20 Books of Summer 2018: Sign Up

Cathy at 746 Books is hosting the 20 Books of Summer challenge again! This is my favorite reading challenge because it’s flexible and allows me to start every summer with optimism that THIS summer will be THE summer I read 20 books (and review them all too). It’s also fun to see everyone’s summer lists even though they’re tough for my TBR pile.

I broke most of my self-imposed rules on my list for this year (longer books, lots of literary fiction), but it’s okay because THIS summer will be THE summer I conquer my list.

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

The sun’s heat is a big part of this book so it’s best to read it in the summertime. (This list is ordered alphabetically by author, not by how awesome a reason the books made the cut.) Strangely, as much as I loathe Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness, I dig books that echo it.

The Eternal Wonder by Pearl S. Buck

I’ve meant to read this book since reading (and enjoying) The Good Earth, but it bugs me that its jacket is plastered with praise for The Good Earth—not for Buck generally or this book specifically. It’s petty, but I don’t trust “If you loved Book A, then you’ll love Book B!” marketing schemes. Book B has never been as good.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

There are many translations available, but I was gifted a Penguin edition by Richard Pevear by someone fluent in Russian. I’ve heard from many that this book is unique and indescribably…something. No one seems to have the right words for it so I’m keen to read it myself. I’ve also heard it’s still good even if you don’t pick up on every satirical note.

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Gosh, I love used bookshops. I got this book super cheap and have been a fan of Willa Cather since not-completely-hating My Antonia in high school. Homework over the summer, what??

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

This is the last Chabon book I am going to read. I don’t like his books (see The Final Solution) and yet I’ve read most of them. Why? Because each time I finished one, someone said “Oh, you didn’t read _____; that’s the one you should have read.” Each time, I looked up their recommendation and the premise sounded interesting so I gave it a shot and… Le sigh. But this time IS THE LAST TIME. Because this is the last Chabon I’ll read, I’m oddly looking forward to it. I’m going to read it outside with a big ol’ glass of gin and maybe that will make the difference.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

No, I still haven’t seen the series on Amazon Prime.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

It recently occurred to me that there are many classics that I want to read. Even better: I’ve somehow managed to avoid spoilers even though their plots are often well-known and culturally significant. I should start reading while I can still read them without preconceptions. Not that I’m terribly spoiler-averse, but it was irksome to be reading Anna Karenina and have someone come up to me and ask my opinion on [the ending]. This is why I wear headphones on the train.

The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan

This book has been on my bookshelf for a couple years and it’s the only Egan I haven’t read. It wasn’t until I uploaded the cover here that I realized there’s a woman on it. It’s a blurry, out of focus image and the high-gloss cover obscures it further, but maybe I should get some thicker glasses before diving into my summer reading…

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

This was part of my Summer 20 last year; I saved it for the end but didn’t get there. I’ve heard a lot of people say this is a hard book to put down so I still think it’ll be a good way to make up time in August.

The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie, Jr.

I’d like to read all the Pulitzer winners. At my current pace, this list is growing faster than I’m reading them.

Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith

I thought The Talented Mr. Ripley was brilliant and disturbing. I read The Two Faces of January shortly after and it bugged me that there were so many tonal similarities between the two books. At times, it felt like Two Faces was Ripley-lite and I was underwhelmed. Solution: Put more space between Highsmith books—one a year?

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

I’m trying to read all the Man Booker Prize winners in addition to all the Pulitzers. I don’t have any books on the Golden Man Booker shortlist or I’d read those first, but this was the 2010 winner.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

A medieval mystery! I say I’m not spoiler-averse, but I feel differently about mysteries. The back cover piqued my interest and there are plenty of good reviews about. It’s tough to vet mysteries, though, because there’s always that one reviewer who has to say, “I loved the book right up until [name] suddenly and unexpectedly died!”

Embers by Sándor Márai

I wanted one book on my summer list for my Reading World Tour challenge. The few I’ve read have been great, but they’re in my review queue which is getting a bit lengthy since it has been so long since I’ve posted. I toyed with the idea of reading through the countries alphabetically, but some books are hard to find (or expensive) so now I’m picking them up as I find them or receive them as gifts.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

I’ve read two books by Carson McCullers (The Member of the Wedding and The Ballad of the Sad Café). The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is the book that everyone says is her “best,” so I’m trying not to get my expectations too high. Expectations can really shape the way I see a book and I don’t want to “ruin” a great one just because I was a little too excited about it.

While I Was Gone by Sue Miller

I sold most of the books I read for class back to the bookstore or secondhand shops, but kept a few to read again later. Essay-writing sucks the joy from reading.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

Short fiction! If I can’t finish this book then there’s no hope for completing the challenge. A story a night until I’m through—easy peasy. (Unless they’re terrible, I guess.)

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Last summer, I read My Name Is Red and loved Pamuk’s writing style even though I struggled with the story/premise. Snow was one of the recommendations from the comment section and, as a year has passed, it seems like a good time to try again. Note: There’s no special reason why I picked this one in particular—it was the easiest to track down.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

I don’t remember when or where I added this to my queue. I only recall reading a phenomenal review of this book and thinking that I needed to read it. When I saw it in my favorite used bookshop, I thought, “Oh, I was looking for that!” (I say this about a lot of books, which may be why I have so many.)

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

And one reread! This is just to make sure there’s one book on the list that I know I like and won’t be able to put down. I last read it in high school so it’ll likely feel like an all-new book after so much time. While I remember the broad outlines, I don’t remember how it all fits together.

Happy Summer!

7 thoughts on “20 Books of Summer 2018: Sign Up”

    1. Thank you! I added up the total number of pages… then put the number out of my head. So glad it’s finally summer. 😀

  1. Great list! I have The Man in the High Castle on mine as well – that is, when I get round to finalising and posting it! I read Death Comes For the Archbishop recently and enjoyed it. I really like Willa Cather’s books. Hope you have a great summer reading and achieve your goal.

    1. Thank you! I’m excited about those two. They’re some of my shorter picks so I’m trying to decide when will be the best time to read them… My strategy this year is to read some of the longer books first to knock down my daily page count to something more manageable. Right now, I have to average 72 pages a day.

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