Category Archives: 20 books of summer

Celebrating #20booksofsummer

I’m in the mood for a celebration.

This is the first year I’ve completed the #20booksofsummer reading project! Actually in my case it was the 15 books of summer.

Books of Summer

I had dithered and wavered about whether to join the event this year having said at the start of 2020 that I would avoid any projects/challenges that involved reading from a list. But at the eleventh hour I came up with a cunning plan that would enable to take part yet avoid having to make a reading list.

I chose, instead of a list of specific books, to read 15 books from four categories of books all on my TBR shelves.

  • Wales
  • Review copies
  • World of literature
  • Non Fiction

And it worked. I read 15 books – more than I’ve managed in any other year.

Categories of books in the #20booksofsummer reading project

Here’s what I read with links to my reviews where I’ve managed to do them (still a few to be written)

  • Wales
    • Rather To Be Pitied by Jan Newton : a crime novel set in rural Wales, giving me the perfect excuse to indulge in memories of visiting the places mentioned.
    • The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd: a strange tale of a woman who forms such a strong attachment to a man on death row she believes is innocent.  
    • West by Carys Davies: beautifully crafted novella of a widower on a quest to find the huge creatures whose gigantic bones had been discovered in Kentucky.
  • Review copies
    • The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith: a chilling novel based on a premise that antibiotics have failed to work.
    • They Came Like Swallows  by William Maxwell: a new edition of a slim novel focused on a middle-class family in a small town in Illinois, at the end of the First World War.
    • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: Welcome to a library where every book is a version of your life. Each version shows what would have happened if you’d only taken a different decision.
    • The Covenant by Thorne Moore : a family saga where a determination to hold on to a birthright has tragic consequences.
    • Dear Reader by Cathy : a moving account of how books changed the course of her life,  giving her confidence in herself and helping to deal with the trauma of her brother’s young death. Will be published by Picador on September 17.
  • World of Literature
    • In Order To Live by Yeonmi Park: A memoir from a young North Korean girl about her dangerous journey to escapes from a brutal regime.
    • Love by Hanne Ørstavik: for such a small book, this has a huge emotional pull.
    • Maigret And The Headless Corpse by Georges Simenon: Another outing for the French detective who is more interested in why someone commits a crime, than how.
  • Non Fiction
    • Slatehead by Peter Goulding: the abandoned slate quarries of North Wales are a magnet for climbers. Goulding shares his love of the caverns and fissures and the physical and mental challenges they present.
    • My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay: a memoir that is a damning indictment of a social care system that went disastrously wrong and left a young boy feeling alone and unloved.

Off Piste

I allowed myself to indulge in a few books that didn’t fit any of these categories.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness: a gloriously illustrated book of a child who has to cope with a personal loss

The Small House at Allington  by Anthony Trollope: book number 5 in Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire. Over long unfortunately and lacking the wit and satire I’ve experienced with the previous titles in this series.

20#booksof summer is always a fun experience but I’ve enjoyed this year more than ever. I’ve travelled far and wide and read some excellent books. My 3 favourites are West by Carys Davies, My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay and They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell.

Thanks as always are to Cathy at 746books who hosts the event. Here’s to next year….

#20 Books Of Summer: The Unlisted Version

I plead guilty to the charges of inconsistency, fickleness and caprice.

But before you pass sentence, I hope you’ll allow me to explain the mitigating circumstances that have led me, against my better judgement, to join this year’s #20booksofsummer.

At the start of the year I made a rule: 2020 would be a year free of reading challenges that involved reading from a list of books. I went on the record to explain that while I love making lists, I’m a lost cause when it comes to actually reading from those lists. The minute the list is done, my interest wanes. And then those books become almost the very last books on earth I want to read….

For five months I have not deviated from my rule. But (there’s always a but isn’t there?) then came the beginning of June and another round of #20booksofsummer.

Now this event, hosted every year by Cathy at is one of the reading highlights of the year. I love it so much I’ve taken part for several years even though I’ve never managed to actually complete the challenge. Last year was the closest I got with 13 books read from my list.

Imagine then the pain over the last few days of seeing the reading plans of many other bloggers, knowing that I wouldn’t be joining them. My resolution began to crumble to the extent I even began making a list. But I gave myself a good talking to and ditched the whole thing.

Yet here I am on day one of #20booksofsummer 2020. How come you wonder?

I blame Lizzy, the blogger behind When she posted her plans for #20booksofsummer. I saw that she had identified categories of books rather than specific titles, because, like me, she doesn’t do well reading from lists.

love the #20booksofsummer challenge

And that became the moment where I realised there was a way for me to join #20booksofsummer but still keep true to my 2020 ‘no lists’ rule. It means manipulating the rules somewhat. Some unkind people might call that cheating. I like to think of it as being creative!.

So here we have my non-list list for summer 2020. It’s based on categories which I think gives me plenty of freedom about what I choose to read.

I’m aiming to read 15 books within four categories:

  • Wales
  • Review copies
  • World of literature
  • Non Fiction


At a rough count I have around 30 books written by authors either indigenous to Wales or who have made their home here. That gives me more than enough scope to read four or five books in this category. That could include West, a highly rated novella by Carys Davies,; two novels from the independent women’s press Honno (A Hundred  Tiny Threads by Judith Barrow, and Wild Spinning Girls by Carol Lovekin), or to vary the genre, The Innocent Wife , a debut thriller by Amy Lloyd.

Review Copies

My list of unread books obtained via NetGalley is now at an embarrassing level so I’m going to use #20booksofsummer to make some inroads into the backlog. Options include (but are not limited to): The Vanishing Sky by an award winning German author, L. Annette Binder and a new Virago Classics edition of They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell which is a portrait of an ordinary American family struck by the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

World of Literature

I’m 10 books away from completing my World of Literature project. The idea behind that was to broaden my reading horizons by exploring authors from countries further afield than my usual fare of British/American literature. I have some titles remaining from the Asympote Book Club subscription that I hope to get around to plus some titles by authors from Somalia and Indonesia.

Non Fiction

My final category gives me a chance to dig into the pile of non fiction books I’ve acquired over several years. There are some memoirs like In Order To Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park and Forty Autumns, a history of a German family separated by the Berlin Wall. Will this be the year I finally get around to reading one of the Roman history books by Mary Beard I bought on a whim?

Watch this space and you’ll find out if I have any more success reading categories than I do reading from lists…..

20? 15? 10? books of summer 2019

It’s officially summer in the northern hemisphere so time once again for the 20 Books of Summer challenge hosted by Cathy of

15 books of summerI’ve never yet managed to complete this challenge despite Cathy’s ultra flexibility with the “rules’. I suspect 2019 will be no different so there’s no point in going the whole hog with a list of 20 books. I’m going for the option of 15 books of summer and if I manage to read even 10 of them I’ll be dead chuffed.

Half of the fun of this challenge is putting together the list of books to read.  Since I’m not likely to be taking a summer holiday I shall use my reading to do my travelling for me. I’ve chosen 15 titles that will take me to different parts of the world.  Of course every journey has to start from home so the first book on my list comes from Wales. I may read the books the order below, travelling through Europe, crossing the Atlantic and then making my way east before dropping down to the southern hemisphere where by  September 3, when  this challenge finishes , it will be Spring…

So, my suitcase is packed. The tickets have arrived. My passport is up to date.  My journey begins on June 3.

Wales: Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin

France: Hotel Tito by  Ivana Simić Bodrožić.

Austria: A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler

Germany: Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Finland: The Midwife by Katja Kettu

Canada: One of Louise Penny’s detective novels  – not sure which yet

USA: Breakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote

Jamaica: The Long Song by Andrea Levy

South Africa: A Dry White Season by Andre Brink

India: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Indonesia: Twilight in Djakarta by Mochtar Lubis

Malaysia: Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

China: Frog by Mo Yan

Australia: Shell by Kristina Olsson

New Zealand: Ships by Fiona Duigan










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