8 brilliant holiday reads

A great break often requires a good read

By Roy Fleming and Peter Burchell

For many of us, a good read is essential for a great break.

Book in one hand, beverage in the other, and a journey to an enthralling world beyond our regular realm.

If you’re looking for holiday reading inspiration, you’re in the right place. The BIG4 content team has handpicked a selection of genuine page-turners for your next break. Enjoy!

Read on for quality reads...

Bryce Courtenay (1989)

Bryce Courtenay’s epic novel turns 30 next year, but it’s a tome that’s still enormously popular worldwide for the magnificent storytelling of this great Australian author.

The central character is English boy Peekay who faces challenge after challenge in pre-and-post-war South Africa, a story of his personal journey that also offers insights into apartheid and the importance of self-belief.

I shared this book whilst travelling with friends in 1996. The book was so loved, it never actually got set down – instead we took turns reading it for an agreed number of hours each day on a roster basis.

How you might feel after it: You’ll laugh, cry, laugh, cry some more; and then feel inspired by the power of love and connection. One of the truly great books of my life. – Roy

Norman Mailer (1975)

Norman Mailer had a way with words so profound it won him a pair of Pulitzer Prizes.

The scene of his greatest triumph is his 1975 novel The Fight which chronicles the blow-by-blow account of the infamous Rumble in the Jungle boxing battle in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman: the greatest fight in history told by one of the greatest writers who had one of the best seats in the house and in the form of his life.

How you might feel after it: You will deeply appreciate and understand the legend of Muhammad Ali more after reading this.

Note: Read Mailer’s other Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Executioner’s Song (1979) if bloodsport isn’t your thing. – Roy

David Schwarz with Adam McNicol (2011)

Many AFL fans will remember the mercurial talents of former Melbourne Demons star forward, David Schwarz. But this is not your average sports biography, and its appeal extends far beyond just AFL supporters.

Schwarz witnessed his father’s death in a dramatic domestic dispute when he was just eight years old, and the event would have a profound effect on the champion footballer. It was also the catalyst for a gambling addiction, which is a key focus of this yarn.

What makes this book so compelling is the brutal honesty in which Schwarz recounts his punting yarns. Some of the stories are so outrageous that at times you’ll likely think you’re reading a fiction book. It’s mystifying, astounding, head-shaking material. And, against all odds, it comes complete with a happy ending.

How you might feel after it: Like you’ll never even want to contribute to the office Melbourne Cup sweep. – Peter

4. COUNTER-KNOWLEDGE Damian Thompson (2008)

What is the hidden message behind Woolworths’ apple logo? Why do 96% of Turkish students dismiss Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as codswallop? What is the essence of Intelligent Design? And why do universities offer degrees in aromatherapy?

In this 2008 bestseller, Damian Thompson examines conspiracy theories, quack medicine, bogus science, and fake history. And it’s a ripper of a read.

How you might feel after it: Challenged about your previously-held beliefs. But you’ll also start to see the world with a more critical eye and astound your dinner guests with your newly-developed conspiracy theories. – Roy

Anthony Kiedis with Larry Sloman (2004)

Another rock star, another drug addiction. Yep, it’s kinda cliché. However, don’t judge this book by its cover (literally). From the opening pages, this eye-bulging insight into the Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman will have you as hooked as Kiedis once was on a cocktail of drugs.

It’s a book of contrasts: heartbreaking yet heart-warming. Frustrating yet encouraging. Alarming yet comforting. This truly is a startling read of extravagant proportions, so much so that you’ll almost surely want to give these pages a re-read.

How you might feel after it: Like listening to the RHCP classic Under the Bridge over and again. – Peter

Richard Flanagan (1997)

Set in Tasmania’s central highlands is this wrenching tale of immigrant hardship, and of a father’s struggle with addiction and dysfunction after his wife vanishes in the snow. It tells the story of his daughter’s brutal and confusing upbringing that followed and her self-actualisation as a middle-aged woman.

I’m not ashamed to say Flanagan’s story had me in tears more than it made me laugh. Its harrowing storyline stopped it from being a ferocious page-turner but it’s a story I’ve never forgotten a few years after reading it.

How you might feel after it: Grateful for the life you have now, rather than a pioneering role as an immigrant in Tasmania’s semi-wilderness in the 1950s. You might want to hug your family a bit more too. – Roy

George Orwell (1944)

“We’re all equal, but some are more equal than others.” Has there been a truer statement to define the class warfare? A group of farmyard animals revolt against their masters only to absolve into self-destruction and tyranny under their new regime.

This masterpiece by George Orwell was first published in 1944 and has since become one of the great dark comedies of our times, described by more than one reviewer as a modern fable.

How you might feel after it: Compelled to start you own political party, but then have second thoughts. It’s worth the read just to discover Orwell’s genius if you haven’t already done so. – Roy

Bill Bryson (2000)

While enjoying a great Australian break, it makes sense to learn about our amazing country through the eyes of an American, right?! Bill Bryson is no ordinary Yank, though. This best-selling travel writer has such a way with words that you’ll be completely engrossed.

Along the way you’ll laugh, smile, ponder, and learn a thing or 20 about this incredible country of ours.  It’s classic Bryson.

How you might feel after it: A tad sheepish that you’ve just received a history lesson about your own country from an outsider. – Peter

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