Charles Edward Perugini - Woman Reading On the weekend that started off this year’s summer vacation for us, two of my husband’s oldest friends came to stay. They are very dear people, but when they left Monday morning, my husband told me that he was really looking forward to finally getting some time for reading. I understood him perfectly well, as one of the highlights of each holiday and vacation, for us, is getting uninterrupted time for reading.

When you suddenly find yourself with hours to spend on books, it can be quite an adventure of its own to choose one’s reading matter. There
are lots of titles on all of our TBR shelves, and if you go traveling during your vacation (and don’t own an e-reader of sorts yet), the decision of which books to pack can take considerably more thought than what clothes to put into one’s suitcase. During the years, I have taken books of several different catergories on vacations.

Beach reads. These are short, easy books that make you smile and relax – the perfect escapist read. Especially when the last weeks at work have been stressful, beach reads can help me to unwind and get into a proper holiday mood, so they are perfect as a starter into my vacation. Frothy and funny contemporaries and historicals are ideal for this kind of reading – may I recommend Betina Krahn’s Make Me Yours here? – as are older Regency romps, for example by Rachelle Edwards or Barbara Metzger, and shortish chick lit novels.

Fat reads. These are the books you feel you wouldn’t manage to finish if you weren’t on vacation, because the page numbers are just daunting. This is how I read Gone With the Wind so many years ago, as I did several of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond novels. I kept them especially for my vacations, as I knew from page one I wouldn’t wish to put them down again once I’d started, and it’s rare I get that much reading time in one go outside the holidays.

Classics. This group actually overlaps with fat reads, but added to the number of pages there is the aspect of complexity. I sometimes prefer to read classics during vacations because I can immerse myself better in what I read, and I can concentrate better on language and structure. So I read The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal near Corinth, Greece, one summer, and I read Orlando Furioso by Ariosto between Christmas and the New Year. Both books are delightful, but I’m not sure I would have found the patience to finish them had I read them at a busier time.

Books set at my holiday destination. Whenever I can, I take at least one novel with me that is set at where I’m traveling. It’s lovely to compare what I’m actually visiting with the impression an author creates of the same place. So I had Mary Stewart’s My Brother Michael with me at Delphi, and her Madam, Will You Talk? at Nimes, in Provence. Interestingly, I don’t care at all for travel literature in spite of fascinating descriptions and deep insights. I crave stories. Besides Mary Stewart’s romances, the most evocative novels set at holiday destinations are Dorothy Dunnett’s Johnson Johnson mysteries (Ibiza, the Hebrides, and Croatia, among others), and older historical romances by Jane Aiken Hodge (Portugal and Greece) and Madeleine Brent (China, Hungary, the Caribbean, Venice). You’ll find excellent depection of fascinating places in a number of Agatha Christie’s novels, as well, especially of Iraq, where she spent a lot of time.

Highly recommended books. These are books that are standing on my top TBR shelf, trying to catch my attention whenever I pass, books that are DIKs here at AAR and/or have been highly recommended by friends and fellow readers, and that just demand to be read – once I find the time. Right now, as I look up from my desk, I find myself eyed imperiously by Julie Anne Long’s Since the Surrender, Jennifer Ashley’s The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James and Bound by Your Touch by Meredith Duran, just to name a few of this year’s offerings. Mostly I give books I am scheduled to review top priority, so these are treasures that find themselves put aside. Finally picking them up is something I really enjoy during my holidays.

Rereads. With all that free time at my disposal, I often find myself turning to beloved companions of old, books that I have read before – sometimes more than once -, picking them up to leaf through and savour some favorite scenes, or even rereading them from the first page to the last. This year my first summer vacation book was Georgette Heyer’s Frederica, and for my coming trip to Munich, I have already placed Roberta Gellis’s Alinor next to my suitcase.

What kinds of books do you like to take on your vacations? Do you mix the categories listed above, as I do, or do you have strong preferences? Are there books set at interesting destinations that you’d highly recommend? And can anyone tell me of a good romance or mystery set at Copenhagen, my next holiday destination?

-Rike Horstmann