Instead of buying a last-minute, ill-researched pulp-fiction paperback from the airport, it’s often good to spend some time beforehand and buy what will really suit you.
Here are some books I’d really recommend:
1. Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
Other than being written years ago and more out-of-date than a Victorian road map, Bill Bryson has a reputation for writing some of the wittiest, most entertaining books out there. In Neither Here nor There, Bryson blunders around Europe on a whim, rediscovering the continent from the previous time he visited on a debauched adventure as a teenager. Bryson’s eccentricity and hilarious memories are what makes this book such a classic – some absolute gems include the time when he was nearly tricked into eating horse manure by Austrian Peasants, and his obsession with saving money and the quality and room-size of hotels. It’s odd how such an ill-informed person can write so much about what he sees and for it to be amusing, but it works. Well recommended.
2. The Catcher in the Rye
Thought provoking and almost incredibly real, this classic by recluse JD Salinger is a favourite in the hearts and minds of youth today, over 50 years later. The Catcher in the Rye is quite simply an account of the experiences of a disillusioned young teenager running away from his boarding school to go to New York, and discovering both the world and himself on the way. A great deal of the book is simply the aforementioned youthful protagonist monologuing about completely irrelevant topics, in particular times spent with his young sister. You’d think what is basically a few fictional diary entries would be impossibly dreary, but it’s both an involved and detailed look into the mind of a 16 year old facing the harsh, cruel reality of the world.
3. Fight Club
The enduring popularity the film has enjoyed has kept Chuck Palahniuk‘s magnum opus alive to this day. To the uninitiated, Fight Club is a story about how two friends, one a impoverished, rebellious soap manufacturer, the other a specialist in car recalls for a seemingly giant American car corporation. The two adopt a nihilistic attitude and decide to reassert their masculinity by forming an underground fighting club where it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose.
Raises an interesting point about the real purpose of life and has a compellingly gritty, hateful feel – the first-person narration helps some too.
4. Starbucked – A double tall tale of caffeine, commerce and culture
Doesn’t really focus on either caffeine, commerce or culture – don’t expect anything other than entertainment and mild interestingness.
Like a steaming Grande Latte, you’ll probably find it almost impossible to put down. However, while containing a decent amount of information about the company and a particularly interesting section on why some of the competitors failed, wannabe entrepreneurs and business-owners may find that actually it’s not a whole lot of use, either as a business manual or as a period piece documenting a cultural milestone. However, you can’t help being swept in with how absorbing the rise (and fall?) of Starbucks really is.
“Holiday Reading” photo by tristanf