All at sea reading

I’ve always been curious about what other people are reading. Whenever I’m in a public place like a railway station, airport or cafe, I can’t resist trying to peek at the covers in the hands of fellow travellers and customers. 

My recent holiday was the perfect opportunity to indulge in my habit though of course it works only if people are reading physical books and don’t have their noses glued to an e reader. 

Still,  the plethora  of electronic reading devices I’ve witnessed in use over the last three weeks meant I could amuse myself in trying to guess what each person was reading. Take the rather elderly couple to my left on the sun deck. Maybe he’s engrossed in a Mills and Boon or Game of Thrones and his wife has her eyes on something racy. Then again perhaps she is a devotee of science fiction while he has a penchant for war and terrorism. 

More likely however, judging by the books I can actually observe, they will be reading crime fiction, or popular or family sagas. Close by me for example I can see people with Stella Rimmington, James Patterson, Val McDermid and Ian Rankin. One woman has Maeve Binchy on her lap and another has Gone Girl. Further along the deck there seems to be a cluster of the pastel coloured covers that usually indicate chick lit or romance.  In the last few days a smattering of Sandra Howard titles have appeared, the result undoubtedly of the fact she was a guest speaker along with her husband, the former Conservative party leader, Lord Michael Howard. Few people are reading non fiction. One man I saw yesterday seemed engrossed by Boris Johnsons biography of Winston Churchill and I’ve seen a few biographies/autobiographies of leading entertainers and sports personalities. But on the whole non fiction rules the day. 

I try not to pass judgement on their choices. Better that they are reading something rather than nothing but it’s hard not to feel disappointed that so few people seem to be reading the kind of novels I enjoy. Because of there is one thing we avid readers love,next to reading, and buying books, it’s actually talking about them. And I’ve not had much opportunity to do that since crime fiction and family sagas are not my thing at all. I did have two enjoyable conversations, one about The Miniaturist and another about Elizabeth is Missing, both of which I read and enjoyed this year. But I was hoping for more considering there are 2000 passengers on the Queen Mary 2 and many of them are readers judging by how busy the on board library is every time I’m there. It’s well used not just because it has some very comfy chairs looking right out onto the waves but because the range of titles on offer is impressive. Apparently it’s one of, if not the largest library on a cruise ship, and is well stocked with natural history, travel, art and reference works as well as fiction in French, German, Italian and of course English, plus a whole section of classics.  Who’d have thought there would be such a paradise of the high seas? 

About BookerTalk

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

Posted on April 30, 2015, in Book Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. I love peeking at what other people are reading too. However, my reading does veer towards the lighter side when I am traveling. I tend to stick to popular fiction, or crime. My classics and booker reads tend to stay home.

    • How interesting. My reading doesn’t change though i know there are plenty of people like you Nish who have certain kinds of books that work better for them while on holiday

  2. Like you, I always try to see what book someone is reading. Glad to know others do the same! And then, typically, I also strike up a conversation with them! (I’m not exactly shy! lol) The Miniaturist intrigues me. I assume you enjoyed it? Yep! Reading books. Buying books. Talking about books!! Definitely!!

  3. I always try to peek at what people are reading in public.

    • There’s an art to peeking isn’t there Ali – you can’t make it so obvious that the reader knows what you’r up to but sometimes there’s no way to see the cover without contorting your neck in a most awkward and unnatural way

  4. The ship library sounds fantastic! I love spying on what other people are reading. I can’t complain about the proliferation of ereading though since I am one of the guilty!

    • it was indeed wonderful Stefanie – 9,500 titles available apparently. I’m one of the guilty too – no way could I pack into my luggage all the books I knew I would need for a long vacation!

  5. You would probably have to play your guessing game with me as I tend to take my Kindle on holiday, so much easier to pack hundreds of books into one suitcase that way 🙂

    • Holidays and travel are when the value of e-readers really becomes evident doesn’t it Jessica? I love the fact I can put my Kindle in a small day bag and carry it everywhere without weighing me down

  6. I have often wondered if I am the only one who likes to sneak peeks at what strangers are reading whenever I am out and about. I’m happy to hear I’m not! I also feel disappointed when they are not reading something that I would like, even when I have no intention of striking up a conversation with them. And, it drives me crazy when I can’t see the cover of their books. 🙂

    • Oh you are definitely not alone Naomi. I have this image now of you sitting with steam coming out of your ears when you can’t see the cover!

  7. When on holiday I try and bring at least one Bookcrossing book with me (depends on luggage allowance, naturally) so that I can read it and happily leave it there. I always find it interesting that Hotel “libraries” are always full of books in German etc, but never any English books.

    It’s not that the English dont read – it’s that the books in English *go first*. People tend to pass the books around and take them with them. The books in German always remain. No idea why

    • There was a section in the ship library where passengers could donate books and swap for ones left by other passengers. There were loads in German which stayed there for a long time while all the English titles were snapped up quickly – I just put that down to the profile of the passengers which were mainly British and Australian

  8. I was reading Anna Karenina on holiday in Crete a few years back and was delighted when the housekeeper in the apartment block turned out to be Russian and told me it was her favourite book of all time. I love little connections like that, particularly when they happen somewhere unexpected.

  9. I think that maybe the lack of more serious reading material has to do with the fact that you were on vacation. I take very different books with me on a trip than I read when I’m at home. I love reading non-fiction and classics but they don’t work for me when I’m travelling. For example, I’m heading out for three weeks soon and even though I have some great non-fiction on hand and I know that I still need to read War and Peace, I’m bringing books 2 and 3 in the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series. Something lighter to pass the time in the airport and in train stations!

    • I don’t have a category of ‘holiday reading’ as such but I do take a long time when selecting what to take with me so I can be sure that all the books are ones I will enjoy.

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