Happy Holiday Reads!

The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThis year I’m choosing Happy Holiday Reads with jaunty yellow and orange covers. It’s as good a starting place as any. The kind of book that, when you pick it up, screams out: Sun, Barbies, Vitamin D, Cherries and Margaritas! Just looking at these books is going to put the spring in your step that you need in order to make your way to the nearest pool lounger.

Hard as it may be to believe, my first choice is a sunny book written by a Swedish author: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. Set in Iowa, it has a death in the very first chapter. Sarah arrives in a small derelict Iowan town on an extended visit to a penfriend who is as fascinated by books as she is. The friend has just upped and died and Sarah knows no one else in the town at all. Enter a fascinating array of characters, disarmingly introduced much-loved reads and a bit of romance. Kick back with that margarita and enjoy the ride!

Cover of One Hundred Days of HappinessMoving right along with the theme of sunny covers, happiness and… death, my next choice is One Hundred Days of Happiness. No spoiler alert necessary here, because you are told on the very first page of the book that Lucio Battistini is going to die, and the book is structured into one hundred chapterettes, one for each of his remaining days. These turn out to be the happiest one hundred days of his life. This book will make you savour the sweetness of holiday times with the poignant awareness that nothing lasts forever.

Cover of There will be bearsPretty soon I’m going to be winging my way to visit grandchildren in South Africa – my book of choice for the flight is There Will Be Bears – a Young Adult novel. That is correct. My first YA book. Ever. The last time a colleague recommended a YA book to me and I issued it to my account, within ten minutes the February earthquake struck. I took it as a sign. I borrowed There Will Be Bears a week ago, and so far so good. It has as its theme the closeness of relationships between grandchildren and their grandparents (tick). It is a small light read (tick). It has a very yellow cover (tick).

And finally, I am going to sneak in Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling – despite the absence of either yellow or orange on the cover. Retracing the route he took in Notes From a Small Island, Bryson returns to England to see what, if anything, has changed on what he calls “The Bryson Line”. This is a guaranteed feel-good holiday read. But should none of these appeal, maybe have a look at my Best Reads of 2015 list.

But don’t give up on colour-coded reading yet, now could be your time. Go Team Yellow!

Make yourself at home

Here’s a multiple choice quiz to start the year. You are in a bird hide on the banks of the Limpopo River in Africa with a pair of binoculars. Do you:

(a) Train them upwards to follow the flight of circling raptors

(b) Look down to better spot the lurking Big Five or

(c) Aim straight ahead to the pink smudge that is a lone house on the Mozambican side of the river.

I’m a (c) and there’s a book for people like us, it’s At Home: A Short history of Private Life by (little fanfare here) Bill Bryson.

Bryson must be one of the most engaging writers of our time. He has proved this in books like A Short History of Nearly Everything and Notes from a Small Island. He has an unerring ability to dish up huge wodges of information in an entertaining way.  You’ll find you have to read bits of it out loud to your significant other. His writing is detailed, disarming and droll.

Using the floor plan of his home in Norwich as the comforting structure of this book, he free ranges over a vast array of loosely domestic topics from every corner of the globe. From the rise of the female gardener to burial grounds in London, from everything you never wanted to know about rattus rattus to poisonous beauty aids, this book has it all.

In a way, At Home sanctions my walking to and fro in front of any interesting house in the hope that the homeowner will come out and ask (nicely – not snarkily): “Would you like a closer look?”  And I’d go in for  a Cook’s tour and a  Grand Designs type of a chat. When I leave the owner might be taken aback to find that all the toilet seat covers have been firmly pressed down but you won’t be once you’ve read the book, where on page 259  Bryson quotes:

” One of the oldest of all urban legends, that rats come into homes by way of the toilets, is in fact true. On several occasions, rats were found alive in covered toilet bowls.” If ever there was a reason to put the lid down, this could be it.

In the end I had to own this book. It’s now added to my list of Desert Island Reads. What would make it on to yours?