It’s hot outside and we haven’t had rain for a month. The grass is dying, the leaves think it’s autumn and the sky is a constant azure and only wisps of clouds float by in the distance.
Sitting outside, closing my eyes, shutting out the noise of traffic and voices, I could be on a tropical island basking in the sunshine. There is time to kill, plenty of it as nobody is planning to rescue me just yet and there is no rain to trouble me.
What would I read?
The classic what would you take on a desert island to read assumes you have nothing else available and that you could be marooned indefinitely. Consequently I would take fat books with thin pages. Assume I have room for five books in my rucksack – along with my reading glasses! What would I pick?
The Lord of the Rings. Not very original I know, but it’s longer than A Tale of Two Cities, which is too compact. I read LotR when I was twelve. I’m overdue a re-read.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I adored this book, a tale of one Indian woman’s quest to find a husband. The weaving stories were like a soap opera, although sometimes the narrative drifted into the obscure. I held out through those passages and fell in love with the characters. I’m rather partial to exotic locations.
The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Probably for the sonnets. I would try to learn a few by heart, or maybe act out a monologue on the sandy beaches of my island.
The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. The beautifully recreated world of Renaissance Scotland when men wore duelling swords and supposedly spoke poetry as an everyday thing. Yep, I am romantic at heart.
The final selection is tough. Should I go for the practical self-help book that tells me how to survive adversity? Or an encyclopaedia to plug the gaps in my education? Maybe I should venture into learning a new language or skill. But, really, I’d want to relax and enjoy the waves crashing down as I read under the shade of a palm tree.
I’m not a fan of favourites. I don’t have favourite colours or food, I don’t list my top ten films or books. I’m quite fluid and depending on my mood, I might want to read a thriller or a romance, something historical that transports me back in time. There is so much to read that I should be adventurous and perhaps pick a book, especially an author, that I’ve never read. It’s a gamble, but that’s what reading is all about and sometimes a book doesn’t deliver what I expected and I put it one side, other times the story stretches me into new places and I gobble the pages in one sitting.
For my fifth book? I will ask somebody to slip something into my rucksack and surprise me. The recommendation might be a huge disappointment or it could be a joy to read. Stories are rather difficult to predict but isn’t that their enduring quality?