#20books of summerBookendsIrish authors

#20booksofsummer 2017 wrap up

15 books of summerThat’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

We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson (review to follow)

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

twilight in djakarta-1

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

the kill-1

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

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 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

elegy for easterly-1

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

what I know-1

Both of these are books by Welsh authors that I bought at the end Ghostbirdof 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?







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

38 thoughts on “#20booksofsummer 2017 wrap up

  • That line about Cathy and a nasty surprise made me laugh as I just read her recap where she didn’t finish her list either!

  • That’s good going and I’m so glad you loved the Ozeki, that was a real stand-out for me. I didn’t finish all of my last book until Sept 5 but am trusting no book police will turn up, too …

    • They haven’t found me out yet so I reckon you are safe Liz

  • Well done, I think 12.5 books is a great amount and I can confirm there no Books of Summer police … well I hope not as a I read 9/10 off my list 😀

  • buriedinprint

    I didn’t have special summer projects, just general intentions to keep up with the series/authors that I selected as focus points back in January. And I didn’t really make that a priority after all, but read a lot of backlisted titles that have been on my TBR for ages. I’ve been gradually trying to read the books on my shelves which have lingered there for at least twenty years and have found some real treasures, so that is a great incentive to keep turning the pages.

    On your list, I thought I’d read Jamaica Inn but it was Frenchman’s Creek instead and now I’ve already begun watching the BBC series of Jamaica Inn and am too enthralled to stop now. Your list has so many good ones on it; I’m glad the event was so encouraging for you and that you found so many rewarding reads in the process. I think events and challenges can be very inspiring!

    • Your approach sounds very sound and manageable – since it’s self imposed in a sense there is no feeling of guilt if you don’t make it. I’ve never watched either Frenchman’s Creek or Jamaica Inn – somehow I got the feeling the adaptations would lose some of the subtlety of du maurier’s originals. could be wrong though

  • Great as I didn’t have any…challenges, that is… sounds too stressful. 12.5 sounds pretty good to me.

  • I reviewed 17 and read 18, so I didn’t make it. Last year I got 20 just in time. It’s bugging me that I didn’t finish, but I read a lot of good books and am still reading!

  • I managed to read 23 books however only 18 were from my challenge list so it’s a partial win and partial fail!

    • Cathy is counting everything she read even it the books were not on her list so I think you can claim victory on that basis

  • Very impressive overall! But I have to warn you that the Lemaitre one is not fast-paced and thrillery – it’s more of a coming of age story or character study.

    • That might just tip the scales in its favour then – I didn’t fancy a thriller anyway

  • Jonathan

    Well done anyway. I only average about 50 books a year so I’d struggle reading 20 over the summer. I’m concentrating on reading books from my TBR pile this year; I’ve read about 25 so far.

    Re: Zola. I agree with Lisa that you shouldn’t worry too much about the order. His Excellency is ok but not one of the best and is probably one of the few RM books where the Vizetelly translation would suffice.

    • I don’t think it really matters how many books you read – some people seem to manage twice my yearly total but how they do that I have no idea. I thought when I retired I would have a lot more time for reading but its about the same. Thanks for the tip about the translator for dear Zola – I shall go hunting now for a suitable edition

  • You did very well – nearly made it in terms of numbers but more importantly read some great books! I flopped dismally this year – major reading slump. So I gave up weeks ago. I’m afraid challenges with deadlines don’t really work for me. I prefer more open-ended ones where I can speed up or slow down as the mood takes me. I’m interested to hear what you think of the Ned Kelly book, and also We Have Always Lived in the Castle – read and loved it a couple of years ago.

    • It seems challenges with lists are my downfall – as soon as the list gets created I go off the idea of reading those books. I wonder if I could do a year without any challenges at all??? Sorry to hear about your slump – its probably just temporary

  • I could repeat what others have said about not doing challenges and readalongs and ‘weeks/months’, because I don’t like getting pushed either, but I do feel guilty about not supporting the lovely people who organise them, and besides, I do my own-not-very-demanding one every year too with Indigenous Literature Week in July. So I am conflicted too.

    But, alas, I must correct you about being the brains behind the Zola reading order. It’s true that Dagny and I and a small team of wonderful contributors (including Guy and Emma and Jonathan who you know) are the brains behind the Reading Zola blog (and also its sister blogs for BalzacBooks and Marvellous Maupassant) but the recommended reading order isn’t our invention. It was Vizetelly, Zola’s publisher who suggested the order (See https://readingzola.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/rougon-macquart-reading-order-per-vizetelly/) and having read all the novels in that order, I am an enthusiast of reading them that way. But as Dagny says in her explanation, there is a risk that readers may not enjoy the early ones enough to sign up for reading the whole 20, and it’s true that I myself started the whole Zola project after reading and enjoying (out of any order) The Ladies Paradise, which I discovered first as a TV series. So my advice is fall in love with the best of Zola first and then go back to the beginning and enjoy it even more.

    PS I must thank you for mentioning Twilight in Djakarta by Mochtar Lubis because despite taking a keen interest in IndoLit I had never heard of it and have now ordered it!

    • I’m in a dilemma too with challenges etc. I like the camaradarie aspect and doing these challenges does push me to read books that are at the back of the shelves. On the other hand I like having freedom to choose according to my mood. Not sure how this can be reconciled …

      By accident I think I’ve been following your advice to read the best of Zola and then go back – but having subsequently read the Fortune of the Rougons it did provide me with some context about the origin of these two branches. But you’ve now emboldened me to be more relaxed about the reading order. I’ve read Germinal, L’Assommoir, La Bete Humaine – any recommendations on another outstanding one to try?

      • I’d suggest The Ladies Paradise (in Brian Nelson’s translation because his introduction is invaluable), Nana and The Earth…

        • I have Nana but not in an Oxford edition so will need to buy that one, but I do have The Earth. Shall give it a go … thanks Lisa

  • Well done! Actually Three days and a Life is not a crime fiction per se, as you know on first page who killed who, and actually in an accident, no suspense there.
    It’s more a noir novel, focusing on how the person who killed is going to live his life after that action. I listened to an interview by the author, he really insisted on the difference. I really think the book is excellent, plus it’s really short. Not surprising the author won the prestigious Prix Goncourt (for another novel)

    • Thanks for that additional perspective, it makes the book more appealing than if it was a straight forward crime/thriller

  • I’m far too lazy for challenges I think – the nearest I get to one is reading about the challenges you and others undertake!! That’s more than enough for me. Glad you liked Tale For Time Being – I loved it as I also loved True History of the Kelly Gang. Le Maitre’s Three Days and A Life was one of my summer reads having loved some of his other books but I was pretty underwhelmed by it so will be interested to see what you think when you do get round to it.

    • Ive only read one other by LeMaitre (Alex) which I think is very different to Three Days so I’ll have to see how it works out. I liek the idea of following challenges from the safety of your armchair ….

      • Safer and more flexible – you can take just following challenges to work, to the pub, on the Tube………..!

  • I don’t do these kinds of challenges any more…I don’t like feeling pushed…LOL.

    I read (and loved) Jamaica Inn many years ago.

    You had an ambitious list of books. Well done!

    • I should learn my lesson too …but every time I just can’t help it

  • Well done! My only real commitment was War and Peace, which I finished ahead of time. I’m happy that I didn’t take on any other challenges!!!

    • I shall learn my lesson for next year – there were too many other challenges going on at the same time that I wanted to do but didn’t really progress, like the WIT month and the Virago one. Well done on finishing W and P – such a sense of achievement to get to the end

  • Looks like a great reading summer! I read and loved A Tale For the Time Being earlier this year. It’s such a stunning novel, and I loved the narrator Nao as well.

    • I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did because I’d heard there were multiple themes and I thought it could get confusing. But it held my attention from start to finish


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