10, 15, Or Maybe 20 Books Of Summer 2021?

I’ve had a month free of reading events so am feeling more relaxed than I was when I wrote one of my “What I’m Reading” episodes at the start of April. By the time this month is over, i’ll be ready to step into the reading event arena again. Perfect timing since June marks the start of 20 Books of Summer 2021 hosted once more by Cathy at 746books.

This is now a well-established event on the reading calendar but for anyone not familiar with it, 20 Books Of Summer runs from June 1 until August 31. The idea is to pick 20 books that you aim to read during those three months. If 20 books seems too much of a stretch, there are options for 10 and 15 books.

I’ve yet to manage 20 books – last year’s summer reading was my best ever, with 15 books completed. The chances of getting to 20 are very low, particularly since this year my reading seems to have slowed right down. So I’ll aim for 15 again and we’ll see what happens.

You all know by now that I hate reading from a pre-defined list of books, much preferring the free and easy approach to deciding what to read next. But in the spirit of 20booksofsummer I had to come up with some kind of a list. I loved the idea Annabel of Annabookbel came up to get around her similar dislike of reading lists. She’s just going to read whatever takes her fancy from her bedside bookcase.

I’ve tweaked that idea a little since I don’t have a bedside bookcase. I went along my main bookcase (recently re-organised in alphabetical order) and picked one author from each letter of the alphabet. I deliberately didn’t spend much time debating what to include and what to leave out. I just pulled out a few books from each letter, looked at the synopsis and went with the book that called most strongly to me.

Since I didn’t have physical copies of books by authors to match every letter of the alphabet, I expanded my selection with a few e-books in an attempt to clear a backlog of titles acquired via Net Galley. And I’ve allowed for two selections from my book club.

Which gives me a grand total of 30 titles from which to choose for my summer reading.

Although I didn’t plan it this way. I’ve ended up with a pleasing mix of genres: a couple of classics, two non-fiction and a few crime/thrillers. There are two Virago Modern Classics (perfect for the Virago in August event) and two novels that will fit the bill for Women In Translation month. I’m delighted too with the geographic spread of authors, from France, Catalonia, Ireland and Wales (of course) to South Africa, Canada and India.

So let’s see what we have.

First Group of 10

10 books chosen for summer reading in 2021

Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam: set in the midst of an immigrant Pakistani community in a northern English town where a pair of lovers disappear and are believed murdered.

Stone in A Landslide by Muriel Barbal: Translated from Catalan, this novella is the life story of Conxa, who is sent away from home as a child to live with and work for her aunt and uncle. The love she finds is thwarted by the Spanish civil war.

The Litten Path by James Clarke: This is a debut work set in a mining community and is described by Salt as “Grimly honest and tender, tough and lyrical, comic and painful, it is about class friction, the clash between the urban and the rural.” 

Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor: A 2004 Booker-prize shortlisted novel set in a post-apartheid South Africa presided over by Nelson Mandela. 

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot: A dark fantasy woven that picks up on Eliot’s interest in science. it’s a tale of an egoccentric, morbid young clairvoyant and his fascination for a woman.

The Hill Station by J. G Farrell: I wish there were more novels by Farrell but his sudden death in a fishing accident means there are just seven novels and one unfinished work. The Hill Station is the is the novel on which he was working at the time of his death.

The Spire by William Golding: I think I’ve read this before but can’t remember much about it other than it’s about a Dean who believes God has chosen him to erect a great spire on his cathedral. He perseveres with the plan despite objections that the cathedral was built on marshland and can’t support added weight. It’s loosely based on Salisbury cathedral which was just around the corner from where Golding worked as a schoolteacher.

Sunlight On A Broken Column by Attia Hossain: This story is set around the time of the Indian partition (1930s and 40s) and features Laila, the daughter of a wealthy Muslim man, who is being brought up in purdah. As the political climate changes so do the opportunities for Laila and she seizes the chance to live an independent life.

A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa:  I have non fiction November to thank for this book’s presence on my shelves. Ishikawa was born in Japan to a Korean father but repatriated as a boy to the “paradise” of North Korea. This is his account of his life and experiences in this most secretive nation.

The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena by Elsa Joubert : Bought during a holiday in South Africa (remember holidays??), this novel has  been voted as one of the hundred most important books published in Africa during the last millennium. Although it is a work of fiction, the novel is based on a true South African story about a woman’s experience of the apartheid era during which she is forcibly resettled in townships hundreds of miles from her home.

Second Group

These 10 books are going to feature in my plans for summer reading in 2021

Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf: The second novel by a Catalan author to feature in my list, Kopf’s debut work reflects her deep interest in polar explorers.

Family Album by Penelope Lively: I’ve not read much of her work but on the basis of the two books I have read, I’m hungry for more by Lively. This novel gives us a series of snapshots from the lives of a large upper-middle class family growing up in their somewhat ramshackle home 

Tangerine by Christine Mangan: It wasn’t the description of this as “a gripping psychological literary thriller” that caught my eye, but the setting of Tangiers in the 1950s.

The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu : One of the books I bought during my last visit to a real bookshop before Covid intervened and such palaces of joy were denied to us.

In The Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje: The central character in this novel is shown interacting with some of the characters who featured in Ondaatje’s The English Patient, one of my favourite Booker Prize winners. This novel takes place in Toronto in the 1920s amid the dispossessed immigrants who labour to build the city’s infrastructure.

Breach by Olumide Popoola: Commissioned by Pereine in August 2016, this book was based on interviews conducted at the Calais refugee camp in France. with refugees, the volunteers who support them, and the local people who want the camp closed.

Callum by E Arnot Robertson: a 1926 novel of a young woman’s first doomed love affair

The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott: This was recommended to me by a fellow book club member who named it as one of her favourite reads of 2019. It focuses on Harry who takes photographs of the graves of the dead soldiers from World War 1 to send to families, so that they can see where their loved ones lie.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler: A domestic saga in the sense it covers several generations of the Whitshank family of Baltimore. That description doesn’t make it sound all that interesting but Tyler is a great storyteller so I suspect there will be many more layers to this novel.

The Way of the Women by Marlene Van Niekerk: We’re back in South Africa for a novel that was originally published under the title of Agaat. An old woman, confined to her bed by a deadly paralysing illness, confined to her bed, struggles to make herself heard by her maidservant and now nurse, Agaat. As death draws near, she looks back on good intentions and soured dreams, on a brutal marriage and a longed-for only son scarred by his parents’ battles, and on a lifetime’s tug-of-war with Agaat.

The Final 10

This is a mix of physical books and e-books received via Net Galley and .

Educated by Tara Westover: The second of my non-fiction choices, Westover’s memoirs were became a New York Times bestseller and was a finalist for a number of awards. She gives a startling account of her upbringing within a fundamentalist  Mormon family and her decision to break away from that life.

Frog by Mo Yan: A complex novel about China’s one-child policy by  the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2012

Pot Luck by Emile Zola: I’m long overdue an encounter with Zola and though this isn’t the next in the sequence of his Rougon Macquet cycle, it appealed to me more than some of the others I have on the shelves. Zola recounts the activities of the residents of a Parisian apartment building, a relatively new housing arrangement in the 1880s. The book’s title (roughly translating as stew pot) reflects the disparate and sometimes unpleasant elements that lurk behind the building’s new façade.

His Only Wife by Ado Medie: Debut novel by a Nigerian author about an arranged marriage.

Lean Stand Fall by Jon McGregor: An Antarctic expedition goes disastrously wrong. Only one man knows what happens but he has suffered a stroke and can’t find the words to explain.

And the ebooks

Dangerous Women by Hope Adams: a work of historical fiction based on the real-life experience of 180 female convicts sentenced in 1841 to transportation to Van Diemen’s Island (now called Tasmania). One of them is murdered during the voyage. More of interest however, are the portraits of the individual women and the circumstances that put them on the road to a criminal record.  

The Vanishing Sky by L Annette Binder: A World War II novel as seen through a German lens, a story of the irreparable damage of war on the home front, and one family’s involvement in a dangerous regime.

The Mission House by Carys Davies: I couldn’t possibly have a reading list that ignores Welsh authors and they don’t come much better than Carys Davies. Her novel takes place at a hill station in South India where a British librarian arrives seeking an escape from his life in south-east London. But religious tensions are brewing and the mission house may not be the safe haven it seems.

The Happy Family by Jackie Kapler: Due for publication in the UK on 4 June, this is a psychological thriller of a girl abandoned by her mother at the age of 10. One day her mother turns up on the doorstep. The two begin to rebuild their relationship but some strange things begin to happen.

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny: I can’t resist the opportunity to meet up again with Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and the magical Canadian community of Three Pines. This is book 17 in the series, due for publication in UK on August 24.

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

69 thoughts on “10, 15, Or Maybe 20 Books Of Summer 2021?

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  • June 1, 2021 at 2:53 pm
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    Great idea to have a pool of books to choose from. I’m still undecided as to whether to take part of not because every time I decide on which books to read for it, I want to read all the others and anything besides those I choose!

    Reply
    • June 1, 2021 at 7:05 pm
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      That’s usually my problem – hence why I decided to list more than 20 this time. You may as well give it a go , even if you just shoot for 10 books – you know you’ll be reading three books for book club so that only leaves another 7 to find.

      Reply
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  • May 26, 2021 at 5:05 pm
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    Karen, I hope having a wide selection of books to choose from will make this challenge enjoyable and a success for you 😊

    Reply
    • May 27, 2021 at 6:28 pm
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      I think it’s going to give me a fighting chance…

      Reply
  • May 21, 2021 at 6:43 pm
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    I loved Educated and I hope you will as well. I’ve been thinking about reading Tangerine and I’d love to read your thoughts on it. Happy reading!

    Reply
    • May 22, 2021 at 5:57 pm
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      I see from some other comments here that Tangerine was a disappointment. Hope it doesn’t prove to be for me

      Reply
  • May 20, 2021 at 1:59 pm
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    I think you have managed to do both things: be free in your reading and be constrained in your reading. Good luck!

    I’m hoping to read twenty of my 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up.

    Reply
    • May 20, 2021 at 10:00 pm
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      1001 books on a reading list, wow! How many do you get through each year??

      Reply
  • May 17, 2021 at 6:44 am
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    Lovely covers in the first group! My favourites would be George Eliot and Émile Zola but you have so many good ones here. Happy summer reading!

    Reply
    • May 17, 2021 at 9:52 am
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      It’s been many years since I last read George Eliot so am looking forward to that one

      Reply
  • May 17, 2021 at 12:03 am
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    Nice, I think I need a theme as well. Or a kick in the pants, anyway 🙂 I might keep mine really short though, with lots of room to sub in.

    Reply
    • May 17, 2021 at 9:52 am
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      I don’t think you have to have a theme, the first few years when i did 20booksofsummer, I just picked books at random that took my eye

      Reply
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  • May 16, 2021 at 11:24 am
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    You could always shame us all by reading all thirty! 😉 I hope you read and review Stone in a Landslide – it’s on my Spanish Civil War list but it’ll be a few months before I get to it. the only one I’ve read is Tangerine and, hmm, it didn’t really do it for me, but the setting was undoubtedly the best part. Enjoy whichever ones you decide to read!

    Reply
    • May 17, 2021 at 10:19 am
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      In my dreams!!! I’d have to give up all my exercise programmes and stop doing cooking, cleaning etc etc to find the time to read that many books….Who says retirement gives you more time to read – not my experience.

      Yours is not the only comment along the lines that Tangerine didn’t live up to its promise. Oh well….if I don’t like it I may just abandon it and move onto something else

      Reply
  • May 15, 2021 at 6:15 pm
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    A great selection and I will keep hold of your review of A Spool of Blue Thread for when I get to that one in my Anne Tyler read. I’ve done my pile but at least one is a placeholder as I don’t know which Maya Angelou I’ll be up to by then! Have fun!

    Reply
    • May 15, 2021 at 6:36 pm
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      I’ll hop over to your post in the next day or so, am curious to see what you’ve come up with

      Reply
  • May 15, 2021 at 3:42 pm
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    I’m not a fan of strict lists either and ended up with a list of 30 too, though quite different titles from yours. I liked Educated a lot more than I expected, I don’t usually read memoirs but I’m glad I gave it a chance.

    Reply
    • May 15, 2021 at 6:37 pm
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      I was hesitant about Educated but my niece persuaded me to give it a go .

      Reply
  • May 14, 2021 at 5:10 pm
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    You have a great stack of books to choose from! I think I’d start with the Ann Tyler.

    I know that I’ve included short stories, a play, mysteries, literary fiction, a classic and a nonfiction book in my list, but I hadn’t considered the geographical range. It would be an interesting exercise – thank you for the idea!

    Reply
    • May 15, 2021 at 6:38 pm
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      Fabulous idea to cover so many different genres Debbie. I shall come and visit you shortly to nose around your list

      Reply
  • May 14, 2021 at 11:59 am
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    Nice list and a great idea to have a longer list than needed. I’m looking forward to Louise Penny’s new one and it will be on my list too (but I’ve some catching up on her books to do so there may be a couple of hers which will be good). This years 20Books has rather crept up on me without realising it! Enjoy your summer reading!

    Reply
    • May 15, 2021 at 6:39 pm
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      I also have a few of the books in the Penny series that I haven’t yet read. It was a surprise (but a good one) when she started writing again after her husband’s death.

      Reply
  • May 14, 2021 at 6:54 am
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    Great list! Let’s see how many books we read this summer.

    Reply
    • May 15, 2021 at 6:40 pm
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      I can’t wait to start but first I have a book club choice that has to be read by end of next week….Then I can get cracking with the project

      Reply
  • May 13, 2021 at 2:37 am
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    Amazing list! I smiled when I saw already there the upcoming one by Louise Penny. I’ll be posting my list in a few weeks, it will be an effort to go through my physical TBR

    Reply
    • May 13, 2021 at 7:46 am
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      It’s been some time since I read a Louise Penny, so looking forward to it.

      Reply
  • May 12, 2021 at 11:40 pm
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    Love your approach, it really does seem like the best way to go about something like this (structured but flexible). My boss is currently obsessed with Penelope Lively, so I’d be really interested to hear more about what you think of her! The Mission House and Educated are also both on my bookshelf and my reading horizon for the next few months (it’s winter here, but I still try to get into the 20 books of summer spirit!)

    Reply
    • May 13, 2021 at 7:49 am
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      How lovely to have a boss who shares your enjoyment in reading.

      Reply
      • May 13, 2021 at 10:24 am
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        Well, not to detract from the loveliness, but… I do work in a bookstore 😅😂

        Reply
  • May 12, 2021 at 8:36 pm
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    Happy summer reading! You never know, maybe your reading with go into overdrive and you will make it to 20 books this year!

    Reply
    • May 12, 2021 at 9:39 pm
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      At the rate I’m reading I may manage only 10 this year. Not to worry, it’s not a competition is it?

      Reply
  • May 12, 2021 at 6:58 pm
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    What a good strategy and a great list. I’ve yet to read Farrell or Lively but both are in the 746 so I look forward to hearing your thoughts on those.

    Reply
    • May 12, 2021 at 9:38 pm
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      I loved both The Seige of Krishnapur and Troubles (both by Farrell) – hard to decide which to recommend for you really. Troubles is more comic so it partly depends on your mood I suppose

      Reply
    • May 12, 2021 at 9:30 pm
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      I may end up just reading 10 – it depends whether I choose some of the longer books or cheat a little by going for the novellas on my list 🙂

      Reply
      • May 13, 2021 at 7:32 am
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        Well, I just put down all of the ARCs I have that are being released during the summer dates – ended up being 12 books!

        Reply
  • May 12, 2021 at 11:53 am
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    Good luck – I think a pool of books is a great idea! Hope you read the Hosain – I thought it was excellent! 😀

    Reply
    • May 12, 2021 at 9:31 pm
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      I haven’t come across anyone reading the Hosain yet but I’m encouraged by your reaction

      Reply
  • May 12, 2021 at 11:33 am
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    Yes, this much bigger pool to select from on a whim seems to be the way to go… Now, if I could restrict myself to my 30 choices instead of going off-tangent! Particularly intrigued by the Penelope Lively – one I haven’t read.

    Reply
    • May 12, 2021 at 9:32 pm
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      that’s always my problem when I start looking through the bookshelves. I notice so many books I want tor read that I end up surrounded by books. I really had to discipline myself this time around

      Reply
  • May 12, 2021 at 11:28 am
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    Thank you for the link. Stone in a Landslide remains my fave Periene book. Educated was excellent, and I enjoyed the Lively. I agree Tangerine is overrated. Those are the only ones I’ve read from your selection, which looks very varied. I hope you reach your 20 this year.

    Reply
    • May 12, 2021 at 9:32 pm
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      Well the thanks are really to you for giving me the inspiration!

      Reply
  • May 12, 2021 at 8:37 am
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    Such a wide raging selection! I’m afraid I was sorely disappointed by Tangerine but I’ve enjoyed several of your other picks. I’d highly recomend Maps for Lost Lovers. Best read when cheerful, though.

    Reply
    • May 12, 2021 at 9:36 pm
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      Interesting to see you and Annabel were not impressed by Tangerine. I won it in a giveaway so if its not to my taste I won’t feel bad about giving up on it.

      Reply
  • May 12, 2021 at 8:14 am
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    You have three of my all-time favourite books here: The Spire, In the Skin of a Lion, and The Way of the Women (Agaat). I will be interested should you chose Bitter Fruit, I’ve had that book for years but know nothing about it (yet).

    Reply
    • May 12, 2021 at 9:35 pm
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      The Spire could well be the one I begin with. I bought it a few years ago when we had a mini break in Sailisbury and the apartment we rented had a picture window looking directly onto the cathedral. I remembered the story of The Spire but not the details

      Reply
  • May 12, 2021 at 1:02 am
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    I second Kate W’s comment: nice idea about the pool. I’m mostly unfamiliar with your pool’s contents, with only a few exceptions, i.e., Lively’s Family Album (I love Lively’s novels; this wasn’t her best but is definitely worthwhile); Tyler’s Spool of Blue Thread (same comment) and Tangier (I, too, was drawn by the setting but I abandoned the book halfway; it wasn’t bad but just didn’t suit my mood at the time). Good luck with the chosen fifteen (or twenty!).

    Reply
    • May 12, 2021 at 9:34 pm
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      Maybe even when Lively isn’t at her best she is still well worth reading.

      Reply
  • May 12, 2021 at 12:03 am
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    Good idea to have a pool of books to choose from – think I’ll do the same next year.

    Reply
    • May 12, 2021 at 9:33 pm
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      I’ve learned the hard way that if I just keep to a list of 20 I lose interest in them and yearn for something else to read instead….

      Reply

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