20 Books of Summer 2016!

Alphabetti bookhetti…


20 books 2016

Again this summer, Cathy over at 746 Books has set us a challenge to read 20 books between 1st June and 4th September. (Or 15, or 10, if you prefer.) #20booksofsummer will be the hashtag for twitterers.

Last year, I failed at the last hurdle, achieving only 19 of the books I’d listed, even though I probably read in the region of 30 books during the period. By adding in loads of books I hadn’t been planning on, I also managed to mess up my reviewing schedule so badly that I still haven’t properly recovered! So this year I’m being more sensible by selecting most of the twenty from books I’m already scheduled to read over the summer – lots and lots and LOTS of NetGalley books, most of which are seriously overdue.

Inspired by the fact that one of my list starts with ‘Z’, I decided to see if I could make a full alphabet. So here it is – my summer alphabet of books. The blue ones are already scheduled – there’s 17 of them. The orange ones are all on my TBR somewhere, but haven’t made it to the top of the heap yet. I need your help to decide which three of these should make up my twenty…

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

Citizen Kane by Harlan Lebo

Different Class by Joanne Harris

Enigma by Robert Harris

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

The Girls by Emma Cline

Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

The Magnificent Spilsbury by Jane Robins

Nada the Lily by H Rider Haggard

Oliver Twisted by Cindy Brown

The Perfect Pass by SC Gwynne

The Queen’s Caprice by Marjorie Bowen

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

The Seeker by SG MacLean

Three Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Vigil by Angela Slatter

The Widow by Fiona Barton

EXposure by Helen Dunmore (Come on, give me a break! Nobody writes books starting with X!)

You Can’t Say That by Ken Livingstone

Zero K by Don DeLillo

* * * * * * *

To help you decide which three to choose, here’s a little information about the contenders…

Enigma by Robert Harris

A gripping World War II mystery novel with a cryptographic twist, Enigma‘s hero is Tom Jericho, a brilliant British mathematician working as a member of the team struggling to crack the Nazi Enigma code. The plot is pure fiction but the historical background, Alan Turing’s famous wartime computing project that cracked the German U-boat communications code, is real and accurately portrayed.

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

They have lived for centuries in a house of legend and mystery in upper Illinois — and they are not like other midwesterners. Rarely encountered in daylight hours, their children are curious and wild; their old ones have survived since before the Sphinx first sank its paws deep in Egyptian sands. And some sleep in beds with lids. Now the house is being readied in anticipation of the gala homecoming that will gather together the farflung branches of this odd and remarkable family. But in the midst of eager anticipation, a sense of doom pervades. For the world is changing. And death, no stranger, will always shadow this most singular family

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

Rose Janko is missing. It has been seven years since she disappeared, and nobody said a word. Now, following the death of his wife, her father Leon feels compelled to find her. Rumour had it she ran off when her baby boy was born with the family’s genetic disorder. Leon is not so sure. He wants to know the truth and he hires a private investigator to discover it – Ray Lovell.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Reader, I murdered him. A Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre. Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked – but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

1970s Afghanistan: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives…

Nada the Lily by H Rider Haggard

The tale of the youth of Umslopogaas, holder of the iron Chieftainess, the axe Groan-maker, who was named Bulalio the Slaughterer, and of his love for Nada, the most beautiful of Zulu women.

The Queen’s Caprice by Marjorie Bowen

There have been few more controversial figures in British history than Mary Queen of Scots. In this thrilling novel she is bought vividly back to life. She is a woman shrouded in secrecy and surrounded by violence who has learnt to use her desirability to intoxicate her subjects into carrying out her will. Yet despite this natural authority she cannot escape the domineering men who not only sway the court but the opinion of the people.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Stowe’s powerful abolitionist novel fueled the fire of the human rights debate in 1852. Denouncing the institution of slavery in dramatic terms, the incendiary novel quickly draws the reader into the world of slaves and their masters.

You Can’t Say That by Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone is a controversial left-wing Labour politician and former London Mayor. Written in Livingstone’s unmistakable voice, by turns angrily sincere about social justice, wickedly droll and gossipy, and surprisingly wistful about people he has known and loved, this is a hugely important and remarkable book from one of the very few respected politicians at work today.

Please vote for the ones you think I should add to my summer list. You can vote for as many (or as few) as you like, and the three books with the most votes will win a place…

Results to be announced sometime after the tennis is over…



91 thoughts on “20 Books of Summer 2016!

  1. Well, gee, once again, I’ve voted with the majority (to date), and I promise, I didn’t “peek” before casting my choice! That Bradbury novel sounds most interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I’m tempted to add it to my own TBR!
    Guess you saw where poor Rafa had to pull out of the French Open. Sigh. I do hope he’ll heal soon and make a grand comeback. What a rotten thing an injury is just before one’s birthday.

    • The Bradbury sounds totally weird but great – I’ll be more than happy if it’s one of the winners! But then I feel that way about nearly all of them… such a book addict!

      I’m so sorry about Rafa. I’m afraid his style of playing seems to be particularly hard on his body – that attitude of playing every single stroke as if it’s the most important, which is what I love about him, though. I just hope he and Roger recover soon – Wimbledon won’t be the same without them. Hoping for a Murray/Djokovic final now…

  2. So many great books there, FictionFan! And I do love the variety in them. I have a strong personal interest in history, so I enjoyed seeing that strain of history running through your choices 🙂 . I’ll be keen to know what you think of these.

    • Yes, if I manage to stick to this list it should be a great summer of reading – lots of authors I really enjoy on there, and a few newcomers whom I’ve heard good things about. And, of course, my TBR will have gone down by twenty by the end of the summer… 😉

  3. Good luck – I don’t think you failed last year, 19 is not a failure! I have the same problem as I just can’t stick to reading the listed books and want to read so many others instead.

    It’s an interesting list and I voted for Enigma as I’ve yet to read one of his books that I din’t enjoy (not read Enigma of course) and for The Kite Runner as I’m currently read A Thousand Splendid Suns and am captivated by the story – I’d like to read The Kite Runner too, should have put it on my list. i also voted for Ken Livingstone’s book – such an interesting man, I’d like to read that too.

    Poor Uncle Tom’s Cabin, no one has voted for that – yet. I read it as a child and thought it was shocking and have wondered about re-reading it some time – of course not got round-to-it yet.

    Enjoy your summer reading!

    • I did enjoy last year – I threw 10 Scottish books onto the list and thought about doing that again this year. But it really did put me behind with the stuff I’d taken for review, so I decided I just couldn’t. Must plan ahead better for next year!

      I’ve only read one of Harris’s books – An Officer and a Spy about the Dreyfus affair – and thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then I keep adding his books to the Kindle but never get around to reading them. I think I also have the first two of the Roman ones that I know you’ve been enjoying. So I’ll be quite happy if Enigma wins! And I loved Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, so would love The Kite Runner to win too. And secretly, I’ll be quite happy if poor Uncle Tom is left to linger on the TBR a bit longer… he’ll get picked up by the GAN Quest at some point.

      Should be fun whatever books win, though! 😀

    • All three of those sound great, don’t they? And all so different from each other. Barkskins is huge, though – it might take me half the summer just for it! 😉

  4. So many great books – I love the Spilsbury and Kite Runner and l have been eyeing up The Girls but found Uncle Tom’s Cabin deathly dull as a child. Can’t wait to see what your readers decide for you – I’m hoping Jane Steele gets picked because that choice intrigues me no end. I do like your alphabet approach for this year’s challenge – it seems like us book bloggers do like to make things extra complicated!

    • Yes, I noticed you had Dr Adams on your list so we’ve kinda swapped those ones! The Girls I wasn’t at all sure about, but I’ve seen a couple of really positive reviews in the last few days, so I’m looking forward to it now. Haha! Poor old Uncle Tom – but secretly I’ll be quite happy if he’s left lingering on the list – I read it as a child too and don’t remember anything about it – not a good sign! Jane Steele wil either be fabulous or fabulously awful…

      Haha! I actually think I like doing lists of books as much as I like reading… 😉

  5. I love how everything revolves around your tennis! lol.. Well this is just perfect. I must get to downloading on my kindle before I’m off. I shall wave to you from the London Eye!

    • Haha! This post only came out today because there was a massive storm in Paris, stopping play for hours! Kindles are so brilliant for travelling – much better than lugging around a ton of books! Ooh, I’m excited for you! I hope you and the family have a brilliant time! 😀 😀

  6. Good luck with this! I’m not planning to take part, but I’m enjoying reading everyone else’s lists. Of your orange books, my first choice would be Enigma – I haven’t read it but I’ve loved everything else I’ve read by Robert Harris (An Officer and a Spy and the Cicero trilogy). I see The Kite Runner and Jane Steele are doing well in your poll – I have read both of those and enjoyed them, but I would also be interested to hear more about The Queen’s Caprice.

    • One of the things I always enjoy most about these challenges is reading other people’s lists – though it’s fatal for adding even more books to my own lists! Enigma’s doing well and I’m quite happy to see that – I’ve only read An Officer and a Spy but thoroughly enjoyed it, so am really looking for an opportunity to read more. And if I love The Kite Runner half as much as I loved his And the Mountains Echoed then that’ll be a winner too. Jane Steele might be wonderful or gloriously awful… 😉 The Queen’s Caprice came to me highly recommended, but I must admit as a bit of a Scottish history geek I’m a bit worried I’ll get annoyed with the actual history side – only one way to find out though!

  7. Enigma, The Kite Runner, Nada the Lily and I can’t believe you haven’t read Uncle Tom. And what is going on with the tennis? More out than in – they’re seriously going to have to look at the schedule.

    • I have read it! Way back in the dim distant past though. It’s on as a re-read for the GAN Quest so even if it doesn’t win for the summer list it’ll get to the top of the queue sometime. Good choices – I was hoping Nada might do better…

      I know – the men seem to be wrecking their bodies more and more. Even Roger has started having surgery now – and they talk about having surgery as if it’s normal!

  8. Sadly I haven’t read any of the books on your list – I voted for Jane Steele, as I am super excited to read that myself, and The Queen’s Caprice, as I have heard good things about Marjorie Bowen. Happy summer reading 🙂

    • A lot of the ones on my list are new publications because I’m trying to get that NetGalley backlog down. I think/hope Jane Steele’s going to be one of the three winners – it’ll either be brilliant or brilliantly awful, which is nearly as much fun. 😉 And the good thing is the losers will still be on the TBR, so The Queen’s Caprice is bound to reach the top of the pile sometime…

  9. I loved reading your list. I’m too much of a free-range mood reader to commit to a list myself, but i admire those who can! Best of luck. I’m so happy to see Americanah on your list. It’s one of my favorite novels. And I intend to read Jane Steel and The Girls this summer as well!

    • I used to be free-range but my inability to refuse review copies means I have to work to a schedule now, though I hardly ever stick to it! Americanah should be coming up very soon – I have high hopes for it! There’s a few coming out this summer that look as if they should be good – Jane Steele could go either way, I feel, but I’ve seen a couple of glowing reviews… 🙂

  10. Interesting titles here. Haven’t heard of many of them. I’d suggest rather than reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, if one wants to read about U.S. slavery, then read the brilliant writer Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning book Beloved. It’s a shocking book, and it’s so well-written.

  11. I’ve given you Enigma, The Kite Runner and Ray Bradbury, and hope all three tie in first place!

    I thought of you when wrist wrecked recovered resurgent Rafa – Fiction Fan fraught, flummoxed, flattened.

    A good read of three books, as above, will surely help.

    • Three excellent choices – thank you! Looks like Enigma and The Kite Runner are well in the lead but Bradbury’s falling behind Jane Steele, which could be brilliant or awful… or possibly both!

      I’m devastated about poor Rafa – I fear he’s put so much strain on his body especially in his early muscle-bound years that he seems to be falling apart now. I’m worried he’ll have to consider retiring before he does himself some permanent damage… *sobs inconsolably* Selfishly, no Rafa and no Roger kinda make the tournament a bit dull too – where are the new young pretenders???

  12. Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been credited as the book that caused Lincoln to go to war to abolish slavery. Originally, if I remember correctly, he was pretty in the middle about slavery, which helped him get voted into office in the first place. I like that the book blends in some slave stories that had been told at the time, such as a woman “walking” on water to get across a river and escape slave owners chasing her. People do criticize the book as romanticizing slavery — and I feel that it does for sure — but it’s also an important part of United States history. Plus, if you’re trying to get through 20 books, it’s not a terribly difficult read!

    • Interesting! I know when I read a bio of Stonewall Jackson last year I became aware that the whole Civil War thing wasn’t nearly so simplistically about slavery as I’d always thought. It’s so long since I read Uncle Tom that I really remember nothing about it, but even if it doesn’t win a spot on the 20 summer books, it’ll still be on my Great American Novel list, so will come up at some time over the next few months. So many lists! 😉

  13. I can’t wait to hear what people have to say about Barkskins. And by people, I mean other book bloggers. I’m hoping it’s good, but on the other hand, if it’s not, it would save me some time. 🙂

  14. I voted for the Stef Penney because I liked her other book I read last year (the name completely escapes me). I’m excited to see the reviews you’ve got scheduled – looks like some good ones!

  15. Decisions, decisions, decisions….I can’t decide which books I should be reading, and you want me to pick yours for you? i may be getting dangerously close to the brink of TBR pile failure….woe. Not that you’d notice since you’re eyes are glued to some game played with rackets and balls…

    • Hahaha! But this way you get all the fun of picking without having to do the reading, so really I’m being kind! There’s been so many rain delays in Paris, I’m managing to fit more reading in than anticipated… and Rafa’s out injured… *sobs bitterly*

      • My condolences. Should I send chocolate to assuage your grief? And thank you for not pointing out my apostrophe failure in my first comment. Hope you missed it, too, since you’ve got on eye on the game. 😀

  16. Many African Americans in the U.S. are insulted by the portrayals of enslaved people here, i.e., stereotypes, and exaggerated at that. I saw PBS show about the abolition movement here and a staging of that book was shown and I couldn’t watch it. It was embarrassing and insulting.
    On Toni Morrison, years ago, I read Song of Solomon and was blown away by the brilliance of it. I’ve read Sula. A friend liked Jazz. Paradise was controversial here.
    Did you read Zadie Smith’s White Teeth? I liked that book so much I would like to reread it. The satire was so acerbic I could taste it.

    • I think that’s a problem with any of these old books – even the ones that are trying not to be racist tend to come over as patronising at best. I had a similar problem with Huck Finn – it really felt almost as if he were treating the African Americans as pets rather than people. I wonder what people of the future will think of our great books of today…

      No, White Teeth is another of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years, but haven’t got around to. I must bump it up the priority list…

  17. I am seriously impressed at the highly organised and alphabetical nature of this list! And The Kite Runner is a really beautiful book–not that familiar with too many of the others.

    • Haha! I do get a bit obsessive about making lists. If only I was as organised at actually reading the books! I loved Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, so I have really high expectations for The Kite Runner. Lots of the other ones are new releases that are due to come out over the summer so they’ll probably start getting a rash of reviews over the next few months…

  18. I did 19 last time, too, although two were DNF as well, and I read other books and could have read that last one, too. Anyway, I’m not going to vote for you adding Ken into that list because he’ll take you forever. And I’m v impressed you can make an alphabet out of your TBR, but then again mine is dwindling as I get through them and am not buying any more. I have this sort of weird fantasy about having an empty shelf and …. gasp … reading books as i acquire them!

    • 19’s pretty good, I think, but that 20th book on my list still hasn’t been read – and didn’t even get a place this summer! Haha! Poor Ken! He’s doing even worse in this poll than he did against Boris! (I should have put a Boris book in just for fun…) Very impressed by your TBR reduction – my self control mechanism appears to be faulty…

  19. I’d like for you to read Jane Steele and convince me to get it from the library again. I started it last month, but didn’t get very far. (Personally, I don’t think Uncle Tom’s Cabin would make it onto your GAN list, but it’s definitely an important book in US history. So good for you for wanting to read it without a teacher forcing you to do so.)

    • Oh dear, was it that bad?? Still, I always enjoy these corruptions of classics even if they’re terrible – all the more fun to write a nice ripping review… 😉 Yes, some of the GAN books look more appealing than others, but since a lot of the later ones are influenced in some way by the earlier ones, I feel I have to at least have a go…

  20. Great list!
    Americanah and Zero K are on mine too! Enigma sounds interesting, but I hope you pick up the Bradbury. I read all the Bradbury books I could find in HS and that’s one I never came across. 🙂

    • Ooh, I’ve been on a tennis-watching break but I must shoot across and check out your list! Both Americanah and Zero K look good – in fact there’s quite a few on this list that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. It looks like the Bradbury is just going to miss out by a couple of votes…. but I may try to do 21 books of summer and fit it in anyway. It’s not very long… 🙂

  21. I am super impressed that you managed to get a book for every letter of the alphabet from your TBR pile – you must have one hell of a stack going on over there!!

    Larose is tremendous. Really, really tremendous.

    • Hehe! I was kinda horrified myself! In fairness, I did cheat on the X and it’s rare for me to have a Z on there. But the worrying thing is that for every other letter I had a choice! 😉

      Ooh, good – that’s great to hear! She’s an author I’ve been meaning to try for ages, so I’m really looking forward to it…

  22. I am kind of loving the idea of an alphabetical reading challenge. 😉 You have so many good ones on your list. I can’t wait to read Barkskins. And Jane Steele is on my TBR as well (but didn’t make my 20 books of summer challenge, though I’ll probably end up reading it anyway.) Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one of those reads I finished with relief, but afterward, I was glad I read it. You look like you have a good summer ahead of you! Looking forward to hearing which three end up making your final list.

    • Oh dear – the bad news is I abandoned Barkskins after 30% – I do hope you enjoy it more! Jane Steele should be fun whether it’s good or bad, really, but I’m hoping it’s good. And Uncle Tom will drift to the top of my list at some point since it’s part of my quest to read Great American Novels. I thought the race was over but there’s been a sudden surge in voting again over the weekend – exciting! 😉

  23. Gosh! I really should reread Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I read it when 13 or so…many many years ago! I really liked The Kite Runner, though I felt the ending didn’t work quite so well…and it is intense! I have yet to read Americanah. Like you, I listed all the books I was scheduled to read and then added to that list to make 20! I like the voting idea! Good luck and enjoy!

    • Yeah, I think that was about the age that I read it too – in my case, a long, long time ago!! I loved Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed – also very intense. I started sobbing on page 5 and didn’t stop till about a week after I’d finished! Americanah is one I’ve been meaning to read for ages – she seems like such an intelligent, articulate woman in real life.

      Thank you – you too!

  24. LOVE this post AND your blog.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog so I could find YOU. 🙂

    Your list of books looks quite good. I have only read two. The Kite Runner and Three Martini Lunch.

    Both good, but I going to comment on the second one. I liked Suzanne Rindell’s book, The Other Typist, better than Three Martini Lunch. The subject matter in Three Martini Lunch was very good…about the publishing business, but the characters were not favorites.

    Going to follow.

    Have a great day!!

    Silver’s Reviews
    My Blog

    • Aww, thank you! 😀

      Oh, that’s a bit of a pity about Three Martini Lunch, though I kinda felt from the blurb that it might not be quite as good as The Other Typist. Still, hopefully there will still be enough in it to make it worthwhile. The Kite Runner is one of the books I’m most looking forward to – I’ve been meaning to read it for ages, since loving his And the Mountains Echoed!

      Looking forward to reading how you get on with the challenge… 😀

    • The Queen’s Caprice has been sitting on my Kindle for way too long – I’m so behind with NetGalley reviews at the moment! Yes, my list has lots of books on it that I’m really looking forward too – some that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. I do love making lists… 😉

      • I know the feeling about being behind on netgalley, that’s why I was glad only one book on my list isn’t netgalley, I cna plow through them, there’s a good mix which means I shouldn’t get fed up of one genre. Good luck 🙂

  25. Wha ha ha ha ha!! (*Slap hand like Alf on the table – also try to sound like him*) – What a gorgeous post! I’ve read the ‘follow up’ one as well. Will definitely be following you henceforth. Great, great list!

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