The 20 Books of Summer Referendum

The in/out debate over UK’s membership of the European Union is nothing compared to my own debate on whether to join the Twenty Books of Summer Challenge. I’ve been in a quandary ever since Cathy at 746 books announced the challenge is about to begin.  “Out” says the rational part of my brain which knows that a) I have no hope in hell of reading 20 books in three months and b) I don’t do all that well with reading to a list. “In” screams the emotional side of my brain which argues that it sounds like a lot of fun.

Maybe it was the influence of today’s sunshine but the two sides seem to have reached a point where they agree to disagree and have signed a compromise pledge allowing me 50% participation. Step forward the “BookerTalk not the 20 books of summer list”  whereby I read just 10 books.  Which means I join in with the fun but have none of the angst if I don’t make it. And just to give further protection, right brain has allowed me to pick more than 10 books so I don’t feel the need to go off piste.

My list is a mixture, mainly of Booker Prize titles (still trying to get that challenge completed by year end), short story collections and Viragos. With the exception of the first two, they are all part of my TBR collection.

I’ve loved O’Farrell’s work ever since a friend gave me The Disappearing Act of Esme Lemmox so of course when I learned she had a new novel out (that the Guardian newspaper called “technically dazzling”, I immediately got my name on the library reservation list. Good news is it’s arrived just in time for me to make this the first one I read for the challenge.

  • The Female Detective by Andrew Forrester. did not finish

This is a new title in the British Library Crime Classic series.  I have an advanced copy via NetGalley. It was first published in 1864 and is said to be the first novel in British fiction to feature a professional female detective.

  • NW by Ali Smith Read

Smith is someone I’ve long felt I should get to know better. Her last novel “How to be Both” was stunning so I’d like to read some of her back catalogue. I just happen to have NW on the bookshelves.

Thirkell’s name keeps cropping up amongst bloggers but I’ve never read her. This is probably one of the least demanding of the books on my list.

  • A Favourite of the Gods by Sybille Bedford

A Virago copy I picked up in a charity shop. Should be good for the All August All Virago themed reading month.

  • Frost in May by Antonia White

Another Virago. In fact the first Virago I ever read. I was fairly young at the time. Will it hold my attention as much the second time around?

  • Last Orders by Graham Swift. Read

Swift won the 1996 Booker Prize title with this tale of a group of friends who set off for the seaside to scatter the ashes of one of their members who just died. I enjoyed the film. Mr Booker Talk tells me I’ll enjoy the books just as much

  • The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis.

Another Booker winner – this time from 1986. It’s set in my home country of Wales

  • Life & Times of Michael K  by J M Coetzee. Read

My third and final Booker winner, from 1983. This will be the third Coetzee book for me to read. The previous two have been superb. Hope this makes it a hat trick.

  • The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimanda Adichie Read

I’m guilty here of the ‘save if for a rainy day’ syndrome. I am eking out Adichie’s work because it’s so good but now I have only Half a Yellow Sun left to read. I somehow don’t want to start it because then it will be over. Stupid I know. In the meantime I shall enjoy this collection of her short stories that I picked up on my first visit to the Hay Festival Oxfam shop.

  • An Elergy for Easterly by Petina Gappah

Another short story collection, this time from a Zimbabwean author. Gappah made the 2016 Baileys Prize longlist with her novel, The Book of Memory, becoming the first author from her country to reach this stage of the award.

I regularly ask work colleagues for recommendations of authors from their home country. For Belgium, the name of Amelie Northomb was mentioned regularly and was recommended in the View From Here feature on Belgium. Fear and Trembling is actually set in Japan but is the only one of her works I have.

  • Tree of Life by Maryse Conde

Conde is a French (Guadeloupean) author who was a finalist for the Man Booker international award a few years ago. Tree of Life is a multigenerational story about the emergence of the West Indian middle class and tells the politics of race and immigration, and the legacy of colonialism in the Caribbean. It will be the first book I’ve read by an author from that part of the world.

So there you have it. 13 titles that should keep me quiet over the summer months. If I do make it to 10 I’ll consider it a miracle but the fun isn’t really whether I make it – it’s the getting there.

About BookerTalk

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

Posted on May 29, 2016, in Sunday Salon and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 55 Comments.

  1. Looking forward to reading about your challenge success. Good luck! it sounds like fun x

  2. Great list.
    I couldn’t finish NW, so I’m curious about your thoughts on this one.
    I enjoyed Fear and Trembling.

  3. Yay! I’m so glad you love Adichie too. I have been exactly the same as you about her works…making them last as long as possible as it can be a while before the next gem of genius comes along! I still have quite a few of these short stories to read but get going on Half of a Yellow Sun, it’s my favourite!

  4. So that’s one ‘in’ with qualifying conditions…I wonder how the Brexit issue will be resolved??

    • Each side is coming out with so many scaremongering tactics its difficult to see how the electorate can make an informed decision. I feel even less clued up now than I did when the campaigning began

      • We have a federal election campaign running at the moment too. Same thing happens with stuff to do with refugees, climate, affordable housing, taxes, super & baby boomers!
        Although we might all have other concerns if Trump wins in America!

        • Mercifully our election campaigns are relatively short – normally 5 weeks official campaigning. How the people of the US cope when it goes on for 2 years i have no idea.

  5. Sybille Bedford is one of my favorites, a well-kept English secret.
    I’ve read ‘A Legacy’, ‘A Favorite of the Gods’, ‘A Compass Error’, and ‘Jigsaw – An Unsentimental Education’.

  6. I used to jump aboard every challenge which presented itself, but now like you, I find myself more reticent. I think your solution of 10 books is perfect! (Although I’m aware of none of your ten, and hope to learn of them through your posts.) I myself will be reading La Regenta, which I hear comes in at 700 pages, so perhaps I’ll make my goal 5 books. 😉

  7. Well, you convinced me! I’ll be posting on Wednesday and created a page to track my progress. Kind of a nice way to list all those books I am “scheduled” to read as well as some others! Let’s see if I stick to those “others”! 🙂

  8. I’m thinking about my summer reads too – like you I’m excited about the new Maggie O’Farrell. I just finished Half of a Yellow Sun. Good luck with the challenge!

  9. Your Summer reading list fills me with trepidation. I know you live in the UK, where the weather is always a factor e.g. will the UK actually HAVE a Summer? but what about the lazy, hazy days of summer / soda, and pretzels and beer , as Nat King Cole sang. I think Summer reading should be light & entertaining., when it’s too hot to concentrate. But perhaps this doesn’t happen in the UK? I’m being snarky because your list includes a book by my bete noir, JMC . Anyway – Bon Voyage, and enjoy! …

    • we do have summer but unlike your part of the world, sunshine and warmth are not guaranteed sadly. I don’t seem to be able to get on with light/entertaining reading generally but equally I don’t care for books that parade their cleverness. Hard sometimes to find the happy middle ground

  10. I like the way you think. I’m working on my own list of 10 books right now – I’m sticking to the books I’m pretty sure that I’ll be reading in the next couple of months.
    There are some good books on your list that I’m looking forward to hearing about. Happy Reading!

  11. This is great. I feel exactly the same way – am I in or out for this reading challenge. Unlike you I ultimately decided out. I’m travelling for 5 weeks and who knows if I’ll be reading at all! But I like your compromise of reading 10 books.

    • Usually its when I’m travelling that i get more reading done but this year my wings are clipped because my husband has just had surgery on his foot so has to hop everywhere for six weeks. Cramps our style for sure

  12. You’ve got a nice mix of books there, plenty of variety. I’ll be interested to see how you get on with A Favourite of the Gods. I read Sybille Bedford’s A Legacy fairly recently, and while I didn’t love it, I’d like to try another of her books at some point. Hope you enjoy your reading.

  13. Ha! I’m glad you’re dealing with the big issues and not worrying over trifles such as the EU.

    I’m going to join the challenge as well, just trying to finalise my list.

  14. Brilliant list – maybe I’ll join the challenge next year!

  15. I am taking part in the 10 Books of Summer challenge too – good luck and I hope you enjoy your reading 🙂

  16. Great list, I have read several of those. A Favourite of the Gods, Frost in May and Last Orders are excellent. I need to be in the right mood for Angela Thirkell though I did enjoy High Rising.

  17. Glad to hear you’re “in”. Your list is a fascinating one – so many new titles that I haven’t heard about (with the exception of NW which I’ve heard about but haven’t really seen anyone talking about it lately). I wish you all the best for your summer reading!

  18. Good luck, Karen, that’s a wonderful list. But I think NW is by Zadie Smith – or is it a different book you mean? I’ve only read A Favourite of the Gods from your list, but I loved it. I also loved Americanah, so I can see I need to read more Adichie, too.

    • Oh dear, yes you are right NW is by Zadie Smith not Ali Smith. I seem to mix up certain authors regularly – Penelope Lively and Penelope Fitzgerald often get muddled by me. Thanks for spotting the mistake which I shall correct forthwith

  19. Good luck with the ten, Karen! I’m in the process of fine tuning my list. Last summer I had to make some changes halfway through, lol.

  20. Really nice list! Will be interested to follow your progress.

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