I have 149 books that I own on my to read list. 78 of those are physical books that teeter in a pair of piles in front of one of my bookcases. When I read that Sandra (A Corner of Cornwall) and Paula (Book Jotter) are doing the 20 Books of Summer readathon hosted at Cathy’s blog 746 Books (I thought my to read pile was bad!), I decided this was the thing that I needed to focus my mind and get 20 of those books read.
In the picture at the head of this post are 18 of the books that already share space with the human and feline occupants of this house, plus a promotional postcard for a pre-publication copy of another book that will soon move in and a solitary library book.
For what it’s worth, these are the books I currently hope to read. They might be the books that I read. I might get sidetracked by whatever is lurking on my library reservation list, or friends who have dared to lend me a book might decide that they urgently need it back.
From the bottom up:
1. Amritsar 1919: I watched Sathnam Sanghera’s film for Channel 4 on the centenary of the Amritsar massacre and wanted to know more, so I’ve borrowed Kim A. Wagner’s book from the library. (Review here.)
2. Plastic Emotions: this is the one that will soon move in, sent to me by the wonderful Influx Press as a review copy. I’m excited about it. It’s about a Sri Lankan architect who was instrumental in Sri Lanka’s bid for independence from the British empire and who had an affair with Le Corbusier. (Review here.)
4. How the Light Gets In: another from Influx, this is a collection of stories that examines the spaces between light and dark and reflects on the way contemporary Britain moves from one to the other.
5. Hold Tight: Influx Press again, because who doesn’t love an independent publisher who is doing interesting things? This one’s about the music genre Grime, which I enjoy listening to but know little about. Jeffrey Boakye examines what Grime is, why it’s popular in Britain, and what it means to be a Black British man.
6. Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs: I picked this one up at an independent book fair and keep telling myself that I’ll read it next, but then something else catches my eye. Lina Wolff’s novel is set in a brothel in Spain, where the prostitutes collect stray dogs and name them after male writers. How on earth can I keep letting other books jump this one in the queue?
7. The Nakano Thrift Shop: I read Strange Weather in Tokyo a while ago, and loved Hiromi Kawakami’s quirky view of the world. This has been on my wishlist for an age, and in my house for a couple of months. It’s about the stories of love and loss hidden in the things we give away to secondhand shops.
8. Men Without Women: it’s been a while since I read any Haruki Murakami, and I have two of his on my to read pile. One of them is a massive hardback. The other one is this collection of short stories that examine the lives of various men who are living alone. I imagine that these stories will provide windows into the lives of the types of men who populate his novels.
9. A Chancer: something I picked up in a secondhand bookshop on a recent holiday. I loved How Late It Was, How Late and wanted to read something else by James Kelman. This one is about a Glaswegian gambler, and I’m hoping for more gritty dark humour.
10. Wayward Girls and Wicked Women: another secondhand bookshop buy, I first took the plunge into the back catalogue of Angela Carter three years ago with The Magic Toyshop, which was part of a book club gift subscription. This year I read The Bloody Chamber and I’m determined to read more of her books. This is a collection of stories by radical women writers, selected by Carter to celebrate the ways in which women can and should be disruptive.
11. Common People: as well as being mildly obsessed by the output of Influx Press, I have a bit of a thing for Unbound as well. This is an anthology of writing by working class authors edited by the glorious Kit de Waal.
12. The Grey Man: I bought The Grey Man from a secondhand bookshop during last year’s Scottish holiday. It’s set in and around the area where we stayed, and where we’re visiting again this coming September. This is the book most likely to fall off the list, as I might save it to read while we’re away.
13. The Diary of a Bookseller: despite visiting Shaun Bythell’s bookshop in Wigtown last year, as a result of an impromptu detour caused by the 45th President of the USA choosing to visit one of his abhorrent golf resorts on the last day of our Scottish holiday, I picked this book up from a library of secondhand books in an old bus shelter in Sedbergh on our way home from a Lake District holiday.
14. My Mortal Enemy: since reading My Antonia, I have fallen in love with Willa Cather. This is one of two of her novellas published by Virago that I bought from a secondhand bookshop in Falmouth this year. It’s a cautionary tale of how following your heart in love can sometimes be the biggest mistake you’ll make.
15. A Lost Lady: the other Willa Cather book that I picked up in Falmouth, it’s a tale of unrequited love on the part of the narrator for the lost lady of the title, who is thought to have been the model for Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.
16. The Good Immigrant: an anthology of writing by British writers of colour, edited by Nikesh Shukla, this one had been on my wishlist for a while but I only bought a copy fairly recently. It was originally published by Unbound, hence the link, but is now widely available in paperback.
17. A Scanner Darkly: this is, according to a friend of mine, the other Philip K. Dick book you have to read. I’ve read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and enjoyed how different it was to one of my favourite films of all time, Blade Runner. I have high hopes for this one.
18. Nights At the Circus: another Angela Carter book, this time a novel about a celebrated aerial artist who is alleged to be part woman, part swan and the American journalist who aims to find out the truth. To get close to her, he has to join the circus himself, and ends up falling in love with her against the backdrop of 19th century London, St Petersburg and Siberia.
19. The Heart Goes Last: I have long been a fan of Margaret Atwood but felt let down by the second and third books in the MaddAddam trilogy and have put off reading this novel about a couple down on their luck who join a social experiment and have their lives irrevocably altered by the experience. I’m hoping that I have enough distance from my disappointment in The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam to be able to enjoy this without any clouding of my judgement.
20. The Children’s Book: Byatt’s Possession is one of a couple of books that I have read multiple times. It’s also the only book of Byatt’s that I’ve read. I’ve never been tempted by any of her other titles, but this one is on Boxall’s 1001 books list and I flirt with reading my way through these books periodically. I visited a Little Free Library for a reading challenge a few years ago and acquired my copy of this book from there. It’s about a family of Fabian writers and the effects that having a parent who writes children’s books can have on the young.
And how about you? If you were to choose twenty books to read between 3 June and 3 September this year, what would be on your list?