Summer breaks: What makes the perfect holiday read? - Ginny Sanderson

With the flight chaos in the UK just now, and the havoc on Scotland’s rails, staying home seems like the sensible option.

But if you are lucky enough and determined enough to escape these cursed isles, there is something essential you must pack alongside your passport. A holiday read.

Every summer whole lists are drawn up teasing exciting new books to whisk away with you, to cheat on your home library.

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But, they are a nebulous concept – varying from thrillers to autobiographies to romances – difficult to tie down and define.

Frances reading on holiday in Croatia in Conversations with Friends (BBC)

So, what constitutes a perfect holiday read?

First of all it better be a paper back. Hard backs are too bulky to pack and awkward to hold in one hand when you’ve got a glass of wine in the other.

E-readers are squint-inducing in the sun and – unless you’re cocky – probably aren’t advisable on a lilo.

Also, pack something you’re not going to be too upset about having to fold over a page, getting a blob of sun cream on or a splash from the pool.

It has to suck you in

Holiday reads are not the place for meandering openings and half a book’s worth of build up. No, we need to be punched in the face with a plot before the afternoon excursion, thank you.

You don’t work on a holiday so you shouldn’t have to work when you’re reading on holiday. I don't have time or the attention span to remember pages of characters and their motivations. Looking at you, Dickens. You and Little Nell can stay at home.

Holiday reads can be light, but it’s better if they’re dark

The obvious recommendations for holiday reads are usually something light, upbeat, and easy on the brain.

Trashy romance novels are an acceptable choice. They’re breezy, easy to pick up and put down again, and provide that blissful escapism.

But something has to be said for a really dark holiday read. Murder mysteries and horror hit differently when you’re sunbathing. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t seem so bad in the sun.

And, after lurching from a global pandemic into a cost-of-living crisis, who doesn’t need a bit of murder for light relief?


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