The 20 Books of Summer Challenge


20 books of summer - master image

When I started this blog, I had hoped that it would spur me on to read more regularly so I might just get through the 746 quicker than the 20 or so years I had originally anticipated.
Six months on and my reading pace has only slightly improved and I’m still only averaging about a book a week! Given my success with Cedar Station’s March Madness Challenge – where I read 9 books in a month – I’ve decided to set myself another challenge which aims to see me reach the elusive 600’s by the end of the summer.
Starting from today and running until 6 September, I’m hoping to read my 20 Books of Summer. That’s just shy of 7 books a month and should be completely doable. I’ve chosen the 20 and throughout the summer will be linking in to a couple of other challenges, namely Angela Carter week hosted by Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and The Estella Project for which I have chosen are Let the Right One In and Geek Love.
I’ve tried to pick a broad range of genres and books. I’ve got zombies, ghosts, circus freaks, soldiers, rock stars, vampires and Hollywood wives. Surely that should keep me enthused? I’ve really only picked books I’m excited to read so I can try and keep myself motivated and have included books by 10 women authors for #Readwomen2014.
I won’t be reading in any particular order and be warned, reviews may be shorter than usual – I’ve still a job and a couple of twins to look after you know!
So, without further ado,  here are my 20 Books of Summer:


PicMonkey Collage
• Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Sheteyngart
• Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter
• Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
• Let The Right One In by John Avjide Lindquist
• Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
• Just Kids by Patti Smith
• We Have Always Lived at the Castle by Shirley Jackson
• Caught by Harlan Coben
• The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
• Zone One by Colson Whitehead
• The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
• The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
• Black Watch by Gregory Burke
• An Evening of Long Goodbyes by Paul Murray
• The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
• The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
• The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes
• Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins
• Wonder by RJ Palacio
• The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
I’m going to keep a Master post at the start of the blog so you can follow my progress as books get crossed off the list and I’m going to try and keep my eyes on the prize of no longer having over 700 books to read (yeah Cathy, just 600!) by the end of the summer.
So, any thoughts on my choices? Any I should start with straight away, or save for later?
If anyone feels their reading needs a bit of oomph then why not join me? Just take the Books of Summer image, pick your books and link below. I’d love your support!

20 Books of Summer

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

95 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Good luck! That’s quite an interesting selection but as you say, should be manageable! I haven’t read “The Sense of an Ending


  2. I read ‘Just Kids’ a few months ago and enjoyed it. I didn’t know much about Patti Smith or her contemporaries but still found it really fascinating. Her background in poetry really shown through.
    I read ‘Geek Love’ about a year ago and didn’t enjoy it, I’m sorry to say. I couldn’t get myself into the strange world of the circus Dunn created. I will say she had some wonderful characters in that book. They were all so unique.
    ‘The Buddha in the Attic’ is on my list as well. I’ll look for your review!


    • Thanks for the feedback Sam, I don’t really know Patti Smith’s music either, but I love that era so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m a bit concerned that Geek Love and Nights at the Circus might be pretty similar. Doesn’t Buddha sound really intriguing?


      • I’m always intrigued by immigrant stories so ‘The Buddha in the Attic’ attracted me instantly. It was on my Page-A-Day book calendar recommendations which I’ve found to be really good suggestions!


  3. Great idea! You have a diverse list to pick from; I think that’s the key to setting reading goals. Nights at the Circus is a favorite of mine. I might join you for The House of Mirth and We Have Always Lived in the Castle… I’ll think about how I can fit them in.


  4. You’re allowed to pick some short books. There’s no shame in that if they are good reads! And The sense of an ending is a good read. My review was my top post for a year or more! And The house of mirth is quite a deal longer so if you add them together you’d get two average sized books! They’re the only two I’ve read.

    I’ve wanted to read The buddha in the attic for a while but I gave it away rather than kept it for myself. Nights at the circus is another that I’d like to read one day. And The woman upstairs sounds intriguing. I was in inspired to read it by the interviews with her I heard after it came out but I suspect it’s one that will pass me by.

    Anyhow, good luck with your summer challenge. I’d love to read 7 books a month!


    • I’m hoping I haven’t set myself too much of a challenge, but I can only try! Thanks for the feedback, I’m really looking forward to the Julian Barnes, I’ve never read any of his but have heard very good things. I wanted to read the The Woman Upstairs because I had such a bad experience with the unlikeable narrator in Tampa so I wanted to see if she could do it better!


  5. > I’ve got zombies, ghosts, circus freaks, soldiers, rock stars, vampires and Hollywood wives.

    Sounds like a good combo to me! We Have Always Lived at the Castle goes super fast, if you let it sort of wash over you and go with its creepiness.


  6. Although I seriously doubt I could read more than 3 books a month, I love the idea of this challenge and may put together a list anyway just to inspire myself! You have some terrific picks on your list. Two I haven’t read and am curious about in particular are The Woman Upstairs and Black Water Rising.


  7. What a great selection of books! I think you are going to have a fantastic summer of reading. I will be cheering you on.


  8. Wow, ambitious project, I’m impressed! Looking forward to see how you get on this summer. 🙂 I haven’t read any of the books on your list so I can give no recommendations about what to read first, unfortunately! Good luck 🙂 Oh, and more importantly: have fun!


  9. The Woman Upstairs has definitely been on my radar. I’ve read a few of the ones you listed…. The Ask, Sense of an Ending, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, The Spinning Heart. All very good.

    I only once saw Let the Right One, but I’ve always been intrigued by the book. It might be a perfect fright for the summer months.


    • I’ve seen the original of Let the Right One In but not the remake (didn’t see the point as the first was so good) but I’ve heard that the book covers some themes the movies don’t so I’m intrigued.
      Glad to hear I’ve got some good reads ahead 🙂


  10. We Have Always Lived in the Castle was an unexpected treat for me last year, so my advice is to save it for the end as a special reward to yourself for getting through the books…

    Enjoy your challenge! 🙂


  11. What a great idea! I’d love to join you but I don’t think I can do 20…maybe 10?? That’ll be the same as my high school reading requirement many years ago. I’ve read a few that are on your list (The Sense of an Ending, Wonder, The Buddha in the Attic, and The Woman Upstairs). The Buddha in the Attic was my favorite and that’s a really quick read. I liked The Woman Upstairs least but that could just be me…I found Messud’s writing a bit too convoluted for my tired brain 😉


    • 10 is good, I’m going to do another cover image next week for anyone who wants to do 10, so please do link up anyway. Thanks for your feedback, The Woman Upstairs seems to be pretty divisive…..


  12. Awesome idea! I’m still trying to get myself back on track after March Madness, too. Nights at the Circus is on my reading list too, so I might have to join you for Angela Carter week. I’ve read one of her books and the writing was absolutely incredible.

    Good luck! Can’t wait to see your progress. 🙂


  13. Geek Love is superb. It’s odd but very much has a feminist agenda – the women are so badly treated in it but it’s fascinating.

    Just Kids is great. A really nice insight into Patti Smith’s early days. I like her writing style too.

    And Paul Murray’s An Evening of Long Goodbyes is wonderful. I bought it in Dublin not long after publication and lapped it up. Personally I enjoyed it more than Skippy Dies.

    Maggie O’Farrell’s a favourite writer of mine but, unfortunately, I think Esme Lennox is her weakest book.

    I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on all the books you’ve chosen.


    • Thanks so much for that Naomi.
      I loved Skippy Dies, so I have a feeling that ‘An Evening of Long Goodbyes’ is going to be a real treat.
      I don’t really know Patti Smith’s music, but I love that era.


  14. Good luck, Cathy. It sounds as if you’ve got a great selection of books lined up there!

    I loved Super Sad True Love Story – genuinely funny and worryingly plausible all at the same time.

    The Spinning Heart is a great book, although some of the voices worked better than others for me. It’ll be interesting to see what you think of it.

    I have The House of Mirth and Nights on the Circus on my own tbr pile, so I might join you for one of those two.


  15. Caught by Harlan Coben is pretty good; I really, really liked The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan. He has a new book, The Thing About December coming out soon; I have the ARC – so excited! Wonder by R.J. Palacio is my son’s favorite book – it’s been on my TBR list for quite a while, now. Can’t wait to see what you think about Black Water Rising…


  16. Great challenge with an interesting choice. Will you be announcing on your blog which book you are reading at a particular time? If you do I will attempt to read the same books alongside you and we can compare reviews. However, I certainly won’t be reading the Jackie Collins. I read one of her books many years ago, ‘The Lady Boss’ and it was dire. I promised myself never to allow my hands to be sullied by another Collins novel again.


    • Thanks Chris, I think I will announce the book I’m reading as a few people have said that they will read along which would be fun. As to the inclusion of Hollywood Wives – I have no idea of how this came to be in my TBR as it’s not the kind of thing I usually read, but it struck me as a real summer book, so I’ll see how it goes. I have no qualms about abandoning it if needs be!


  17. I really like the diversity of your list. Of the few I’ve read, I loved, loved, loved We Have Always Lived in the Castle! That would be my vote for a starting point.

    I am toying with the idea of joining you in a 20-book quest, because my reading has lagged the past few weeks, but I am not at all sure I can manage 20 books in that time. I read so much slower than I did when I was younger. I’ll think about it…maybe I’ll have a spurt of bravery. 🙂


    • I’m looking forward to it so much Candiss!
      If 20 is a bit daunting, why not join in with 10? I’ll be putting up a 10 Books of Summer image tomorrow for anyone who wants to join in ans link up that way.


      • You know, I just checked and found that the next Bout of Books read-a-thon is the week of August 18-24, ( and since I definitely plan on participating in that, I think I will go ahead and jump in to join you for the full 20 books. I already know I’ll be reading somewhere between 12-15 books this summer, and when read-a-thon week hits I’ll be shotgunning a bunch of the shorter books from my to-read list throughout the week of the event. That should get me up to the 20 mark.

        So you have wonderfully serendipitous timing with your challenge! 😉 I’ll try to have my announcement post and list of 20 up by the end of today/tonight.


      • Brilliant Candiss, delighted you’ll be joining me! If you already think you’ll read 15 then 20 will be no bother to you. Here’s to a summer of great reading, I can’t wait to see your list.


  18. Great list, good luck with your reading plans.
    I loved “The Sense of an Ending” even if it’s not exactly a cheerful book but it has a good mystery and the writing is beautiful and elegant. I made all my book club friends read it and they liked it too. 🙂
    I’m reading “Nights at the Circus” at the moment but I’m not as enthusiastic about it as I hoped to be. Oh well, perhaps things will change later on.


  19. This looks like a great selection! I’ve had Let The Right One In on my kindle for probably about 6 months now and I really need to get to it soon. Have you seen the Swedish film? I highly recommend it (once you’ve read the book of course, I did it in the wrong order!)


    • I’ve seen the film Kate, I saw it before I knew there was a book! I’ve heard that there are some themes in the book that weren’t explored in the movie, but I loved that film so much I know it’s going to be hard to not think of the characters as being the ones from the movie….


  20. Geek Love is a very strange book but I thought it was a good read when I tackled it years ago. I’m curious about your thoughts on it. I think I’ll join your challenge. I need a push this summer to get me reading more of my own books. 🙂 Good luck and happy reading.


  21. Blimey! 20 books this summer! Good luck though I’m sure you’ll easily achieve it. This year I’ve struggled to read a couple of books a month nevermind seven so I wish you luck! 🙂 You’ve chosen what looks like a fantastic and varied selection of books. I hope you enjoy them!


  22. Cathy, this is such a fun idea, and the button is just BEAUTIFUL. My near-favorite novel is The House of Mirth. I really hope you like that one. Hollywood Wives and The Woman Upstairs both sound especially interesting. Your list and your 746 project are both so inspiring! Have fun with this!! ♥


  23. Hi Cathy. I love this challenge. I’ve done it twice before actually in 2nd year and 3rd year English at college in two consecutive summers. But I didn’t have children then so more time. I have read Barnes twice and listened to the audiobook – excellent. Just read Donal Ryan’s latest offering ‘A Week in December’ but didn’t like it. Edith Wharton is splendid. All the very best with this and looking forward to hearing what you think of them all. M


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