There is an old joke about the couple who couldn't decide on a holiday. He wanted to cruise; she wanted to go skiing. So they went water-skiing and both hated it.
In fact you need to deconstruct the holiday requirements. She wants activity, hates water but doesn't care about temperature. He wants sun, hates ice but doesn't care what they do. You don't compromise, you reconcile. Water skiing gives them both what they don't want. They go on safari and are both happy.
So Mrs T wants sun and I want to be able to read in peace. We go some-where hot each year with a promise of shade for me. In the picture you can see my shady spot beyond the pool.
Which is a long way round to saying we are just back from our tenth trip to Gozo and here is my reading list. Some brilliant recommendations this year, three of which will be worth a review of their own. The score is nothing to do with qualities of literature or value but simply a measure of how much I enjoyed reading each book at the time.
Reelin' in the Years
The DJ and presenter chooses a record from every year of his life and uses each to tell his story in his inimitable way. Funny as ever but quietly illuminating and humble too, rare qualities in a celebrity. (6/10)
The Raw Shark Texts
Not the world's greatest prose but this first novel, a psycho-thriller, is a huge step of imagination. Described, not unfairly, as Jaws meets The Matrix this is that rare thing, an intellectually satisfying page-turner. What Dan Browne should be like. Longer review will follow. (7/10)
Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Aware that I might have been asleep the year everyone seemed to be reading this, and also that I don't read enough female writers, I took it to see what all the fuss had been about. Very enjoyable and well constructed as the different branches and ages of a family tree are pulled together. (7/10)
Even the Dogs
Fast becoming one of my favourite authors for his ability to lead you at a pace through the everyday and mundane, this is the story of the death of someone at the edge of society. A no-hoper is found dead from poor lifestyle choices at an early age but his life is gradually set out through the voices of those who knew him (but don't normally get listened to) and the post-mortem. Short and brilliant. (8/10)
The Book Thief
In Nazi Germany pre and during-war a little girl grows up to survive by stealing food and self-educate by stealing books. Take a morality check. Her delight and curiosity keep us entranced while the horrors of war and holocaust destroy her world. One of the five best books I've ever read. Magnificent. Longer review will follow. (10/10)
The Big Sleep
One of my personal delights is to take on holiday a classic book I know enough about to discuss but have actually never read. Chandler's booze-fuelled private eye Philip Marlowe investigates a missing person. Cue the bodies. (6/10)
In A Short History of Nearly Everything Bryson brought his considerable wit and curiosity to how the world is and works. Someone has suggested this should be called A Short History of Everything Else. Discovering a secret door in his Victorian Rectory home Bryson embarks on a quest to understand everything domestic. Why do we have salt and pepper on the table? What did Victorians use to keep things cold? Clean? Why did someone once build a hotel of 300 rooms with only 6 bathrooms (true)? I grew up in a Victorian house so this took me back some. Delightful, fascinating and yet leaving a sense of delight not to have been alive at any other time. (8/10)
Parrot and Olivier in America
Peter Carey nearly always delights. His wonderful prose never gets in the way of what is possibly the greatest literary imagination at work today. He lists 300 works he read to study for this novel, set in the early eighteenth century at the dawn of democracy. Longer review will follow. (9/10)