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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 Freud

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 

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 Hirano

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.

Those Who Know by Alis Hawkins 

This is the third book in the Teifi Valley Coroner series which set in the rural communities of West Wales. I’ve enjoyed the previous two titles —  None So Blind, and In Two Minds and am looking forward to catching up with Harry Probert-Lloyd. He has now become the squire of the estate of Glanteifi but still believes his true vocation in life is to be a coroner.

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 Ridley

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 

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 Maxwell

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

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

Kindred by Octavia Butler

This key text in black American literature has been chosen for our June book club meeting.

Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo.

The first prose novel written by Evaristo imagines an alternative version of history. Her narrative follows the life story of a slave, her family and her owners with the twist that reverses history and it’s the Europeans who are enslaved by Africans. The book club choice for August.  

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.

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.

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