Books for the Journey

As our two week pit stop at home draws to a close, it’s time to load up a new set of books. We’ll be away for twelve weeks this time (our last trip was only seven weeks), so I’m packing a larger stash…..

On the left, the pile of books I read last trip; on the right, the pile of books I’m taking for this trip:

So many books our there to choose from…. but limited space in a 6 metre motorhome…. Here’s what I’ve packed:

History Books

Ireland, a History (Thomas Bartlett)

A “big-picture” account covering the period from 431AD to 2010. Just what I need to swot up for our trip to Ireland!

Making Sense of the Troubles (David McKittrick and David McVea)

I remember the TV coverage of the troubles when I was a child in the 1970s and the more recent peace process, but beyond the basics, I can’t say that I really understand what it was all about from an Irish perspective. Time to find out before we arrive in Northern Ireland.

Delville Wood (Ian Uys)

The story of the First South African Infantry Brigade and the Battle of Delville Wood in 1916. I bought this as I have a family member who was there (the only baboon to serve with the British Forces in France, I kid you not – but that’s a story for another time). Having received the book, it seems to be a very readable account of life on the front line in France in 1916. This may be one of the first books I fish out of the pile to read….

God’s Fury, England’s Fire (Michael Braddick)

A history of the English Civil Wars in the mid 17th century. It’s a confusing topic, given that neighbouring families (or even different individuals within the same family) were often on different sides of the conflict and people did have an annoying habit of switching sides as time went on. I do like readable history books that pull together all the snippets I already know about a topic or a period of history and give them a framework to sit in.

“Money” Books

China’s Great Wall of Debt (Dinny McMahon)

China’s economy and financial system. Looks interesting and an easy read.

The Theory of the Leisure Class (Thorstein Veblen)

A classic, first published in 1899. This is the book that introduced “conspicuous consumption” to our vocabulary. Having read Janesville (Amy Goldstein) on our last trip, I’ve picked out a few books on the general subject of inequality (below) and this one kind of fits into that category.

The Spirit Level (Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett)

A broad discussion of inequality, including health, education and social mobility.

Nickel & Dimed (Barbara Ehrenreich)

I was very tempted by Ehrenreich’s latest book (“Natural Causes”) on the subject of ageing and death, but plumped in the end for one of her classics for this trip, a study of the working poor in the USA.

$2.00 a Day (Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaeffer)

Another book on low-wage America, this one focusing on families with almost no cash income at all. How can this be possible in our so-called “developed” world?

“Thinking” Books

Skin in the Game (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

Promises to “challenge our long-held beliefs about risk, reward, politics, religion and business”, the general message being “Do not pay attention to what people say, only to what they do, and how much of their neck they are putting on the line”.

Things that Bother Me – Galen Strawson

I bought this after reading a review in The Guardian. Is all success in life really just down to luck? Damn – and there I was feeling reasonably pleased with myself for all the past hard work and strategic thought needed to achieve Dosserdom…..

The Order of Time – Carlo Rovelli

What is Time? Physics meets philosophy in this small book. Flicking through it, it may not be an easy read but it looks like it’ll certainly be a thought-provoking one.


Casanova et la Femme sans Visage (Olivier Barde – Cabuçon)

The first book in the “Commissioner of Strange Deaths” series set in 18th Century Paris. I picked up the second investigation in a book exchange a while back, read it on our last trip, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It does seem odd going back to book one when I might already have some clues as to what happens (previous events having been referenced in book 2) but I’ll give it a go rather than moving straight on to book 3.

Bretonisches Leuchten (Jean-Luc Bannalec)

Book 6 for Commissaire Dupin, the Parisian detective working in Brittany. I’ve read all of the earlier books and really enjoyed them. Dupin has everything you need in a detective – unusual methods, a slightly cantankerous personality, and a serious coffee habit…. The earlier books are available in English translation but I can’t possibly wait that long….. I can’t even wait for a French translation (which would kind of make sense for a book set in Brittany). Book 7 will be out soon in German, so there’s no time to waste…

So there you have it. Now that my books have been carefully squirrelled away in SOK, I can’t wait to get going!

Mark has his own little bookshelf going in SOK. I’ve had a sneaky rummage and here’s what he’s packed:

Attention all Shipping (Charlie Connelly)

Historical and cultural tales from the various regions in the BBC shipping forecast (“Fastnet”, “Dogger”, “Viking” etc). Looks a good read….

I Bought a Mountain / I Bought a Star (Thomas Firbank)

Two memoirs from the same author. “I bought a Mountain”, first published in 1940, recounts life on a Welsh sheep farm. “I bought a Star”, first published in 1951, is about his experiences during the Second World War.

Goodbye Soldier (Spike Milligan)

Whenever there’s a sudden, seemingly random outburst of uncontrolled laughter from the front seat of SOK (Mark spends most of his evenings in the twizzled-round driver’s seat…) I know that either a) he’s finally flipped, or b) he’s got his nose in a Spike Milligan book again. This is book 6 of Milligan’s Second World War memoirs….. He’s read them all before, and he’s reading them all again…..

Finally (as if we need more books), there are the books that we’ve currently got on the go that won’t be finished before we leave:

I’m reading The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010 by Selina Todd. It’s OK but, if I’m completely honest, not as gritty as I’d hoped. It contains a lot of individuals’ stories to illustrate the key themes running through each chapter, which does serve to make the book very readable. As a numbers person, though, I’d have liked to have seen some quantitative evidence in there too to back up the author’s conclusions on the changing fortunes of the working class.

Mark’s reading The Forgotten Dead by Ken Small, which is the story of Exercise Tiger in 1944. He bought this after our visit to Slapton Sands last month (blog post here). Quite a lot of our book purchases are either in preparation for future trips, such as the Ireland books I’ve packed, or inspired by things we’ve come across recently, like Mark’s Operation Tiger book and the complete works of Jules Verne that he’s downloaded to his Kindle (we visited Jules Verne’s house in Amiens last month; blog post here). That’s one of the best things about travel; it provides a constant feed of new things to get interested in. Life’s certainly never boring!


  1. Quite a list! But it does rain a lot in Ireland. So…… are you reading the French book in french???!!! (I can’t even sort out capital letters)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s in French…. and the German book is in German…. It’s an interesting conundrum – my spoken French and German are now somewhere between appalling and non-existent (Spanish is better as I’ve had more cause to keep that up) – but I still find that I can pick up a book (so long as it’s not in “flowery” language) and read it without any problems. I think this probably tells us something about my neurons and synapses….. I figure I should keep firing the neurons as best I can by reading – at least that way I may not lose the deeply-buried vocabulary and grammar structure I still have. Building those pathetic synapses back up so I can access it all myself when I want to may require a different approach…

      Liked by 1 person

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