20 Books of Summer, 2019 Edition


I’m playing again! Cathy at 746 Books hosts this (extremely chill) reading challenge; you’re allowed to do a 15-book or a 10-book version, swap out books as you go, etc. I’ve decided to aim for the 20-book goal. Most of the books on my list will come from my proof TBR; as the challenge runs from 3 June to 3 September, I’ve decided to try reading five proofs being released in each month (June, July, and August), plus a final five which are drawn from my stacks at home. With any luck, I’ll read many more than twenty books this summer, but these are the first priority!

  1. Rough Magic, by Lara Prior-Palmer [June, nonfiction]: The world’s youngest, and first female, winner of the Mongol Derby, on the mental and physical discipline of horse racing. She’s also the sister of a former colleague of mine. (review)
  2. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World, by Elif Shafak [June, fiction]: An Istanbul sex worker is killed; in the ten minutes after her death, a series of flashbacks reveals her childhood and early life. (review)
  3. The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective by Susannah Stapleton [June, nonfiction]: The life and times of Maud West, who opened her private investigation agency in London in 1905. (review)
  4. Dressed: the Secret Life of Clothes, by Shahida Bari [June, nonfiction]: I’m an absolute sucker for fashion/style analysis, particularly as it relates to material culture. (DNF’d)
  5. Big Sky, by Kate Atkinson [June, fiction]: The next in the Jackson Brodie series, and long-awaited too. I need to read Case Histories first. [READ, not reviewed]
  6. Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn [July, fiction]: An undocumented Jamaican woman in New York, and her daughter growing up without her on the island. Looks magnificent.
  7. Supper Club, by Lara Williams [July, fiction]: I know very little about this, except that it’s about female rage, and must involve food at some point. Sign me upppp.
  8. Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo [July, fiction]: Taddeo basically embedded, like a war reporter, into the lives of three women over eight years. These are the stories of their love lives over that time. Modern New Journalism + exploration of contemporary female sexuality = 100% my jam. (review)
  9. Exhalation: Stories, by Ted Chiang [July, fiction]: Chiang wrote “Story of Your Life”, which the movie “Arrival” is based on. I’m told he’s excellent, and this is his first collection in a decade.
  10. Rose, Interrupted, by Patrice Lawrence [July, YA]: Lawrence’s earlier YA novel, Orangeboy, really impressed me. Rose, Interrupted is about a girl who escapes a cult with her brother and has to learn to be a Normal Teenager while also Following Her Path. Sounds good. Cover’s adorable. [decided against]
  11. Life For Sale, by Yukio Mishima [August, fiction]: According to the jacket copy: “When Hanio Yamada realizes the future holds nothing of worth to him, he puts his life for sale in a Tokyo newspaper, thus unleashing a series of unimaginable exploits. A world of revenge, murderous mobsters, hidden cameras, a vampire woman, poisonous carrots, espionage and code-breaking, a junkie heiress, home-made explosives and decoys reveals itself.” Need I say more?
  12. The Truants, by Kate Weinberg [August, fiction]: Sort of The Secret History, but on a campus in East Anglia instead of the woods of New England, and minus the classical references. Worth a punt.
  13. The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware [August, fiction]: Ware’s brand of contemporary Gothic thriller is eminently suited to a rewrite of The Turn of the Screw.
  14. Girl. Boy. Sea., by Chris Vick [August, YA]: A British boy and a Berber girl, both shipwrecked, must help each other to survive. This looks wonderful.
  15. The Offing, by Benjamin Myers [August, fiction]: Post-WWII, following an unlikely friendship between a sixteen-year-old miner’s son and an older woman in Robin Hood’s Bay. Myers has loads of critical acclaim and I’ve never read any of his work before; this seems like a good time to start, though his other stuff appears to be much darker than this sounds.

The final five are subject to change, but may look something like this:

  1. Pericles, by William Shakespeare (review)
  2. Daemon Voices: Essays On Storytelling, by Philip Pullman
  3. Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell [READ, not reviewed]
  4. A Place of Greater Safety, by Hilary Mantel
  5. The Blazing World, by Siri Hustvedt

Other possibilities for the final five include: The Summer Without Men, also by Siri Hustvedt; The Brotherhood of Book Hunters by Raphael Jerusalmy; Breathe by Dominick Donald [READ, not reviewed]; Lowborn by Kerry Hudson; Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen; If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho by Anne Carson.

Have you read any of my choices? Do you particularly recommend (or dis-recommend) any of them?

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26 thoughts on “20 Books of Summer, 2019 Edition

  1. What a list! I can vouch for Big Sky but that’s the only one I’ve read. The jacket for Supper Club is fabulous and I like the idea of Dressed. Have you ever read Linda Grant on clothes? She’s very good.

    1. The Supper Club jacket is just. Unnngggh. I love it. (Her short story, “Treats”, was the outstanding entry in Best British Short Stories 2018, so I can’t wait for a full-length novel.) No, I didn’t know Linda Grant wrote about clothes! My favourite fashion/style blog is Genevieve Valentine’s Red Carpet Rundowns: meticulous forensic analysis of red carpet culture and the extraordinary layers of interpretation pressed upon formalwear.

  2. I’m looking forward to the Ruth Ware as well. I don’t normally read thrillers, being a real fan of the police procedural, but Ware is my one exception. If you do choose to read Breathe I shall be very interested in what you make of it. It had excellent reviews but I gave up half way, which is most unusual for me. The style just irked.

    1. Oh, really? Interesting indeed – my colleague Andrew read it and loved it, and I thought the premise was rather good, so snaffled a proof copy months ago and have failed to get round to it. (It’s very…long.)

  3. These all look fascinating! I’m especially keen to read the Chiang and Mishima.

    I read Pericles in college and it wasn’t my favorite Shakespeare play (I think he co-wrote it?), but it’s interesting to place in conversation with his other romances. Anne Carson’s translation of Sappho is one of my favorites – the imagery’s breathtaking.

    1. Yep, he co-wrote it with George Wilkins. I like it a lot *because* it’s so unusual for him, and also because I read The Porpoise, Mark Haddon’s reimagining of the story, which inspired me to go back to the playtext. I do love Anne Carson, but I’m a little worried about the Sappho translations; they’re so short and fragmentary that (knowing myself) I feel I’ll whirl through them and miss something.

  4. Exhalation (as you know!) is on my list as well, and I’ve requested Rose, Interrupted from NetGalley. I love Ruth Ware but thought her latest was The Death of Mrs Westaway – I didn’t realise she already had something else out! Wives and Daughters is my favourite Gaskell.

    1. The Turn of the Key isn’t out til August – the proofs are knocking around, though, so if you like her, it’s worth a request. I’m newly in love with Gaskell, and hoping Wives and Daughters is as good as North and South.

  5. I don’t think I’ve read any of these. I have a proof of The Truants though that I’m planning/hoping to get to before the end of the summer.

      1. I’m always curious how they decide what market get which. In Canada sometimes we get the UK editions, something the US.

      2. Yeah, I wonder about that too. Sometimes the difference between the covers seems so minor that it’s hard to work out why they’ve done it – Sadie Jones’s The Snakes was exactly the same in both territories except that the woman’s face on the cover in the UK was full-on, and in the US was in profile. Why?!

    1. Fabulous! I’m looking forward to 10 Minutes 38 Seconds – keen to see what you make of it. (I’ve cheated a little and just finished my first 20BoS book – Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, which is amazing.) I’ll pop over and have a look at your list!

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