My long anticipated holiday, which once seemed months off, is now fast approaching and I am very much looking forward to leaving these rain-drenched, grey cloud shrouded shores for southern sun. We are off to Greece in two weeks time and I can’t wait. After the non-appearance of this English summer it will be a relief to be somewhere that can virtually guarantee sun, clear blue skies and heat.
The only problem is, I haven’t a clue what to take for holiday reading.
Normally I don’t find this a problem. I take a mixture of novels and travel books and that sees me through, but this year it’s different. I can’t find anything that takes my fancy.
I’ve read all the weekend holiday reading supplements over the summer. I’ve been on goodreads.com and lovereading.co.uk. Nothing.
The fact is my reading palate feels jaded. and it has felt like that for a while now. I can’t seem to settle down to reading anything for very long. There are rare exceptions. For example, at the moment I am slowly re-reading Charlotte Joko Beck’s Everyday Zen, one of my favourite Buddhist books, full of great advice and encouragement grounded in her years of practice. But apart from that it feels like a bit of a reading desert.
Time was when I sought out new books as the keys to the meaning of my life: perhaps the next one would tell me how to live my life. Inevitably it didn’t, but it still did not stop me freighting books with expectations that they couldn’t possibly fulfil. Now I read for information (history, biography, travel) and for entertainment (good quality fiction, mysteries, thrillers).
Old favourite authors such as David Mitchell and William Boyd don’t really excite me this year. I want to read something new and challenging, but what?
When I first went to Greece three years ago I took two of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels. But as soon as I opened the first one in Greece I realised what a big mistake that was. I just could not face reading a novel set in a cold and wet Scotland whilst I was in such an idyllic place. So for the following two years I took a mixture of William Boyd novels and Greek travel books.
Now I have just about exhausted the Greek travel book genre and Boyd’s oeuvre. So what next?
I have just started to get interested in Ancient Greek religion after conversation with my Greek tutor: surely Greek temples weren’t just a cross between an abattoir and a barbecue, with a few libations of wine thrown in? There must have been more going on than that. And how did the Eleusyinian Mysteries manage to keep their rites secret? So I’ve been looking for a readable (ie not academic, this is my holiday after all) book on Greek religion. Simplifying grossly there are two key books: Walter Burkert’s Greek religion: archaic and classical and Jon D Mikalson’s Ancient Greek Religion. The latter seems to be much more up to date, but is described as ‘a textbook’. But now I’m wondering whether I really want to read a textbook on holiday.
Perhaps I shouldn’t take anything and should concentrate on writing about my travels. It sounds like a plan, but there are bound to be times when I want to read something. Anything. I wonder how interesting Greek sauce bottles are?
With about ten days to go I’ll keep looking. If you have any suggestions for holiday (or any other) reading, I’d love to hear from you.