The leaves are turning, and I am reading.

While doing so, I have been thinking about my favourite books, and where I would enjoy most to have the opportunity to read them. So, I’d like to share that idea with the world out there; here are a few and what would be my ideal location (accompanied by a cup of tea, biscuits and crochet) to read these volumes that are friends of mine. I’ve tried to avoid simply saying that the ideal location would be where the story is set. Sometimes, of course, this can’t be helped.

Neither Here Nor There – Bill Bryson. In Scotland, looking at the Northern Lights (chasing these is one of the quests for Bryson – but he doesn’t go to Scotland).

No Stopping For Lions – Joanne Glynn. Given that this is about an extended African adventure, I’d actually like to read it at a coastal property in the middle of winter! It would still be wilderness, but in a different form.

Anne of Green Gables (and all LM Montgomery books) – well, this would have to be Prince Edward Island. There is no alternative. Red cliffs, beautiful hills and stunning ocean – perfection.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen. I can envisage reading this while sitting on a window seat in a country house; not necessarily in England, but if that was on offer, of course it’d be lovely.

Gone With The Wind – I read Margaret Mitchell’s only publication once a year as something of a tradition, and I always make sure to read it while sitting on a verandah. One day, I hope to add a porch swing for the ideal situation.

A Bunch of Sweet Peas – Henry Donald. This is an engaging short story about a sweet pea growing and display competition; always refreshing and enjoyable. I’d love to read it in the Conservatory at Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens (budget version) or at Kew Gardens (wish list).

The Great Escape – Paul Brickhill. I first read this when in high school, and – while imperfect and ultimately tragic – it really sparked my historian’s sense of connection and immediacy. I’d love to read it on a long train journey.

Towers In The Mist – Elizabeth Goudge. Given that this typically detailed and delicate writing is about Elizabethan Oxford, what can I say? Oxford it is.

Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby. This is the reason my younger brother in particular is a fervent Arsenal supporter. So, I feel we’d have to head to Highbury and Emirates Stadium, just to cover all bases.

Foxeys Hangout – Cathy Gowdie. The story of a sea changer who headed to the Mornington Peninsula from Melbourne, and started a winery with her family. I live not far from the Yarra Valley, so it is there that I would revisit this beautiful book, albeit with my teetotalling Earl Grey and the inevitable biscuits/crochet combination.

There are so many others, so many connections with what and where we read; a volume rather than a bucket list, really. But one more I will mention – my atlas. Being Australian and at the base of the world, the curiosity and close-my-eyes-where-could-I-land potential of my 1957 Oxford atlas has long sparked my imagination and thoughts about the world around and beyond. I read it, and wonder.

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Perfect reading – my 1957 atlas is best read everywhere







The Christmas break and the New Year seem to have been taken up primarily by some wonderful reading, courtesy of fantastic presents from assorted family members.

Right up there among the offerings was Bill Bryson’s latest: The Road to Little Dribbling. Now, this is not an unbiased review. I am a devoted Bryson reader, and usually have one or more of his books somewhere nearby. I would be starstruck and ask for his autograph AND curtsy if the opportunity presented.

The only possible exception is probably his book on Australia – Down Under – and I feel that may have been because that’s exactly where I am. It’s much more fun to have the vicarious travel bug scratched and indulge in a bit of other side of the world laughter, instead of rolling your eyes in local superiority and going ‘Does he even know where that is?!’

Bryson’s language is a shared one – he finds the overgrown footpath (‘a garden growing on concrete’), struggles up that hill – and yet he’s elevated his story telling to such a prowess that he can say to those of us turning to p. 60: ‘I had two weeks of very nice days and got to pretend it was work. That’s why I do this for a living.’ Oh, if only, say the rest of us, sitting in silent despair and admiration.

If you take the Road to Little Dribbling with Bryson, you’ll get to experience Cambridge and Max Perutz working out the structure of haemoglobin; Eisenhower’s wartime dwelling on the edge of Wimbledon Common; Staines Moor (‘One hundred and thirty species of birds and three hundred species of plants had been recorded here’ – naturally it was until recently under threat from a third Heathrow runway – what sort of idiots!?); Stonehenge and so much more besides.

Nominally, Bryson is echoing a tour of Britain he undertook twenty years ago, which became the delightful Notes from a Small Island. Bryson is also deliberately avoiding most of the places that he featured in that book, while hooking into a few for continuity’s sake – hi there, Dover! – and we are all the more spoilt for his efforts.

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A brilliant Bryson read – supreme travel writing and more

If you have a penchant for language zingers, and if you like being absorbed in a book to the extent that you forget what the time is, then any of Bryson’s books should suit you. I have only one complaint, and that is of my own making. I like books that will stay open when I’m doing craft work, and The Road to Little Dribbling is such a chunky volume (in passing, with a delightful dustjacket), that this is impossible. However, that is an ambition that I’m willing to forego for a virtual stroll in the New Forest with Bryson and friends.

I’d give this Christmas present of mine 9/10, with one mark taken off because I’m not the one on the road to Little Dribbling – and, unlike Bryson, I can be trusted to order succinctly in a McDonald’s!