|Our bookshelves at home!|
One of the rarely-mentioned joys of visiting hotels is having a good old nosey at their book swap/exchange area and seeing what gems they have. You can tell a lot about a hotel’s clientele just from the quality of the books on offer, as well as gaining a fair idea about the mix of nationalities.
In Portugal this summer, the book swap area in the Martinhal Hotel was in their computer room. It had dozens of books available and they were mostly English, reflecting the percentage of British guests at the resort. I’m making huge assumptions here but there were less supermarket 3 for 2 stickers plastered on them, as is the case in the cheaper hotels we’ve stayed in, and far more Waterstones’ labels. You could roughly gauge the dads’ books from the mums’ books (if the couples were anything like us) and if there were any naughty novels, I had a habit of trying to guess who, around the pool, was likely to have been the previous owner, before borrowing the well-thumbed copy myself.
We always take a whole pile of paperbacks on our two-week summer holiday if we know we’re going to be lazing about. Husband Dougie gets through a huge amount of shoot ’em up thrillers-for-boys, particularly if the hero is a forty-something, intelligent spy with a penchant for classy cars. I tend to go for a mixture of travel books (often based on the country we’re visiting) and some easy chick-lit-but-with-some-substance novels. Once we’ve rattled through our chosen books, we have a daily visit to the hotel library to try something else, often nipping back to swap again after ten minutes if it doesn’t immediately grab our attention.
This year I found two authors, both new to me, whom I might never have been drawn towards at home. The first was Kate Atkinson, a thriller writer with an ability to construct sentences which are pithy and very, very funny. The book I found was Started Early, Took My Dog, featuring a private detective, Jackson Brodie, who appears in some of her other novels. An absolutely cracking book from an author who wasn’t on my radar at home but is now.
The other was The Wilding by Maria McCann. An unusual historical novel about a 17th century cider-maker. Beatifully crafted prose, a highly-original concept and an old-fashioned mystery to boot. Thank you to whoever left that one on the shelf.
Of course my worry is, now that people are getting into their Kindles and ebooks, what is going to happen to the hotel ‘library’ where I spend many happy hours mooching? Will they disappear? It’s starting to become difficult to wander round a pool and not be able to work out what nationality people are and whether their taste in literature is of interest. That’s part of the joy of people-watching on holiday and it’s in danger of dying out. I’m fretting already.
Have you found any interesting finds in a hotel’s book exchange? And while I’m on the subject, what have you been reading this summer? Any authors to recommend?