I am a functioning bookaholic. As such, my summer reading list is inevitably ambitious. This year, as I piled BOGOFs in my arms in my local bookshop and one-clicked Daily Deals online, I reassured myself that I could race through twenty novels and several memoirs between Leavers’ Assembly and Back to School. Isn’t that what we all used to gobble up each summer?
Erm, in my twenties maybe, when a fortnight budget break in Ibiza involved applying Factor 8 in a slow-spit-sunbed rotation alongside competitive reading mates, shaking off Acid House earworms on our Discmans…and simply turning pages all day. Bronte, Bellow and Balzac for show; Conran, Cooper and Collins for joy.
On a busy family holiday these days, reading time is limited to the gaps between cooking, driving, shouting at the sat nav, chivvying the children, keeping the dogs off the furniture and making sandwiches, along with fathoming the rules of obscure board games, drying towels and calculating if we have enough Tesco Vouchers to get into the Eden Project.
I still dream big. Three months ago, those hazy sun-drenched days stretching ahead from late July promised a hammock-load of literary bliss. Adding book after book to my summer reading list, I vowed to gather midge-bites with pride as I eked out just-one-more-chapter reverie on long, warm evenings. I bought reading treats for the children and for Sam too, envisaging us all round a pool lovingly lost in plots.
From the first week of August to the last, the books that I packed in a canvas bag for our Cornish holiday were still waiting there when it went back in the roof-box on the drive to the North York Moors. Even in September, I still fooled myself that summer would linger long enough to keep uninterrupted-book-time within reach. Better still, with the girls are back at school, I could set aside reading hours between writing shifts. But as each allotted hour got sucked up into the vortex of day-to-day, and nights closed in with windfall-thudding inevitability – and The Bodyguard to distract us all – I looked at my beautiful mountain of summer reading and yearned for Ibiza, a Discman and prickly heat.
Now we’re in October, sloes jewelling in the hedgerows, sunbeds packed away. The book award shortlists are coming out, and must-read hardbacks are being published thick and fast in the build-up to Christmas. My reading list is getting longer by the day. According to the pundits, we should already be curling up with a good book in front of the fire. Many of my bedside pile still have sand and suntan oil in them.
Yet amazingly, when I counted them up this week, I found I’d read three-quarters of my summer list without once reclining on a deckchair. In the past three months, I’ve hoovered up tens of finely-crafted plots from up-lit to classics to crime in the same erratic fashion as I do year-round: gritty-eyed shifts of reading insomnia, listening to audiobooks whilst cooking or driving, furtive tablet-time flipping pages during home screenings of the girls’ favourite Pixar movie. Like so many of us balancing the spinning plates of a busy family life, I graze on novels week-on-week without realising it, and I’ve loved every addictive word.
Thank goodness books aren’t like clothes. We don’t shove a big, addictive summer read at the back of the wardrobe like unworn shorts and sparkly flipflops. Escapism has no timetable. I have a few more treats left from my summer reading list to enjoy before I’m ready to hibernate with the Booker shortlist. This autumn, I’m unrolling my towel by the wood-burner, and it’s a heavenly place to be.
Finally, as I write this, the Kindle edition of The Country Set can be snapped up for 99p today only (Tues 2nd Oct) in the UK and ANZ thanks to the fabulous BookBub team. Click the book jacket to buy it. Bikinis on!