A long time ago I was reading a biography about Richard Burton, in fact it must have been ‘Rich,’ the biography by Melvyn Bragg. Bragg used Burton’s own diaries in his work and wrote, among other things, about Burton’s love of books and when Burton went on holiday he looked forward with delight to the contents of his ‘book bag.’ I know it’s a pretty tenuous link but one thing I have in common with Richard Burton is a love of books and when I go on holiday, one of the delights of lying under a warm sun on my sun bed is a good undisturbed read. OK, I read a lot at home and on my lunch breaks at work but it’s a few minutes here and a few minutes there and whenever I get interrupted it kind of breaks the flow. Some books, as we all know, are just made for a really long, uninterrupted read.
I’m currently on holiday in France and I thought I might share the contents of my ‘book bag’ with you. I’m a really big second hand book buyer and I buy my books from many sources. Second hand book shops, car boot sales, charity shops and of course, the internet. Even the occasional book comes my way as a gift. Anyway, without further ado, here are my holiday books:
Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser
This is an interesting biography and Muhammad Ali, once known as Cassius Clay has led an eventful life. The text is based on numerous interviews made by the author with Ali, his friends, and others involved in his life. The early part of the book dealing with Ali’s career in boxing is good but the book falters a little with the subject’s later life. In fact, I’m not sure what Ali does in his later life apart from travel and talk about the Koran. The author also tries to put Ali’s sporting achievements in context by comparing him with other greats of American sport but apart from Joe DiMaggio, I’d never heard of them. Perhaps that’s a telling point, indicating that Ali’s fame is not just boxing related. George Foreman and Joe Frazier may not be that famous outside of boxing but Ali certainly is. Having said that I’m not sure I’d be interested in Ali at all if not for my Dad. My Dad was a great boxing fan and I was brought up with tales of all the great boxers like Joe Louis, Sonny Liston and so on. His favourite boxer was Rocky Marciano and he disliked Ali with a passion and always, always referred to him as Cassius Clay. From reading this book, that was a feeling many boxing fans had in common and a lot of that dislike for Ali came from his refusal to join the army and fight in Vietnam which resulted in the loss of his world heavyweight crown and his boxing licence. Years later, when an anti-Vietnam focus had taken precedence in the US, people began to view Ali in a more favourable light and so began his rise to popularity. Ali regained his boxing crown as heavyweight champion of the world and has become the most famous boxer, and perhaps even the most famous sportsman of the 20th century.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Laurence.
I read this book many years ago but when I saw it again, lying there all forlorn on the shelf of a charity shop, well, I bought it for a few pennies and here it is in my holiday book bag. If you have ever seen the film ‘Laurence of Arabia’ then you will know what this book is about; the exploits of T E Laurence in Arabia during the First World War. Laurence set out to write a classic of literature and not necessarily a history book and to a great extent he succeeded but not without a lot of controversy along the way. After the war an American journalist called Lowell Thomas created a lecture and slide show featuring the exploits in the desert of Laurence and his irregular Arab army. The public were fascinated and the show made Laurence into a household name. Despite going on to become a Colonel, Laurence later resigned from the army and joined the RAF as an aircraftsman under a pseudonym. He seemed to be a man who wanted to court the spotlight and at the same time avoid it. He was killed in 1935 in a motorcycle accident as he swerved to avoid two boys on bicycles. The movie Laurence of Arabia opens with this same incident.
An Autobiography by M K Ghandi.
I’m looking forward to reading this, the thoughts of Ghandi, a man who changed an entire nation whilst embracing the values of non-violence.
No Bed of Roses by Joan Fontaine.
I bought this book from the internet and probably paid more in postage than the actual price of the book. That can be a problem when buying books over the net, especially heavy hard backed ones but to be fair I only paid three or four pounds in total. This autobiography by Hollywood actress Joan Fontaine was a fairly interesting read which took me through my first week of sunbathing in the Central region of France but I have to say, as much as I like Joan the Hollywood actress, I didn’t much care for her style of writing or for most of the content. In many ways the book reads like a run through of her old itineraries or diaries and despite working on movies like Rebecca and Suspicion, both directed by Hitchcock, we hear little about the making of those movies. Some things were very surprising like her random adoption of a Peruvian girl who she later fell out with and stopped speaking to and of course, her famous ‘feud’ with sister Olivia De Havilland. All in all not a bad read but I was surprised to find a little dig in the text at David Niven’s two books of Hollywood memoires. David’s books ‘The Moon’s a balloon’ and ‘Bring on the Empty Horses’ are two of the best books of movie reminiscences I have ever read!
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster.
I’ve not started this book either but you can click on this link for a review. One thing I’ve always found a little funny about books is that the more you want a book and the more you think about it, that book will eventually come to you! I’d read about Paul Auster’s New York trilogy in an internet list of great books. I’d never heard of the book or the writer before but not long afterwards, I spotted a copy at a car boot sale in St Annes! Looking forward to reading this soon, especially as it’s the only novel I have brought on holiday!
Which books are you taking to read on holiday?