After a lengthy decision-making process of trying to work out which books to take with me on an overseas holiday (and some inspiringly creative packing), temptation stared me in the face at the airport when I saw that a new Val McDermid book was out. Bugger the embargoed boxes of the new Dan Brown waiting to be opened (yawn). I pushed the security guards protecting the Decoder out of the way to grab my copy of Fever of the Bone. If you like your thrillers intense and twisted, a long unrequited romance, protagonists with clear flaws, are a fan of TV’s The Wire in the Blood (even if it’s just cos you have a thang for Robson Green’s eyes) then Val McDermid’s Tony Hill series are for you.
The latest book in this psycho-detective thriller series was up to her usual standard and to be able to crack it open on the plane as soon as I had fastened my seatbelt, set my holiday off to a fab start.
So how do you choose the books you take on holiday? It’s the result of an odd and lengthy equation of desire and practicality, times the amount of space you have in your suitcase divided by the length of your holiday and squared by how fussy you’re going to be about what you read while on r ‘n’ r. (I hope it is all very clear to you now that I’m posing as an artsy fart and am secretly a mathematical genius.)
So yes, I am carrying several books with me on my trip and leaving them to the winds of various locations as I finish with them (the books and the locations). It’s tough. I know I have said before that I’m not overly sentimental about keeping books but the novels I have brought with me are written by some of my very favourite authors. This is what I went for: four books I have been hanging out to read, one I’m assured will be excellent, one to dip into something new. And of course the airport buy. As I’m mostly writing these entries a couple of weeks after finishing each book, I can tell you that I will have to be replacing most of them when I get home. But that’s the financial burden I was willing to make for creating space and alleviating luggage weight as I travelled. And of course, to read what I wanted.
I suffer from a little known phobia of being caught short without anything to read. So much have I trained myself to be a constant reader (that’s for the Crows Nest folk) that I really do panic if I suddenly have to get a train somewhere and I am without reading material. What the hell will I do for twenty-five minutes on my own….!?
Travelling solo, my books have enjoyed accompanying me to high tea at an olde worlde hotel, breakfast at a diner, lunch at a posh restaurant, dinner at a pub, several hostel common rooms and kitchens, and on oh so many buses and planes. More sociable than an MP3 player, you can retreat to the book if feeling loserly at the table on your own, but discard it when conversation or distraction arises, you can carry it as an intellectual prop, or whack it down for show and employ it for the great ice-breaking qualities a book holds. I’ve used it for all these, and many other, handy uses. Most of all, as an entertaining security blanket. Some people need to know they have their phone on them at all times, others a watch or special piece of jewellery. I just need to feel that familiar weight of bound pages in my handbag and I’m a happy woman. Wherever I may be in the world.
Canadian depository for Fever of the Bone: Ocean Island Backpacker’s book exchange cupboard, Victoria, Vancouver Island.