Twenty Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746books is about to begin so I can’t procrastinate much longer about the books I’m putting on my list to read. This is about the third version I’ve created. I’ve gone for a mix of classics from my Classics Club project, some Booker prize winners (only nine more to read in this project), some translated fiction and a few by authors from Wales. All of these are on my ‘owned but not read’ shelves.
I know I’ll never manage to read 20 books between June 1 and September 3 (that’s 7 books a month) so I’m going for the 15 books of summer option. But since past experience tells me the minute a book goes on a list its appeal for me diminishes, I’ve listed 20 books anyway in the hope that this, plus the mixture of genres/styles I’ve chosen will give me plenty of choices to suit all moods.
Here’s my 20 Books for summer 2017 list – click on the titles to read the description on Goodreads:
Update as of August 17, 2017: 11 read. One abandoned.
1. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf Read August 2017
One that featured on my post about books that have been on my ‘to read’ list for many years. Following several comments from bloggers about how good this is, I’m persuaded it’s time to just get on and read this.
2. We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson Read July 2017
I’d not heard of Shirley Jackson until I started listening to some book podcasts and kept hearing about this but since it’s considered Jackson’s masterpiece it feels like the right place to begin exploring her work.
3. Good Behaviour by Molly Keane Read August 2017
I bought this in a library sale (unfortunately my edition has a less attractive cover than this one but I couldn’t find that image). It’s the first novel Keane published after a writing break triggered by the death of her husband and was the first time she used her real name (rather than her pseudonym of M. J Farrell. I’ve read only one book by her – Devoted Ladies which I enjoyed but didn’t love. I’m hoping Good Behaviour comes up trumps because so many other readers seem to love her work.
4. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (Read June 2017)
Inspired by the real life Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor at which du Maurier stayed in 1930, this is a tale about a group of murderous wreckers who run ships aground, kill the sailors and steal the cargo. I was disappointed by the last du Maurier I read (My Cousin Rachel) so am hoping this proves more enjoyable.
5. The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (part read)
This won the Booker Prize in 2010, becoming the first comic novel to win the prize since Kingsley Amis’s The Old Devils in 1986. Opinions are greatly divided on this book amongst the blogging community.
6. The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer
Another Booker winner that remains on my list to read. I started reading it last year but found it rather dull at the time. I see that the Guardian reviewer described it as “a portrait of a dangerous man lent dangerous power by apartheid is great writing, but not brilliant reading.” Based on what I’ve read so far I’m not convinced that it really does constitute ‘great writing’ but I know I’ll at least be able to finish it (unlike the appalling The Famished Road by Ben Okri which remains the only Booker prize that I absolutely could not finish.)
7. Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth Read August 2017
Joint winner of the Booker prize along with Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient in 1992, this is likely to be a grim read because of its subject. It is set on an eighteenth century slave ship called The Liverpool Merchant which is bound for Africa to pick up its human cargo. Much of the book apparently deals with the issue of greed.
8. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
Peter Carey is one of the few people to win the Booker prize more than once. His other award winner — Oscar and Lucinda — is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read so far this year. The True History of the Kelly Gang, a fictionalised biography of the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, won the prize in 2001, and also the Commonwealth Writers Prize in the same year. Since it’s written in a distinctive vernacular style, with little punctuation or grammar, it could be tough going.
9. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (read June 2017)
Han Kang’s novel features a rather ordinary South Korean housewife who decides to throw away all the meat from the freezer and announces that henceforth she is going to be a vegetarian. Her action is completely counter to South Korean culture so the book examines the reaction of her family, husband and friends. This will be only the second Korean author I’ve read and if it’s as good as my first experience – with Please Look after Mom by Shin Kyung-sook – I know I’m in for a treat.
10. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Read June 2017)
Ruth Ozeki’s novel got my attention when it was shortlisted for the 2010 Booker prize but I never got around to reading this story which has two narrators. One is a sixteen-year-old Japanese American girl in Tokyo who keeps a diary, the other is a Japanese American writer living on an island off British Columbia who finds the diary washed up on shore some time after the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan.
11. Twilight in Djakarta by Mochtar Lubis
I put this on my list of books to read this Spring but it fell by the wayside so I’ve resurrected it for summer. 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.
12. The Kill/La Curée by Emile Zola
My plan to read all the books in the Rougon-Marquet cycle stalled last year but I’m looking to The Kill to give it a kickstart. The Kill is book number 2 in the series is set against the background of the massive redevelopment of Paris and the birth of the modern city.
13. Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran read July 2017
Xinran is a former radio journalist from China who, over a period of 10 years in the 1990s, collected stories of women who endured child child abuse, rape, gang rape, abduction and the forced parting of parents and children. The 15 stories in this collection lift the lid on Chinese society at a time when prohibitions against discussion of feelings and sexuality were relaxing.
14. 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 will be published in July, fitted that description perfectly. It begins in a small provincial town of Beauval, France with the accidental killing of a young boy. More than a decade later the killer returns to the town and discovers there was a witness to his crime, a person who has the power to destroy his life. [note I corrected this synopsis based on the comment by Words and Peace that I had the gender of the victim incorrect).
15. Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto (Read July 2017)
I’ve enjoyed my explorations of Japanese fiction so far but have never read Banana Yoshimoto. I know little about this book other than it’s about relationships between two cousins in a small Japanese seaside town.
16. An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah
This is on my list to assuage my feelings of guilt that it was on last year’s 20 books of summer list but I only got half way through the collection of short stories.
17. What I Know I Cannot Say/ All That Lies Beneath by Dai Smith
One of the books by Welsh authors that I bought at the end of 2016, this 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.
18. Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin
From another author living in Wales, Carol Lovekin’s novel was the Waterstones Wales and Welsh Independent Bookshops Book of the Month in April 2016.
19. Anglesey Blue by Dylan Jones (read June 2017)
The first in a crime fiction series featuring a Welsh Detective Inspector based on the island of Anglesy in north wales. The colour in the title has nothing to do with the colour of the sea around the island but a powerful new drug which is being ruthlessly introduced to the island community. There is trouble in this paradise with drugs, disaffected youth and brutal murders.
20. The Hogs Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts Read August 2017
There are times when my brain cries out for a good yarn about crime. The Hog’s Back Mystery is on my list in case that need arises over the summer. A crime story from the past this has been given new life via the British Library Classic Crine series. It’s the fourteenth title written by Freeman Wills Crofts and begins with the disappearance of a semi-retired doctor from the North Downs in Surrey. He apparently simply walked out of the house in his slippers.
So that’s my 20 books of summer list. Whether I’ve made the ‘right’ choices is debatable – I have a feeling that I’ll come across a book on my shelves over the course of the next few months and wish I’d put it on my list.
If you want to join the fun, Cathy will put up a post on June 1 to mark the official start of the challenge and will tweet regularly using the hashtag #20booksofsummer.