This Summer I’ll Be Reading My Ego: The Farce of Holiday Reading Lists

Sun Reading in the SunAll the newspapers are doing their “Recommended Holiday Reads” for 2014. Of the ones I’ve seen, only the one in the Sunday Times wasn’t hilarious. The Sunday Times listed books by genre, giving their picks of the best romance, crime, thrillers, non-fiction etc this year. So far, so sensible. However, every other paper I read went and interviewed somebody famous and asked them what they’ll be reading on the beach this year.

The answers are completely predictable, and the literary equivalent of a selfie in your underwear. You couldn’t imagine more self-puffery than the crap people spout when they say what’s on their reading list, rather than tell you what’s really going to be in their suitcase. People’s public reading choices are as honest as a teenager on Facebook, and just as annoying.

“Oh, this summer I will be re-reading some classics, like War and Peace and The Female Eunuch. I just LOVE having the time to lazily go through my old faves again on the beach! And as my guilty pleasure, I will be going through this book that my friend wrote – she said if I gave her a plug, she’d plug mine in the Irish Times.”

Everyone lies about what they’re reading. It’s 99% of the reason that traditional book lovers, who would get the DTs from not being able to handle a paperback at least once a week, also own e-Readers. We all read stuff we’re afraid makes us look less of what we want to look like – be that intelligent or informed, trendsetting or fashionable, analytical or interesting.

The Holiday Read farce reached perfectly preposterous proportions in the Guardian, which opened with choices from John Banville, who says without any apparent trace of irony “I’m afraid I don’t go in much for holidays”, before droning on about yet another history of the Irish civil war (because we need more of those); an oft-read translation of Nietzsche (he needs to read it in translation? My God, the barbarian), and a plug for Colm Tóibín’s new novel which, because he has the MS even though it’s not published yet, makes Banville somehow sound like a One Direction fan who got an exclusive preview for a band-endorsed line of artificial chest hair.

just a book and her imagination at work, aaahThis sort of journalism is pointless. Do the lies that people tell you about what they’re reading tell you anything you want to know, let alone anything helpful? If I read an article about reading recommendations, I want it to list some books I would like to read. None of the articles bar the one in the Sunday Times did so. (It’s behind a paywall and I read it in print, I’m afraid, so I can’t link it here.)

Anyway, I am interested in hearing what people are REALLY reading when they’re off work. I don’t care if you’re going on holidays or if you only have 1 day off to attend the wedding of a cousin you haven’t seen since 1987. Be honest with me. What’s going to be bringing you on a psychological holiday this summer?

  33 comments for “This Summer I’ll Be Reading My Ego: The Farce of Holiday Reading Lists

  1. July 14, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    I’m giving Mark Lawson’s “The Dead” a try. Overdoes the rumpy pumpy a bit but am persevering. Am not on a beach though…..


    • July 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Oh, bless me. I haven’t heard rumpy pumpy in an age. That either says a lot about me, or my lifestyle!!

      Pumpy aside, I will look that up forthwith. Could end up in my suitcase yet!


      • @hell4heather
        July 15, 2014 at 7:17 pm

        I am currently holidaying on the stunning north coast of Scotland – where heavy reading is a must so it doesn’t blow away 😉 On a serious note I am reading 100 Pieces of Me by Lucy Dhillon which is rather lovely


        • July 15, 2014 at 9:19 pm

          I love that – heavy reading so it doesn’t blow away! You should create a meme and become an instant hit on the Interweb with that 🙂 I will look up 100 Pieces of Me forthwith…


  2. July 14, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I have a to-read list that is ever-growing no matter what the season 🙂


    • July 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Just as long as you don’t have 2 to-read lists, Harliqueen – a public one and a private one! Of course you can have both, but only one of them is allowed here 😉


  3. July 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    hah! that’s my Monday chortle sorted. Jonny B also complained about the amount literary festivals there were and how many writers there are… while talking about/promoting his appearance at a recent one.

    Anyway, the fact that my book wasn’t on any of the lists means they are incomplete – obvs 😉

    For me it’ll be Martin Malone’s collection of short stories ‘The Mango War & other stories’, Unravelling Oliver by Lizzie Nugent, and I’ve a couple of Paul Carson novels on loan from the library that I really should read and return.


    • July 14, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Bless the Banville. He does provide a surplus of material for commentary. And I’m not talking about his books.
      That sounds like a great list – although I’m a little bit worried about your library books. You’re not about to be put on report for bad behaviour, are you? That would be terrible if it came out on Twitter. Hahaha!


      • July 14, 2014 at 6:18 pm

        My librarian loves me. What can I say… baby of the family. Used to getting away with stuff 😀


        • July 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm

          I must remember never to blame you for anything, then. Mental note


  4. July 14, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Avoid the summer reading quandary: Read My Book! It crosses a half-dozen genre lines, and at about 200K words, may last you all summer: No TBR list needed! It comes in print and e-book: You can weigh down your bag with your choice of tome or tablet! AND there’s a bonus, if you get the paperback: At 1 lb 12 oz, it can help anchor a picnic rug or a beach blanket against a stiff breeze! (Contains topics suitable for mature audiences. Parental guidance suggested. Reading times may vary. Author/Publisher not responsible for over-weight baggage fees. See blog for details.)


    • July 14, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      Well, now. That’s full marks for mettle, in fairness. Further use of comments for advertising purposes however will be severely punished, with foghorns and talent show re-runs!!


  5. July 14, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Neatly sidestepping a talent show re-run foghorn experience, I am reading a book called Perfect Strangers by David Staniforth, which is very good so far, I can recommend his Fuel to the Fire series or Alloria which is lovely. I really enjoyed David Moresse’s books The Warden series. What else have I liked… Oh Night Waking, by Sarah Moss is just a fab book to read if you’re a parent, as is Ben Hatch’s Are We Nearly There Yet? Anything by Jim Webster – but I particularly enjoyed Dead Man Riding East and you can’t go wrong with Will MacMillan Jones’ The Banned series – think Spike Milligan writes fantasy. Lex Allen’s Imagine Trilogy is good too… what there is so far, anyway.

    All these gave me welcome relief when I needed a holiday from writing the K’Barthan Trilogy which is also very good and the fourth and final book of which came out the day before yesterday. Ducks and runs for it.





    • July 14, 2014 at 8:05 pm

      Oooh, nicely done MT, I must admit, nicely done! Just slid in there after a very decent run of summer reading tips. And 85,927 extra points for getting someone else to mention the K’Barthan Trilogy in their comment. For that, and your other honest recommendations, you get an iced bun, and pre-loading on to Tara’s Kindle 🙂


      • July 14, 2014 at 11:07 pm

        Ooo so I did. Well that’s grand. Thank you Lorna and if you go through with the preloading, I hope you enjoy it. At least you won’t have to pay for the first one.


        • July 14, 2014 at 11:08 pm

          By you I mean you Tara. Not Lorna. I didn’t punctuate those very well did I?


          • July 14, 2014 at 11:21 pm

            Indeed and you did not MT. 10 points deducted. But don’t worry, you still have 85,000 and something left…


  6. July 14, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Just finished Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music and I’m going to reread Stieg Larsson Trilogy. Haven’t read them since I first raced through them a few years ago. Have 2 days off this week so we’ll see how it goes!
    I have MT McGuire’s K’Barthan 3 and 4 on the list for my 2 days off in August!


    • July 14, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Ooh do let me know what round 2 of Stieg Larsson comes to! I stopped after book 2 because I found I just couldn’t handle any more all at once, there was too much of the same, and I never felt the urge to go back for no. 3, afterwards. Maybe that should accompany me too this year… So, Frog Music, will I really be transported to San Francisco then? The blurb just never grabbed me.


      • July 15, 2014 at 8:39 am

        I’ll let you know! Yes, I was in the thick of the San Francisco heat of 1876! Definitely worth a read. I enjoyed it.


  7. July 15, 2014 at 2:40 am

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.


  8. Ali Isaac
    July 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Hilarious Tara! You are so right! I have a bunch of self pubbed novels lined up on my ereader of various genres, and I will be writing reviews on my return!

    Power to the Indies! ( as in authors, not the West)


    • July 15, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Yes indeed – more power to them! Although I have quite a few big brash & famous novels on my reading list I will also have at least 3 self-pubs too. I’ll be looking forward to your reviews… reader reviews are the only tool I use to make buying decisions for self-published stuff, both on blogs and Amazon. I haven’t quite got my head around GoodReads yet.


      • Ali Isaac
        July 15, 2014 at 9:19 pm

        I have seriously neglected my Good Reads account! Yeah, I find it hard to be consistent, it doesn’t motivate me like other sites do.


        • July 15, 2014 at 9:29 pm

          I find it much harder to engage with GoodReads reviews for some reason… many of them just don’t seem to speak to me the same way that Amazon ones do, maybe it’s just because I’m reading stuff aimed at a different target audience or something. My GoodReads account has been languishing for months as a result.


          • Ali Isaac
            July 15, 2014 at 9:30 pm

            Ooops… glad it’s not just me then!


  9. September 25, 2015 at 9:44 am

    I haven’t read a book in public since I was spotted in a Cumbrian car park reading How To Get A Life. (True story; Seathwaite car park, the one with the roaming chickens.)

    The pretentiousness of the John Banville quote reminded me of Daniel Libeskind on Desert Island Discs. After listening to one of his mind-bogglingly obscure pieces of ‘favourite music’ the presenter said, “Now come on, Daniel, do you really listen to that kind of stuff at home?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • September 25, 2015 at 10:42 am

      You’re like Banksy for readers, then. Making it a performance art. Did you pay the chickens?

      I wish more people would call out the likes of Banville. I haven’t been able to forgive him since I heard him smugly inform an unpublished writer in her 60s to give up on it. Git.

      Liked by 1 person

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