My 20 Books of Summer ’23!

Can I get back in the swing of things and complete my 20 Books of Summer Challenge?

This year, I’m reading 16 physical books and 4 e-books, with 14 from the 746, 5 newer books and 1 re-read. I have 4,669 pages to read altogether, which works out at 51 pages a day!

As always, I’ve tried to go for a broad range of genres, eras and styles so that there is always something I’m going to want to read! You’ll see there is some nonfiction, some short stories and a nice little novella or two in there, all to help move the challenge along.

I’m also doubling up on challenges and have included my three William Trevor choices for these three months, along with some translated fiction by women for Women in Translation Month and a book translated from Spanish for Stu’s Spanish Literature Month if it is going ahead this year (better to be prepared!).

So, without further ado, here are my 20 books, starting with my 16 physical choices!

The Venice Train by Georges Simenon

I have never read Simenon, but have long wanted to, so am starting with this standalone novel about a chance meeting on the Venice to Paris train, which upends the life of an unsuspecting family man.

Old School by Tobias Wolff

Old School has been on my Novellas in November list for quite a few years and I have never got round to reading it. I cannot deny that its length was a factor in the decision to include it on my 20 Books of Summer list, but I do love a boarding school setting.

What Happens at Night by Peter Cameron

I bought this quite recently on a complete whim, one of the few books I’ve bought without knowing anything about it in advance, but I was intrigued by the blurb about a deserted European Hotel and a cast of bizarre, enigmatic characters.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

Christopher Priest is another new-to-me author, despite having a few of his books in the 746. I have always associated his name with science fiction but am going to start my introduction to his work with The Prestige, his 1995 novel about a feud between two stage magicians in the 1800s.

Hotel World by Ali Smith

I haven’t read much Ali Smith, but what I have read, I have liked. This Booker-nominated novel also has a hotel setting, this time, telling the story of five women connected to the building, including a ghost, a homeless woman and a guest at the hotel

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

As amusing as it sounds, I originally had The Luminaries on this list, before realising that the likelihood of finishing an 832-page novel during 20 Books of Summer was pretty slim! So instead, I’ve included Catton’s debut, a coming of age tale set in a drama academy (another literary setting that I love!).

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers

Oh look! Another little short novella! Again, chosen partly for length, this is also the only one of Carson McCullers books that I have left to read. McCullers is a writer that I love, so I have high hopes for this story set in the 1930s on an army base in the southern United States

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I remember when Beautiful Ruins came out in 2012 it seemed to be everywhere, yet somehow I didn’t manage to get round to reading it. Billed as ‘a gorgeous, glamorous novel set in 1960s Italy and a modern Hollywood studio’, this social satire of Hollywood culture sounds perfect for some summer reading.

Brutes by Dizz Tate

Another recent purchase, Brutes takes the disappearance of a young schoolgirl in Florida as the starting point for an examination of the joys and pain of teenage friendship. Told in both the first person and the first person plural, the novel moves back and forward in time as the girls try to discover the truth about their missing friend.

19 Claws and a Blackbird by Agustina Bazterrica, translated by Sarah Moses

I always try to include some translated ficiton in my list for Women In Translation Month in August  and Stu’s Spanish Literature Month, and was drawn to this one as I only have one other short story collection on my list and was very impressed with Bazterrica’s novel Tender is the Flesh. If these stories are half as dark as that novel was, then I’ll be happy.

Nothing is Black by Deirdre Madden

My aim to read all of Deirdre Madden’s back catalogue continues with the inclusion of this novel from 1994 about three women who find themselves in a remote part of Donegal at a defining moment in their lives, which explores themes of female friendship and the nature of creativity.

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

I included The Bottle Factory Outing in my 20 Books of Summer pile back in 2016 and despite loving it, it’s taken me this long to decide to read more of her work. I’m a sucker for a book set in the theatre so this black comedy set in a provincial theatre in Liverpool shortly after the Second World War is sure to be a winner.

The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

I saw a lot of press about Benjamin Wood recently following publication of his acclaimed new novel The Young Accomplice and was pleased to find his 2012 debut novel The Bellwether Revivials lurking on my shelves. Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, this is a novel about the power of music, that has drawn comparison with Donna Tartt. That’ll do for me.

Felicia’s Journey/ Family Sins/ Death in Summer by William Trevor

As I’m undertaking a Year with William Trevor along with Kim at Reading Matters, three of my choices are my designated Trevor reads for each month. Felicia’s Journey is a re-read for me, having read and loved it pre-blog and I’ll also be reading his 1989 short story collection Family Sins and the 1998 novel Death in Summer.

Here are the four e-books I’ve chosen to round out my 20 books:

Very Cold People by Sarah Manguso

I wasn’t entirely sold on Manguso’s last book – 300 Arguments – finding it a little slight, but I have heard really good things about this work of fiction, and a positive review from Susan at A Life in Books nudged me to give it a chance.

The Singer’s Gun by Emily St John Mandel

Emily St John Mandel hasn’t let me down yet and I love the sound of this story of a man from a corrupt family trying to go straight. I might miss the fantastical elements of her writing that I’ve come to enjoy in her later books, but I trust her story-telling skills and am sure I will enjoy this one.

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Kraukaer

I always like to include some true crime in my summer reading pile and have heard great things about Under the Banner of heaven which explores the Mormon faith through the story of a brutal murder committed by two Mormon Fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. It’s recently been made into a critically acclaimed TV show,  which bodes well.

Forbidden Notebook by Alba de Cespedes, translated by Ann Goldstein

Published in Italy in 1952 and now newly translated by Ann Goldstein, Forbidden Notebook is a rediscovered gem of Italian literature, centering on the inner life of a dissatisfied housewife living in postwar Rome. Recent press on this was has been hugely positive so I’m very much looking forward to it.

So, any thoughts on my choices? Have you read any of my 20 books? Any I should start with straight away or save for later? I’d love to hear what you think and I’ve really been enjoying checking out all your lists that have been posted so far this year.

20 Books of Summer The 746

Cathy746books View All →

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

71 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I’ve read three of your choices but so long ago I’ll look forward to hearing if I should re-read! (The Bainbridge, Felicia’s Journey and Hotel World – I enjoyed them all.) I also remember Beautiful Ruins being everywhere yet somehow I never got to it, so I’ll be interested to know how you find it, the Italy/Hollywood setting does sound great.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice pile and invisible pile! I am STILL havering on mine – do I just pick the oldest ones on the TBR plus six Viragoes et al as usual? I certainly won’t go all earnest and social justicey for everything like ?last year as that got too grim. I have a lot of review books in mind which don’t usually Count, so need to be careful. Oh well, I’ll get there with a pile on 1 June, and I hope you enjoy yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very Cold People and The Bellwether Revivals are brilliant — hope you enjoy. I also really liked Old School. I’ll be interested to see what you think of Brutes; I haven’t yet made my mind up whether to read that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent Rebecca. Brutes was recommended to me by my regular bookseller and he never lets me down so I’m looking forward to it. He also said it was a really quick read, which may have influenced my decision to include it this summer 🙂


  4. I love your list. Smith and Catton should be good reads, but I haven’t read either. I did read The Prestige by Christopher Priest, a memorable, but uneven book. I think that Priest has brilliant ideas, but his execution of them is not altogether as great. Having read five of his book, The Affirmation is probably my favourite. Christopher Nolan did an amazing job with his The Prestige film adaptation of 2006, but he also changed much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a few other books by Priest in the TBR so hopefully I like this one. I must check if The Affirmation is one of them. I’m planning to watch the film after I’ve read the book as I do like Nolan’s work.


  5. Excellent list. Of the ones you’ve chosen I’ve only read Under the Banner of Heaven which I really liked. The Catton looks interesting, and I have Hotel World in my backlog and must get around to reading it soon. I love Ali Smith.
    Happy reading and good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. LOL I’ve got The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton on the TBR too. I bought it before The Luminaries, but since I didn’t much like that one, I’ve never got round to reading The Rehearsal.
    Maybe if you write an inspiring review I’ll read it too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Prestige is fantastic. (Watch the Nolan film afterwards; it’s a pretty good adaptation even though it changes some things.) It’s been years since I read Under the Banner of Heaven, but I recall being drawn in by its narrative style. And Beautiful Ruins is a winner, something that I’d recommend to almost anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. From memory, I really enjoyed The Rehearsal. Wise choice to avoid The Luminaries during this challenge 😀
    I have Very Cold People in my reading stack but haven’t got to it yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I haven’t read a single one of these, but there are several authors here that I would like to try! The Bainbridge novel sounds particularly interesting and I look forward to hearing what you make of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Interesting choices. I didn’t love ‘Brutes’ when I read it, I felt the structure kept the characters at a distance from the reader so I’ll be interested to see what you think. I haven’t read ‘Under The Banner Of Heaven’ but it’s in my list as I’m a big fan of Jon Krakauer’s work.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a great pile of books, Cathy. I’ve only read the two Trevor novels, Death in Summer and Felicia’s Journey, and both are brilliant. Looking forward to your thoughts on the Deidre Madden, which is one I haven’t read and don’t have on my TBR.
    I have seen film adaptation of The Prestige but not read the book…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The Bainbridge is excellent, Cathy, and I feel confident you’ll love it! Beautiful Ruins wasn’t for me (a friend chose it for our book group), but loads of other readers have loved it. I’ll be interested to see where you land. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve read four or so Christopher Priest novels but not, as yet, The Priest (though I’ve watched the film). The Carson McCullers appeals, and I’ve been persuaded to try a Emily St John Mandel novel after so much praise in the blogosphere – let’s see how I get on with it! Anyway you’ve been sensible with a few shorter novels and a novella or two, so good luck with completing your choices!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a big Emily St John Mandel fan, but have only read the Station Eleven loose trilogy so looking forward to trying one of her earlier works. I plan to watch the Nolan movie after I’ve read The Prestige. I hope I like it as I have a couple more Priest novels in the 746.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Great list Cathy! I’d only read Old School many years ago and it was an excellent read. Like you, I could no longer ignore the huge praise heaped upon Forbidden Notebook and am now halfway through the book, it’s fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

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