That’s it for another year. #20booksofsummer hosted by Cathy at 746books came to an end on September 3. I knew I would never be able to read 20 books between June 1 and September 3 (that’s 7 books a month) so I went for the 15 books option. Even that proved a step too far but so what – unless Cathy has a nasty surprise in store I don’t think any booksofsummer police are going to come banging on my door and hauling me into court to justify why I didn’t reach the target.
I read 12.5 books which is 2.5 more than last year so I count this as a success. I would have completed more but I had some review copies that needed my attention. A bonus is that I read some excellent novels and there was only one book I failed to complete (hence the .5 I am claiming). I’m glad I went for a mixture of Booker prize winners, crime and works in translation because the variety meant I had plenty of choice when I needed to pick up the next book. I’m also relieved that I thought to include a few shortish books because while I enjoyed both Sacred Hunger and True History of the Kelly Gang they were rather long.
Of all the books I read, my favourite was A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki which is a wonderfully thought-provoking novel set partly in Japan and partly in Canada. I’m usually a bit hesitant about child narrators but in Ozeki’s schoolgirl protagonist I found a character for whom it was hard not to feel affection.
From my original list of 20 here’s what I read (links take you to my reviews):
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Good Behaviour by Molly Keane
Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran
Anglesey Blue by Dylan Jones
The Hogs Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts
Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (review to follow)
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (part read – review here)
Books I never got around to:
The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer: a Booker winner that I started last year but stalled on part way through. I will read this later in the year as part of my Booker project which is due for completion by end of December.
Twilight in Djakarta by Mochtar Lubis
Oh dear, I seem fated never to get to this book. It was on my list of books to read this Spring but it fell by the wayside and now I’ve overlooked it again. 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.
The Kill/La Curée by Emile Zola
My plan to read all the books in the Rougon-Marquet cycle stalled last year so I was planning to read The Kill to give it a kickstart. I thought it was book number 2 in the series but just as I was about to begin reading it, I discovered that although it was the second to be published the recommended reading order from Lisa and Dagny who are the brains behind the readingzola blog actually puts this as book number 3. So then I went shopping for the book they recommend to read second His Excellency Eugene Rougon but it doesn’t seem that it’s available as an Oxford World Classics edition (the editions I prefer) so now I’m stuck wondering which other edition to try. Any suggestions for a good translation?
Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre
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 was published in July, fitted that description perfectly. But after reading two crime fiction titles I lost the appetite for this one. I will still read it, just not in the immediate future.
An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah
This was on last year’s 20 books of summer list but I only got half way through the collection of short stories. And now I can’t find my copy.
What I Know I Cannot Say/ All That Lies Beneath by Dai Smith
Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin
Both of these are books by Welsh authors that I bought at the end of 2016. The Dai Smith book 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. Carol Lovekin’s novel was the Waterstones Wales and Welsh Independent Bookshops Book of the Month in April 2016. I still plan to read both of these before the year is out
That’s it for another year. How did you fare with your summer reading projects?