When I first received the email from Ryan asking if I would be interested in writing a piece about my favourite summer reads my initial thought was that I wouldn't be able to do this as I do not have specific summer reads. This is even more the case these days when I have such a huge To Be Read pile that I'm not sure I have the time to choose something specific for the summer. However, I ponded on this for a while and finally came to the conclusion that summer has always been of huge importance in my reading life.
I come from a large family, me being the oldest of five. Foreign holidays were not an option both logistically or financially with so many of us and for most of my childhood we went to one of two places: the Isle of Wight or St Ives, Cornwall. As a child these were both fantastic places to go to on holiday, and we spent a lot of our time on the beach. And this meant huge amounts of reading time, and for me as I grew up summer reading was all about series. I have vivid memories of scouring the beachfront shops for the next Famous Five book or Five Findouters book I didn't have, and then when I was a little older, the next Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators book, and although funds were tight this is what I would buy over anything else. But one book was never going to be enough for me for a whole fortnight so a couple of days before we were due to go away we would always visit the local library and I would walk out with about twenty books – ten on my library card, and ten on my mum's card. My local library was awesome – it had vast quantities of the books I loved – those already mentioned, The Hardy Boys, Conan, and later on Agatha Christie's mysteries. I yes, I would generally manage to get through most if not all of those twenty books before they were due back to the library.
Many years later I spent most of the summer working on a kibbutz in Israel. I took one book with me, The Lord of the Rings, thinking that it would last me some time even though I had read it several time before. I read it within the first week or so and was beginning to despair, until I stumbled across the 'library' – a room full of books that previous volunteers had left behind in order to free up space in their luggage. Again, I was in series heaven: amongst the stacks I discovered large quantities of Saint books by Leslie Charteris, and this discovery sparked off a love for these books and their enigmatic main character that I still harbour today.
And yes, despite my initial conclusion that I do not have time to have summer books these days, the evidence of last summer would suggest otherwise. My wife and I booked a very last minute week in Menorca (booked it Friday evening, flew out Tuesday); I tend to get bored very quick if I am just lying on a beach, and so I set a condition on the holiday: only if I could take loads of books. And yet again, I found myself having the time to read a series as part of my summer holidays, this time being for four books that had at that point been released in Michael Scott's absolutely brilliant Nicholas Flamel series. It felt so good to read the books back-to-back, although the one draw back was that I have since had to wait a year for book five to be released.
This year I don't think we will be going away for a week, but if we were (or if we do) then I think the series books would win yet again. I would love to find the time to re-read all of the Harry Potter books back-to-back now that the final film has been completed, so maybe this would be my choice. However, there is competition: Jonathan Stroud's original Bartimaeus trilogy is crying out to be read in one go, as are the books in Tom Becker's brilliant Darkside series, and those in Mark Walden's fab H.I.V.E. series (although as Mark has got a new book coming out in September and he tends to write three book story arcs I may leave this until Book Nine is published). If we don't go away then I think I will just concentrate on my TBR pile which is on the verge of avalanching – with six weeks of school holidays ahead of me I reckon I can clear quite a few of them and have great fun doing so. So yes, summer is still hugely important as far as my reading life is concerned, and long may it be so.