20 Books of Summer 2021!

I begin each year with renewed passion for reading and reviewing, but this energy usually craters by summer. For years now, the 20 Books of Summer challenge hosted by Cathy at 746books has been a lifeline back to regular blogging. While I can occasionally read 20 books in a summer, I’ve never succeeded in reviewing 20. So let’s try it again. The seventh time is the charm!

Taking lessons from past years, I’ve pulled books from a variety of lists: Pulitzer winners, Booker nominees, and a few stops on my Reading World Tour. There are also a few from my Classics Club list, which is new this year. In past challenges, I included titles that I wasn’t thrilled about as a way to cross them off my TBR, but found that adding a deadline doesn’t necessarily make a book more appealing.

  1. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  3. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  4. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
  5. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  6. Death with Interruptions by José Saramago
  7. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
  8. A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
  9. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
  10. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  11. Human Acts by Han King
  12. King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard
  13. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin
  14. The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes
  15. The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie
  16. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
  17. Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  18. Super Cannes by J.G. Ballard
  19. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  20. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The total page count is quite high—6,841 according to Goodreads. I gave consideration to length, and waffled on the two longest (The Once and Future King and The Crimson Petal and the White). I read the former as a kid and remember it as quick and entertaining; as for the latter, I’ve read other books by Michel Faber in a single sitting.

I’m continuing the tradition of reading a Miss Marple every summer. And Guards! Guards! made the list because I’ve never read a book by Terry Pratchett, despite everyone telling me to.

I was going to hold a spot for the winner of the International Booker, but decided to wait when I saw The Dangers of Smoking in Bed was shortlisted because there’s a chance I’ve already read the winner. I want a good book to win after last year’s The Discomfort of Evening, which was so awful as to be low-key traumatic.

Happy Reading, and I hope you all have a wonderful summer!

Image credit: Goodreads

Review: There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura

I requested a copy of Kikuko Tsumura’s There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job because several people likened it to Convenience Store Woman. But there aren’t many similarities beyond the narrators being single, thirty-something women with “easy” jobs in Japan. While Keiko’s convenience store job gives her a feeling of satisfaction and normalcy, the unnamed narrator in There’s No Such Thing seeks out jobs that won’t stir any feelings. She wants a job without stress or emotional investment, and she jumps from one to the next by way of a recruitment agency. read more

Review: The Savage Instinct by M.M. DeLuca

book cover: the savage instinct

The Savage Instinct by M.M. DeLuca follows Clara Blackstone after her release from a mental institution. She was forcibly committed after a stillbirth and received no actual care. Instead, she suffered a variety of traumatic and dehumanizing “treatments.” At home, Clara struggles to be calm and “normal” enough to avoid her husband Henry’s wrath, but he finds fault everywhere. He never says anything kindly, or even neutrally—every line drips with condescension and loathing. His behavior is so extreme that “caricature” is the only word that comes to mind. It also means that for the first half of the novel, he and Clara repeatedly have the same interaction: She offends him by existing, and he responds with cruelty. read more

Review: The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

book cover: the war of the worlds

I didn’t include The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells on my Classics Club list because it didn’t appeal to me at the time. It’s one of those books that, while influential, is too well known to offer any surprises. Plus, while I knew Spielberg’s movie took liberties since it’s set in modern times, I thought it was a fairly faithful adaptation since it opens and closes with quotes from the book (as read by Morgan Freeman). While some story beats are adapted faithfully, the book is very different. For starters, Tom Cruise flees aliens alongside his children, but the book’s unnamed narrator spends much of the book alone. Many disaster books/movies show people banding together to survive, but the narrator’s isolation adds to his vulnerability and the book’s overall tension.

read more