Two Reading Challenges for Summer

… at the end of the day, it’s all about the reading …

Reading challenges are always fun: the choosing, the list-making, the reading… But that’s where I get stuck.  It’s not that I dislike writing about the books; I’m just very bad at producing posts of any type to order.


Thus it is with trepidation that I take the plunge and sign up for not one but two challenges.  Next month sees the inaugural Jazz Age June challenge hosted by Laurie at Relevant Obscurity and Fanda of Fanda Classiclit.  Books, films… anything from the 1920s is de rigueur throughout the month of June.  Even I ought to be able to write one Jazz Age post next month.


And once again Cathy at 746 books is hosting the 20/15/10 Books of Summer event which runs from 1st June to 1st September.  Last year was my first attempt and I rashly dived in with a list of twenty books.  It is within the rules to make changes to the list or adjust the numbers and I did both, finishing with a total of 15 books read.  But looking back, I only managed to review three!  What can I say?  But epic fail on reviewing notwithstanding, it was a great summer of reading.  And who knows, I may surprise myself this year!

With the faint hope of achievement beyond just reading the books, I shall attempt a conservative 10 Books of Summer in 2020, several of which will combine with Jazz-Age June and also with my much-neglected Classics Club list.  I’m hoping that being able to tick off books from multiple challenges will be an added incentive.  There’s a good variety here, though almost all fiction.  I’m favouring shorter books plus books I know I’m going to read anyway and books that were on last year’s 20 BoS list that I’m still every bit as keen to read now as I was then.  I’m also pushing the envelope when it comes to Cathy’s generous conditions for her challenge.  Rather than just listing 10 books, I’m producing a rather longer list from which I shall choose as the weeks pass.  Anything that may help!

On Kindle

The Lists

Jazz Age June    Books will be drawn from:

A Room of One’s Own                    Virginia Woolf (1929)

To the Lighthouse                            Virginia Woolf (1927)

Bliss & Other Stories                       Katherine Mansfield (1920)

The Mysterious Affair at Styles   Agatha Christie (1920)

A Farewell to Arms                          Ernest Hemingway (1929)

The Velveteen Rabbit                     Marjory Williams Bianco (1922)

The Painted Veil                               W Somerset Maugham (1925)

A Passage to India                            E M Forster (1924)


10 Books of Summer Any of the above plus a selection from:

Under Milk Wood                                            Dylan Thomas (1954)

Dandelion Wine                                                Ray Bradbury (1957)

The Summer Book                                           Tove Jansson (1972)

A Month in the Country                                J L Carr (1980)

Cane River                                                           Lalita Tademy (2002)

The Shell Collector                                           Anthony Doerr (2003)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog                   Muriel Barbery (2006)

Celestial Bodies                                                Jokha Alharthi (2010)

Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew       Susan Fletcher (2016)

Drawing Lessons                                              Patricia Sands (2017)

The Redeemed                                                 Tim Pears (2019)

Diary of a Young Naturalist                          Dara McAnulty (2020)

On my shelves

So I’m choosing ten from twenty.  Within these twenty there are:

3 definite reads

3 rereads

3 previously started and not finished

11 which could count as Classics Club reads

16 already owned (there may be a couple more!)

To be found!

I do admire the purists who have the strength to put out a list and stick with it.  I am not of that order.  But at the end of the day, it’s all about the reading isn’t it.  And maybe for me, just a little bit about setting a target and meeting it!


72 thoughts on “Two Reading Challenges for Summer”

  1. Making the list is always the most fun for me … but then inevitably I end up doing loads of swaps. This year I’m choosing 20 out of 30+ on the shelves, all on a food and drink theme, with a couple of reread options. You’ve got some terrific ones to pick from here. I especially loved the Maugham. And I’ve been meaning to mention that I ‘saw’ you in the audience for the Hay Festival event with Dara McAnulty! It was great, wasn’t it? I’m halfway through his book and enjoying it very much (to be reviewed for Shiny New Books). Enjoy all your summer reading and listening, whatever you end up selecting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Becky, I’m glad to hear you swap so much. I agree that making the lists is the most fun. I was quietly disappointed once I’d posted my lists – it really is the best part!

      I ‘missed’ you at the Dara session! But I did ‘see’ several other blogging friends over the course of the festival. Wasn’t it a great experience! I still have some sessions to catch up on, and I’m using Hay as my excuse for not managing to get a post out last weekend 😉 I must catch up with your list, and I’ll look forward to your review of Dara’s book. He’s destined for great things I’m sure, in whatever field he chooses.


      1. I went to three sessions in all and didn’t really engage with the discussion in the comments, so you wouldn’t have seen me 🙂 Especially in my last session, the chat went very off topic down unhelpful avenues with people harping on their pet topics!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I didn’t engage either, beyond ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ but I did love seeing people from all over the world. And I adored the theme music! Sometimes I hid the chat – too distracting. I suspect that the sessions I chose were less likely to generate chat as you describe. It wouldn’t have been to my liking either 🙂


  2. I do almost the opposite, make up the lists in my head – read a lot of the books – and rarely get around to signing up for the challenges! I’ve read four of your books, including the Dylan Thomas which I listened to during art at school and had to paint scenes from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s safer, Katrina! Although you write reviews all the time so you could easily join in should you choose to. I don’t know what it is about list-making that appeals to us book lovers! I almost finished Under Milk Wood in March (for Dewithon – another challenge!) and then Corona stymied any reading for some while. I’m looking forward to enjoying it in full this time – but I can promise I won’t be drawing any pictures!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes a challenge is exactly what we need, isn’t it? There are some interesting titles on your lists. Best of luck. I’m all for whatever works to soothe us during these challenging times. And I think you’re wise to have built in some room for choice along the way. I’m finding that my reading choices right now are subject to whim from one day to the next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary, I have observed my reading activities oscillate wildly over these difficult weeks and I’m still making choices with the situation firmly in mind. Books tap into our emotions so vividly.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As someone who is similarly challenged by challenges with “my reading desires are bigger than my reading output,” I say it’s the thought that counts. Even if you only watch one film or read one book you’ve done it, whether you blog about it or not!

    Thanks for the plug 🙂 That is a great list for JazzAgeJune. I have only read one Maugham, The Razor’s Edge, and I enjoyed it. To the Lighthouse is on my list as well and so are about a dozen more. But….see my paragraph above!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Laurie, I’m glad you understand! As I actually wrote out my jazz age list, it seemed to me to be lacking any jazzy joyful books! But they are all books I want to tackle eventually. I have tried To the Lighthouse so many times as an audiobook. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it; I suspect that the format is just not right for me. So I’m very much hoping that time I’ll read or listen -just finish it somehow. It’s the ideal weather here for a holiday themed read – absolutely stunning spring, better than most summers! Good luck with your choices 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I like that you have chosen some summery titles for your 10 Books of Summer, like the Bradbury and the Jansson (which I hope like me you’ll love). A Virginia Woolf is also on the cards for me, possibly the one you’ve pictured, and I’ll try and fit in E F Benson’s Queen Lucia for Jazz Age June. Sensible strategem, to give yourself maximum flexibility, I approve!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dara McAnulty’s book is one that I’ve parcelled up a few of to send out for our indie bookshop, and I listened to a live interview he did with Steve Silberman for a consortium of indies last week. He also did a lovely review of Emily’s book which the publishers are featuring in their promotion. An outstanding chap and a fine writer, what little I’ve read so far.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The book is sitting here waiting 🙂 Apologies for not using Bookish but I ordered direct from Little Toller which is the next best thing. It arrived beautifully wrapped in bright yellow tissue paper. I was smiling before I even reached the book itself. I think he’s destined for great things.


    2. Glad you approve of my skeaky strategem, Chris! 😆 Lucia is a superb summery choice! I almost added Otranto but decided to save it for Gothick week – more appropriate! I have read the Jansson before and to this day it has haunted me because I know I didn’t experience properly. Dandelion Wine has been hanging around for a long time. I’ve listened to much of it but never quite got to the end. Frustrating because I do love it. So I’m hoping this year to do full justice to both 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I ‘ought’ to read Dandelion Wine but only read Bradbury’s collection of summer-themed short stories set in his fictional Green Town for last year’s Books of Summer. Hope you chat a bit about it when you’ve read and I’ll see if I’m persuaded!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ohhh I hope your version of Under Milkwood is the one with Richard Burton. His voice is delicious to listen to.

    Good luck with the rest of your list, however you work your way through it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Brona, it is! 😆 I had almost finished listening when all book-related things were crushed by the onset of the corona situation. I am very much looking forward to listening to Burton all over again!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You can do this! Think of the feelings of self-satisfaction and achievement, not to mention the way you’ll be able to sneer smugly at us dismal failures who’re too wimpy to even join in this year… 😉 Have a great summer’s reading!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. What lovely selections! I’ll look forward to whatever reviews you write and know you’ll enjoy the reading. The inclusion of The Velveteen Rabbit made me smile and think of my own Humphrey B. Bear 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Like your other commentators, I completely empathise with you on this. I love picking out the books I want to read for a particular challenge. Sadly, though, committing to a challenge pretty much guarantees that I won’t read whatever I have planned. But hey, thinking and talking about books is second best only to reading them, so bring on all the fun! You have a great selection of titles here to choose from – who cares whether you actually do any reading!! 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha Liz! I really will do the reading. And a lot of thinking. Also the talking – even if only to myself! I’ll probably even write notes. But what will emerge here for public delectation remains to be seen! 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  10. There’s a nice eclectic mix of books here. I’m not one for reading challenges – too much pressure – getting the Book Club choice read is enough for me. And oddly, I find I’m reading less than usual in Lockdown. But I shall follow your responses with interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My reading pattern has changed significantly in lockdown, Margaret. (I have a half-written post about just that which may or may not eventually see the light of day.) And I am definitely reading less. Not sure whether that is still due to lockdown or whether it’s now down to the weather and gardening. So long as we enjoy what we read, that’s enough for me! Challenges are simply the excuse to make yet more lists! 😆

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The Jansson is a reread and I can’t wait, Madame B. It has stayed with me for years because I know that when I read it originally I didn’t do justice to the experience. This time around will be entirely different. The Carr has been on my radar for years and is another one I’m really looking forward to. I made a note of your review of it in last year’s NADIM. 2020 will finally be the year I get to enjoy it myself 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dandelion Wine is beautiful, as is The Summer Book. The Mysterious Affair at Styles is one of my favourite Christies. I loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I didn’t enjoy To the Lighthouse one little bit, but Virginia and I generally don’t get on. A Passage to India surprised me – even though I’ve read it and should know better, I’ve convinced myself that it’s set in the 19th century. Who knows why.

    I’ve made a list again this year for the summer challenge but, like you, been more realistic than I was last year. Were we mad, Sandra? My list is a combination of getting more off my To Read pile and taking advantage of no commute to read the chunky hardbacks I’ve passed over in the past.

    Best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And good luck to you too, Jan! I’ll be looking at your list later 🙂 Going for the chunky hardbacks makes sense but it’s also quite brave. I’ve avoided adding any of the longer books I want to read. (The Luminaries springs to mind.) Anything to increase the likelihood that I’ll actually achieve it this year!


  12. Sandra, I am also take part in Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer challenge, although at the 10 books level, as I know there is not a cat in hell’s chance of me reading 20 books. Similar to you, I have actually made a list of 12 books, hoping a bit of wiggle room depending on my mood means I will read 10 of those books. Happy reading! I loved Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury and really enjoyed The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I’m rubbish too really but I can’t resist. I am so looking forward to A Month in the Country. If I read nothing else I shall still consider the challenge has been achieved!


  13. How I admire your clear purpose and decisiveness Sandra, and perseverance , of course. I would take all Summer to choose, and change my mind a dozen times, ultimately not reading any of them! A great eclectic mix-and for once, I have read several of them, so will look forward to your reviews and a little memory

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course, as you know, Pat, I am not at all decisive or clear in purpose! I have already begun dithering over swapping a few here and there! But I’ll see what I can do with getting a few thoughts out! xx


  14. What a tempting list. If I hadn’t signed up to read The Mysteries of Udolpho, I’d find your suggestions too tempting to resist. But I think Ann Radcliffe is going to provide me with enough of a challenge, this summer. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what you make of some of these.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Well first of all I love your lists, there are several that I must read and A Month in the Country is my current favourite so I hope you enjoy it too, but also I love that you only wrote 3 reviews last year. I struggle and struggle with review writing, like you I love the reading and the putting together of lists but oh the writing. . . Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think of all sorts of things to say while I’m reading the book, but when I finish I just put it down and pick up the next one and before I know it I’ve go a backload of reviews to write and it’s all got on top of me! No matter how many talkings to I give myself nothing seems to work. . . oh dear!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. We read Under Milk Wood at school – I remember little about it but I’ve been thinking about it again recently and thinking of re-reading it – I think I’d appreciate it more now. We also read A Passage to India, which I remember I quite enjoyed. The Summer Book was recently added to my ‘to read’ list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am constantly delighted when a book which failed to resonate at an earlier stage in life finally hits the spot and reveals itself. I know this will happen with The Summer Book. Hope you enjoy it too, Andrea, when you get to it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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