Holiday Reading image

Holiday Reading

People like reading very different sorts of books over their holidays. Sometimes I read the lists that other people (usually, it must be said, pastors) read on their holidays and I feel exhausted; there are all sorts of titles that, no matter how worthy their content or well-crafted their prose, would simply never be the sort of thing I would read by a pool, on a beach, or with a cold beer at my side. So I tried sorting the best books I've read so far this year by mood: the kind of book you sometimes (but not always) feel like reading on holiday. Here goes.

I want a gripping story that holds my attention. You want Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and the Traitor, the true story of Oleg Gordievsky’s work as a double agent in the Cold War. It’s been years since I read a book with a more exciting last few chapters than this.

I want something that helps me look at my life from a different perspective. New York Times columnist David Brooks’s The Second Mountain suggests that most of us get to the top of our “first mountain” (career success, financial stability, or whatever), and then find that it isn’t enough and go in search of a second. He also (spoiler alert) becomes a Christian in the process.

I always enjoy current affairs or geopolitics. Bruno Macaes’s The Dawn of Eurasia is part travelogue, part geopolitical analysis, part history, part prophecy. His case is that Europe and Asia are once again becoming inextricably connected, and will function more like one supercontinent than two over the next hundred years.

I like history. Of the several major histories I’ve read this year, Richard Evans’s The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 is a cut above the rest. Magnificently narrated history on an epic scale, and full of insights that will shape the way you see other centuries and geographies.

I want some creative, quirky, well-told fiction. R. O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries is all of those things, with a great plot narrated from multiple perspectives, some intriguing insights about guilt, religious commitment and cult membership, and a compelling cast of characters.

I like pictures. Get Chris Arnade’s Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America. Even if you come for the pictures, you’ll stay for the prose, and the challenging portrayal of American poverty that Arnade presents to his (largely coastal elite) friends and colleagues.

I like autobiography. Michelle Obama’s Becoming is fascinating in all kinds of ways, and really well told, even if the bit you might expect to be the most interesting (the White House bit) is actually the least interesting part of the story.

I want a readable book that makes me think. If you haven’t already read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, it’s fantastic. If you have, and you liked it, then Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Skin in the Game, though quite different, should also hit the spot.

I want a good Christian book, and I don’t really care what it’s about. So far the best Christian book I’ve read this year is Sam Allberry’s Seven Myths About Singleness, and if I could get everyone to read it, I would.

Enjoy your holidays ...

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