I was inspired, intoxicated by holiday memories. Keats must have felt like this about that old urn. "Everyone," I insisted, "Everyone must go to Greece. "
I don't remember if my friends agreed, but Louis de Berni res would back me up. His wonderful book, Captain Corelli's Mandolin (Minerva Pounds 6.99) is set on the Ionian island of Cephallonia during the Second World War. It is the story of a love affair mixed up with a grim Nazi occupation. Funny, frustrating and tragic by turns, you can't put it down though sometimes you want to throw it at the wall. A novel for the must-read-if-going-to-Greece list beside Gerald Durrell's sparkling My Family and Other Animals and John Fowles's bizarre Magus.
On the must-pack-if-going-to-Turkey list is Jeremy Seal's A Fez of the Heart (Picador Pounds 6.99). Not many crusades have been inspired by a hat, but for this writer the banned fez sums up a country with its heart in the east and its head in the west. He rummages in obscure corners of a wintry Turkey in search of a human with a tasselled pill-box on his head, sharing quirky insights and scraps of history on the way.
Another, sadder, traveller was Donald Crowhurst. In 1968 he set off in his yacht Teignmouth Electron, a contender in the first non-stop single-handed round-the-world race. His boat was not ready for such an ordeal and neither was he. This terrible story of the downfall of a man is well-told in The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall (Adlard Coles Nautical Pounds 9.99). Enough to make you shiver on the hottest beach.
Stephanie Northen is chief sub-editor of The TES