Sunday 22 April 2018

A few light reads to beat the holiday luggage limits

If you don't fancy going digital, here are some quality books that won't weigh you down

Digital v traditional: An old-fashioned paper-and-ink book may be best for beach, but take a few and you might fall foul of the weight restrictions on your luggage at the airport
Digital v traditional: An old-fashioned paper-and-ink book may be best for beach, but take a few and you might fall foul of the weight restrictions on your luggage at the airport

John Chambers

There was a headline-making kerfuffle last year when a bookseller blamed Ryanair's baggage restrictions rather than e-books for a dip in the sale of traditional holiday summer reads.

Frank O'Mahony of O'Mahony's Booksellers Ltd reckoned that the restrictions stopped us stocking up on a selection of holiday reads.

The airline issued a typically robustly dismissive response but when Amazon later announced that the value of its Kindle ebooks sold through its site had, for the first time, overtaken that of traditional books, well, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the writing was on the wall for our traditional reading habits.

So is it the final chapter for the traditional holiday purchase of a selection of bonkbusters? Perhaps. But that doesn't mean you should abandon the traditional printed book when it comes to your holiday packing.

As a family divided equally between digital devotees and traditionalists, our experience shows that print still has its advantages. For instance, last year, in Spain my wife was reduced to pleading for a loan of a paperback while her device charged. Then there is, of course, the need to remember to bring a charger in the first place. And should the unthinkable happen and your books get left behind in the rush to get on the plane out, or the flight home, which would you rather be missing – a paperback or a much more expensive piece of kit?

At your resort, which would you rather have accidentally smeared in sun cream, and which would you be more comfortable with leaving poolside to stop a German grabbing your lounger?

Of course, no one denies that digital books offer advantages of size and convenience. But have you ever tried casually swapping one with a friend? You can't casually toss it over while remarking that you thought they might enjoy this.

And when it comes to traditional books, size need not be an issue. Below is a list of 10 slim tomes which can be slipped into a handbag, or duty-free bag – or even a large pocket. It's not meant to be prescriptive or exhaustive – in fact, you'll have much more fun compiling your own. But if you were going en famille or with friends and you each brought a couple, you'd have an impromptu travelling library and book club.

The Maintenance of Headway

Magnus Wills

Mordant musings on the nature of humans and buses: eg "People wait for buses ... buses don't wait for people."

The Outlaw Album

Daniel Woodrell

Short stories are enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment so why not go with the cultural flow with these 12 tales of broken lives from the badlands? Haunting, or perhaps disturbing, they'll stay with you.

The Turn of the Screw

Henry James

Are the mysterious goings-on at Bly supernatural or merely the product of the governess's overwrought imagination? And what exactly is the role of the preternaturally self-possessed children?

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett

Queen Elizabeth discovers the joys of reading and begins to act a little out of character.

Full House

Maeve Binchy

Only in Binchy's hands could a tale about unemployment, poverty and family tension be gently comedic. Eminently readable, despite the odd far-fetched passage.

How Many Miles to Babylon?

Jennifer Johnston

Class and political divisions haunt a friendship set against the backdrop of pre-Rising Ireland and Great-War Flanders. Both landscapes are beautifully captured, as is the bewilderment of a decent man caught up in scenes of unimaginable horror.

The Poor Mouth

Flann O'Brien/Myles na gCopaleen (trans Patrick C Power)

Pain, poverty and potatoes (or the lack of them) will forever be the lot of the Gael – unless, of course, you follow the example of the Old Grey Fellow and avoid the sin of covetousness by having all the money in your own possession.

Martin Misunderstood

Karin Slaughter

How can such a mild-mannered man as Martin end up accused of murder? Find out in this arresting (sorry) tale from one of the best-known crime writers. You also get an introductory 10 pages of her tale Fractured.

On Chesil Beach

Ian McEwan

Mesmerising tale of what happens when idealised love is confronted by real life.

Cannery Row

John Steinbeck

The Depression-era adventures of Mack and the other denizens of the Palace Flophouse, along with Dora, the madame, and the long-suffering Doc as well as the rest of the residents of Cannery Row are glowingly painted.

You'll notice there are no prices. Some of the above were full price, but others were picked up at charity book sales or in the remaindered bins. So outlay was minimal. And for those who point out that some digital books can be downloaded free of charge, the same applies off-line too. It's called going to the library.

Irish Independent

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