20 Books of Summer Challenge

by Sunita

Keishon introduced me to this challenge and posted about it yesterday, which was good because I had been thinking about doing it but then of course forgot. For more information see Cathy’s original post at 746 books (she started the challenge in 2014 as a way of whittling down her TBR).

20 books in 3 months is a lot for me, especially the way I’m reading now (mostly longer books, mostly in the evenings and/or before bedtime). I always read more in the summer than during academic semesters, but still, that’s more than six books a month. Eek! But then I thought, why not add in some audiobooks and work/research books? There are certainly plenty of those in the TBR and the latter need to be read, so I can pat myself on the back when I’m done with them.

Here are my initial selections, all from the TBR, all books I want to read and/or finish if they’re in progress.

Print & ebooks:

Red or Dead by David Peace. 700+ pages on Bill Shankly, the great manager of Liverpool FC. You either hate Peace’s style or fall under its spell. I’m in the latter camp, having read three of the four Red Riding books already. I’ve made it through 200 pages of this one twice. This summer I’m finishing, dammit.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett. This sequel to City of Stairs has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while. I’ve been saving it but I really want to read it. I read the first chapter and thought it was excellent.

Necessary Errors by Caleb Crain. This post-college, expat novel set in early 1990s Prague is another that I’ve started and set aside a couple of times. The ebook is terrible (in terms of the format), the trade paper is lovely, and I have the trade paper. No excuses. It’s a leisurely, understated book that deserves a careful read.

Sleepless in Manhattan. The first novel in Sarah Morgan’s NYC trilogy. I liked the prequel novella and I’m looking forward to this one. I always save my Morgans until the right moment, and last summer is when I started her 2015 trilogy.

Triad Blood by Nathan Burgoine. A gift from my reader buddy Sirius. I have his previous novel in my TBR too, but I think I’ll start with this one.

Mrs. Pargeter’s Pound of Flesh by Simon Brett. I have this in audio and ebook form, and I must have listened to the audio years ago but I don’t remember it at all. It was the last Mrs. P I read, so I want to read this before moving on.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. I am 100 pages into this one. The first chapter was amazing, then it settled down a bit, and it has had ups and downs. But it captures both 70s Southern California and the fall of Saigon from perspectives we rarely see in US novels.

The Deadman’s Pedal by Alan Warner. I picked this book up at least three years ago after hearing it discussed on a books podcast (sadly now defunct) and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since. Warner is an acclaimed Scottish novelist (his best-known work, Morvern Callar, was made into an award-winning independent film starring Samantha Morton), but his books aren’t much talked about in the US. This novel is less obviously weird than some of his other work and it involves coming of age, railways, and Scottish working-class life. Also set in the 1970s.

The Doris Day Vintage Film Club by Fiona Harper. I’ve really enjoyed the single-title novels Harper has been writing, and I found this one at the M&B site earlier in the year, not having seen it when it came out. Harper combines chick lit, women’s fiction, and romance elements in a way that works for me.


Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. Yeah, yeah, I know. Plenty of mixed to negative reviews on this one and then the romance kerfuffle thing in one of the book-tour interviews. But I used an Audible credit and having listened through Ch. 7, I am enjoying it. I’m treating it as its own thing which is grounded in an Austen structure. I have family and friends in Cincinnati, lived in New York, and was unmarried through my 20s and 30s, and I’m finding parts of it to be quite on point. The narrator may be making it a better experience for me than some readers of the text had, given how narrators can direct the emotion and emphasis (she has the perfect voice and interpretation for the narrative).

The Peripheral by William Gibson. Another book I have in audio, ebook, and print (hardback even!). Gibson, obviously, is an autobuy author for me, and I’d been eagerly awaiting this novel, his first since the last installment in the Blue Ant trilogy, Zero History, came out back in 2010. But once again I started the first chapter and then set it aside for just the right moment. This summer is the right moment.

The Circle by Dave Eggers. I’m not a reader of Eggers’ books as a rule, but this one has been nudging me since it came out. It’s set in a milieu that I’ve known directly or peripherally since my teens (current Silicon Valley culture is a direct descendant of a previous incarnation of tech innovation/worship), and I’m just really curious about it. It came out nearly three years ago but it seems to have tagged what’s happened since then as well.


Happily Ever After by Catherine Roach. I got this from my university library and skim-read it, but I want to go back and read it more carefully and critically. Roach describes her method as “performative ethnography” and emphasizes the author side of the romance world, at least that’s my sense of it from a first read. I have very mixed feelings so far, and I want to get a better handle on the argument and the evidence.

Religious Practice and Democracy in India, by Pradeep Chhibber. Chhibber is an old friend and academic colleague, but somehow I missed this book when it came out, which is a shame because it’s predictably smart and also highly relevant to what I’m working on now. It’s especially valuable because it focuses on practice rather than ideology.

Postcolonial Politics and Personal Laws by Rina Verma Williams. Another book about religion in contemporary India, but with a different focus on ideology and party politics than a lot of books. Also one I didn’t read when I should have, and the snippets I read earlier this year (for a seminar) made me realize I need to read the whole thing, carefully.

Careful readers will not that the list adds up to 15 books, not 20. The remaining five will come off my romance TBR, probably from the category section. I still have some Sarah Morgan medicals I haven’t read, which surprises me almost as much as it pleases me, and the Sharon Kendrick book I read recently makes me want to go back through my TBR and pick out some more. Or, I might finally finish the first book in Derek Raymond’s classic crime series. Or maybe I’ll finally read Blood Meridian. Yeah, right. And did I mention TheHusband and I discussed buddy-reading Ulysses? If we pull that off I’m taking credit for completing a 100 books of summer challenge. I’ll have earned it.