Reading plans

Books of Summer 2023: Random Choices From The Shelves

The stars were in alignment this week. First came the news that the Top Ten Tuesday topic for the week would be “The First 10 Books I Randomly Grabbed from My Shelf “. Then Cathy at 746Books gave us a heads-up that it was time to put our list together for 20Booksof Summer ’23 which runs from Thursday 1 June to Friday 1 September.

In past years I’ve agonised over which titles to include on my 20 Books of Summer list and have tried a few different methods to create the list. Last year’s list was designed to take me around the world . The previous year I built an alphabetical list, choosing one author from each letter of the alphabet. 

Despite all the time I spent trying to put the perfect list together I still ended up with some books that — on hindsight — didn’t enthuse me .

So this year I’m trying a random method. Instead of picking books off the shelves, I’ve deployed my TBR Jar.

I’ve pulled out the names of 10 books from the jar that will the starting point for my summer reading list. To give me flexibility I’lll reserve a further five titles that I could use as substitutes as necessary. These will be mainly books scheduled for our monthly book club meetings plus some library holds. Based on previous year’s experiences I know I’m never going to manage 20 books in the three months of #20BooksofSummer. if I manage more than 10 I’ll count it as a success.

The First 10 Choices

Though these were chosen at random I’ve ended up with a good mix of genres, classic and contemporary authors and geographies.

What Maisie Knew by Henry James 

Published at a point when James was experimenting with narrative technique, What Maisie Knew is a tale of a young adrift in a corrupt society.

Mr Mac and Me   by Emma FreudRead June 2023

Set on the Suffolk coast in 1914 this is a story based on an unusual friendship between a 13 year old boy and the artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh. As war looms, the community becomes increasingly suspicious of the redheaded Scottish man and his unusual behaviour.

If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor Read June 2023

I’ve enjoyed everything else I’ve read by McGregor so have high hopes for this which is his debut novel. It depicts the inhabitants of a street in a town in the North of England whose mundane lives are disrupted by a terrible event. Those who witness it will be altered forever.

Raised From The Ground by José Saramango

This will be my first venture into the work of this Nobel laureate. It’s described as “a multigenerational family saga that paints a sweeping portrait of twentieth-century Portugal.” Saramango’s narrative follows the changing fortunes of the Mau Tempo family—poor landless peasants similar to his own grandparents.

A Man by Keiichiro HiranoRead August 2023

From Portugal, I’m heading to Japan with the first novel by Hirano to be translated into English. I don’t know much about it other than it’s a psychological story about the search for identity.

The Beautiful Visit by Elizabeth Jane Howard Read August 2023

Published in 1950, this was Elizabeth Jane Howard’s debut novel. it’s a portrait of a young girl who wants to be someone, and achieve something remarkable at a time when society believes it’s enough for her to get married and become a mother.

Cousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac

I’ve read only one novel by Balzac so far (Old Goriot). Cousin Bette sounds even better. It’s apparently a “tale of violent jealousy, sexual passion and treachery, and a brilliant portrayal of the grasping, bourgeois society of 1840’s Paris.”

The Remarkable Journey of Tranby Quirke by Elizabeth RidleyRead July 2023

I wish I could remember which blogger recommended this book to me. Ridley’s main character is a spinster with two secrets. One is that she is a lesbian and the other that she supports the Suffragette movement. When she meets Lysette, love enters her life and she embarks on a remarkable journey.

My Turn To Make The Tea by Monica Dickens Read June 2023. Reviewed here

I’m sure this book is going to re-awaken memories of my days as a very junior reporter on a small local newspaper. The main character is a cub reporter determined to prove to her editor that she’s can handle more demanding stories than village fetes and social events.

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William MaxwellRead July 2023. Reviewed here

Considered an American classic, this book tells two stories. One of the narrator, whose mother has died in the 1918 influenza epidemic:; the other features Cletus Smith, whose father and mother have divorced.

5 Back Ups

To give me flexibility I’lll reserve a further five titles that I could use as substitutes as necessary. These are going to be a mix of books scheduled for our monthly book club meetings, some library holds and a couple that could nudge me further forward in my Wanderlust Bingo quest.

The Night Interns by Austin Duffy — Read June 2023. Reviewed here

Three junior doctors share the terror and black humour of night duty in this novel from a practising oncologist.

Kindred by Octavia ButlerRead July 2023

This key text in black American literature was chosen for our July book club meeting.

Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo. Substituted by Days At the Moriaski Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa which was on my Net Galley TBR. It’s set in a bookshop so has to be good! Read August 2023.

Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed

After his mother’s death, a10 year-old boy leaves his home in Somalia to try and find his father. His epic journey takes through war-ravaged Eritrea and Sudan, to Europe under the control of Nazism. I’ve chosen this for the “walk” square on my bingo card.

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

The only non-fiction book on my list, this is a memoir of a girl whose family lived through the Cambodian genocide orchestrated by the Pol Pot regime. This could fit well with Women in Translation month in August.

Based on previous year’s experiences I know I’m never going to manage 20 books in the three months of #20BooksofSummer. if I manage more than 10 I’ll count it as a success.

Graphic for the 10 Books of Summer reading challenge in 2023


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

53 thoughts on “Books of Summer 2023: Random Choices From The Shelves

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  • Very interesting selections. It is hard to make a list–and harder even to stick to it. It becomes “homework” to me often. That makes me not want to read lol. I will be anxious to hear your thoughts on Raised from the Ground–I haven’t read a book set in Portugal (yet) for my version of Reading the World.

    • it will be a first for me too Lisa, I’ve visited Spain on my virtual travels but not Portugal yet

    • James can be hard work often. I know I struggled with Portrait of a Lady

  • Excellent (random) choices. I won’t choose mine till 31 May as usual, and as usual it will be the first 20 books on my TBR – well, I might add in any hardbacks I want to get to before the paperbacks come out from nearer the end, who knows. Have fun!

  • Cousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac…was amazing.
    Just remember the saying “revenge is a dish best served cold!
    If someone does something bad to us, it is better to pay them back later in time, not immediately. Cousin Bette knew exactly what to do …”payback time”. Happy reading this summer!

    • Well you certainly sparked my curiosity with that enigmatic comment Nancy. Guess I will have to make Balzac one of the first books I read

  • If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is one of my all time favourite books. I hope you enjoy. Thanks for taking part again, best of luck!

  • I’m going to keep Cousin Bette in mind for Paris in July! Thanks!

    • Who is running Paris in July? I haven’t seen that mentioned anywhere…

  • Good luck and happy summer reading 🌞 My 10 Books of Summer will be posted tomorrow.

  • Good luck with your summer reading, So Long See You Tomorrow is a simply wonderful book. I also have Kindred tbr. A few backups sound like a good idea.

    • I really enjoyed the other William Maxwell I read – I think it was called They Came Like Swallows

  • I always love your lists because you manage to turn up books I haven’t heard of, despite being on the email list for all the big US publishing houses. I started “What Maisie Knew” a few years ago but never got beyond 20 pages. Perhaps I’ll go back to it. I had fantasized about re-reading “Washington Square” and “The Golden Bowl.” Probably won’t. But may I be so bold as to recommend “These Precious Days,” a book of essays by Ann Patchett? Utterly, completely beautiful.

    • Thanks for the recommendation about Ann Patchett, Angela. I’d forgotten all about that book.

  • Hm… not sure if I want to put up a list this time, but I really should schedule a post about participating!

    • I always have this dilemma. I don’t like being too constrained with my reading – fortunately this is such a flexible reading event that if I threw out the list and chose a completely different list, it wouldn’t matter

  • I’ll be using the challenge to complete other challenges. I go for 20 books, but always leave at least five spaces ‘free’ for whatever takes my fancy.
    Good luck with your reading.

    • It’s taken my a few years to realise that I need those “free spaces”. When I first started doing 20 books of summer I totally forgot about the book club choices…

  • So Long See You Tomorrow didn’t make a huge impression on me, but I think it was me, not the book. I should try it again. I’m thinking of doing another 1,001 Books theme, except I don’t actually own that many. I’ve had that Esther Freud novel in my hand in the bookstore… maybe I’ll try Hideous Kinky, since that one’s on the 1001 list!

    • Are you doing 1001 books? It sounds quite a daunting reading challenge!

  • Your TBR jar seems to be working well for you! You’ve got some great books here–I very much enjoyed Mr. Mac and Me earlier this year, and am a fan of Saramago, Cousin Bette, Butler, and Maxwell. Happy reading!

    • The book jar is certainly less time consuming than my old system of going to the book shelves and pulling out scores of books, reading the blurbs and a few pages before deciding whether to add it to the list.

    • I’ve read a few pages just to get the feel of it – it does sound like great fun

  • Hello there; I/We attended a book sale today and I walked away with some good reading; I am hoping to start them when I’ve finished this e-book that is borrowed from the library as the clock is ticking for it to expire soon. I am not liking this book as I thought that I would. Some of my summer reading lists are simplistic: Murder in Havana by Margaret Truman; The Dead Cat Bounce by Sarah Graves; Confession of a Counterfeit Farm Girl by Susan Mc Corkindale; I hope to read at least one of these books this summer. I tend to go on too much and sink my already sinking ship. Folks are teasing me lots and lots. I am sorry that you don’t know what to say; no matter, I am sharing. Have a great week/month/summer.

    • I’ve learned over the last few years that if I am not enjoying a book, then I should just give up on it. There are far too many other books to read that could give me more pleasure

  • Kindred is remarkable—I second all the recommendations of it!

    • “So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

      Considered an American classic, ,,,” never heard of it. Off to investigate!

      • There is a much earlier novel that I really enjoyed by him – They Came Like Swallows – which I only came across because it was in a charity shop. Well worth reading that if you can’t find So Long…..

    • Thanks Elle. It’s a book I’ve long meant to read but somehow never got around to

  • I really enjoyed both Cousin Bette and Kindred, so I’ll be interested to hear what you think if you manage to read either of those two.

    • I’m a little hesitant about Kindred because I think I read somewhere that it has touches of fantasy which is not a genre I enjoy

    • It’s been more fun making a list this year than in all the previous years. Far less pontification!

  • What an exciting list! Should make for a great summer.

    • I hope so Lory. My reading year has been in the doldrums until now so I’m hoping this will give me new impetus

  • Absolutely loved the McGregor and the Maxwell is an all time favourite. I also liked Mr Mac and Me and The Night Interns. Happy reading, Karen!

  • Good luck and happy reading! The fun is in the trying!

  • Having visited the village it’s set in, I very much want to read the Emma Freud novel. And I’d be interested to see what you’ll think when you get to the Octavia Butler. But whatever you read I shall be enjoying your take on them!

      • Yes, I have a post scheduled for tomorrow. I aim to start small – let’s see how that goes!


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