Some people go on holiday to get a tan; some go to explore new places or try new foods; I go on holiday to read. And last week, when I went on a trip to the Greek island of Meganisi, I took that to a whole new level: I read a book every single day . Over the course of eight days, I finished eight books (and started a ninth!) — and still made time to swim in the sea and indulge in some good old Greek tzatziki.
The effect was pretty incredible. An eight day vacation can often fly by in the blink of an eye, and before you know it, it's Monday and you're back in the office wondering where the sun went. But my holiday was rather different. By the time my plane landed back in rainy London, I felt like I'd spent a whole summer in the Bronx, a September in war-torn Wales, one hundred years on a tiny Italian island and eight days in Greece. Not bad for a summer getaway!
I got the idea when I saw the YouTube Biannual Bibliothon challenge: a readathon that encourages you to read books to fit seven different categories over the course of the week. There's no requirement that you read a different book for each category, but I thought I'd step it up a notch — and I'm glad I did! Although I did sometimes feel like I was racing against the clock, I didn't feel like I missed any of the reading experience; in fact, I think I got even more absorbed in the books than normal because of how many different worlds I was jumping between.
Day 1: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
I had planned to use my journey to the airport as a great headstart, but when my alarm went off at 5:30 am, I found that I wasn't exactly in the reading mood. I spent the morning bleary-eyed and panicky at the airport as I realized everything I'd forgotten to pack — so it wasn't until I was settled on the airplane a good few hours later that I was ready to dive in. But thanks to The Unexpected Everything , my vacation started long before we touched down in Greece. While the rest of my family were feeling cramped and uncomfortable on the small plane, I was adventuring around Connecticut with Andie and her friends. The Unexpected Everything is such a delightful summery read that by the time we arrived at our villa, I didn't need any time to adapt to the holiday mood. Sipping rosé at sunset, I felt a million miles away from the stresses of normal life.
Day 2: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
I didn't open this one until lunch time, as The Unexpected Everything was such a long book I had to devote the morning to finishing it off. (I know, right, what a chore!). Instantly, my scenery changed again. Gone were the carefree adventures of TUE; More Happy Than Not is a much grittier read. But while it is a very sad book, it's also very hopeful and inspirational. Glancing up from this book to see the beautiful scenery around me reminded me to be grateful for what I have.
Day 3: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner
Once I'd finished sobbing over More Happy Than Not, I needed some fantasy to cheer me up — and Neil Gaiman's The Sleeper and the Spindle was the perfect choice. It's a wonderfully creepy Sleeping Beauty re-telling that will take you by surprise no matter how many times you've heard the original story — and I wolfed it down in about fifteen minutes.
Next, I turned to Catherine Banner's The House at the Edge of Night . Catherine Banner is a seriously impressive author who started writing her YA trilogy when she was still in her teens — and The House at the Edge of Night is her adult debut. It tells the story of four generations of a family living on a tiny Mediterranean island — so reading it while I lay out in the sun on a tiny Mediterranean island felt absolutely perfect. It's a slow and gentle novel, though, which rather set back my impressive reading speeds....
Day 4: still reading The House at the Edge of Night
On this day, my family rented a little boat and went out adventuring on the water. Reading Catherine Banner's beautiful novel against such a stunning background was lovely, but it did mean my book was competing for my attention against sparkling turquoise waves! By the end of the day, I was still only half way through — so I decided to put it down (for now) in favor of some faster reads.
Day 5: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I've had this book on my TBR for forever, and now that the Miss Peregrine movie is on its way, it seemed like the perfect time. The novel, with its haunting black and white photographs, is skin-crawlingly eery — so I was very glad to look up from it to see a bright blue sky, and absolutely no terrifying monsters.
Day 6: Choose Your Own Love Story by Ilyse Mimoun and The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
The first book I read on day six was super original. Choose Your Own Love Story is written in the style of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book — but the action can get a little more X-rated than you may remember from your childhood. In the course of one morning, I dated about six different people, got married, popped out a couple of kids, had a threesome, and even at one point got thrown in jail. And all without leaving my deckchair!
In the afternoon, I turned to the mega-popular The Square Root of Summer . Reading this whimsical time-travel love story made the day feel even hazier and lazier than it already was — and trying to keep track of all the twists and turns and wormholes that the heroine vanished down made me almost regret all the wine I'd drunk with lunch. (Hey, I said almost.)
Day 7: back to The House at the Edge of Night
By mid-afternoon on the last day of our holiday, I managed to finish off the epic The House at the Edge of Night , and with that, completed the original seven-book bibliothon I'd set out to achieve. Boosted by my success, I decided to slip in one more book for the journey home. But of course, not before I'd set off to enjoy one last evening boat ride!
Day 8: Watching Edie by Camilla Way
This was the only novel of my trip that I didn't enjoy — which might be partly because I read it rather sadly on the trip home. I'd also warn potential readers of this book that it needs a big trigger warning for rape, and its handling of this topic was another reason I didn't much like it. Luckily, all the reading practice I'd had over the last week meant I could finish it pretty quickly and get started on Caroline Kepnes' Hidden Bodies instead!
Reading eight books in eight days definitely isn't something I could keep up for very long, especially once I got back to the reality of a full-time job, meals to cook and errands to run. However, the amazing enjoyment that I got from reading about so many different worlds in such a short space reminded me exactly why I fell in love with reading in the first place. I already read a lot, but now that I'm back home, I'm going to make an effort to keep working my way through my TBR even more regularly. Reading allowed me to meet a hundred different people; it took me all over the world; it took me to the future, and it took me back to the past. Reading made my holiday last forever; it reminded me to be grateful for everything I have; and it inspired me to dream. Who wouldn't want more of that?!
Images: Chris Riddell; Emma Oulton