20 Books of Summer 2017: Sign Up

My favorite reading challenge is back! Cathy at 746 Books is hosting her annual 20 Books of Summer reading challenge. It’s just like it sounds: read 20 books—any 20 books—between June 1 and September 3, 2017 (visit Cathy’s site for more information). This is the third year I’ve participated and the last two years have taught me that reading 20 books is far easier than reading and reviewing 20 books. Last year, I read 20 books, but most of them were off-list and few were reviewed.

Past lessons:

  1. Don’t scrape the bottom of the TBR pile. A little excitement for each title is required.
  2. Cool it on the lit fic…which I haven’t done.
  3. Leave room for procrastination.
  4. Don’t read 100 Years of Solitude on a deadline.

There are other lessons, I’m sure, but these were the biggest obstacles of past years. Three months always sounds like plenty of time at the start, but stuff comes up—late nights at the office, social obligations, and so on.

I’ve also picked books that other reviewers have described as impossible to put down. This signs me up for a few late nights, but the hope is that I’ll finish everything I start because all the books are just awesome. I’ve always been more inclined to finish books in a few long sessions rather than in 30-minute installments over a week.

I aim to keep my schedule: reviews on the 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 21st, 24th (and sometimes the 27th). BUT, with Rule 4 in mind, I’ve made a spreadsheet of dates and marked the last 20 as dates to post books read during the challenge. A little jiggling was required to leave room for the NetGalley books I’ve already read/reviewed that’ll be published during the challenge.

Wish me luck and go sign up!
Happy Summer!

20 Books of Summer 2017 Reading List

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Still chugging away on the list of Pulitzer winners. Given my own eye issues, I struggle with books about blindness, but it’s on my list and everyone seems to like it. I haven’t heard from any traumatized reviewers. A good sign, right?


Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is a favorite and A Spool of Blue Thread was beautifully written. Breathing Lessons won the 1989 Pulitzer, so I can’t resist the hope it’ll surpass both.


The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

I read the first third of this book when it was published. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is a favorite story of mine, so I can’t resist stories that add Gawain as a character. However, The Buried Giant is tedious. Soon after quitting, I found a stack of reviews saying the ending makes the meandering worthwhile and friends I trust have strongly recommended it. Arguably, this breaks Rule 1, but the curiosity has been mounting for so long that I really want to read it now.


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I was briefly subscribed to a YA monthly box. YA has been making a comeback lately and letting a pro recommend some new books seemed a safe way to check it out. This was the first book I received and it has been hailed as a great example of clever world-building and lovable characters.


Dead Wake by Erik Larson

I read the first quarter of this book but was interrupted. There are so many names/places/dates that I’ll need to start at the beginning, but it’s completely fascinating/horrifying and the amount of research is incredible. I’ve been saving it for a time with few distractions. Larson’s style offers a unique representation of history. I have all of his books (except one). Each is better and more tightly written than the last.


The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This book keeps popping up online even though it’s no longer recent. It sounds a little like those over-sharing autobiographies that try to one-up each other: “I see your miserable childhood and raise you one narcissistic parent.” Sharing is good and useful, but some details are no one’s business. When the gratuitous details aren’t even the author’s, it feels exploitative. There’s a line and I’m curious where this book falls along it.


Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

This book has spent a long time on my shelf since I picked it up for less than a dollar at a used book sale. I bought it mostly for the cover; it looks sophisticated and mysterious. Having just read New Boy, I’d like to try another of Chevalier’s books. This one should be better; it allows for more originality since, as far as I know, it’s not a retelling of a famous story like New Boy.


Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier

I’m a big fan of Daphne du Maurier (see JI, MCR, and R). Hungry Hill sounds like a stylistic departure from her others and I’m curious to see her writing from a new angle.


The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

I dislike paying full price for books. It happens sometimes when a) I am really excited about a book, or b) when I feel bad for blocking a beloved author’s royalty check. Whitehead is on my radar for The Underground Railroad but I haven’t found a copy yet. I’m not in a rush, though. I like to read an author’s latest after reading some of their earlier stuff. This way, every book is potentially better than the last, not worse. The plot of The Intuitionist sounds weird, but good weird.


The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

I’m reading the Miss Marple stories in order and this one is next. I love the small-town vibe of these stories.


My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

From what I hear, people all but take time off from work to read this book (and its sequels). This has been on my TBR for a while and I thought the summer challenge would be a great time for it. I need at least one compulsively readable book to make up time at the end!


Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

I don’t read much science fiction, so I often feel lost when browsing. The sci-fi on my shelf was all gifted to me or recommended by a trusted friend; this one’s the latter. It’s the first of a trilogy, so it’s not impossible books 2 and 3 won’t supplant two books on this list if the series is spectacular. It would have to be super-spectacular though; they’re not short and this year’s page count is already pushing it.


Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien

A short book! I read this when I was little—before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings—and the illustrations caught my eye when I was browsing my shelves. It’s such a sweet and imaginative story. Rumor has it that Tolkien wrote it for his son after his favorite toy was lost at the beach.


The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri

I borrowed this book from a friend years ago and feel uncomfortable each time I see it on my bookshelf. Even worse: it’s sitting there with the second book of the series right behind it. I must read and return it (with its accompaniment) for the sake of my conscience. If this book is really good, the second may supplant some other book on this list. I don’t know why I haven’t read it; I suspect I’ll like it.


She by H. Rider Haggard

Now that I’m long out of school, I’ve been rereading books assigned for papers/presentations. Sure, I’ve already read this book, but I read it from the perspective of “what’s the theme of this book so I can pull quotes and write a paper.” For the most part, all the books from HS/University are much better now. After I read The North Water, I read Heart of Darkness, which made me think of H. Rider Haggard.


Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

A short fiction collection is a good add for summer reading—stories can be read nightly for steady, effortless progress.


The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

I picked this up a couple weeks ago and read the first chapter. I was surprised that it was good, really good. So many people seem to have a beef with Hemingway that I’d about written him off. I thought about reading it then, but when I realized how badly I wanted to read it I put it aside for the summer challenge. Also, it feels like a summer book somehow.


A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Secret: I have never finished this book. I’ve read the opening chapter about five times to marvel at it, but I haven’t read much farther. I’m not sure why. It’s fragmented and I had an odd worry that each section wouldn’t live up to previous sections. I wanted to quit while it was ahead. Reading Manhattan Beach (which is amazing) gives me renewed energy for this book. Egan has an odd representation on this blog: one rave and one lackluster review. Here’s hoping for two rave reviews.


White Teeth by Zadie Smith

This book is supposed to be funny and clever and I keep seeing Zadie Smith’s name around. She gives great interviews and I’m excited to read one of her books. When I ask people to recommend “something funny,” White Teeth comes up a lot.

Book 20: TBD

There’s an expression: Know Yourself. I tend to procrastinate and have yet to stick to my summer list. This year, I’ve built in a detour to keep me on the straight and narrow. What will it be?—a sequel to something above? something irresistible from NetGalley? or something recommended by a fellow blogger?

(Originally, Brideshead Revisited held this spot, but it’s a long book and I don’t expect it to read quickly. I’m excited about it, but everything I’ve heard says it lacks the satirical edge that I loved in A Handful of Dust. Best to read it without a time limit.)


This is the easy part of the challenge: I can look at the pretty stack of books and feel the optimism: not only am I going to read them all, but I’m going to review them all, have a great time, and make a huge dent in my TBR. Such joy! A few weeks from now, I’ll be looking at the stack and urgently dividing the number of minutes until the deadline by the number of unread pages. But for now: joyous optimism!

Happy Summer, All! I look forward to seeing everyone’s summer lists!

31 thoughts on “20 Books of Summer 2017: Sign Up”

      1. Let’s see… the only two I’ve read are The Moving Finger and A Visit From the Goon Squad. Both of those are fun in their own ways. An Agatha Christie book always goes quickly! Other than that I just like the overall taste of your selections. I really want to find a copy of Roverandom sometime, and I’m itching to get around to Dead Wake (check out the Andrew Bird song “Lusitania” if you don’t know it).

        1. So glad The Moving Finger is a good one! The Body in the Library wasn’t nearly as engaging as the Murder at the Vicarage; I was worried that the Miss Marple stories weren’t Christie’s strongest. (I still haven’t read many of them overall.)

          Even though I primarily picked Roverandom because it’s short, I find I’m really looking forward to it. It has a wonderfully light and soothing tone. It even begins: Once Upon a Time. 🙂

  1. I added one poetry collection and one book of comics to my list to help me out. Some of my other choices were quite long. I did the math last night, and I will need to read 55 pages per day to finish on September 3rd, and of course that doesn’t make time for reviewing. However, I did it last summer. Granted, I was obsessive and weird all summer as a result (thanks, Cathy!), but this summer I’ve made some exceptions for myself. I have to do a special training in August for the new location where I will teach (a correctional facility), and that takes precedence. So, I’m more relaxed this year. One think to look out for: that Elena Ferrante book is part of a series, and I hear people can’t stop reading. The series may take over some of your other spots!

    1. Poetry is a great idea for the summer challenge! I have a couple poetry books on my shelves, but I just read my favorites when in the mood and sometimes flip to a random page. I’ve never been good about making my way through a whole book of verse. Modern poetry is one of those things I don’t quite “get.” At some point, I may bring back my Mnemonic Monday thing and start trying to memorize poems again. I was thinking Dover Beach for the next, or maybe some Dickinson…

      I haven’t locked in a page count since the last book is a wild card. My hope is that reading on my lunch break and on the train will make the difference this year. I couldn’t do either last year. Somehow, reading on a Kindle allows me to read on my evening commute without motion sickness.

      I only have one Elena Ferrante book so my need to know what happens next will have to fight my need to make a huge dent in my TBR before stacking up new ones. The winner will be announced soon! 🙂

    1. I suspect I’ll soon have additional rules for next year depending on the next three months. I can see “no more than one book over 500 pages” making the list…

      Thank you for hosting!! 😀

  2. Great list! The Moving Finger is my favourite Agatha Christie of them all, and I thought Dead Wake was brilliant. The Sun Also Rises was a surprise hit for me – I can’t say I always enjoyed it while reading but it’s left indelible images behind. It’s so long since I read She my memories of it are vague, but I know I enjoyed it and kinda wish I was reading a Rider Haggard myself now. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on these and all the others – have a great summer! 😀

    1. A lot of my university reading assignments were to read a half or third of a book per class/week, but I sat down and read She straight through even though I had other assignments. I don’t remember much of the plot, but I remember it being really strange and moody and full of the “what’s out there??” vibe that makes adventure lit so much fun.

  3. This looks like a pretty fun list! I may have already mentioned this to you before, but I wanted to make sure that you were aware of Gerald Morris’s Squire Tale books, which are Arthurian retellings. The first couple of books focus on Gawain and his squire, and even when they aren’t the main characters in the later books, they are still major players. Anyway, when you mentioned that Gawain was your favorite, I had to make sure you knew about these, because they are really just delightfully fun and engaging stories.

    Happy reading!!!

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I reorganized my books recently and considered throwing my book of Arthurian legends onto the summer pile. Ultimately, it was swapped out for something a little lighter/shorter. When I reread them, these retellings will make a fun accompaniment!

    1. Thanks! Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of the ones I’m most excited about since I read New Boy so recently. It’s always exciting to finally get around to reading a great author. 🙂

  4. You make a great point about reviewing 20 books being the hard part. I may read 7-8 books a month but I only review about 4 or 5. I may have to lump some reviews together. On your list, I loved Stone Mattress, A Visit From the Goon Squad, and Darker Shade of Magic. It looks like you’ve got a good mix of books. Enjoy!

    1. Glad to hear A Darker Shade of Magic is a good one! It’s one of the bigger wild cards on my list since I read so little YA and don’t know much about the author. Since it was sent to me, though, I’ve been seeing it everywhere! Is it a standalone book? Or does it require the reader to get the rest of the series?

      1. I worried too because there’s so much hype about these books, I thought it might be a letdown. It’s an excellent fantasy novel with strong characters, the first in a trilogy (I’m not sure if there are more coming). I hope you like it!

    1. Thanks! Somehow, I got it into my head that 100 Years of Solitude is a summer book so it’s always first to mind when I compile my list. And, every year, I remind myself that it’s going to take awhile so it goes back on the shelf. Haha. 🙂

      I’ve read the beginning a few times, but have never made it through. I need to find a good time for it though because I hear such wonderful things about it and the beginning is beautifully written.

  5. What a wonderful pile of books! You have several of my favorites on there: The Sun Also Rises, Breathing Lessons, All the Light We Cannot See, Glass Castle… along with several others I’ve been dying to read. Enjoy!

  6. So glad I found your list!
    There are some ecellent choices….and many old an new classics ( my favorites).
    Evelyn Waugh….I’m starting his book Scoop this morning and love his wit and satire.
    Handful of Dust will be my next EW, thanks!

    1. Thanks! I keep gravitating towards Brideshead Revisited even though I know it’s a little too long for the challenge with some of my other picks. Red Mars and White Teeth are both on my Kindle which made it easy to downplay their length when writing my list: 592 and 464 pages respectively! If neither lives up to expectations, I may put Waugh back into my summer list. 🙂

  7. Hallo, Hallo!! Travelling through the #20BooksOfSummer linky! Seeking out bloggers who have an interesting list and/or a list of stories I might become curious to read myself! I had a bit of a late start – as you will find out, so instead of 90 days / 3 months, I have 2 months / 60 days but I’m feeling as optimistic about my chances as you did the day you posted your list! 🙂
    I have noticed others are reading lluminae this Summer; will be interesting to see how the opinions on reading this book differ and/or agree with each other. It’s been on my TBR for awhile now. I have wanted to read Breathing Lessons ever since I found the paperback; sadly it’s still on my shelf awaiting my eyes. Tolkien is left for the year I can spend inside Middle Earth by the the order of Middle Earth before I attempt to read anything else by him. You can never go wrong with Christie; she is the Queen of the Cosy Mystery after all! 🙂 Despite interest in All the Light We Cannot See — I am thinking I might pass it over.
    Will be re-visiting you and see how your making progress! Likewise, I hope you’ll visit me and see what I’m up to as well! Top cheers!
    * My #20BooksOfSummer List

    1. Good luck with your summer reading! 20 Books in 60 days sounds intense, but also a lot of fun! 🙂

      I recently started All the Light We Cannot See and have mixed feelings. It’s written in the present tense with short chapters. Right now, it feels a bit bumpy and uneven. I hope it smoothes out soon and picks up steam! The longer books are the toughest to fit in. Starting to think I should have grabbed some shorter ones… 🙂

      1. Oy. I’m off to a rocky start – this past week was a quagmire of unexpected ‘life moments’ erupting all over the place, plus the added benefit of *severe!* lightning storms! #sofun (NOT) I’m hoping as I move into this coming week, I’ll be able to start “Worthy” and get a good rhythm going – as I’m trying to read 9 books in July, 10 in August and post the last 1 on the last day of the challenge! 🙂

        Hmm… sounds like this one isn’t easy to feel like your fully immersed into what is going on with the characters or the moving components of the plot!? I find shorter chapters can either make/break a novel – if you find you cannot get into it though, I’d opt to ‘sub’ this one out for another read! 🙂 Don’t stress over what isn’t your cuppa!

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