So it’s that time of year again. Devised by Cathy at 746Books the aim is to read 20 books between 1 June and 1 September. I have taken part for the last five years. I think I’ve only made it once!
You can read about the challenge on Cathy’s excellent blog here.
Because I’m a mood reader I can virtually guarantee that whatever books I selected would no doubt end up still being unread at the end of the 3 months. If I feel like I have to read a book I invariably don’t want to read it at that time. Contrary, me?
So this year I’m reverting back to playing fast and loose with the guidelines. Not that the guidelines are set in stone in any event.
I’ve chosen five books I’d ideally read. A mixture of books I’ve bought and books I’ve been kindly sent for review, I’ve thrown in some shorter books in the hopes I can speed through them faster and maintain the momentum for any longer books I chose. If I start to read one and don’t fancy it at that time I’ll stop and swop. This will be the same for my fifteen “wildcards”, the books I will choose as the mood takes me.
I’ll be tracking the books I read on here and you can follow everyone who is taking part on Twitter by following #20BooksofSummer.
Here are the five I’m hoping to read:
1. The Bloater by Rosemary Tonks, sent for review by Vintage.
Min works at the BBC as an audio engineer, where she is struggling to replicate the sound of a heartbeat. At home, other matters of the heart are making a mockery of life as Min knows it.
Min has found herself the object of her lodger’s affection. An internationally renowned opera singer she’s nicknamed ‘The Bloater’, Min is disgusted and attracted to him in equal measure. But with a husband so invisible that she accidentally turns the lights off on him even when he’s still in the room, Min can’t quite bring herself to silence The Bloater’s overtures.
You can read my review here.
2. The Atom Station by Halldor Laxness, sent for review by Vintage.
When the Americans make an offer to buy land in Iceland to build a NATO airbase after the Second World War, a storm of protest is provoked throughout the country. Narrated by a country girl from the north, the novel follows her experiences after she takes up employment as a maid in the house of her Member of Parliament. Her observations and experiences expose the bourgeois society of the south as rootless and shallow and in stark contrast to the age-old culture of the solid and less fanciful north.
3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, own copy.
Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn’t leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.
4. Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn, sent for review by Penguin.
After years of feeling that love was always out of reach, journalist Natasha Lunn set out to understand how relationships work and evolve over a lifetime. She turned to authors and experts to learn about their experiences, as well as drawing on her own, asking:How do we find love? How do we sustain it? And how do we survive when we lose it?
In Conversations on Loveshe began to find the answers:
Philippa Perry on falling in love slowly
Dolly Alderton on vulnerability
Stephen Grosz on accepting change
Candice Carty-Williams on friendship
Lisa Taddeo on the loneliness of loss
Diana Evans on parenthood
Emily Nagoski on the science of sex
Alain de Botton on the psychology of being alone
Esther Perel on unrealistic expectations
Roxane Gay on redefining romance
and many more…
5. Duckling by Eve Ainsworth, sent for review by Penguin.
Lucy’s life is small, but safe. She’s got a good routine. But all that’s about to change…
When Lucy’s neighbour asks her to look after her little girl for a couple of hours – and then doesn’t come back – Lucy is suddenly responsible for someone other than herself.
It takes courage to let the outside world in, and Lucy’s about to learn there’s much more to life – but only if she’s brave enough to spread her wings…
The Wildcard titles are.
1. The Goldhanger Dog by Wanda Whitely
1553. Goldhanger, a tiny fishing village on the Blackwater marshes. Fifteen-year-old Dela’s strange bond with animals has her branded a witch by the locals. Running for her life, with only a rescued dog for a friend, Dela manages to find sanctuary at the palace of Princess Mary. These are dangerous times, with the boy-king Edward on his deathbed and the succession uncertain. Traumatised at first, in an alien world of spies and courtiers, Dela is befriended by a trio of acrobats and players. But when she is drawn to one of them, Fitz, she discovers he holds a terrible secret that promises to tear her fragile world apart.
You can read my review here.
2. Perfect, Stories of the Impossible by Sally Emerson
In this wondrous collection of short stories, bestselling
author Sally Emerson introduces the eerie and supernatural into her keen-eyed portraits of everyday
life. A clerk working in a public register office begins
to receive death certificates dated in the future, but
can she alter fate and save their victims? A woman
unable to have children discovers a way of cloning her husband, but is their cloned son destined to repeat the mistakes of his father? A suburban mother is prescribed a health supplement with rather amorous side-effects; can she resist its sway and keep her hands off her neighbours?
Emerson’s beguiling tales of quotidian life invaded by forces beyond our control are both uncanny and charming, and ultimately uplifting as she celebrates
reality and unreality in its many forms. Fantastical, humorous and unfailingly honest in its depiction of humanity, Perfect will stay with the reader long after
they leave the magic of its pages.
You can read my review here.
3. Wake by Shelley Burr
EVERYBODY THINKS THEY KNOW MINA McCREERY.
EVERYONE HAS A THEORY ON WHAT HAPPENED TO HER SISTER.
NOW IT’S TIME TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH…
Mina McCreery’s sister Evelyn disappeared nineteen years ago. Her life has been defined by the intense public interest in the case. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, she lives alone on her family’s destocked sheep farm.
When Lane, a private investigator, approaches her with an offer to reinvestigate the case, she rejects him. The attention has had nothing but negative consequences for her and her family, and never brought them closer to an answer.
Lane wins her trust when his unconventional methods show promise, but he has his own motivations for wanting to solve the case, and his obsession with the answer will ultimately risk both their lives.
4. It’s Hard to Be Hip Over 30 by Judith Viorst
Judith Viorst is an American poet, novelist and psychoanalyst. As well as Its Hard to Be Hip Over Thirty and Other Tragedies of Married Life (1968), and its companion in our volume, People & Other Aggravations (1971), she has written other poetry collections, including Suddenly Sixty and Other Shocks of Later Life. Her inspiration is marriage and motherhoood and the conflicts they cause: romance versus reality, love for a child versus passionate longing for sleep, love for a husband versus it is the versus that Judith Viorst writes about, with tenderness, realism, insight and wit.
5. Isaac and the Egg by Bobby Palmer
A young man walks into the woods on the worst morning of his life and finds something there that will change everything.
It’s a tale that might seem familiar. But how it speaks to you will depend on how you’ve lived until now.
Sometimes, to get out of the woods, you have to go into them. Isaac and the Egg is one of the most hopeful, honest and wildly imaginative novels you will ever read.
6. The Gospel of the Eels by Patrik Svensson, translated by Agnes Broome
I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream. Actually, I can’t remember us speaking at all. Maybe because we never did.
The European eel, Anguilla anguilla, is one of the strangest creatures nature ever created. Remarkably little is known about the eel, even today. What we do know is that it’s born as a tiny willow-leaf shaped larva in the Sargasso Sea, travels on the ocean currents toward the coasts of Europe – a journey of about four thousand miles that takes at least two years. Upon arrival, it transforms itself into a glass eel and then into a yellow eel before it wanders up into fresh water. It lives a solitary life, hiding from both light and science, for ten, twenty, fifty years, before migrating back to the sea in the autumn, morphing into a silver eel and swimming all the way back to the Sargasso Sea, where it breeds and dies.
And yet . . . There is still so much we don’t know about eels. No human has ever seen eels reproduce; no one can give a complete account of the eel’s metamorphoses or say why they are born and die in the Sargasso Sea; no human has even seen a mature eel in the Sargasso Sea. Ever. And now the eel is disappearing, and we don’t know exactly why.
What we do know is that eels and their mysterious lives captivate us.
This is the basis for The Gospel of the Eels, Patrik Svensson’s quite unique natural science memoir; his ongoing fascination with this secretive fish, but also the equally perplexing and often murky relationship he shared with his father, whose only passion in life was fishing for this obscure creature.
Through the exploration of eels in literature (Günter Grass and Graham Swift feature, amongst others) and the history of science (we learn about Aristotle’s and Sigmund Freud’s complicated relationships with eels) as well as modern marine biology (Rachel Carson and others) we get to know this peculiar animal. In this exploration, we also learn about the human condition, life and death, through natural science and nature writing at its very best.
As Patrik Svensson concludes: ‘by writing about eels, I have in some ways found my way home again.’
7. Malice by Keigo Higashino
Acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found brutally murdered in his home on the night before he’s planning to leave Japan and relocate to Vancouver. His body is found in his office, in a locked room, within his locked house, by his wife and his best friend, both of whom have rock solid alibis. Or so it seems.
Police Detective Kyochiro Kaga recognizes Hidaka’s best friend. Years ago when they were both teachers, they were colleagues at the same high school. Kaga went on to join the police force while Osamu Nonoguchi left to become a full-time writer, though with not nearly the success of his friend Hidaka. But Kaga thinks something is a little bit off with Nonoguchi’s statement and investigates further, ultimately executing a search warrant on Nonoguchi’s apartment. There he finds evidence that shows that the two writers’ relationship was very different than the two claimed. Nonoguchi confesses to the murder, but that’s only the beginning of the story.
In a brilliantly realized tale of cat and mouse, the detective and the writer battle over the truth of the past and how events that led to the murder really unfolded. Which one of the two writers was ultimately guilty of malice?
8 Oh Frabjous Day! by Lewis Carroll
Conjuring wily walruses, dancing lobsters, a Jabberwock and a Bandersnatch, Carroll’s fantastical verse gave new words to the English language.
9. Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde
‘He was not blind to the fact that murder, like the religions of the Pagan world, requires a victim as well as a priest…’
Wilde’s supremely witty tale of dandies, anarchists and a murderous prophecy in London high society.
10. The Edinburgh Mystery and other tales edited by Martin Edwards
From the dramatic Highlands to bustling cities and remote islands in wild seas, the unique landscapes and locales of Scotland have enthralled and shaped generations of mystery writers. This new collection presents seventeen classic stories, spanning a period from the 1880s to the 1970s, by a host of Scottish authors alongside writers from south of the border inspired by the history and majesty of the storied country.
Featuring vintage tales by Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson and Baroness Orczy together with mid-twentieth-century mini-masterpieces by Margot Bennett, Michael Innes and Cyril Hare, this anthology also includes a rare Josephine Tey short story, reprinted for the first time since 1930.
11. A Woman’s World by Marina Amaral and Dan Jones
A Woman’s World, 1850–1960 explores the many roles – domestic, social, cultural and professional – played by women across the world before second-wave feminism took hold. Using Marina Amaral’s colourized images and Dan Jones’s words, this survey features women both celebrated and ordinary, whether in the science lab or protesting on the streets, performing on stage or fighting in the trenches, running for election or exploring the wild. This vivid and unique history brings to life and full colour the female experience in a century of extraordinary change.
Photographs include: Queen Victoria, Edith Cavell, Josephine Baker, Eva Peron, Virginia Woolf, Clara Schumann, Martha Gellhorn, Rosa Parks, Agatha Christie, Frida Kahlo, Harriet Tubman, Florence Nightingale, Hattie McDaniel and Gertrude Bell; as well as revolutionaries from China to Cuba, Geishas in Japan, protestors on the Salt March, teachers and pilots, nurses and soldiers.
12. More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez
Lore Rivera was married to two men at once, until on a baking hot day in 1986, one of them found out and shot the other. A secret double life, a tragic murder.
That’s the story the world knows.
It’s not the story that fascinates Cassie Bowman.
Carrying the weight of her own family tragedy, true-crime writer Cassie wants to know more about the mysterious woman at the heart of it all: Lore.
And to her surprise, Lore is willing to talk – about how a dance became an affair; how a marriage became a murder.
As the two women grow closer, Cassie finds she can’t help but confess her own darkest secrets.
But when it becomes clear that there might be more to the night of the murder than anyone realised, can either woman face up to the thing they’ve been hiding from . . . the truth?
You can read my review here.
13. The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher
WHO SHALL INHERIT THE SINS OF THE FATHER?
Twenty years ago, Charlie Deravin’s mother went missing, believed murdered. Her body has never been found, and his father has lived under a cloud of suspicion ever since.
Now Charlie has returned to the coastal town where his mother vanished, on disciplinary leave from his job with the police sex-crimes unit, and permanent leave from his marriage. After two decades worrying away at the mystery of his mother’s disappearance, he’s run out of leads.
Then the skeletal remains of two people are found in the excavation of a new building site… and the past comes crashing in on Charlie.
You can read my review here.
14. First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami
The eight masterly stories in this new collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator. From nostalgic memories of youth, meditations on music and an ardent love of baseball to dreamlike scenarios, an encounter with a talking monkey and invented jazz albums, together these stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the exterior world. Occasionally, a narrator who may or may not be Murakami himself is present. Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides.
Philosophical and mysterious, the stories in First Person Singular all touch beautifully on love and solitude, childhood and memory. . . all with a signature Murakami twist.
15. Trust by Hernan Diaz
The legendary Wall Street tycoon whose immense wealth gives him the power to do almost anything.
The second-generation Italian immigrant tasked with recording his life story.
The reclusive, aristocratic wife.
And the writer who observes them from afar.
In a city devoted to making money and making stories like no other, where wealth means power, who gets to tell the truth? And to rise to the top of a glittering, destructive world, what – and who – do you have to sacrifice?
You can read my review here.
16. The Change by Kirsten Miller
Nessa: The Seeker
Jo: The Protector
Harriett: The Punisher
With newfound powers the time has come to take matters into their own hands…
After Nessa is widowed and her daughters leave for college, she’s left alone in her house near the ocean. In the quiet hours, she hears voices belonging to the dead – who will only speak to her.
On the cusp of fifty Harriett’s marriage and career imploded, and she hasn’t left her house in months. But her life is far from over – in fact, she’s undergone a stunning metamorphosis.
Jo spent thirty years at war with her body. The rage that arrived with menopause felt like the last straw – until she discovers she’s able to channel it.
Guided by voices only Nessa can hear, the trio discover the abandoned body of a teenage girl. The police have written off the victim. But the women have not. Their own investigations lead them to more bodies and a world of wealth where the rules don’t apply – and the realisation that laws are designed to protect villains, not the vulnerable.
So it’s up to these three women to avenge the innocent, and punish the guilty…
Are you joining in with the 20 Books of Summer challenge? Do let me know what you plan on reading.