20 Books of Summer – more like 100!

Book blogger extraordinaire Cathy over at 746Books is tempting us to join in the wild ride that is reading 20 books this summer.

One summer. Three months. 93 Days. 20 books. Are you in?

My problem is not reading 20 books, it’s the choosing. This year has been even worse than usual at dithering about the next book, sudden mood swings, getting bored all too quickly and so on. So I hesitated for a long time – but the challenge starts on Monday 1st of June and I’ve finally decided to take the plunge.

EXCEPT… I’m cheating (as usual) – making a longlist of books that I can then select according to mood. Let’s see just how extensive that longlist is then, shall we?

The first batch are books that have been waiting patiently on my bedside table. Tove Jansson’s Letters, Nina Bawden’s Walking Naked and Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year. Admittedly, I ordered the Defoe after seeing that everyone seemed to be reading this book – but that’s only because my copy of it is somewhere in my parent’s house in Romania (I went through quite a Defoe and Sterne phase in my youth).

My butterfly mind seems to be settling more with poetry nowadays, so I have a good selection here that I want to read and review more systematically. Jodie Hollander’s My Dark Horses and Nina Boutsikaris’ I’m Trying to Tell You I’m Sorry were recommended to me by other poets when I told them what I was trying to do in my work, so that’s always a good sign that I will get on with them. A.E. Stallings, Sharon Olds and Pascale Petit are old favourites of mine. I got John Ash in the Carcanet sale a short while ago, and I got the cute little volume published by A Midsummer Night’s Press at the poetry book fair last year – it’s a translation of the work of Latvian poet Inga Pzane, so will count towards my #EU27Project. The Dizziness of Freedom is a Bad Betty Press anthology on the theme of mental health, which I also bought at that same fair.

More poetry and flash fiction, because I’ve started writing more of this (it’s so satisfying to finish a piece occasionally). Poetry collections about cultural and gender identity, about immigration and motherhood by Helen Calcutt, Amani Saeed, Caroline Smith and Josephine Corcoran. Flash fiction anthology from the first Flash Fiction Festival and a a flash novella by Michael Loveday. And of course the inimitable (but much imitated, nevertheless) Lydia Davis. I will never stop learning from her.

I have quite an extensive collection of Romanian books that I want to read – a novel about Mihail Sebastian, a memoir written by an English teacher I once had who also happened to be Elena Ceausescu’s personal interpreter, two crime novels, a novel about an emigrant returning to Romania and at long last the Istros book I’ve been looking forward to most, 2 novellas by Ludovic Bruckstein about life in a village in Maramures during the Second World War.

Some delicious comfort reading – I’m not sure if I’ll be reading Elizabeth von Armin’s Love or The Caravaners, but the first one has a prettier cover. Teffi’s Subtly Worded is a delight, or so I hear, while a Persephone Book never comes amiss. In this case, it’s The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. Barbara Nadel has a new book out in the Ikmen and Suleyman series, but it’s a bit expensive in hardback, so I got this one from 2019 instead, which I haven’t read yet. (I’ve got Incorruptible as well, which is the one before this, so I might opt for that instead).

This batch of books are very current ones, where I’ve succumbed to the buzz or to personal recommendations. Barbellion needs no introduction to those of you who follow Backlisted Podcast, so I really look forward to rereading – I only remember him vaguely from my teens. Two books came directly from the publisher. Istros sent The End and Again by Dino Bauk, a Slovenian novel about the break-up of Yugoslavia. Contra Mundum Press sent me a book based on a series of interviews with one of France’s most notorious bandits, heavily influenced by heist films, who twice managed dramatic escapes from prison (he is currently back in prison). I suppose he fits in with all the Melville films I’ve been watching recently. Having watched both Anne Enright and Maggie O’Farrell talk about their latest books recently, I have to admit I could not resist the temptation of buying them. Hamnet is even a Waterstones special edition signed by the author.

For Women in Translation month, I have a nice selection planned: Svetlana Alexievich and short stories from Japan (the stories are not just by women writers, but I will read just those that are). Ariana Harwicz from Charco Press because I was so impressed with her first book, while Liliana Colanzi from Dalkey Archive and Lina Meruane from Atlantic are both writers I got to see and hear at Hay Festival two years ago. Last but not least, the perfect isolation book< Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall. Because I always have to squeeze in an Austrian somewhere.

However, the two books I am going to tackle next are Unfurled by my good friend Michelle Bailat-Jones and a library book (before I have to return it!) Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis.

So that makes it (quick calculations!): 41 books! Not nearly as bad as I had feared. I’m sure I’ll be able to stick to this group for my shortlisted books. Ah, but I’ve just remembered I have a Kindle too and there may be quite a few attractive books there too…

26 thoughts on “20 Books of Summer – more like 100!”

  1. 41 books. Overachiever! 🙂

    Most of the books are new to me, so I’ll follow your reviews with pleasure.

    I forgot about Women in Translation, I’ll try to participate this year except that the definition of “women in translation” is not the same for me, since a French book is not a translation and an English-written book is. It’ll force me to read something else than French or Anglo-Saxon lit.

    1. I didn’t say I was going to read 41 – merely have a good selection to choose from! I know what you mean about women in translation – but I still count any Romanian and German authors I read that month, although they are arguably in my mother tongue too.

  2. This is a great strategy Marina – thanks for taking part. I enjoyed both Hamnet and Actress and would recommend Seeing Red. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on all of these!

  3. “a memoir written by an English teacher I once had who also happened to be Elena Ceausescu’s personal interpreter”??? can you put that at the top of the pile? Either before or after the Bruckstein. Many thanks and no apologies for my selfish comment.

    1. I don’t think it will be as exciting as all that – from what I remember, Mrs Nastasescu was very discreet, so I don’t think it will be a reveal-all scandal-inducing read. But perhaps it will be all the better for it!

  4. I think a longlist is a brilliant idea, and such interesting choices. Making a single list you have to stick to is going to make a lot of readers rebel (I know I would!) I look forward to seeing which ones of these you read. I’m not joining in, although I know I will read at least 20 books over the summer – but typically, having posted pictures of piles of potential reads this week, I have now made myself a tentative list of what to read next which bears very little relation to those piles… ;D

  5. I really like that strategy of getting together a long reading list, and then selecting from it. You can match your reading to your mood, and to what’s going on, which is great. Even if you don’t get all of these read, it’s a good way to set the summer goals.

  6. This looks to be a good way of making sure you enjoy all the 20! You almost gave me a fright mentioning Women in Translation month, thought I had forgotten it and then I remembered it’s August!

  7. Clearly there are many of us going down the long list route. Your choices are always so interesting, Marina. Good luck!

  8. An excellent selection to chose from. I always cheat and allow myself at least 10 wildcards. Then I don’t even have to make a longlist to choose from!

  9. What a great selection. I’ve only read the Nina Bawden which I enjoyed and the two von Arnims, I think The Caravaners is cheerier than Love . I’m really looking forward to reading Hamnet.

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