All 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.
This 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?