20 Books of Summer, 2018 edition


Okay, I’m in, I’m in. With one day to go til the start of the 20 Books of Summer challenge, I have decided to go for it. My current outstanding TBR consists of 19 books; it seemed serendipitous. The challenge is hosted by Cathy of 746 Books, and is quite simple: choose a list of twenty books (or fifteen, or ten), then read and review them between 1 June and 3 September. (I’m expecting to be able to supplement this list with other titles, obviously.)

Herewith, my choices, in absolutely no order at all:

  1. Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. Because its recent presence on Netflix made me read a review of the book, which prompted me to buy it. (review)
  2. Neuromancer, by William Gibson. Bought this in York four months ago because !cyberpunk! and have yet to read it. (review)
  3. The Madonna of the Mountains, by Elise Valmorbida. Life for Italian women in the 1920s seems to have been another world, honestly. (review)
  4. The Waters and the Wild, by DeSales Harrison. I’m really here for creepy thrillers about vengeful(?) women this summer, plus that Yeats allusion is a winner. (review)
  5. The Stopping Places, by Damian Le Bas (out 7 June). History/memoir about the life and journeys of the Roma in Britain. Le Bas grew up where my grandparents live. (review)
  6. A Station On the Path to Somewhere Better, by Benjamin Wood (out 28 June). Wood’s first two books were outstanding, and this seems like a darker version of Let Go My Hand. (review)
  7. Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, by Andrew Miller (out 23 August). An English officer suffering from battle trauma flees the Napoleonic Wars and is pursued by relentless authorities. This kind of thing is my jam. (review)
  8. Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan (out 30 August): A young slave’s master disappears on a natural history expedition…then reappears again. Again, my jam. (review)
  9. Transcription, by Kate Atkinson (out 6 September): Women in MI5 during the war, the claims of the past, whatever, it’s by Kate Atkinson, on the list it goes, next. (review)
  10. Wilding, by Isabella Tree: Memoir about re-wilding Knepp Castle’s estate. Ecology, agriculture, and, I imagine, a little bit of heritage nostalgia. (review)
  11. Chopin’s Piano, by Paul Kildea: The story of a pianino made for Chopin in Majorca, and what happened to it, interwoven with the story of Chopin’s 24 Preludes. (review)
  12. May, by Naomi Kruger: A dementia novel, but one that looks more thoughtful than previous entries in the genre. From Seren, a small Welsh publisher. (review)
  13. A Jest of God, by Margaret Laurence: Canadian schoolteacher resigned to spinsterhood falls in love for the first time. This is the sort of quiet mid-century fiction I often avoid, and then, after reading it, regret having avoided. (review)
  14. Goblin, by Ever Dundas: This came out of nowhere to end up on quite a few “best-of” lists at the end of last year. Blitz London, eccentric girl, animals, dual timelines. Sure. (review)
  15. Heirs To Forgotten Kingdoms, by Gerard Russell: The subtitle is “vanishing religions of the Middle East”, which both sounds fascinating and tells you all  you need to know. (review)
  16. This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart: I have somehow never read any Stewart, and this is a sort of Tempest re-telling set on Corfu. It screams “summer!!!!” (review)
  17. Empire of Things, by Frank Trentmann: The history of modern consumerism, from the fifteenth century to now. I’ve been interested in material culture for ages. (review)
  18. Collected Stories, by John Cheever: Again, have somehow escaped reading Cheever. Another thing that screams “summer!!!” is dysfunctional American suburban families. (review)
  19. The Bedlam Stacks, by Natasha Pulley: My colleague Camille raves about this; steampunk magical-realism-esque with an adventurous edge. (review)
  20. Wild card! (I have no doubt at all that I will unearth at least one other book in my house that I ought to have read by now.) EDIT: I’ve chosen to make my 20th book Meg Wolitzer’s novel The Interestings, which I borrowed from a colleague some time ago and have thus far failed to read.

These are mostly either advance/proof copies, or damaged copies of titles from work that would otherwise be recycled. The only two that I’ve purchased are Altered Carbon and Neuromancer. As above, I’m expecting to get through more than this in three months, but these are the must-read titles of this summer. Wish me luck! (You can find Cathy’s home post about the challenge here; my reviews will go in their own category, which you can find in the nav bar at the top of my home page, and this master post will contain links to all my reviews, too.)

30 thoughts on “20 Books of Summer, 2018 edition

  1. Do you seriously only have 19 unread books in your dwelling place?! I have a copy of The Madonna of the Mountains I picked up from the Faber Spring Party, but I’ve been ambivalent about it — I’ll look forward to seeing what you think. I have The Stopping Places on hold at the library, and plan to borrow Wilding from the ‘bestsellers’ collection too (my hubby’s been to the Knepp estate and as a wildlife ecologist is invested in rewilding debates).

    A Jest of God is good — not quite as good as the first one I read by Laurence, The Stone Angel, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

    Great to hear that Benjamin Wood has a new novel coming out; I loved his previous two as well. You’ve just pushed my Goodreads TBR over 6000 again 😉

    1. Heh, I know! I think there must be a few more hiding around the joint, but honestly, I moved about six weeks ago so that always involves a clear-out, and there’s not a lot of space to begin with.

      I read the first few pages of The Madonna of the Mountains and thought it might make a nice quiet read, a bit like the Laurence, so that’s my expectation for it… though as Fascism was also part of Italy in the ’20s, perhaps there’ll be some action. The Stopping Places and Wilding both look lovely (we sold books at the launch for the latter, and did really well!)

      1. I have 300+ unread books in our house atm, plus I have to somehow get all my boxes of books out of my parents’ house in the States before it gets sold this summer!

      2. Oh God, good luck with that. I think my moving has been a major factor in keeping the numbers down; now that I’m somewhere that might actually be a home for the next few years at least, the collections will probably expand again…

    2. My thoughts exactly! I designed a reading challenge for myself this year that has me reading the oldest book I’ve shelved and never read, the newest book I’ve shelved and haven’t read, a book for my positive fat fiction question, and one wild card. Therefore, 75% of the books I read each month I own, and I’m still not close to clearing them out!

      A Jest of God sounds sweet to me, like something L.M. Montgomery would write. I always love her books.

      1. That sounds like a brilliant reading challenge – excited to see how that plays out for you. A good thought about A Jest of God sounding like LM Montgomery.

      2. Thank you! So far, the reading goal is going well, though I missed two books in February because classes get busy then. Thanks to an easy summer, I’ll catch up.

  2. Since I’m only on 9 titles for the entire YEAR so far (fail) I think I’m firmly out of this one but good luck! Enjoy it 🙂 Nothing I’ve read here but can’t wait to hear how you do/what you think

  3. You’ve inspired me to sign up! I have a big pile of review books I’d like to get through over the summer to catch up so this is perfect!

  4. A TBR pile of just 19 books. In a way I envy you, but I am about 3 decades older than you and you may have as big a TBR as me when you get to my age. I’m in too on this challenge, but you’ve reminded me I need to own Goblin!

  5. Excellent list, Elle! I am incredibly excited for Transcription, but put Atkinson’s Human Croquet on my 20 books list instead. This Rough Magic is one of my favorite Mary Stewart novels, and it definitely SCREAMS summer! Love the idea of including a wild card space; wish I had done the same. Happy summer reading!

  6. I didn’t know that Andrew Miller had a new book coming in August – thanks – you’ve just my TBR pile one book heavier!!

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