Why MPs will be lying on a beach towel with Bill Clinton in their hands

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Planning a little light reading on the beach this summer? An exclusive survey of MPs' holiday plans for The Independent on Sunday reveals that their most popular choice is My Life, by Bill Clinton, weighing 1.5kg. Nearly one MP in 10 named the 1,000-page bestseller when asked what they intended to read.

Not only does the book threaten their luggage allowance, the reviews - "I couldn't pick it up" - suggest they are unlikely to finish it. Still, 35 per cent of our sample do not expect to find time to read their books anyway.

In a survey of 101 MPs by Communicate Research, nine mention the former US president's memoir - six Labour, one Conservative and two others. The next most popular with three mentions apiece, all by Labour MPs, are Churchill by Roy Jenkins, and Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

Tories prefer The Great Deception, the anti-EU polemic by Christopher Booker and Richard North, while there is a cross-party consensus on Lynne Truss's bestseller, the punctuation primer Eats, Shoots & Leaves, and on David Starkey's Six Wives of Henry VIII. The only other book selected by more than one MP is Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything.

For the rest, the MPs' choices are idiosyncratic, but some patterns emerge. Tory MPs seem fascinated by the Roman Empire. One hopes to tackle Gibbon's Decline and Fall; another is taking Augustus: Godfather of Europe, by Richard Holland; and another wants to read Rubicon: Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, by Tom Holland - although one plans to read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ("with or without my seven-year-old") and another Tory names Rod Liddle's bacchanalian novel, Too Beautiful for You.

Labour MPs tend to be full of good intentions and attempts to impress. One poor sap has still not got round to The Long Road to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, having no doubt taken it on holiday for each of the past eight summers. One will read "back copies of The Economist". Another responded grandly: "I intend to write a book in August."

Similar jolly souls heading for busmen's holidays include a Welsh nationalist who is going to read "winning poetry and prose from the National Eisteddfod" and a Scottish nationalist packing Edward Cowan's history of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, For Freedom Alone: Scotland's Declaration of Independence.

When MPs try to sound in touch with literary fashion, they usually fail. One intends to read "The Dog that Barked in the Night" (that'll be The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, if you haven't found it yet).

But one sounds like a normal person: "As many thrillers and novels as I can get my hands on as an antidote to the rest of my life."

* Communicate Research surveyed 58 Labour, 29 Conservative and 14 other MPs between 7 and 21 July.

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