So that’s it – at last the final lesson has been taught and timetables discarded for the forseeable future and it is time to prepare for a couple of months of freedom – and as we claw back a lot of our sorely lost freedoms this summer it seems even more precious to plan for the weeks ahead.

For as long as I can remember – and probably for as long as I have been able to read – planning which books to pack into suitcases has been a treasured activity. And since I am not a kindle owner and have no desire whatsoever to become one, it’s still a task that I take very seriously indeed.

And I hold on to memories of the books I have read in particular places in particular years.

Just mention Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones and I am in a villa on Portugal’s Algarve coast. It was a set text for the following term – we hadn’t gone all amercian and started calling them semesters in my day – for the English Novel course of my English Literature degree. That same summer I also put myself through the far more arduous task of reading Richardon’s Pamela that I only managed to complete by turning over several pages at once – only to return to Kentish Town in September to find that it had been removed from the required reading list!

Earlier memories are of reading The Go-Between by L.P.Hartley in the summer of 1969. It was the first time I had read a book by choice that I considered proper ‘adult literature’ – my transition from Enid Blyton and Noel Streatfeild had been by way of Jean Plaidy and Catherine Cookson, but other than compulsory classic reads at school, The Go-Between heralded my arrival, I felt, as a ‘proper’ grown up reader.

And so it goes on – I remember the summer of 1984 spent largely in West Brompton Cemetery reading Dickens’ Little Dorrit – Margaret Drabble’s The Radiant Way in the hills above Nice in 1988 – and as for the number of novels over the past 10 years in Crete – William Boyd, John Boyne, Justin Cartwright, Anne Tyler et al – so many of their novels now seem to have the aroma of Factor 30 and the strains of cicadas attached to their memory …

So what is it going to be this year?

Always I am torn between reading some hefty tomes that I have long resisted. After all, there are far more leisurely hours available to spend on some neglected names or novels. I have never read a word of Thackeray, for example. A lot of Dickens remains untouched. And I suppose one day I should get around to all the great russian writers that people say are essential reading.

But already my pile sitting ready to slip into my suitcase shows a woeful lack of such serious selections. A trip to Foyles’ yesterday – ostensibly looking for books to help my Greek studies – has already added to my reading list and there is the major danger awaiting me of those Airport Special Edition books that seem impossible to resist while waiting for the gate number of our flight to be displayed …

Whatever you choose to read this summer, wherever you are spending it, I wish you happy reading.

And remember: buying books is not an extravagence – it’s simply an act of charity and support for writers who have spent years weaving words for your pleasure and entertainment!

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