Book Reviews

10 Favourite Holiday Reading Spots

No holiday is complete for me without a book (preferably 3 or 4) and the perfect spot in which to enjoy them. This week’s top ten topic about favourite reading places has given me the excuse to go delving into memories of holidays past and the books I was reading at that time. From shady gardens to riverside locations, from balconies to heritage sites, here are some of my memorable spots from years past.

Gardens and Parks

Villefranche, South of France

View over the harbour of Villefranche, Provence. A favourite holiday reading spot:

The compact size of the apartment we rented at Villefranche in Provence was more than compensated for by its large garden. When I wasn’t reading I could watch cruise ships coming into the harbour far below. I was re-reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and The Awakening by Kate Chopin at the time. Why? I needed to prepare for the final assignment of an Open University course that was due within a few weeks. (hence why I’m on the laptop in this photo).

Nelson, New Zealand

Japanese Gardens at Nelson, South Island, New Zealand: A favourite holiday reading spot:

A garden of a different kind next. This is a Japanese garden I discovered in the town of Nelson, on South Island. It offered exactly the kind of tranquility I needed at the moment — my husband was in hospital having had unplanned, emergency surgery. While he was recovering in hospital I was left to my own devices. Not the holiday we had planned! Fortunately I had stacked my e-reader with plenty of books for the trip. That particular afternoon I was reading Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.

Shanghai, China

Tai Chi in a park in Shanghai

Strictly speaking I wasn’t on holiday since I was in Shanghai for a business trip. But it was the weekend so I gave myself a mini break. On the Sunday afternoon having had enough of sightseeing and shopping I went in search of a park. I had a copy of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton with me but I didn’t read many pages because it was far more interesting to watch this group practising their Tai Chi.


Devon, England

View of a creek of the River Dart, Devon: A favourite holiday reading spot

Stoke Gabriel, Devon, England

I’ll say a huge thanks to the person who thought to put this bench in such an idyllic spot over looking a creek of the River Dart. Agatha Christie’s house was just up the river so it would have been fitting to be reading Dead Man’s Folly whose setting bears more than a passing resemblance to her treasured home. Instead I remember I was reading The Sugar Mother by Australian author Elizabeth Jolley. I’d never heard of this author until Lisa at ANZLitLovers decided to host an Elizabeth Jolley reading week.

Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire, England

A quiet afternoon by the river in Derbyshire: A favourite holiday reading spot:

Mr BookerTalk graciously posed for this photo of our riverside idyll. We’d just been the village of Eyam which chose to go into isolation to prevent infection spreading after bubonic plague was discovered there in 1665. Appropriately I was reading Year Of Wonders by Geraldine Brookes which is set in Eyam and depicts the decision to quarantine the village and its effects on the inhabitants.


Camps Bay, South Africa

Waves roll in from the Atlantic onto the beach at Camps Bay, South Africa: A favourite holiday reading spot

Who needs a park or a riverside when you have a view like this? It was hard to drag ourselves away from watching the Atlantic waves rolling in but there was the rest of the Cape Peninsula to see. And we had to be back in time to watch the incredible sunsets. What was I reading? With all this going on I didn’t read all that much but I did have Cry The Beloved Country by Alan Paton to remind me of South Africa’s tarnished past.

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

A quiet afternoon on a balcony, a time to catch up with some holiday reading

Here i am again and this time yes I am reading not tapping away on a keyboard! The Cameron Highlands is where the wealthy British settlers sought refuge from the heat of Malaysian summers. The journey there was tortuous — 20 plus miles of a switchback road — but the cooler temperatures and lower humidity were blissful. In between reading of Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess ( a book I don’t think I really understood), I could look out onto the tea plantations.

Historic sites

Pisa , Italy

Leaning tower of Pisa - it's busy but you can still find a spot for a little quiet reading time

I couldn’t find a decent photograph of my own that showed the spot where I sat on the grass with my nose in a copy of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford. So I had to doctor a shot from the city’s tourism bureau. I don’t know what time of day they took this but the day I was there, the place was awash with people all keen to be photographed “holding” up the leaning tower.

Chatsworth, Derbyshire

A grand view of Chatsworth House providing a wonderful background for some holiday reading

This rather grand residence provided a backdrop for an hour on the lawn with my copy of The Secret River by Kate Granvile. Chatsworth is one of the grandest of the stately homes, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire. I don’t go in much for touring the inside of estates like this but the gardens are always a treat. My photograph can’t hope to do justice to the vastness of the formal gardens, meadows and rock garden all designed by one of the masters of landscaping: “Capability” Brown. I

Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Rear view of Blenheim Palace. So kind of Winston Churchill to let me use his lawn for some holiday reading

Unable to sleep any longer I took myself around the corner from our hotel to the rear entrance into Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. For one blissful hour I had this spot to myself. Of course I had a book with me — The North Water by Ian McGuire which became one of my favourite books of 2016.

Do you have any favourite holiday reading memories? I’d love to hear which places have been special for you so just pop a comment in the box below. Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules and the list of topics visit the Top Ten Tuesday page on her blog.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

28 thoughts on “10 Favourite Holiday Reading Spots

  • I have read in Italy, China, and London…any place is a great place to read!

  • It’s poolside for me & those really relaxing holidays where you laze around somewhere warm, maybe with a cocktail to hand and a banana lounge or hammock. I read Love and Death in Bali by Vicki Baum…in Bali. It was a magic thing to do. And a holiday in FNQ, Port Douglas I had a memorable holiday reading Nana by Zola. And 3 yrs ago I took Murakami’s Kafka by the Shore to Japan – a truly inspired choice and reading on their fast trains was the perfect thing to do.

    • I like the idea of a hammock as long as it’s not in direct sun. I used to have tolerance to the sun when I was younger and could lounge about for hours. These days about 30 mins is enough.

  • piningforthewest

    I like to read books that are set in the place I’m travelling to but I’ve had some really unexpected and somewhat spooky experiences when a book I had just picked up to take with me ended up being about my destination.

    • I do love reading books associated with the place I’m visiting but have yet to have the delight of the unexpected connection. That would be good fun

  • Enjoyable links between your lovely photographs and your reading. I have not read The Luminaries, but enjoyed the TV series. I liked Anthony Burgess’s autobiographies. Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favourites.

    • I gave up on the TV version of the Luminaries – the main character was too perfectly dressed and made up to be authentic enough for me having read the book

      • Interesting. The first time we watched only the first episode and couldn’t remember why we hadn’t continued.

        • Ah well, life would be tedious if we all enjoyed the same things 🙂

  • Great post. I notice your South African pic of Camps Bay showed a palm tree below being blown almost sideways by our strong Cape wind. On the whole, I get more reading done at home, than on holidays. When I’m travelling I’m glued to train/plane/bus windows.

    • Well spotted, yes we got a taste of the Cape Doctor on our stay. It made for some tremendous views because we could see the bank of cloud gathering on the horizon

  • I read on my balcony, I read in bed, and I read whenever I have to wait in an office for something. That’s about it for me, actually.

    • Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading while sitting in the car waiting for my husband to come from a medical appointment.

  • How wonderful that your husband took photos of you!
    *pout* The only holiday photos The Spouse ever takes with me in them are of massive buildings where he has to stand miles away to get the building in the frame and I’m so far away you can’t see that it’s me.
    Anyway, my favourite reading place in Europe is a train. I love those smooth comfortable quiet trains, perfect for reading.

    • Those are the kind of photos in which my dad has a specialty. I hate having my photo taken posed anywhere so Jeff has been adept at sneaking in candid shots when I’m not aware he’s there. Trains are at a great way to travel through Europe, they’re usually much more punctual than the British version. I don’t get much reading g done though – too busy looking out of the window.

      • LOL Karen, if you had any experience with Australian intercity trains, you would never have doubts about British rail again.

        • Jeez, they must be bad then. I missed a flight to the US because the train I needed was so late I arrived at the airport about 30 minutes before take off. It didn’t help that I got stopped by security who’d found traces of “explosives” in my suitcase.

        • It’s ridiculous: in a country the size of Australia you’d think there would be a network of high-speed trains connecting all the major cities. But at a crucial time in our history commercial aviation interests made sure it never happened. There isn’t even a way of booking interstate train travel like there is in Europe.

        • How strange, it’s not like you’re having to cross any national borders – just going from one part of the country to another.

        • So it would seem. But the problem is that, a-hem, one state in particular has comparatively lax restrictions which has led to cases infiltrating into other states.

  • Usually I don’t remember what I was reading at any particular time. if you’d asked me what I read last month I’d be at a loss. But the association with the holiday and the place fixed these in my memory

    • wadholloway

      You’ve been to some lovely places! My favourite reading spot is the train, and my most memorable reading experience was a Ferrante en route from Milan to Naples (no photos of me but some of my grandchildren reading on the same trip).

      • You share a fondness
        for trains with Lisa. Ive never been to Naples it having watched a recent documentary which matched authors and books I’m keen to get there and also to try Ferrante.

  • Such a lovely post, Karen. I think my happiest holiday reading memory is sitting in the garden of our hotel in the foothills of the Atlas mountains in the last days of December 2008 in bright sunshine. I was wearing a padded jacket and a beanie and although I can’t remember which book I was reading I still remember the feeling of the sun on my face.

    • Those memories are even more precious now that we haven’t been able to travel for such a long time

  • I LOVE this! What a wonderful post! It’s especially impressive that you can recall what you were reading. Great memories!


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