Seasonal Reading: Could you take James Joyce on holiday with you?

Ah, cosy. Image: Pixabay

Ah, cosy.
Image: Pixabay

Well, summer’s nearly over and when I say summer, I mean in the six week ‘School Summer Holiday’ sense, not the endless, warm sunny days picking strawberries, watching butterflies flitter over the nodding heads of scabious and the fleeting, papery kisses of field poppies.

For as anyone who has experienced UK Summer 2015 will know, it was less glorious, more wading up to your knees in rainwater, your ankles in mud and just praying we’ll all have enough Vitamin D in our systems so we don’t start the Winter deficient.

Autumn is drawing in already – some would argue it started around the end of July – there’s a cool in the air, the green leaves are tinged copper and there’s an indefinable smell: the start of the annual decay.

However, let us not be downhearted, for there are reasons to be cheerful.

I personally enjoy having several layers of clothing to hide under – ‘cardigan weather’ my mum calls it – the blackberries are in full flush and who can resist a crumble and custard? And with the cooler weather comes a nesting instinct, a need to dash in from the cold and wet ( a contrast from the warm and wet of summer ). A time to light the fire and curl up with a good book.

So now you’ve left your Holiday Reading list behind, do you have a Winter Reading list you’re about to start?

I’ve always been puzzled by the idea of Holiday Reading.

Is it really true that whilst you lounge by the pool, exposing your delicate flesh to the harsh foreign sun, it’s impossible to read anything serious? Does wearing a bikini or Speedos restrict the flow of blood to the brain, rendering the wearer incapable of contemplating anything too difficult?

The closest I’ve ever come to a beach holiday was sharing a two berth caravan in Llandudno with five other people – a cosy and not entirely fragrant experience – so I’ve never had my head turned by large amounts of freely available alcohol and all-you-can-eat buffets. Maybe after two weeks of that your brain turns to pate and can’t cope with Finnegan’s Wake or One Hundred Years of Solitude. Understandable.

My holiday reading? Well, as we only usually leave home for two or three days at a time, it’s just whatever book I’ve got on the go at the moment, whether that’s Terry Pratchett, Khaled Hosseini, or maybe something on Greek Myths or the Black Death.

Whilst I’m puzzled by Holiday Reading, I’m totally on board for books that are suitable for the short, gloomy days of winter. When else should you read A Christmas Carol but on the run up to Christmas (finishing on Christmas Eve, of course.) Quite honestly, if you’re up to your eyes in Scrooge and Marley in July, there’s something wrong with you. Any Dickens seems to suit the colder months – Chuck’s fault, I’m sure, for helping to shape our ideas of what makes a perfect Yuletide.

What about Autumn I hear you cry? What should we read then? How about Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie? All plumptious country girls, fruit picking and open fires – perfect.

So, join me. Close the curtains, light the fire, don your finest, snuggest woolly pully and tartan slippers, make a cup of something warm and let’s cosy up to the sound of thrashing rain.

It’s the season books were made for.

Do the seasons dictate which books you read? Did you pack William Faulkner for your all-inclusive to Marbella? I’d be fascinated to know.

N. B. Apologies to anyone reading this in the Southern Hemisphere who’s just watching Spring wink on the horizon – maybe you could save the post and come back in six months?


4 thoughts on “Seasonal Reading: Could you take James Joyce on holiday with you?

  1. I generally eschew seasonal and apt anniversary reads as a possibly too fashionable activity, especially as — by the time I get round to completing them — the time has long gone past, especially by the time I get round to a review. And there’s nothing worse than being unfashionably late.

    Having said which, I hope to complete Lewis Carroll’s Selected Letters before the November celebrations of the first 150 years of Alice; and, completely coincidentally, I found I’d commenced reading Titus Groan on the eighth day of the eighth month, the precise day of the titular hero’s birth. And Dickens wrote three Christmas-themed stories, and I intend to spend some of December 2015 reading The Cricket on the Hearth which, I’ve just seen, was published on December 20th exactly a hundred-and-sixty years ago.


    1. Christmas Carol reading aside, I agree with you. My reading habits are too hit and miss to say I’ll read a certain book at a certain time of year. The Dickens Christmas stories are short, so easier to fit in. I read The Cricket in the Hearth some while ago and it’s good – just not a patch on the redemptive juggernaut that is the Carol 🙂
      I remember watching the BBC adaptation of Gormenghast years ago and was tempted to delve into Mervin Peake after that – another big dose of the gothic. Not sure why I didn’t really – I did admire Steerpike in an odd way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, so far my sympathies are with Steerpike too — Peake certainly does a good job eliciting the reader’s reluctant admiration for an otherwise manipulative and immoral character. Strangely I don’t recall much apart from the odd scene from the BBC adaptation; must try to watch some or all of it after I’ve finished the first book.

        I’ve read A Christmas Carol at least a couple of times over the years, but never The Cricket in the Hearth so may well give that a go this year. The trouble with Carol is it’s been adapted so many times that I’ve started to confuse what Dickens wrote and what tv and film versions have conjured up …


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