Amol Rajan: Russian Margarita's just the tonic to make my holiday

FreeView from the editors at i

Share

Back in the days before I wrote columns – the epoch BC, I call it – there was one type of column I used to hate more than any other: the summer reading-list column.

This chunk of vanity and self-regard, usually trotted out in the third week of July, could always be relied upon to tell you nothing about the writer's actual reading, and everything about his or her intellectual pretensions.

Naturally, now that I write the occasional column, I've changed my mind completely, and consider such a column both selfless and necessary, not to say unimpeachable. You should know, dear reader, that I am writing this from beside a pool in a country where it is not raining. In my experience, the main point of holidays is to read as many sentences of over 140 characters long as possible. Working life makes it hard to read long books, and novels especially; so holidays should serve that purpose, ideally while spanning the genres too.

To ease you into it, quick, contemporary books are great for building momentum. I've therefore brought with me Martin Amis's latest novel, Lionel Asbo and, though it was written in 1938, Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun. The other short book is Michael Sandel's What Money Can't Buy. Sandel is, with Peter Singer, the most important ethicist alive, and his approach to both morality and politics strikes a chord with me.

Any American election year means swotting up on the US Presidency. Simon Schama's "The American Future: A History" and David Remnick's biography of Barack Obama, The Bridge are both ideal. Then there are the books you've started but haven't finished. They tend to relate to work somehow. In this category are David Halpern's The Hidden Wealth of Nations – which I adored when I started it last year – and V S Naipaul's Among the Believers, which my brother recommended.

Finally, every holiday needs its bog-blocker: the big, thumping tome that you'll never read back home. I toyed with Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate, and Max Hastings' All Hell Let Loose, but finally plumped for Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, because my knowledge of the author and Russian literature generally isn't what it ought to be.

See? Pretentious, moi? Not a word of it. Vain? You must be thinking of someone else. And just wait until you read Friday's column, on the subject of getting a personal trainer. It's the summer after all – unless you happen to be in England, that is.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: With 100 days still to go how will Cameron, Miliband and Co. keep us all engaged?

Andrew Grice
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project