In case the photograph is a little hard to make out, my reading selection comprises the following: The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff; The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter; Mariana by Monica Dickens; The Calligrapher by Edward Docx; Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor; and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.
Most importantly of all, however, I have enough books to keep me occupied for ten days up a mountain. I shall have company of course - I am not quite hare-brained enough to disappear into the hills alone - and I plan to spend some of my time strolling gently along the less arduous of the mountain tracks, admiring the alpine flowers and commenting on the view while my more adventurous companions strike off up the glacier. Mainly, however, I can't wait to have ten days cut off from emails and telephone calls, away from my studies, to sit down undisturbed and simply read.
I read all the time while I am in Oxford, of course, but most of this is for work - the literature of Sir W's time, rather than my own, or the arguments of critics. I genuinely enjoy this reading (or most of it, at least...), but I miss having the time to read for enjoyment alone. I always have at least one non-work book on the go, for reading over lunch, or before I go to bed, but I am almost giddy at the thought of having ten whole days to really indulge myself with books which are purely for fun. I am hugely thankful that I seem to have escaped the curse which afflicts some English students - of losing the ability to read 'for fun', and attacking each and every novel as if required to write a 20,000 word paper on it afterwards. I still get every bit as much enjoyment out of a good old-fashioned murder mystery or regency romance as I ever did before, and so, although I shall be taking a little 'work' reading with me, this holiday is really a chance for a proper break, to be immersed in a few books not written by men who died four hundred years ago...
The Calligrapher is my collection's wild card - I had never heard of it, but when I saw it in the bookshop today I was immediately lured in by the blurb on the back, unable to resist a book which is about 'a world-class calligrapher and a serial seducer', who is transcribing Donne's Songs and Sonnets for a wealthy patron when an indiscretion catches up with him. It sounds like it should be suitably enjoyable froth, and as John Donne was a good friend of Sir W, it even has a tangental relation to work...! The other books are all ones I've been wanting to read for a while. Forever Amber I've been curious about ever since I read about bad girls reading it surreptitiously as a banned book in the Chalet School series of my childhood, and it looks like a great romp. Angela Carter has been recommended to me so many times, I've decided I simply must try her, and besides, how could I resist such a gorgeous cover? (Incidentally, anyone else interested in Carter should pay a visit to this review of The Magic Toyshop at Verity's Virago Venture, and also the guest posting there on the same topic by Paperback Reader, both of which further fueled my desire to become acquainted with Carter's work).
Mariana and The Fortnight in September are two more to add to my steadily growing collection from the wonderful Persephone Books; and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie sounds delightful, and right up my street. I am also just now cogitating about which audio books to upload to my ipod (apparently, although the chalet is without electricity, there is a hotel a little distance away where I can charge both my camera and my ipod, so I can listen away unimpeded, and unfortunately have no excuse for returning from holiday without photographic evidence of me in walking boots carting a rucksack around, as the excuse that 'the battery ran out before I had chance' just isn't going to wash...).
And although I shall be deserting him for a little while, I can rest confident in the knowledge that Sir W would approve of my 'reading holiday', being himself a true book lover - his admission here in his 1600 essay 'Of Censuring' is one of the reasons I am sure he and I would get on:
'I am determined to speake of bookes next, to whom, if you wold not say I were too bookish, I shuld giue the first place of all thinges here.'