul without the best sellers. But I’ve always considered quiet holidays to be the best opportunity ever for catching up on lengthy/challenging/eclectic works, and it’s a source of great delight to me that everybody else feels the same.
We girls, for example, have a great number of 19th century classics to enjoy. Hardy, Eliot, Austin, Alcott, L.M. Montgomery, Dumas and Dostoyevsky are all represented.
The men are looking more to 21st century contemporary fiction: Murakami, Jacobson and Alster. I did throw in a Donna Leon, but it has been counterbalanced by one daughter packing The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.
Half of us have found room for some light (and not so light) philosophical and economic works ranging from Plato to Adorno (most of these are still undisturbed suggesting they are aspirational items to be enjoyed when the lighter stuff runs out, but given the cross-attractions, we’d need a month away for that to happen)
There’s a great graphic novel (Maus), and I’m sure one person has packed some serious bridge books which shows there’s always an exception to every rule. I will not be looking at them, and nor will anyone else.
But the best thing of all is that for once in our lives we have time to discuss what we’re reading. For there are little things more disappointing than reading a great book and then no one having time to talk about it with you; which explains, of course, the huge appeal of reading groups. On leisurely holidays stretched out by the pool, when you can contain yourself no longer there’s bound to be at least one person happy to sit and listen to an extract read aloud for the sheer joy of sharing a wonderful passage.