Although there’s an autumnal nip in the air and you may be tempted to embrace all things Hygge and to dig out your favourite throws and cushions, September and October herald the time to grab a last minute sunshine holiday deal for many.
If you’ve spent the long summer school holiday wrestling with kids crafts, crumbs and crankiness, bribing the grandparents so you can get away somewhere warm is extremely tempting. Just think of the blissful relaxation you’ll get on your sunlounger with a fully loaded Kindle or your favourite page-turner.
The people at Stena Line wanted to know which books were the UK and Ireland’s favourite so they asked over 1,000 people to tell them what their ultimate holiday reads were.
The results speak for themselves. While some are what you might expect, others are pretty surprising…how many have you read?
Unsurprisingly, the eternally popular Harry Potter came out on top but The Bible in second place is a bit of a surprise – not least given the book at number 3 – 50 Shades of Grey. Both satire and horror make an appearance in the top 10, too, with Catch-22 at number six and the classic, It at number five. And although a book about the French invasion of Russia doesn’t first come to mind when you think of a relaxing holiday read, Tolstoy’s War and Peace came in at number 10.
There were some differences between men’s and women’s choices too:-
Women’s Top 5
Men’s Top 5
I’m not surprised that 50 Shades of Grey didn’t make it into the Men’s top 5, are you and I don’t know many men who take a copy of the Bible on holiday with them. The husband is more likely to take something by Richard Dawkins!
All of these are great books though and I’ve not read quite a few of them. Here’s a little more about each one.
10. “War and Peace” — Leo Tolstoy
You really wouldn’t think of this one as a typical beach read, would you? Often claimed to be one of the greatest literary achievements in history, Leo Tolstoy’s epic anti-novel War and Peace chronicles the French invasion of Russia in the 19th century. Despite clocking in at over 1200 pages, it earned the tenth-highest number of votes from those surveyed.
9. “The Godfather” — Mario Puzo
The greatest crime epic ever put to the screen was originally a novel by Mario Puzo. Thanks to Puzo’s authentic insights into the world of the Mafia, the English-speaking world was introduced to Italian words like “consigliere” and “omertà”.
While it might be overshadowed by its film adaption, The Godfather remains a hit with Brits on holiday, with a tally of votes that puts it in ninth place on the list. Don Corleone would be proud.
8. “A Song of Ice and Fire” series — George R. R. Martin
Game of Thrones might have been the world’s most-watched TV show in its original run, but it owes its success to the expansive book series that George R. R. Martin started two decades before HBO aired its first episode.
And while the legacy of the TV adaption might have been marred by a lacklustre final season, fans of A Song of Ice and Fire still hold onto hope that Martin can unravel those mistakes when he completes his masterwork.
Though certainly one of the best stories of recent years, A Song of Ice and Fire came in at an eighth place in the voting, eclipsed by an older — and arguably more enduring — fantasy series…
7. “The Hobbit” — J. R. R. Tolkien
The second author to have two ‘r’s as initials in his name is also the original. Tolkien enters the rankings at number seven with The Hobbit, a book he originally wrote for his children. Nevertheless, it remains beloved by children and adults alike thanks to its imagination and gripping plot.
As a lighter read than Tolkien’s other novels, it makes sense why The Hobbit would be so popular with those on holiday. It promises escapism without the comedowns of more serious works on this list — and remains a satisfying re-read again and again.
6. “Catch-22” — Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is an odd book. Still, few have been quite as successful in taking a difficult subject — in this case, the Second World War — and creating a genuinely funny satire.
For that reason, Joseph Heller’s comedy about the trials and tribulations of U.S. airman Captain John Yossarian has a level of popularity among readers that seems only to increase with age. It’s been adapted several times into film and TV, including a recent outing produced by George Clooney.
5. “It” — Stephen King
The roaring success of Andy Muschietti’s film adaption might have something to with how well Stephen King’s It ranks in the list.
Though certainly not a short read (it’s over 1,100 pages long), King’s consistently gripping writing and fast-moving plotlines make It an iconic and irresistible read. Like The Shining and Pet Sematary, the disturbing story of Pennywise the Clown is one that readers feel drawn back to again and again. Voters put it just inside their top five.
4. “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy — J. R. R. Tolkien
Even before the films smashed box-office records and won more Academy Awards than you can count, J. R. R. Tolkien’s seminal book series was beloved by millions of readers around the world.
The epic story of Frodo’s journey to destroy the “one ring to rule them all” is as compelling as it is timeless, which accounts for why The Lord of the Rings comes high up in the list in fourth place.
The mature narrative, complex characters and — let’s face it — massive battle scenes make The Lord of the Rings a slightly more satisfying offering than The Hobbit. It’s one of the ultimate escapist novel series.
3. “50 Shades of Grey” — E. L. James
Be honest — you were waiting to see if this one was on here. While it can’t quite compete with the world-building of The Lord of the Rings or the razor-sharp wit of Catch-22, 50 Shades of Grey offers a different kind of escapism for its readers. And while it’s hard to imagine anyone being so self-assured as to openly read it by the pool or in a cafe, there are clearly plenty of people who like to lose themselves in this adult fantasy from the comfort of their hotel rooms. E. L. James’s record-breaking erotic novel has dog-eared copies in many a suitcase today, winning itself a podium slot at third place in our list.
2. The Bible
In stark contrast to our last entry, The Bible lands in second place on our list of ultimate holiday reads. For religious holidaymakers, the time away from the hustle and bustle of life proves the perfect opportunity to reconnect with their faith.
And even for those who don’t have any religious belief, one thing’s for sure: no other book has had such a significant impact on Western literature on the whole.
From the reign of King David in the Old Testament to the teachings of Jesus in the New, the stories within its pages are referenced in thousands of books throughout history. For religious and non-religious people alike, The Bible is a must-read, and a hit with voters.
Yet despite such an expansive influence, there was one book series that even The Bible couldn’t compete with…
1. The “Harry Potter” series — J. K. Rowling
If you’re surprised that Harry Potter took the top spot in our poll, you’re in the minority. For anyone who’s ever looked at even the sales numbers from J. K. Rowling’s massively influential book series, the answer was clear from the start.
Since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published in 1997, the Harry Potter series has sold roughly half a billion copies. Half a billion. And nowhere is it more popular than on when Brits finally get a chance to relax on the ferry abroad or on the sunny balcony of their hotel room.
Despite being initially aimed at children, the Harry Potter books matured along with its audience. Its gradually darker subject matter, clever plotting and — most importantly — its deeply sympathetic cast make Harry Potter a series that, perhaps more so than any other, demands to be revisited on a regular basis.
Which of these have you read? What books do you think should have been on the list?
For me, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, George Elliot’s Middlemarch and Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield should be there. But what about the works of Jane Austen, or Charlotte Bronte?
Let me know your favourites in the comments below.