I don’t know about you, but there are few things I love more when on holiday than lying on the sun lounger, cocktail in one hand and a good book in the other. Paradise! Whichever sunny destination you are choosing for your family’s summer holiday this year, having a good book each will serve you well, right from the airport in the UK, right through to arrival home after your relaxing break. So, with that in mind, I’ve compiled my favourite summer reads for all the family.
David Nicholls’ brilliant novel, One Day was adapted for film recently. However, as any book lover knows, the novel is always better. One Day is the story of two peoples’ lives over twenty years, as they negotiate careers, friends and a string of disastrous relationships before realising the true love that was there all along. Sounds a bit soppy, but this novel is written with energy and wit, with some real laugh out loud moments, and strongly developed characters who you will quickly fall in love with. I’m saying this is a great female read, with a difference… for the woman who isn’t fond of run-of-the-mill chick lit. However, I heartily believe that this is one for the boys, too.
Similarly, you will both enjoy Hunter S Thompson’s riotous The Rum Diary, which was also made into a film recently. Not a very good film. And certainly not one that captures the essence of this classic. For those not familiar with Hunter S Thompson, he was a crazy, hard-drinking, wild-living American eccentric, most famous for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (another good read). The Rum Diary is his semi-autobiographical account of living in Puerto Rico as a journalist for a sinking newspaper, and features beautiful women, blissful beaches and endless rum-fuelled drunken escapades. Despite the sense of impending doom that seems to hover around all the characters of the novel, the story never loses sight of carefully drawn humour, wit and Thompson’s characteristic nihilistic chaos. One of my favourite novels of all time, I implore you to look past the dubious movie adaption.
For teenagers, I have a choice of two. For the more sensitive, thoughtful teen, try Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. This is a hugely imaginative novel about a teenage girl who is killed in a tragic hit and run accident, and her new ‘life’ in Elsewhere, the afterlife. The main character is a normal, modern girl, coming to terms with the fact that things will never be the same again. Zevin’s idea of an afterlife is really interestingly thought-out, without recourse to any particular religion. I guarantee your teen will be hooked from take-off, and you may spend your airport transfer ride discussing a few of the questions raised by this great book, that is sure to ignite imaginations in young and older readers alike.
Alternatively, another great book for teens is Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine. The writing in this is a lot more colloquial, fast-paced and comical, and is set very much in the real world, with the main character coming from a troubled family background. This is certainly a book that many teens will relate to, which makes its contents all the more engaging. Sixteen year old Lucas finds himself on a journey of self-discovery when he becomes intrigued by an urn of a woman’s ashes left in a minicab office in his hometown. I’m trying hard not to give too much away, but as the novel goes on, so many elements click into place until the ultimate climax: the novel will keep surprising and surprising you right to the end.
For the little ones, there are always the classics like Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh. My daughter’s favourite Beatrix Potter books are The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin (because that squirrel is just so naughty!) and The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse because of Mr Jackson, the funny old frog who comes over. Make sure you put on some good voices for these when reading aloud… it makes all the difference! Other good books for putting on voices and reading aloud are Roald Dahl’s. Top choices include The Enormous Crocodile (if only for suppressing your grown-up giggles at ‘Humpy Rumpy’ the hippopotamus!) the Dirty Beasts poems (especially The Anteater and The Porcupine), and for five years plus, The Twits will keep them going for the whole holiday if you read in sections.
For pre-schoolers, I recommend Ruby and the Noisy Hippo by Helen Stephens. My daughter loved this book, and you can’t go wrong with a story where you get to say ‘LA! LA! LA! BANG! BANG! BANG!’ every other page. The hippo is a great character, and the illustrations work beautifully with the story. This is also a good one for teaching kids how to read, as the chance to be the noisy hippo will give them great pleasure.
So, there you go. If you were stuck for summer reading, now you’ve got more than enough to keep you going! My best advice is to always keep it light, and choose something humorous rather than tragic for your holiday. After all, you’re going away to have a great time, and if you choose something depressing to read, it could affect your whole memory of the holiday, or worse still… you might not continue reading it! Best bet is to only pack one book each, and then you can swap. You don’t want to weigh yourself down with heavy books. Oh, or even better, get yourself an e-reader and take thousands of titles with you!