#20books of summerBook Reviews

Summer reading 2017 #20booksofsummer

Twenty Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746books is about to begin so I can’t procrastinate much longer about the books I’m putting on my list to read.  This is about the third version I’ve created.  I’ve gone for a mix of classics from my Classics Club project, some Booker prize winners (only nine more to read in this project), some translated fiction and a few by authors from Wales.  All of these are on my ‘owned but not read’ shelves.

I know I’ll never manage to read 20 books between June 1 and September 3 (that’s 7 books a month) so I’m going for the 15 books of summer option. But since past experience tells me the minute a book goes on a list its appeal for me diminishes, I’ve listed 20 books anyway in the hope that this, plus the mixture of genres/styles I’ve chosen will give me plenty of choices to suit all moods.

Here’s my  20 Books for summer 2017 list – click on the titles to read the description on Goodreads:

Update as of August 17, 2017: 11 read. One abandoned.

1. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf Read August 2017

room of ones own-1

One that featured on my post about books that have been on my ‘to read’ list for many years. Following several comments from bloggers about how good this is, I’m persuaded it’s time to just get on and read this.

2. We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson Read July 2017

always lived in the castle-1

I’d not heard of Shirley Jackson until I started listening to some book podcasts and kept hearing about this but since it’s considered  Jackson’s masterpiece it feels like the right place to begin exploring her work.

3. Good Behaviour by Molly Keane Read August 2017

good-behaviour -1

I bought this in a library sale (unfortunately my edition has a less attractive cover than this one but I couldn’t find that image).  It’s the first novel Keane published after a writing break triggered by the death of her husband and was the first time she used her real name (rather than her pseudonym of M. J Farrell. I’ve read only one book by her – Devoted Ladies which I enjoyed but didn’t love. I’m hoping Good Behaviour comes up trumps because so many other readers seem to love her work.

4. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (Read June 2017)

jamaica inn-1

Inspired by the real life Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor at which du Maurier stayed in 1930, this is a tale about a  group of murderous wreckers who run ships aground, kill the sailors and steal the cargo. I was disappointed by the last du Maurier I read (My Cousin Rachel) so am hoping this proves more enjoyable.

5. The Finkler Question  by Howard Jacobson (part read)

finkler question-1

This won the Booker Prize in 2010, becoming the first comic novel to win the prize since Kingsley Amis’s The Old Devils in 1986. Opinions are greatly divided on this book amongst the blogging community.

6. The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer

the conservationist-1-1

Another Booker winner that remains on my list to read. I started reading it last year but found it rather dull at the time.  I see that the Guardian reviewer described it as “a portrait of a dangerous man lent dangerous power by apartheid is great writing, but not brilliant reading.”  Based on what I’ve read so far I’m not convinced that it really does constitute ‘great writing’ but I know I’ll at least be able to finish it (unlike the appalling The Famished Road by Ben Okri which remains the only Booker prize  that I absolutely could not finish.)

7. Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth Read August 2017

Sacred hunger-1

Joint winner of the Booker prize along with Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient in 1992, this is likely to be a grim read because of its subject.  It is set on an eighteenth century slave ship called The Liverpool Merchant which is bound for Africa to pick up its human cargo. Much of the book apparently deals with the issue of greed.

8. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

kelly gang

Peter Carey is one of the few people to win the Booker prize more than once. His other award winner — Oscar and Lucinda — is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read so far this year. The True History of the Kelly Gang, a fictionalised biography of the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly,  won the prize in 2001, and also the Commonwealth Writers Prize in the same year. Since it’s written in a distinctive vernacular style, with little punctuation or grammar, it could be tough going.

9. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (read June 2017)

the vegetarian-1

Han Kang’s novel features a rather ordinary South Korean housewife who decides to throw away all the meat from the freezer and announces that henceforth she is going to be a vegetarian. Her action is completely counter to South Korean culture so the book examines the reaction of her family, husband and friends.  This will be only the second Korean author I’ve read and if it’s as good as my first experience – with Please Look after Mom by Shin Kyung-sook – I know I’m in for a treat.

10. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Read June 2017)

A tale for the time being-1

Ruth Ozeki’s novel got my attention when it was shortlisted for the 2010 Booker prize but I never got around to reading this story which has two narrators. One is a sixteen-year-old Japanese American girl in Tokyo who keeps a diary, the other is a Japanese American writer living on an island off British Columbia who finds the diary washed up on shore some time after the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan. 

11. Twilight in Djakarta by Mochtar Lubis

twilight in djakarta-1

I put this on my list of books to read this Spring but it fell by the wayside so I’ve resurrected it for summer. The novel was published about 50 years ago, having been smuggled out of Indonesia where the author was held under house arrest. It depicts social and political events in the capital during the run up to a national election.

12. The Kill/La Curée by Emile Zola

the kill-1

My plan to read all the books in the Rougon-Marquet cycle stalled last year but I’m looking to The Kill to give it a kickstart. The Kill is book number 2 in the series is set against the background of the massive redevelopment of Paris and the birth of the modern city.

13. Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran read July 2017

good women of china-1

Xinran is a former radio journalist from China who, over a period of 10 years in the 1990s, collected stories of women who endured child child abuse, rape, gang rape, abduction and the forced parting of parents and children. The 15 stories in this collection lift the lid on Chinese society at a time when prohibitions against discussion of feelings and sexuality were relaxing.

14. Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre

three days and a life-1

I wanted something in my list that fell into the genre of thriller, for those days when I just crave a fast paced narrative. Three Days and a Life which will be published in July, fitted that description perfectly. It begins in a small provincial town of Beauval, France with the accidental killing of a young boy. More than a decade later the killer returns to the town and discovers there was a witness to his crime,  a person who has the power to destroy his life. [note I corrected this synopsis based on the comment by Words and Peace that I had the gender of the victim incorrect).

15. Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto (Read July 2017)

goodbye tsugumi

I’ve enjoyed my explorations of Japanese fiction so far but have never read Banana Yoshimoto. I know little about this book other than it’s about relationships between two cousins in a small Japanese seaside town.

16. An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah

elegy for easterly-1

This is on my list to assuage my feelings of guilt that it was on last year’s 20 books of summer list but I only got half way through the collection of short stories.

17. What I Know I Cannot Say/ All That Lies Beneath by Dai Smith

what I know-1

One of the books by Welsh authors that I bought at the end of 2016, this is actually a combination of a novella and a linked section of short stories that reveal life in the South Wales Valleys during the twentieth century.

18. Ghostbird  by Carol Lovekin


From another author living in Wales, Carol Lovekin’s novel was the Waterstones Wales and Welsh Independent Bookshops Book of the Month in April 2016.

19. Anglesey Blue by Dylan Jones (read June 2017)


The first in a crime fiction series featuring a Welsh Detective Inspector based on the island of Anglesy in north wales. The colour in the title has nothing to do with the colour of the sea around the island but a powerful new drug which is being ruthlessly introduced to the island community. There is trouble in this paradise with drugs, disaffected youth and brutal murders.

20. The Hogs Back Mystery  by Freeman Wills Crofts Read August 2017

Hogs Back Mystery-1

There are times when my brain cries out for a good yarn about crime. The Hog’s Back Mystery is on my list in case that need arises over the summer. A crime story from the past this has been given new life via the British Library Classic Crine series. It’s the fourteenth title written by Freeman Wills Crofts and begins with the disappearance of a semi-retired doctor from the North Downs in Surrey. He apparently simply walked out of the house in his slippers.


So that’s my 20 books of summer list. Whether I’ve made the ‘right’ choices is debatable – I have a feeling that I’ll come across a book on my shelves over the course of the next few months and wish I’d put it on my list.

If you want to join the fun, Cathy will put up a post on June 1 to mark the official start of the challenge and will tweet regularly using the hashtag  #20booksofsummer.


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

76 thoughts on “Summer reading 2017 #20booksofsummer

  • Pingback: Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth [book review] #Bookerprize | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: Good Behaviour by Molly Keane [book review] | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: Snapshot of August 2017 | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: Hidden voices of Chinese women [book reviews] | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto #bookreview | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: Snapshot of July 2017 | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson #BookerPrize #bookreviews | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki [Book Review] #20booksofsummer | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: Anglesey Blue by Dylan H Jones | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: Caution: Reading Roadblocks ahead | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier [bookreview] #20 booksofsummer | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: Book series on my radar | BookerTalk

  • This is such a great list. I am also participating in a summer reading challenge but it doesn’t start until July so maybe I’ll join this one too if it’s not too late. 20 books of summer is a great grab.

  • Pingback: The Vegetarian by Han Kang [book review] | BookerTalk

  • Pingback: Snapshot June 2017 | BookerTalk

  • OMG, what a wonderful list!
    1. I started reading it in French and English as a translation exercise, I really need to go back. Also because I’m afraid of tackling other books by her!
    2. Having recently read The Lottery, I want to try this one, I’ll be waiting for your review
    4. Ah, Another review I’m waiting for, as I’m wondering which other novel I should read by her after having so much enjoyed Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel (did you see my enthusiastic video?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJKMUeOi_J4
    9. I loved it, very well written, though getting weirder and weirder
    12. I also plan to (re)read all of Zola one day!
    14. hmm, weird synopsis actually, it is not even a girl, it’s a boy – unless they changed a lot of things in translation, I hope not! I read it in French. It’s actually not a thriller, the author is adamant about it, as you know right away that the boy killed another boy by accident. It’s the rather noir genre, a psychological study on how the boy is going to leave his whole life with that crime. Pierre Lemaitre is a master, this is a great book, amazing what he can do in few pages

    • Thanks for the correction re Lemaitre – not sure how I wrote girl but I’ve now corrected it. You’re right about the Vegetarian which I am currently reading – a very strange book.

  • You have a lot of books that I’m unfamiliar with, but I loved We Have Always Lived in the Castle and A Tale for the Time Being. I hear great things about The Vegetarian. It’s always interesting to see how people put together their lists!

  • Interesting list! I’ve read The Hogs Back Mystery!

  • I’m excited to read your reviews of Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, and the good Chinese women book. I’m currently re-reading Rebecca by du Maurier, and I still love it. It was on my #20BooksofSummer list last year. Recently, I tried the audio book of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but it was narrated by Bernadette Dunn’s whose narration style I cannot stand.

  • Shirley Jackson is fantastic! You are in for a treat there. I wouldn’t call The Vegetarian a treat. It is very well written but emotionally brutal. I really liked it but it isn’t light reading.

    • Im discovering this about the Vegetarian already and I haven’t even got a quarter of the way into it yet

  • Your list opens with three of my favourite reads of the last few years! We Have Always Lived at the Castle and Good Behaviour are tremendous. I hope they don’t get culled!

    • Of all the books on the list I’m sure these are ones I will definitely read

  • The cover for An Elegy for Easterly is just gorgeous. A Room of One’s Own is a favorite of mine. Excited for your thoughts. 🙂 Also, ha ha — it appears I have the cover for Zola’s The Kill as my header! {Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877 – by French artist Gustave Caillebotte.}

    • the front cover images on the Oxford World Classics series are always wonderful.

    • Thanks T.J. Hope I can read at least half of the list….

  • So I love Love love Room of ones own, the Kelly gang is interesting stuff (I love the inside and outside of the law concurrently stuff combined with legend…like Robin Hood) and the the Japanese one looks really interesting. I might have to pop that on my goodreads. Loving Japan right now.
    If you’re looking for something that’s a speed read, check out my verse novel- it’s Your World @
    Also a kindle

    Soz for the shameless self promotion.

  • I adored Jamaica Inn as a teenager, for a while it was my number one book, but a re-read of it a couple of years ago was a tad disappointing. The atmosphere is still wonderful, and is still definitely worth a read. It might be me, I wonder if the older the get, the less power things have to make an earth-shattering impression.

  • You’ve got some great books to look forward to! I loved the Carey (but not sure how much of that is attributed to the fact that it’s my ‘local’ history). I haven’t read that book by Xinran but have read some of her others and I always find her writing deeply moving.

    The Finkler Question…. what can I say except that it was only one of two books that my book club (going for 20 years!) ALL abandoned! Seems none of us got the joke.

    • Oh dear that news about your book club’s response doesnt fill me with great hope for Finkler

      • Don’t let us put you off! I do think it’s a particular type of humour that we simply didn’t get.

  • Lovely list I have read lots of them- so I think you will have a great summer of reading.

    • I might have known you would be familiar with a lot of these, especially the classics….

  • I think listing 20 books and aiming for 15 is a really good idea! I thought We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson and Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier were brilliant – I hope you enjoy them too. Happy summer reading 🙂

    • I’m being realistic based on my previous experiences where I had to make a list. No matter how enthusiastic I was when I put the list together, when it came to the point of reading one of them, I went off the idea

  • A nice selection of books. I have a couple of your choices in my own tbr, the Molly Keane and the Shirley Jackson. Hope you enjoy.

    • I’m surprised you haven’t read the Shirley Jackson Jacqui, I thought I was well behind the trend on this one

  • I’ve heard a lot about Banana Yoshimoto, let me know how you liked it!

  • You have some real treats to look forward to in the coming months by the look of it. The Vegetarian still haunts me – I can’t wait to see what you make of it, and I absolutely loved A tale for the time being.

    • I started reading The Vegetarian last night and am already hooked

  • Great list! I wish I had a chance to complete such a challenge. Ah! To have the time to read 20 books in one summer, what a treat!

    • I thought I would have more time when I retired but it hasn’t happened….

      • Retired people are among the busiest people of all. It seems to be a given. 🙂

        • Some retired people are busy but I’ve also come across people who dont know what to do with their time – their work pretty much was everything so they developed no interests etc. I feel so sad for them

        • It’s a new stage in life that needs preparation, I suppose. (still 25 years or so to go!)

  • That looks like a nice, varied list. I think it’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of choice. I’ve read and enjoyed A Room of One’s Own, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Jamaica Inn, but there are lots of other books on your list that sound interesting too. I’m still trying to decide whether to join in with this myself!

    • If I don’t read all of these or even the 15 I’m planning for, it won’t matter. No-one is going to come giving me a hard time

  • Such a wide-ranging and varied list! I’ll be interested to see what you think of the Gappah. I enjoyed The Book of Memory very much but haven’t got around to An Elegy for Easterly. Happy reading!

  • What a brilliant list you have – I’m joining in too although my early calculations show it’ll be the normal struggle as I have some books for review too – oh and a holiday!

  • The Ozeki is brilliant, a real top ten favourite, and I love Banana Yoshimoto, although I haven’t read this particular one. I have made my list, but not sure when I’m going to reveal it …

  • Some list! Haven’t read any of those books — have marked a few that look interesting. Good luck 🙂

    • Sorry if I am adding to your wishlist and sending it out of control

      • Not sure how to explain that one. It has an unreal-like quality to it at times that will win you over or put you clear off. So I’ll wait and see what you think. 😉

  • I am so tempted to do this but helps I suffer from the same problem as you. I hate being pinned down to a TBR. That being said I need something to get me out of my rut at the moment. I’m reading really slowly and letting my crappy job take over my overall great mood. Hmmm…. Not sure. Love the list you’ve put together though. Maybe I’ll try to put together a list and post by June 1st.

    • If you read just 5 from your list I would class it as success….it could be a way of getting out of a rut

      • I might just take you up on that, since I am a little behind on a few of my reading goals. 😄😅

  • I have a copy of Jamaica Inn that I bought to re-read. I read it so many years ago that it will seem like a new read, I suspect. A Room of One’s Own looks tempting, too. Thanks for sharing.

    • Some books do tend to fade in the memory to the point I forget that I read them


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