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.
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!
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
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
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!