20 Books of Summer

by Sunita

It’s June 1 and time for Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, one that I never manage to finish but enjoy putting together and working on. Despite giving up all reading challenges, and despite having read far fewer books at this point in the year than usual, I’m making a list.

I consulted my list from last year’s challenge, which I failed dismally, but one of the nice things about this challenge is Cathy’s emphasis that it doesn’t matter how you do it or whether you succeed, just have fun with it. I did manage to read 10 of the 20 from last year, but as Barb remarked, it was an ambitious list, and it turned out to be too ambitious. But here we go again. I’m picking a bunch of books that are half-finished (or less), some of which I’ll probably have to start over because it’s been so long; different books by authors whose books I didn’t finish last summer; and entirely new books.

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett. I read half of this a couple of summers ago and loved it but somehow didn’t manage to finish this and am not really sure why.

Street of Thieves by Mathias Énard. I failed to read Compass last year, so I’m picking a shorter, less demanding book of his from the TBR.

In the Night of Time by Antonio Muñoz Molina. Yep, this was on the list last year. Let’s give it another go.

Occupied City by David Peace. A different Peace book than last year. This is #2 in his series of postwar Tokyo crime novels. I read the first one and thought it was brilliant (like all his books) and this has been staring at me from the bookshelf. I picked GB84 last year and failed to read it, but I can’t face that one this summer.

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope. I am nearly halfway through this on audio (the version read by Timothy West). I haven’t been listening to audiobooks much but I really like this version, better than reading it for once, so I’m putting it on the list.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield. I’ve had this for quite a while and keep meaning to pick it up. I’ve seen a bunch of references to it during shelter-in-place, so this seems like a good time.

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. The next in the trilogy.

Belleweather by Susanna Kearsley. Why didn’t I read this last summer? I have no idea.

Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. I’m partway through this and putting it on the list may get me to finish. It’s very good but kind of tough to read.

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni. This is sort of a gimme because I’m nearly halfway through and plan to finish, but this way I’m held to public account.

Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. Keishon reminded me that I own this, and I’ve been meaning to read it.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. I’ve had this in the TBR since it was nominated for an award, and it’s since been nominated for more. It sounds great but somehow I never get to it.

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri. Another translated work that I picked up when it came out in the UK but haven’t read.

The Stranger’s Child by Allan Hollinghurst. I have a bunch of Hollinghurst’s novels in the TBR. This one seems like a good followup to The Sparsholt Affair, which I loved.

Morvern Callar by Alan Warner. From last year. I have multiple Warner novels in the TBR. I am going to finish one, I swear it.

Decoded by Mai Jia. I’m a third of the way through this so it’s kind of cheating to put it on the list, but this way I’ll finish it. I’ve been bogged down a few times but want to get all the way to the end.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I know I must have read this when I was a teenager and hoovering up all her works (I even have a facsimile version of the Sanditon manuscript). But I remember nothing.

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. One of the earliest spy novels. I’ve been wanting to read more Conrad since Lord Jim, and this is shorter than Nostromo, and hopefully less depressing than Heart of Darkness. I’m not counting on the latter, though.

The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths. Installment #3 in the Ruth Galloway series.

Box Hill by Adam Mars-Jones. We heard Mars-Jones read and discuss this at Gay’s the Word bookstore in London on March 12, the night before we flew back to the US and commenced self-isolation. We almost didn’t go because of the crowd issue, but at the last minute we did, and we even went to the packed pub on the corner before the reading. Somehow we managed not to get the virus. It was our last outing this year.