20 Books of Summer (More Like 30)

Cathy at 746 Books has been hosting this annual event for several years now: a very simple idea – to burn through your TBR pile by selecting the 20 books you plan to read over June/July/August. Summer in some parts of the world, winter in others. I usually get close to the fateful number twenty, but am easily distracted on my journey.

I have already announced that I will dedicate June to French language literature, July to Spanish language and August to Women in Translation more widely, so I have a huge pile of books to choose from. Since I never know what mood I will be in when the time comes, I am giving myself a large selection of at least ten or twelve every month in each category, so that I can choose the ones I feel most attracted to at the time.

So here goes:


I’ve picked writers I know and love for my birthday month, or else books I’ve been looking forward to reading for a long, long time.

  1. Maylis de Kerangal: Painting Time
  2. Delphine de Vigan: No et moi
  3. Sophie Divry: La condition pavillonnaire
  4. Lola Lafon: Reeling
  5. Dany Laferriere: Je suis un ecrivain japonais
  6. Jean Claude Izzo: L’aride des jours
  7. Romain Gary: L’Homme a la Colombe
  8. Gael Faye: Petit Pays
  9. Pascal Garnier: Nul n’est a l’abri du succes
  10. Janis Otsiemi: La vie est un sale boulot


I am far less well-read in Spanish language literature (or Portuguese – other than Brazilian), although I seem to enjoy it a lot when I do get around to reading it.

  1. Claudia Pineiro: Elena Knows
  2. Gabriela Cabezon Camara: Slum Virgin
  3. Maria Judite de Carvalho: Empty Wardrobes
  4. Rosa Maria Arquimbau: Forty Lost Years (I am including Catalan in the Spanish/Portuguese language challenge)
  5. Juan Pablo Villalobos: I don’t Expect Anyone to Believe Me
  6. Enrique Vila-Matas: The Illogic of Kassel
  7. Javier Marias: Your Face Tomorrow (Vol. 1 at least)
  8. Roberto Bolano: The Skating Rink
  9. Javier Cercas: Even the Darkest Night
  10. Rafael Bernal: The Mongolian Conspiracy


I am being clever here, or so I think, because I can leave any unread women authors from June and July for this month. In addition to that, I m also taking a look at the rather chunky ones below:

  1. Olga Tokarczuk: The Books of Jacob
  2. Svetlana Alexievich: Second-Hand Time
  3. Esmahan Aykol: Divorce Turkish Style
  4. Magda Szabo: Iza’s Ballad
  5. Anke Stelling: Schäfchen im Trockenen (Higher Ground – because you can never get too many stories of Berlin)

Additional Random Choices:

All by and about women and all of them quite chunky:

  1. Tirzah Garwood: Long Live Great Bardfield
  2. Tessa Hadley: The Past
  3. The Letters of Shirley Jackson
  4. Stela Brinzeanu: Set in Stone
  5. Yvonne Bailey-Smith: The Day I Fell Off My Island

Which of these have you read or do you look forward to reading? Also: am I mad to choose quite a few looooooong books?

31 thoughts on “20 Books of Summer (More Like 30)”

  1. Have only read The Books of Jacob. I read it last December and it was a bit of a mixed experience for me. I loved the writing/translation but I wasn’t drawn to Jacob’s story. Loved Yente and the way Tokarczuk used her, and really enjoyed the domestic conversations between Father Chmielowski and Mrs Druzbacka. Looking forward to reading any reviews of your other books, I think I will be adding some of them to my TBR.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. These are all books that have been lurking on my shelves for a while and that I am really looking forward to reading. Whether I win or fail, it will be a glorious attempt at least!

    1. Brave or crazy? I’ve just realised that I will be spending three weeks in Romania during this period and may not want to lug the really heavy books with me in my luggage (they are all physical copies I have on my shelves). Ah well… we’ll see!

    1. The French month might be slightly ambitious, as I read far slower in French than in other languages, but at least most of the books are short.

  2. Such a great list Marina! Very impressive. I have Elena Knows on my pile too and I have that Bolano in my 746 so look forward to hearing what you think of it. Thanks for taking part.

  3. I like the way you plan your reading, Marina Sofia. It helps one focus better on which books to read, and I’d guess that helps the TBR. And I think you’re wise to add some flexibility, too. There’s no accounting for mood, is there?

    1. No sooner had I published this, then I realised that I had not taken into account the fact that I will be travelling for three weeks… so plans may change a LOT!

  4. Lovely to see Empty Wardrobes in your list for July. It really is very good indeed, so I hope Stu extends the event to Portuguese lit (as in the last 2 or 3 years). Ditto Your Face Tomorrow, although I have to confess that it was volume two that really sparked my addiction to that series due to its complex, slow-burn style…

    1. I abandoned the first volume of Your Face Tomorrow a couple of years ago, so let’s see how I get on. I suspect that if I finish the first, I will want to go on to the next two.

  5. I like the idea of having a larger selection of books to choose from, rather than being limited to twenty. You should have something here to suit whatever mood you find yourself in. Good luck!

    1. In addition to those 30 to select from, I should also have mentioned that I have some book club obligations (I am a member of a crime book club and a translated fiction book club), and can never resist a new book I see at the library, so… I am sure I will get distracted!

  6. I’ve read other works by your first three French authors, and will certainly try to source the one by de Kharangal. I’m definitely needing to improve on my knowledge of Spanish etc. writers. Marías is the only one whose work I know here. L-o-n-g books? Yes, mad, definitely!

    1. As Emma says, there is no book police (yet) to punish me for NOT achieving my goal, so might as well be ambitious. I still feel a special connection with French writers after living in France for a few years. It was such fun going to the library there and discovering new authors somewhat randomly – a lot of them have become firm favourites!

  7. What a great list! How fun it will be to have you in this. (Although, for you, reading 20 books in three months isn’t really a challenge, is it?)

    I’ve never read Marylis de Kerangal but I should.
    I haven’t read No et moi but I heard it’s good.
    Now I’m tempted to join you for this Izzo, with how much I loved the Marseille trilogy. But I need to stick to the plan and not buy new books for a while.
    I enjoyed the Danny Laferriere I’ve read. I suppose it’s not your first one.

    Of course I’ve read the Gary (looking forward to your thoughts on this one).
    Petit Pays is excellent and easy. (School material, now)
    I haven’t read this Garnier, but when does he disappoint? I have Les Hauts du bas on the shelf.
    I’ve also read the Otsiemi, I’m curious to read your thoughts about his French.

    When I see the list of Spanish and Portuguese choices, I realize, again, that I have not read many books in these languages. We’re reading a Thursday Night Widows by Claudia Pineiro in our July Book Club.

    And I have never heard of the other books, except The Book of Jacob, which I find extremely daunting. I will read Sur les ossements des morts with Passage à L’Est in October.

    Anyway, have fun with this selection and I’ll follow your 20 Books of Summer project in the coming months.

    1. I’m very much looking forward to my French books – I feel they are all reasonably short and easy and entertaining, so even though I read much more slowly in French (still, faster than in Japanese or Italian!), I should get through them. I’ve already read one, which I forgot to list there: Simone de Beauvoir – La Femme Rompue (3 stories), which was rather depressing.

  8. Really interesting lists, Marina, and I do think it’s important to build some flexibility into challenges or we can drop out quite early (or at least I can…) Good luck and happy reading!

    1. I love Le Grand Meaulnes – but unfortunately don’t have the book with me – it’s somewhere at my parents’ house, I suspect. I will spread the word though.

  9. Ah, j’ai oublié : surprise surprise, un livre de Pascal Garnier que je n’ai pas encore lu ! Merci, je vais l’ajouter à ma PAL. Un si grand écrivain, parti trop tôt…

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