It’s not the first time I join in the 20 Books of Summer challenge hosted by Cathy. But I may have slipped and not been 100% successful in the past, as it’s so hard to commit to books, when there are so many other exciting ones peeking at you. (My book monogamy is a movable feast.) Still, in theory, it’s possible to read those 20 plus a few others. After all, it’s 94 days, so exactly 3 months.
I am going to attempt something unusual this year: namely, to have all 20 books from my Netgalley list, because I am only at 59% review rate and it’s embarrassing! I do have an excuse for that, as I received so many physical copies to review lately, plus my previous Kindle broke down and then I lost the other one, so it took a while to replace. So I have a mix of old and new books, some have been lingering on my shelf (now archive) for years. Besides, it’s easier to carry the light Kindle in my backpack on the train alongside my laptop and packed lunch!
Here are my mountain of 20 books to be climbed:
Crime (because I have a lot of those and these look fun and summery)
Mario Giordano: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
Belinda Bauer: Snap
Zygmunt Miloszewski: Priceless
Derek B. Miller: American by Day
Rachel Rhys: A Dangerous Crossing
Women in Translation Month (because there aren’t nearly enough of these on Netgalley)
Muriel Barbery: Life of Elves
Virginie Despentes: Vernon Subutex
Samanta Schweblin: Fever Dream
Kanae Minato: Penance
Xialu Guo: Once Upon a Time in the East
More Women Writers (and across different genres)
Aminatta Forna: Happiness
Janet Hogarth: The Single Mums’ Mansion
Lucy Mangan: Bookworm
Louise O’Neill: Asking for It
Nell Zink: Nicotine
The Oldest on My Netgalley Shelf
Philip Hensher: The Emperor Waltz (2014)
Essential Poems by 10 American Poets (2015)
Malcolm Mackay: The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter (2015)
Less than a week has gone by and I’m changing my mind about which books to include on my planned list of 20 books of summer. Well, if governments can do U-turns so easily, surely so can I? The reason for it is that I have now an unmanageable 50+ books lurking unread on Netgalley, so I need to improve my electronic books ratio. Even at the risk of running out of batteries… (literally and figuratively).
I’ve tried to swap like-for-like (women authors, English speakers, translated fiction for the same). So here are the changes I made:
Emma Cline: The Girls – about the Manson Family murders and the summer of 1969
Alison Umminger: My Favourite Manson Girl – because the two fit together like peas in a pod
These two will replace Charlotte Otter’s book set in South Africa and Christina Stead’s The Man who Loved Children.
I replace Romanian writer Mircea Cărtărescu with (3) Michel Bussi’s Black Water Lilies , a murder mystery set at Giverny, the village where Monet had his home and wonderful garden.
Finally, (4) John Banville: The Blue Guitar replaces Tim Lott, simply because it is on my eReader and will therefore improve my Netgalley reviewing ratio. Besides, doesn’t it have a gorgeous cover?
I was quietly resisting joining the 20 Books of Summer challenge, which I’ve seen recently on the sites of some of my favourite bloggers: Cleopatra, Jose Ignacio, Fiction Fan, Margaret and, of course, Cathy, who started the whole madness. [My heroics are somewhat undermined by the fact that I was barely able to keep up with blog posts over the past three internetless weeks.] The reason I was hesitant was because I’ll be moving over the summer and that would mean ensuring that all the 20 books are in one easily accessible box plus eReader plus charger, preferably to be transported by car rather than removal companies. One additional thing to organise which may be the proverbial straw to break my back!
And yet… the prospect of making a bit of an indent into my TBR pile is too tempting! And, for once, I’ll be cutting down on the ‘official’ reviewing, so won’t be constantly disturbed in my reading selections by ’emergency’ (i.e. quick turnaround) reviews. So, yes, Cathy, I’ve come over to the dark summery side!
For June and July, I’m aiming to read some books which are unsigned by authors, which I’m unsure of whether I will want to keep on my shelves, so that I don’t have to lug them back to the UK and can donate them to local libraries instead. In August, however, it will be the turn of well-loved books which will stay at the very top of any suitcase I pack. Of course, I’ll also use my eReader (so many Netgalley requests making me feel guilty every time I look), but its battery seems to run out every day, so I don’t want more than 1/3 of my books to be ebooks.
I also took the summer theme a little further and have tried to make it run like a thread through my reading – so it’s all about travel, new places, events which happened in summer or sunny climes. I mean, why make life easy if it can be hard?
Christina Stead: The Man Who Loved Children – well, the US is an exotic holiday location for me
Mircea Cărtărescu: Fata de la marginea vieţii (The Girl from the Edge of Life) – short story collection
Wolf Haas: Komm, süßer Tod (Come, Sweet Death) – Austrian crime fiction
Ariel Gore: Atlas of the Human Heart – searching for self and meaning abroad
Valérie Gilliard: Le Canal (The Canal) – short Swiss Rashomon-style novella set in spa town Yverdon
Chico Buarque: Budapest – the Brazilian singer and songwriter’s novel about being stranded in Hungary
Isabel Costello: Paris Mon Amour – because Paris and because I’ve been following Isabel online for quite some time
Michelle Paver: Thin Air – not very summery, but it sure has become a holiday destination – mountain-climbing in the Himalayas.
Ingrid Desjours: Les Fauves (The Beasts) – OK, the holiday premise stretches thin here, but there are connections to Afghanistan
Milton Hatoum: Ashes of the Amazon – trying to escape one’s heritage, taking in the Amazon, Rio de Janeiro, Berlin and London.
Laurent Guillaume: White Leopard – running away from a dark past in France to the ‘peacefulness’ of Mali
Sarah Jasmon: The Summer of Secrets
Eleanor Wasserberg: Foxlowe – a closed community celebrating summer solstice ‘properly’
Colin Niel: Ce qui reste en forêt – exciting new series and writer I met in Lyon, the setting is French Guyana
Charlotte Otter: Balthasar’s Gift – set in South Africa and on my TBR list far too long
Tim Lott: Under the Same Stars – an American road trip to find a missing father
Grazya Plebanek: Illegal Liaisons – Polish and other nationalities engaging in politics and much more in Brussels
John Burdett: Bangkok Haunts – because it’s been far too long since my last meeting with Sonchai Jitpleecheep
Gaito Gazdanov: The Flight – summering on the French Riviera
Stav Sherez: The Devil’s Playground – set in Amsterdam and I believe it was Stav’s debut novel
And, by complete chance, a perfect 50/50 split of men and women, translated/foreign and English-language fiction. The hardest thing, of course, will be sticking to the list and not allowing distractions to lead me astray… is that a butterfly I see in my garden?