Holiday reading companions
Deciding what books to take on a holiday never gets any easier. Too many questions race around the brain.
Do I take a tried and trusted author or is this the time to branch into unknown territory? What if I don’t feel in the mood for the book/s I’ve taken? What if they’re duds? What if I finish them too quickly and then can’t get my hands on anything decent in English (the advent of e-readers has made that much simpler of course but I still like to have paper copies with me).
Answering those questions involves multiple cycles in which I pull books off the shelf convinced this is the perfect choice. Only to change my mind a day later. Of course I then go and add to the complexity by trying to take at least one book written by an author from the country I’ll be visiting.
This holiday I eventually settled on two that are loosely connected by the theme of World War 2 which seemed entirely appropriate since I am visiting Germany.
I’ll be reading The Third Reich by Robert Bolano, an author I’ve intended to read for years but never got around to doing so. This novel was published in Spanish in 2010 and in English the following year having been discovered among his papers following his death. It concerns Udo Berger, a German war-game champion, who returns with his girlfriend Ingeborg to the small town on the Costa Brava where he spent the summers of his childhood. When one of his friends disappears Udo invites a mysterious local to play a game of Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, a classic wargame.
From my TBR I’ve selected a Virago Modern Classic, The Quest for Christa T by the German writer Christa Wolf that follows two childhood friends from the second World War into the 1960s in East Germany. Wolf was one of the best-known writers to emerge from the former East Germany but since unification she’s been criticised for failing in her work to criticize the authoritarianism of the East German Communist regime.
Neither are very long novels so I’ve made sure my e-reader is well stocked with A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (long listed for the Booker prize) and The Dictator’s Last Night by Yasmina Khadra which is due out in October. In between all that reading I just might be able to squeeze in a few site seeing trips around Berlin and Dresden….
21 thoughts on “Holiday reading companions”
One of the ‘blessings’ about being very much tied to my own location is that I no longer have to make this sort of decision. But, when I did I was always so exhausted that I packed little more than cozy crime; it was all that my brain could handle. The trouble was that three or four days in, when I had begun to unwind, I was ready to throw all my cozy books out of the window and was desperate for something with a bit of meat to it. I eventually learnt never to holiday anywhere there wasn’t a book shop within easy reach.
See that’s the difficulty indeed, deciding what I will feel like reading ahead of time.
I sympathise. It does sound like you’ve got a good selection though, and I love the balance of location reading with ongoing projects, like the Booker long list. Happy holiday!
I’ve. To spent as much time reading as I thought I would on this holiday so consequently haven’t even opened the Bolano yet. But I will finish A Little Life at least.
some great choices one few bolano books I haven’t read and I have another book by Christa wolf on my tbr .
It will be my first Bolano but I’m hoping it will give me a taste for more..
I’ll be very interested to hear how you find the Christa Wolf as she’s one of those writers I’ve been meaning to try for a while. Hope you have a great break!
To be frank, I’m not enjoying it much Jacqui. It feels like I’m missing some point
Ah, the eternal dilemma! I’ve heard good things about both books and would like to read them myself so I support your choices 🙂
I’m in two minds about the Christa Wolf book and haven’t even opened Bolano yet. I need another holiday just to complete my holiday reading I think.
The Christa Wolf is a wonderful read but its length is deceptive – as Ali says, it requires concentration, but once you get into the rhythm of her writing it’s excellent. Have a great holiday!
I did find my concentration slipping a bit and then Realising I didn’t have a clue what was being conveyed so had to retrace my steps often.
To take a range of choices is a wise step. I’d probably pack more books than clothes.
I try sneaking an extra one in the case usually just in case but this time I was very restrained since I knew it would be tough to get through much more given I had 700 pages of A Little Life to read.
I very rarely put this much thought into holiday readings. I usually know what I want to read next and just plow ahead. I do occasionally put a book aside if I know I have a vacation coming up and I want to read.
I do wonder sometimes if I’m over thinking this. The more books I have to read in the house the worse the dilemma becomes. So maybe the simplest thing would be just not to buy any more.
Amazing coincidence – I am 78 pages into The Quest for Christa T. It’s beautifully written but I am finding it requires intense concentration, which I am sure will prove rewarding. Hope you have a lovely holiday.
It’s not an easy read. I am sure I am missing a lot of the subtleties
I hope you like The Third Reich. Savage Detectives is one of my favorite books (I read it English and Spanish) and I just bought 2666. I thought A Little Life was fantastic and thus far tops our list of favorites from the long list (we have read five to date). We just reviewed it today. It was long but didn’t feel long. Have fun on your holiday!
I’m almost at the end of A Little Life. It’s such an emotionally stuffed novel I’m exhausted after each session of reading it.
Yes, it emotionally drained me but I thought it was wonderful.