Recent Holiday Reads

For some reason, reading just did not happen for me for large parts of the Spring and Summer this year. I have no idea why, it just…didn’t. However, I’ve been on a couple of holidays recently and I did manage to squeeze a bit of reading in whilst I was away. So here are the books I’ve read whilst I’ve been on my holidays this summer.

Want to know what I read on my holiday? If you like books or are looking for some recommendations, head on over.

Arabian Sands, Wilfred Thesiger ***** ¦¦ This is the book I’m reading in the picture above, on our balcony in Santorini. It’s a memoir by Wilfred Thesiger, a man who deeply identified with those of nomadic existence and also liked to be by himself a lot. Therefore, the so called Empty Quarter which is located in modern day Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen called deeply to him. This book tells the stories of the epic journeys he took across the empty quarter in the 1040’s, journeys which no westerner had ever taken before. I loved his great mix of descriptive writing, character studies of the people he met, and historical notes; however what I really liked was that he kept the pace going so you never became bogged down by narrative. I think this is a truly excellent piece of travel writing and I highly recommend it.

As a sidenote, there’s a fair amount of white, Western, upper class male privilege going on in this book but for some reason it doesn’t seem quite so offensive as other books written by similarly white, Western, upper class men around the same time.

Among the Mountains: Travels Through Asia, Wilfred Thesiger **** ¦¦ Having enjoyed Arabian Sands so much, I thought I’d try another Thesiger for size. This book follows his journey through the Hindu Kush and various mountain ranges in Central Asia. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as the first, and I don’t think Thesiger enjoyed the travels contained within this book as much, either. The writing felt a lot more fragmented; a series of observations (some more disgruntled than others) with little to tie them together. His disappointment in the temperament and perceived character of the people he meets is evident, and you can tell he just doesn’t feel the kinship with the people he meets – potentially because he couldn’t speak their language, unlike in Arabian Sands. I still enjoyed the book though, because the events he writes about with complete nonchalance are pretty astounding.

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby ***** ¦¦ In Travels Through Asia, Thesiger mentions (in one of the more enjoyable chapters) his encounter with Eric Newby and his walking partner, Hugh Carless. By Thesiger’s account they were an amusing pair, totally inequipped for their journey and in pretty bad shape when they met up with him on the slopes of a mountain somewhere in Nuristan (now Afghanistan). So of course I had to read the book by Eric Newby which tells his side of the story – annoyingly, left until the very last chapter. Still, I didn’t mind because this book was hilarious. Eric Newby has a flair for writing and a bitingly dry wit that made this a joy to read. It was interesting to contrast his observations with those of Thesiger, but mostly I found myself chucking along to this very honest account of his travels. I’m definitely going to pick up more of his books after this.

Sidenote: the levels of white, Western, upper class male privilege is pretty high in this book too but I’ll forgive him because his writing is hilarious and pretty self-aware.

The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin *** ¦¦ I think I’m a bit late to this party, but here’s the book everyone was raving about at the end of the last decade. Gretchen Rubin spends a year trying out various tactics to make her happier and reports back on her progress. I liked that she was so honest about everything that happened, so it stopped just short Pollyanna territory. Some things she talks about were probably quite revolutionary at the time but are now well known in this whole post-lifestyle blog era that we now inhabit, so felt a bit old hat. Seeing as this book is nearly 10 years old I think that’s fair enough. I found this enjoyable enough, and whilst I haven’t incorporated any specifics into my life from the book I am looking at things a slightly different way, which I think is worth a fair bit. Oh and I’d recommend the podcast she produces weekly with her sister, as well. It’s called Happier with Gretchen Rubin in case you want to have a listen.

Truly, Madly, Guilty, Liane Moriarty ***** ¦¦ This book was quite slow to get going, but once it did the punches just wouldn’t stop coming. This book stayed with me, and that’s always a good sign. The plot centres around one momentous event and the effect it has on the people who were involved. I’m being vague because I don’t want to give anything away, and I wish the momentous event was revealed a little earlier in the book because it got a bit hard going for a chapter or two, but the end was worth it.

Rachel’s Holiday, Marian Keyes *** ¦¦ And now for something a little lighter…ish. This story follows a Rachel, a drug addict in denial, whose family have sent her to a treatment centre in an effort to get her clean. It’s amusingly written whilst showing you just how fine the line is between not having a problem, and having a huge problem. And how a lot of people don’t realise they’ve crossed it. Some of the ‘lessons’ felt a bit trite, but this managed to cover a lot of ground without coming across as preachy or judgemental. It passed the time on a sea day just fine.

Lovestruck in London,  Rachel Schurig ** ¦¦ I can’t remember how I found Rachel Schurig’s books, but I loved reading her Ransom series and I was looking for a similarly light-hearted, fun book. This definitely fit the bill in that respect, but this was just too much of a departure from reality for me. A couple of things niggled; firstly, it felt very much like that classic 90s genre of nerdy girl being recognised for the true beauty that she is by the cool guy, complete with transformation scene where she takes off her glasses and braces, piles on the makeup, has her hair straightened/curled (whichever is the opposite of her natural hair), and is suddenly a supermodel. It’s been done before; plus it’s really unfeminist. And secondly, there are a few noticeable errors in this book due to the fact it’s set in London but the author is American. I understand she did spend some time in the city to write the book, and some errors I can forgive, but I’m convinced she didn’t have an actual British person proof read the book, and that seems like an obvious oversight to me.

So that’s what I read on my holidays. I quite like the balance of genres I had in this tranche, so I’m going to try and keep up the variety in my next lot. I’m currently reading In America: Travels with John Steinbeck by Geert Mak and so far, it’s excellent.

What have you been reading?

-Rachel

Linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books

Want to know what I read on my holiday? If you like books or are looking for some recommendations, head on over.

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37 Comments

  1. 13th September 2016 / 14:31

    I struggle lately to find a book I really like. I do read but somehow nothing I have read recently struck me as a good book:(

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:06

      Oh no! That’s a shame. I’ve had bad runs before, and it’s so offputting. I hope you find something you enjoy soon!

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:07

      I think I might not try any of her others then, as this one I only mildly enjoyed! That’s a shame, as her books are fairly popular here. At least I think they are, I seem to see them around a lot…

  2. 13th September 2016 / 16:06

    I’m doing Truly, Madly, Guilty on audiobook & the voice of the lady is KILLING me… I cant get through it. I just need to order it & read it

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:09

      Noooo I’ve had the bad audiobook voice syndrome before and it totally kills the book for me. Especially as I tend to listen to my books at 1.25x speed because I’m impatient – this elevates the averagely annoying voice to shrill. I really enjoyed the book so I hope you get along better with a written copy!

  3. 13th September 2016 / 17:12

    I’m reading The Happiness Project this month. I didn’t realize it was that old but I like the premises of it and I’m always looking for ways to add more happiness to my life. And I love the picture of you in Santorini. Looks so beautiful and peaceful there!

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:10

      I think it has stood the test of time pretty well, all things considered. It’s not her fault lifestyle blogging and the whole self-improvement movement has really taken off in the past few years! I think I might read her book on habits next. I like her writing style.

      Santorini was beautiful, but strangely enough not the most peaceful place I’ve ever been to – it was jam packed with tourists. I got lucky with the shot 🙂

  4. 13th September 2016 / 17:50

    oh my gosh, so much rage for when an american writes a book set in England or Australia. I don’t get it!! I was reading one recently and the spelling was all american and it drove me freaking batty. if you’re gonna do something, do it right! same goes the other way, if an australian wants to write a book set in america, spell the words correctly! SO MUCH RAGE.
    plus lovestruck in london does sound a bit ‘she’s all that’ which is seriously, so yesterday 😉 i read her other series, the 3 ladies and a baby or whatever, and ransom is STILL sitting on my kindle because you know, life and all that.
    i haven’t read the happiness project but i’ve gotten the gist of it from reviews elsewhere, though i had no idea it was 10 years old. woah.
    truly madly guilty is on my shelf. one day i will get to it, one day! have to get through that library pile first lol

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:14

      I COMPLETELY agree. I know I’m not an author so I am making a huge assumption here, but surely it’s not that hard to get a native speaker to proof read it for you? Not even a professional editor or anything (that I expect would cost $$$) just… any old native speaker. Heck I’d have done it for free! And I know I’m not the only one who would.

      Ahhh She’s All That. That film is kind of problematic when you look back on it. There were loads more, too, I just can’t remember what they were called… Anyway, I hope you like Ransom & Truly Madly Guilty 🙂

  5. 13th September 2016 / 17:51

    Oh yes I read The Happiness Project about 5-6 years ago and I could see how it would now be a bit dated. Everyone is always sharing so many wonderful books and blog posts about living a more fulfilling life, etc. I’m currently reading Big Magic which is really sparking my creative streak right now 🙂

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:15

      Absolutely, and I wonder whether The Happiness Project helped kick start that movement? I do enjoy reading those sorts of blog posts, and the whole organisation thing is huge now as well what with Marie Kondo. In my mind they all blend together somewhat! I’m glad I read it though, some things she has in there haven’t quite made it to the blogosphere just yet.

      I’ve heard great things about Big Magic, I’d love to give that a go soon. I’m not at all creative so perhaps it will awaken something in me!

  6. 13th September 2016 / 19:24

    It really bothers me when there are obvious mistakes in a book like the British/American one you mentioned. Not that hard to find an editor to look at those for you!

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:17

      It’s so annoying! It really affected my enjoyment of the book. I’d have assumed that would be an easy thing to do, but never having been in that position I didn’t want to assume. I do know however that as a British person I’d have happily proof read it for her myself! For free!

  7. 13th September 2016 / 19:26

    I love the diversity in the books you read!

    I read the Happiness Project years ago, along with her second book. Haven’t gotten to her third one yet. I am currently waiting for Liane Moriarty’s book. Not sure how long that’ll take

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:21

      It keeps me on my toes! I tend to get bored with genres quite quickly, which I’m not sure is a good thing.

      I’m keen to read the next Rubin book, although as I’m trying not to buy books at the moment I’m making do with her podcast. It’s fulfilling my self-improvement quota for now! I hope you get the Moriarty book soon. I really did enjoy it – once it got warmed up, that is.

  8. 13th September 2016 / 21:56

    I read liane Moriarty book recently and was quite disappointed especially as I loved her previous novels. It just felt so underwhelming

    Nat // Dignifiable

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:23

      Oh no! Sorry to hear that. It was quite slow to get going. I’ve only read one other of her books (What Alice Forgot) which I thought was great, perhaps Truly Madly Guilty isn’t as good as some of her other books – in which case I’m definitely missing out!

  9. 13th September 2016 / 21:57

    Marian Keyes used to be a go-to author for me. I might want to revisit the Walsh family someday. I can’t wait to read Truly, Madly, Guilty.

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:24

      Ah yes when I put it in to Goodreads I noticed it was #2 in a series. I had no idea, generally I’m not a fan of reading books out of series but you couldn’t even tell this wasn’t a standalone novel so that’s good. I hate when a book references another book you haven’t read.

      I really hope you enjoy Truly Madly Guilty!

  10. 14th September 2016 / 11:18

    I like that you read an assortment of genres. I enjoy mixing it up too.
    I’ve had an Australian acquaintance ask me to read a screenplay that he is working on because his setting in his America. Small, subtle things like when he was calling a “parking lot” (American term) a “car park” (Australian term), and there was a big event that happens in his story at this location, and he had not noticed or known the different terminologies. Like you mentioned, it just makes sense for a Brit to proof read the American’s story set in London.

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:26

      See, that’s the sensible approach. He knew he didn’t know and needed help, which I’m sure you were happy to provide. I’m not sure why this particular author didn’t do the same. Funny.

      The mix of genres keeps me on my toes! I’m easily susceptible to reading ruts so I’ve got to work hard to avoid them.

  11. 14th September 2016 / 15:12

    So many travel reads, that’s awesome. I have been reading a great book of travel/food essays called Fork in the Road that I am very much enjoying. 🙂 I need to find more travel reads. I haven’t read Gretchen Rubin’s book either. heheh I have only read one Moriarty and couldn’t finish it. It was pretty boring for me which was a bummer. I haven’t tried any others yet. XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:28

      Yeah I’ve been loving my travel books recently. I wonder why, ha. Thanks for the recommendation, I am a big fan of food so I’ll definitely check out Fork in the Road! I’ve just bashed it in to Goodreads and there are apparently about a million books to do with forks and roads, who is the author if you don’t mind me asking?

      It seems like Moriarty might be a bit of a marmite author – some people just don’t seem to like her stuff. Well, you can’t please everyone. I hope you find some more travel books you love!

  12. Jen
    14th September 2016 / 16:17

    I am definitely writing these down, I haven’t found a book lately that I’m in love with.

    • 14th September 2016 / 20:29

      It’s so annoying when that happens. I really hope you like some of these, let me know how you go!

  13. 15th September 2016 / 01:38

    I love the happiness podcast, I read the book like 6 years ago and loved it then. I just started Truly, Madly… And I’m just ready to find out this dang event!

    • 20th September 2016 / 22:50

      It’s great it’s it! And I don’t find their personalities grate on me after a while like so many podcasters do. Haha I totally know what you mean about being ready to find out what they’re all going on about! I appreciate building up suspense but I think she let it go on a handful of chapters too many.

  14. 15th September 2016 / 23:58

    The Liane Moriarty book sounds like something I would like. The way you mention that not revealing details made it hard to keep going reminds me of Girl on the Train a bit. It definitely makes you want to know more, but makes it harder to get there because you don’t know what’s going on. I have read only about 6 books this year, but I just finished two of them over the last month.

    • 20th September 2016 / 22:51

      I didn’t read at all for large parts of the summer, life happens man! Sometimes reading just isn’t my priority. I’m happy when it can be though, like on my holidays 🙂 I still haven’t read the Girl on the Train, but I’ve heard so much about it I’m not sure I want to now! Although as we can see I’m not afraid to jump on a bandwagon literally years after everyone else, vis The Happiness Project…

  15. 16th September 2016 / 00:23

    I felt exactly the same way about Truly, Madly, Guilty. I found Erica to be the worst type of person and Clementine was such a “martyr”, ugh. It’s my least favorite Moriarty book I’ve read to date.

    • 20th September 2016 / 22:54

      Yeah they were definitely difficult characters to empathise with at times. And the fact that they were basically frenemies. Still, I do think it reflects the intricacies and imperfections of real life fairly well and in that sense it was quite compelling. But if it’s your least favourite book then I’m excited for what’s in store with the rest!

  16. 16th September 2016 / 04:46

    Oh you managed to squeeze in quite a few books! haha! My idea of squeezing in a little bit of reading is maybe a chapter or two…I am horribly short on free time to red in at the moment! I think once baby boy outgrows his bassinet I’ll be able to grab 30 minutes at night just before bed again, but can’t do that right now when he sleeps in my room.

    Away From The Blue Blog

    • 20th September 2016 / 22:55

      Bear in mind this was over about 4 months! Not particularly impressive by any stretch of the imagination. I did enjoy having a day or two to read on my recent holiday, it’s definitely a luxury to be able to switch off from the world and immerse yourself in a book for hours. Definitely not possible with your two littles 🙂

  17. 18th September 2016 / 16:35

    Truly, Madly, Guilty did stay with me, and it was definitely slow to get going. I still loved Big Little Lies more. Two years later and that book is still with me.
    Also, try Better Than Before! It’s very similar to The Happiness Project but it gives you ideas you can implement ASAP.

    • 20th September 2016 / 22:23

      Right I’m definitely trying Better Than Before, I’m all about ideas you can get going with straight away. And I’m putting Big Little Lies on my list. A lot of people have said that Truly, Madly, Guilty isn’t their favourite Moriarty so it sounds like I’m in for a treat 🙂

  18. 25th September 2016 / 21:46

    I liked Truly Madly Guilty too, but it wasn’t my favorite book from Liane Moriarty. I usually love her books, but I think that it took a little too long for the mystery to get uncovered for me. Rachel’s Holiday sounds like a good and light read that would be perfect for a holiday!

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