Summer Reading Plans

In June my husband and I will be off to Europe for two weeks of train travel, making stops in Brussels, Freiburg (Germany), two towns in Switzerland and another two in Austria. I like picking appropriate reading material for my vacations whenever possible (even though I’ll never forget Jan Morris’s account of reading the works of Jane Austen on a houseboat in Sri Lanka – a case of the context being so wrong it’s right), so I’ve been thinking about what to take with me and what to read ahead of time.

Back in October I picked up a lovely little secondhand hardback of Jerome K. Jerome’s Diary of a Pilgrimage for £1. Given that it’s a novel about a journey by train and boat from England to Germany to see the Oberammergau Passion Play and that Jerome is a safe bet for a funny read, this one is definitely going in my luggage. I also plan to take along a library paperback of A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, a novella set in the Austrian Alps at the time of the Second World War.

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Last year I discovered Austrian writer Daniel Kehlmann through the brilliant F: A Novel, and now have two more of his waiting: Me and Kaminski and Measuring the World, which sound completely different from each other but equally appealing (see Naomi’s review of the latter). What I might do is read one just before the trip and the other soon after we get back.

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There are a few thin classics I have on my shelves and might be tempted to slip into a backpack, but for the most part I’ll plan to save space by taking a well-loaded Kindle. (It currently houses 300 books, so there’s no risk of running out of reading material!) I think I’ll treat myself to a few July/August books from my priority advanced reads list, like (fiction) The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris and The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood, and (nonfiction) Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood and On Trails by Robert Moor.

Once we get back to England, my self-imposed restriction for the rest of the summer will be reading only my own books. That means no library books, NetGalley/Edelweiss ARCs, or unpaid review books. This should work out well because it looks like we’ll be moving on August 18th, so I’ll be able to cull some books after reading them to reduce the packing load.

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In any case, it will be a good chance to reassess my collection and get through some doorstoppers like A Suitable Boy, City on Fire, and This Thing of Darkness. During moving week itself I may have to stick to Kindle books while the print ones are inaccessible, but then as I rediscover them through unpacking I can try to push myself through a few more.


What are your summer and/or vacation reading strategies?

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23 thoughts on “Summer Reading Plans

  1. I must be contrary because I deliberately tend to read books that are nothing remotely to do with where I happen to be in the world!
    I’ve been in Florida for the last couple of weeks and chose the very English novel ‘Harvest’ by Jim Crace and Station to Station by James Attlee (a train journey from London to Bristol) as some reading to do by the pool!
    And I’ve just started Kate Summerscale’s The Wicked Boy about a true Victorian London murder.
    There’s something about the contrast that just appeals to me!

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    1. I like your strategy! It can be fun to heighten the contrast between where you are and what you’re reading. Harvest is a wonderful novel and must have been the perfect dose of Englishness. I’ve been wondering about the new Summerscale; I’ll wait to see what you rate it.

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  2. Serendipity is my holiday route. I stack up on books from charity shops, choosing whatever appeals in that moment, knowing I can discard them with no pain as soon as I’ve read them. A recent charity shop buy was ‘We, the drowned’, which I note from Goodreads that you, along with all other 100 pages of reviewers, thought was wonderful. For me, it was not £1 well-spent. I couldn’t get into it. I mustn’t discard it. I must give it another go. It’s me that’s out of step.

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    1. Well darn, I’m sorry We, the Drowned disappointed. Maybe you have to be in the right mood? I agree charity shops are the way to go. If I spot any free book boxes at train stations, etc. in my travels I’ll plan to drop off the paperbacks as I go.

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  3. Sounds like an interesting trip! I hope you time to squeeze in some of your reading! You’ll have to let us know how it all goes when you get back. 🙂
    The trips we go on are always camping trips, and we don’t go too far. On our longest trip I like to bring along one chunkster that I’ve been meaning to get to, so that I can really relax and get into it. Other than that, I go by my mood (which means, of course, that I always bring more reading material than I need just so that I can have a choice). We also tend to stop at used book stores that we know of along the way, and add to our stockpile (which also includes the kids’ books).

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    1. Camping…*shudders*. We used to camp for a four-day music festival every summer but stopped going when it moved location a few years ago, and I have not been camping since. I am not hardy enough for it.

      Luckily, having 300 books on the Kindle means I should have something for any mood imaginable 🙂 I love that you factor in stops at bookstores on your travels! I will certainly have a look at any secondhand shops we come across, but I don’t know whether they will have many English-language offerings.

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  4. I love seeing your reading plan and like the idea of reading books set in countries you’ll visit or about train travel. I vacillate between spontaneity – what’s the latest shiny object in my view – and planning. GR group reads keep reeling me in!

    My plan for this summer is to do a mystery festival! I have way more mysteries in print and in my iPod to listen to than could be gotten through in a year, much less a summer, but I’m excited to try!

    Suzy Hillard

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    1. Hi Suzy, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hardly ever read mysteries, but I agree that they lend themselves well to summer reading. I’ll have to see if I have anything on the Kindle that falls into that category!

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      1. You’ll have to let me know! I love all kinds of books, but have a soft spot for mysteries having been introduced to them by my Mom. We would read various series together and discuss. 🙂 A favorite series of ours was Tony Hillerman’s books set in the Navajo reservation, one that I’ve just revisited this year.

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  5. What a lovely trip! I hope it’s fun and relaxing, and that you’ll tell us what the trains are like.

    As for reading strategies . . . a lack of one, I guess! So many books, so little time.

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  6. I’ve just downloaded Jerome K Jerome’s Diary of a Pilgrimage, after reading your blog entry. Sounds great. And, as you say, JKJ is a very funny writer.

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  7. The Jerome is wonderful, and appropriate. I like slim books and travel books while travelling. How lovely to come back to A Suitable Boy – one of my favourite books ever, and I’ve read it twice! I might do 20 Books of Summer if that comes back again, as it was a nice relaxed challenge, and I have enough green spines to do All Virago All August again this year.

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  8. There’s also Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome: cycling through the Black Forest. And The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann is set in the Swiss Alps although it’s not exactly a lightweight holiday reading! 🙂

    I also like to take books with me that relate to the place I’m visiting so it’s nice to find a kindred spirit!

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    1. Ah, I didn’t realize what the “Three Men” sequel was about! I could probably download that one through Project Gutenberg. I would love to read The Magic Mountain (I’ve only read Mann’s Death in Venice), but, as you say, it might be too much of an undertaking for the holiday itself. Maybe later on in the summer, or for cozying up at Christmastime. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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