I love books. I’ve been a keen reader since I can remember. According to my mother I had been very frustrated as a little kid by the fact that I could, at that time, not yet read. Once I remedied that problem, I read just about every book I could lay my hands on. Trips to the public library were a highlight of my childhood. I used to take not only my own but also my parents’ library cards and would borrow huge stacks of books. The hunt for interesting and intriguing books in the library was, in itself, an adventure. But the best part is the new friends you make and the worlds you explore once you start reading.
These days I struggle to find time to read. Since I started working, life got busier and precious reading time got less. When I get into bed in the evening I am usually lucky to stay awake long enough to read a magazine article, never mind a decent length chapter of a novel.
A great discovery I made a few years ago is the wonderful world of audio books. This way I can listen to books whilst getting dressed, driving or doing household chores. Most of the books I’ve “read” in the last five years or so were in this format. I find that, once you get used to listening to books, instead of reading them yourself, you can follow the story quite easily. Only if something out of the ordinary distracts me, I may need to rewind a bit to catch a section where I was not paying enough attention. And a good narrator is an absolute treat to listen to. I think that, sometimes, books can be better experienced by listening to a great narrator than by reading it yourself.
When I get the opportunity to spend some quality time reading, I grab it with both hands. This usually happens when we go on vacation. During December and January (being summer vacation time for South Africans) I overdose on reading, getting through as many as I can. The great thing about living in the 21st century is that we can transport a whole libraries on our phones and tablets and, in most instances, we can buy books anytime, anywhere. If you run out of books in the Lesotho mountains or on a tiny Thai island with no book shop anywhere nearby, no problem! If you go to a destination without WiFi or some other form of data connection, though, you better go prepared with enough of the real thing.
Throughout the year I gather a stack of books (bought, borrowed and received as gifts) on my bedside table, where they patiently lie and wait for holiday time to arrive. This stack sometimes ends up resembling a literary Tower of Pisa as year-end draws near.
In anticipation of a road trip to Namibia this coming December, I inspected the book stash and identified the reading list for the trip’s reading extravaganza. The selection is quite out of the ordinary for me, containing two non-fiction works and two Afrikaans books (English fiction being my usual staple).
1. On Writing – Stephen King
This book frequently features on lists of essential reading for aspiring writers. Who better to teach you something about writing than one of the greatest storytellers of our time?
2. Agaat – Marlene van Niekerk
This is a serious novel, not the type of book I read as a general rule. I like light entertainment, an escape from all the crap that we have to deal with every day in the real world. I suppose you can call me a bit of a lazy reader in this respect. But sometimes we have to confront more serious matters, also in our reading. Agaat is set in apartheid South Africa and explores the relationship between a white woman and her black domestic/care-taker. I saw this book on a friend’s bookshelf and promptly borrowed it, as I have been meaning to read Marlene van Niekerk’s work for some time.
3. Beseringstyd – FJ Labuschagne
This is quite an interesting addition to the holiday reading list. This is the debut work of a fellow South African lawyer (we know each other from varsity days). When I heard that he published a novel I was intrigued, as this is something that I would love to do one day. The subject matter (varsity rugby) is not something that would normally attract my attention. I am just really curious to see what he came up with.
4. My Brief History – Stephen Hawking
An autobiography by (arguably) the world’s smartest man. Once I’ve read this, I’ll give A Brief History Of Time another go. Never managed to get past the first few chapters.
5. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Other Works – Oscar Wilde
My brother-in-law bought me a hardcover collection of Oscar Wilde’s works some time ago. It has an old-fashioned, gold and silver embossed cover with gold page edges – so pretty that I am afraid I’ll damage it when reading. But I’ve decided it is now time to read this book. Maybe a bit of Oscar Wilde will do me good.
What do you read when you’re on vacation? Anything interesting on your reading list for an upcoming holiday?