Twenty Books of Summer 2021

Better late than never with formally signing up to and producing my selection for this years 20 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy over at 746Books. I have been dithering about what I want to read for so long, and have decided that I will pick from a selection of 25 books, which allows me to put aside any duds or things I’m just not in the mood for at that moment.

THE LIST

PART 1 – Kindle editions

Civilisations by Laurent Binet (bought in 2021 – 311 pages)

I really enjoyed his novel HhHH (capitalisation may be incorrect but I’m too lazy to check) and thought I would try another. This is a counterfactual story (I’m a sucker for those) and it will be good to read some European literature.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – The Locked Tomb #2 (bought in 2020 – 512 pages)

I read the first book in this series during last year’s challenge so it seemed only fitting to include this one here.

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford (bought in 2021 – 336 pages)

This has an interesting premise, as it looks at the infinite possibilities of five lives during the 20th century in London. Will I be able to read this without comparing it to Kate Atkinson? Perhaps….

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi (bought in 2020 – 341 pages)

There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. Irresistible.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (bought in 2020 – 463 pages)

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. Ooh, interesting!

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (bought in 2020 – 574 pages)

I love David Mitchell. I love books about rock bands. No contest, but how will this measure up to my all-time favourite Espedair Street – we will see….

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer – Borne #2 (bought in 2019 – 352 pages)

I adored Borne and will read anything set in the same universe, so here we are!

Comet Weather by Liz Williams (bought in 2020 – 304 pages)

There’s a comet. There are four sisters. There is a missing mother who used to be a Vogue cover model. It has a gorgeous tree on the cover. People I admire have given it good reviews. It’s on the list!

The Fifth Queen by Ford Madox Ford (bought in 2011 – 624 pages)

If you have been around here for a while you will know that the 16th century is my jam (I will not bore you with my dissertation title) and of course the Six Wives are a topic of interest. Kat Howard is the one I know least about and this novel comes recommended.

Queen of the Underworld by Gail Godwin (bought in 2012 – 368 pages)

I used to devour Gail Godwin’s books but haven’t read one in a while. This is apparently sultry literary fiction so ideal for summer. Probably.

Rustication by Charles Palliser (bought in 2014 – 337 pages)

It is winter 1863, and Richard Shenstone, aged seventeen, has been sent down—”rusticated”—from Cambridge under a cloud of suspicion. Addicted to opium and tormented by sexual desire, he finds temporary refuge in a dilapidated old mansion on the southern English coast inhabited by his newly impoverished mother and his sister, Effie. Soon, graphic and threatening letters begin to circulate among his neighbors, and Richard finds himself the leading suspect in a series of crimes and misdemeanors ranging from vivisection to murder. Enough said.

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand (bought in 2015 – 148 pages)

More music, this time acid-folk, the big break and a lead singer that goes missing… Gothic.

Winter Journal by Paul Auster (bought in 2017 – 240 pages)

Facing his sixty-third winter, internationally acclaimed novelist Paul Auster sits down to write a history of his body and its sensations both pleasurable and painful. I will be 60 in January. Aches and pains are a way of life.

Blackwater by Michael McDowell (bought in 2017 – 895 pages)

Blackwater traces more than fifty years in the lives of the powerful Caskey family of Perdido, Alabama, under the influence of the mysterious and beautiful—but not quite human—Elinor Dammert. I read my first McDowell novel not that long ago and loved his style. This is apparently very cool and I’m looking forward to picking it up.

1974 by David Peace (bought in 2018 – 322 pages)

It’s winter, 1974, Yorkshire, and Eddie Dunford’s got the job he wanted – crime correspondent for the Yorkshire Evening Post. He didn’t know it was going to be a season in hell. I have never read David Peace so thought I would start here.


PART 2 – Physical books

Touch by Claire North (published in 2015, signed by the author at a launch event – 426 pages)

Claire North is a delight and I have loved everything of hers that I have read. She was fun to meet and I’m sorry I still haven’t read this yet…

The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni (a 2020 Christmas gift – 345 pages)

This is giving me serious The Historian vibes and I have no idea whether that’s accurate or not, but I am happy to give it a try.

A Gentleman’s Murder by Christopher Huang (a Christmas gift – 352 pages)

The year is 1924, and Lieutenant Eric Peterkin, formerly of the Royal Fusiliers, is a new member of the Britannia―London’s most prestigious club. It’s a family tradition, but an honor he’s not sure he quite deserves. So, when a gentleman’s wager ends with one man dead in the vault under the club, Eric is only too ready to tackle the mystery head on.

Empire State by Adam Christopher (a Christmas gift – 439 pages)

Energy blasts. Holes in reality. Parallel New York. Unstable rifts. Fighting to survive. Awesome.

Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird (bought on holiday back home in Scotland – 317 pages)

I cannot, I repeat, cannot, resist a Holmes pastiche/reinvention/homage. Also the covers for this series are great.

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yakamoto (borrowed from my husband – 189 pages)

1937 Japan. Impending nuptials. Sinister masked men. Recommended by Mr B so obviously on the list!

Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt (bought in 2020 – 346 pages)

I’ve long wanted to read Siri Hustvedt but never been sure where to start; 1970s New York seems like a good place.

Our Friends in Berlin by Anthony Quinn (bought in 2020 – 280 pages)

I picked up this spy thriller set in 1941 London when I realised that I was going to read one of the later books in the series, and I am nothing ig not someone who likes to start at the beginning.

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (bought in I know not when – 283 pages)

 It wouldn’t be summer without a decent haunted house novel, would it?

Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago (bought in absolutely no idea – 196 pages)

What happens when on the first day of the year Death goes on strike and it looks like folks have achieved immortality? Nothing good I suspect. 


So that’s it – a long one but hopefully of interest. I am going to try really hard to review what I read as part of this challenge, so watch this space!

April in Review

Here we are with a quarter of the year already gone and it’s time for another monthly round-up.

April was a good month for bookish matters.

The Stats

  • Books read = 8
  • Pages read = 2846
  • Goodreads challenge = 5 books ahead of schedule and already at 40%

Pre-orders for May

  • Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon – “Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world. But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman.”
  • Phase Six by Jim Shepard – reading a book about a global pandemic while in the middle of a global pandemic seems counter-intuitive but I am unable to resist. This was written pre-Covid btw
  • The Album of Doctor Moreau by Daryl Gregory – HG Wells meets boy band culture with some murder thrown in. Sounds awesome.
  • Last Days in Cleaver Square by Patrick McGrath – I have always had a great fondness for McGrath but it’s a while since I’ve read anything by him. The premise of this – set in 1975 where an old man is haunted by visions of the dying General Franco – sounds fascinating.
  • The Beresford by Will Carver – two of my favourite books so far in 2021 were written by Will Carver and I fully expect to love this new standalone thriller also
  • Witch by Iain Rob Wright – all I know about this is it is horror, there’s a witch (duh) and there may or may not be cursed manuscripts…….
  • The Nine by Gwen Strauss – my interest in the experiences of women caught up in WWII continues; this is the story of nine women fleeing a German forced labour camp.

Coming up

I get my second Covid vaccination this week about which I am very glad. Mr B is already fully vaccinated and I’m looking forward to feeling more confident about heading into London again as the museums re-open.

A BBC adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love by Emily Mortimer starts next weekend. It looks lush and enjoyable with a great cast and high production values and I for one am sold.

I have a couple of challenges coming up:

  • Cathy at 746Books is hosting Twenty Books of Summer from 1 June to 1 September and I’m already compiling my list. This will be my year to finish, I can feel it 🙂
  • I’m challenging myself to read David Copperfield, prompted by having watched Armando Ianucci’s recent film version. These days I do tend to struggle with classic Victorian authors so I’m giving myself a chance and planning to read in line with the original publication schedule, which means I should finish around November. November 2022, that is.

Apart from that all is quiet (despite the howling wind outside at the moment). Hope you are all staying safe and have a great reading week!