Books I’m Taking on Holiday

I’m going on holiday tomorrow.

Aside from being exciting merely for the fact that it means a break from everyday life, it is also a break from writing my MA thesis, which is, naturally, all I seem to be doing right now.

It means I can read whatever takes my fancy without the slightest pang of guilt. And for this, I am excited.

So in my excitement I decided I would share the books I have chosen to take.

1. The Illogic of Kassel – Enrique Vila-Matas


‘A puzzling phone call shatters a writer’s routine. An enigmatic female voice extends an invitation to take part in Documenta, the legendary contemporary art exhibition held every five years in Kassel, Germany. The writer’s mission will be to transform himself into a living art installation, by sitting down to write every morning in a Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of town. 

Once in Kassel, the writer is surprised to find himself overcome by good cheer. As he strolls through the city, spurred on by his spontaneous, quirky response to art, he begins to make sense of the wonders that surround him.’


2. Some Prefer Nettles – Junichiro Tanizaki


‘Generally considered one of Tanizaki’s finest works, Some Prefer Nettles deals with the ramifications of a collapsing marriage. Kaname seeks escape from his vacuous domestic existence in the arms of a beautiful Eurasian, and closes his eyes to the possibility that his wife may take a lover. 

His Father-in-law is a bourgeois of the old school, civilised, refined, trained in the elegant ambiguities of an ancient tradition. Instinctively the old man divines that his daughter’s marriage has failed because the young couple have cut themselves off from the traditional Japanese roots of aesthetic and emotional fulfilment, and he tries to repair the breach by leading them back to the classical arts of the country.’ 


3. The Kraken Wakes – John Wyndham


‘It started with fireballs raining down from the sky and crashing into the oceans’ deeps. Then ships began sinking mysteriously and later ‘sea tanks’ emerged from the deeps to claim people… 

For journalists Mike and Phyllis Watson, what at first appears to be a curiosity becomes a global calamity. Helpless, they watch as humanity struggles to survive now that water – one of the compounds upon which life depends – is turned against us. Finally, sea levels begin their inexorable rise and the world looks set to drown.’


4. The Lonely City – Olivia Laing


‘When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by this most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. 

Moving fluidly between the works and lives of some of the city’s most compelling artists, Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be redeemed and embraced.’


5. Thus Were Their Faces – Silvina Ocampo


Thus Were Their Faces offers a comprehensive collection of the short fiction of Silvina Ocampo, undoubtedly one of the twentieth century’s great masters of the story and the novella. Here are tales of doubles and imposters, angels and demons, a marbled statue of a winged horse that speaks, a beautiful seer who writes the autobiography of her own death, a lapdog who records the dreams of an old woman, a suicidal romance, and much else that is incredible, mad, sublime, and delicious … Dark gothic, fantastic, and grotesque, these haunting stories are among the world’s most individual and finest.’


It is quite an eclectic collection of books, but a grouping that panders to my interests in the ways through which art and literature intersect, as well as my love for all things strange and uncanny.

I also feel like I may be feeling a bit ambitious taking five books, being away for only a week, but I’ll give it my best shot.

If anyone has any other suggestions for what to read on holiday, or good reads in general, let me know!

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