Every August/September for the last eight years my husband and I go to Bali for nine days of sun, poolside, good eating and reading. Those nine days of no work stresses, home chores and life admin really re-energise us both to see us through the remainder of the year. Yes, it’s a complete eat, pray, love, mind, body, spirit, etc vacation.

One of my favourite things about the Annual Bali, is the Annual Bali Reading List. I am of the strong view that holiday reading mustn’t be associated with work in any way lest you fall into the trap of simply doing work and not allowing your work brain to turn off. That includes ruling out professional betterment books like ‘Lean In’, ‘Thrive’ and other analogous publications that allegedly make for respectable reading. Holiday reading is the chance for true escapism and indulgence, to forget your reality and enter a different world all while soaking up Vitamin D and consuming green juices by the pool.

With that objective in mind, a few weeks before our flight my husband and I select a few handfuls of books that pass the purely-for-fun-and-leisure test, and then spend our 9-5 consuming whatever literature we have selected. They are usually comprised of titles from our local public library (yes, remember those?!) and a few e-books recommended on Goodreads. Here is the compilation I went through this year, and my very brief synopsis and rating on each. My self-coined ‘Masterpiece’ rating is derived from complexity of storyline and characters, depth of insight, artistic and intellectual value and the impact of the story on me as I read it. To my mind these are the criteria for a brilliant book.

1. Circe, Madeline Miller

Based on the Greek mythology around the goddess, Circe, most well known for luring Odysseus and his crew during their travels at sea and turning men into pigs. Beautifully written with remnants of the fairytales parents tell their children except dark, angry and with a quiet current of feminism.

Masterpiece Level: 9

2. The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller

Similar to Circe, this is like story time but for adults and explores interpretations of well-known characters like Odysseus, Heracles (Hercules) and Athena in much greater detail in the lead up to the battle of Troy.

Masterpiece Level: 7

3. You Can’t Make This Up, Kevin Hart

A random library pick where I completely judged the book by its cover (many cute puppies). If you enjoy Kevin Hart’s stand-up comedy you’ll laugh out loud reading his autobiography which speaks to the story that made him the ‘overnight success that was sixteen years in the making’. Fun and insightful.

Masterpiece Level: 7

4. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

This is an old classical novel, first published in the 1930s and reminded me stylistically of Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen, though more gothic than romantic. Written in first person, the story is of a companion girl turned Mrs de Winter of Manderley as she grapples with the history of the former Mrs de Winter that remains prevalent in the household.

Masterpiece Level: 7

5. Twisted, Steve Cavanagh

Goodreads disappointment, my least enjoyed of the list this year. Categorised as a ‘Crime Thriller’ there was not much to this book other than a multitude of arbitrary plot twists and underdeveloped dislikeable characters. Mindless trashy read if you want to really switch your brain off.

Masterpiece Level: 2

6. While You Sleep, Stephanie Merritt

The first few chapters are akin to the start of a standard commercial horror movie. Woman rents house in a small town island, far away from home. The locals are all hush-hush about the house and its ‘history’. Strange singing in the middle of the night etcetera. Another easy read that finishes with a plot twist just like something from the big screen. Entertaining enough, albeit somewhat predictable.

Masterpiece Level: 5

7. The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Epic. In a similar sense to my thoughts on Journey Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino. Here’s a quote I re-read a few times because I liked the sound of it so much: ‘Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.’

Masterpiece Level: 9

Happy reading!

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