Cathy at 746 Books is hosting the annual 20 Books of Summer challenge, one I have never participated in, but I decided this year that I’m going to try and make space on the bookshelves and donate more books in September to a local vide grenier in Ansouis, Vaucluse, where there is always a large sale of English books.
Below are the 20 books I am going to be reading from this summer, from now until the end of August. I’m predominantly a mood reader, however August is Women in Translation #WITmonth, so I have included a few titles for that. Here are the books on my list:
Other People’s Books, Their Must-Reads
The pile on the left are books that have been lent or given to me by friends, these are books that when I see them on the shelf, I think, I must hurry up and read that, because I need to let my friend know what I thought of it. They are promising, because they were loved by the person who gave it to me! So come on Claire, hurry up and read them, there are potential gems hiding in here!
- Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – I’m starting here today and it’s already given me a few laugh out loud moments. Nine people attend a remote health spa, somewhere north of Sydney, Australia, they’ve all responded to the off to change their lives in 10 days, but who exactly is this intriguing person who is going to turn their lives around? On verra!
- The Maid by Nita Prose – a friend bought this as an airport read and it was the the Goodreads Winner for Best Mystery & Thriller in 2022, it’s described as a locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, exploring what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different.
- The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See – hugely popular author of historical fiction, often connected to China, this novel is set in a remote mountain village tea plantation, exploring the rituals and traditions of the Akha people and the effect of a stranger in their midst. It promises strong and complex female characters and insights into little known aspects of Chinese culture.
- All Are Welcome by Liz Parker – this romantic comedy novel was given to me by a friend and it was written by her cousin, got to support family ventures! A darkly funny novel about brides, lovers, friends and family and all the secrets and skeletons in the closet that come with them. Described by one reader as a hybrid ‘beach read’, character-driven, dysfunctional family story.
- Purged by Fire: Heresy of the Cathars by Diane Bonavist – a little known work of historical fiction about the struggle of the Cathars of the Languedoc region in Southern France (who rejected the teachings of the Catholic church) in the 13th century, and the papal directive to to root them out as they were deemed heretics, to confiscate property, and burn the unrepentant at the stake. Here is a story of three people trapped in the fatal complicities of that Inquisition.
- Dreams of Trespass by Fatema Mernisse – tales of a girlhood harem, this is a memoir of a young girl’s growing up in a French Morroccan harem in Fez, set against the backdrop of WWII.
- The Promise by Damon Galgut – this won the Booker Prize in 2021 and was lent to me by a friend, despite me saying I wasn’t going to read it, the premise sounds very much like the incredible South African novel Agaat by Marlene van Niekerk that I read in 2015, but I need to give this back, so…
- My Name is Resolute by Nancy E.Turner – this author wrote one of our all time favourite historical fiction trilogies about a pioneer woman who sought a living in the harsh, untamed lands of the Arizona Territory circa late 1800’s. They were based on the author’s great grandmother Sarah Prine; These is My Words, Sarah’s Quilt, A Star Garden. This one I have on good authority is fantastic. Beginning in 1729, it is a heartfelt story of a woman struggling to find herself during the tumultuous years preceding the American Revolution
Women in Translation #WITMonth
The pile on the right are all books I really want to read soon and they are a mix of works by women in translation and other books that I feel will be easy to pick up and get lost in, not overly challenging. I think I may be being rather ambitious as not only am I working throughout the summer, I have visitors coming and going throughout most of July and August. But there is a sense of freedom that summer brings and it is light so late, I’m going to create the list and then just see what happens.
- Fresh Dirt From the Grave by Giovanna Rivero (Bolivia) tr. Isabel Adey (Spanish) – gothic short stories from Latin America, this is part of my annual subscription to Charco Press. Six tales of a dark beauty that throb with disturbing themes: the legitimacy of revenge, incest as survival, indigenous witchcraft versus Japanese wisdom, the body as a corpse we inhabit. Rivero’s stories pierce the reader like a wound, but in the end also offer possibilities of love, justice and hope.
- Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro (Argentina) tr. Frances Riddle (Spanish) – a word of mouth sensation and International Booker Prize shortlist (2022) I’ve been wanting to read this for ages, so added it my 2023 bundle from Charco. The author has another book coming into English in July this year A Little Luck, so I may even get to that title this summer.
- Boulder by Eva Baltasar (Spain) tr. Julia Sanches (Catalan) – also shortlisted for the INternational Booker (2023) Eva Baltasar demonstrates her preeminence as a chronicler of queer voices navigating a hostile world―and in prose as brittle and beautiful as an ancient saga.
- Permafrost by Eva Baltasar (Spain) tr. Julia Sanches (Catalan) – having learned Boulder was #2 of a Triptych, I’ve added #1 to the list. Full of powerful, physical imagery, this prize-winning debut novel by acclaimed Catalan poet Eva Baltasar was a word-of-mouth hit in its own language. It is a breathtakingly forthright call for women’s freedom to embrace both pleasure and solitude, and speaks of the body, of sex, and of the self. There’s a third book Mamut not yet translated.
My Summer Reading
- My Fourth Time, We Drowned by Sally Hayden – this non-fiction, journalistic masterpiece is chronicle of the plight of refugees that find themselves in Mediterranean water’s and the implicated political decisions that have made their lives that much worse. I came across this after reading Leila Aboulela’s River Spirit, a work of historical fiction set in Sudan, Sally Hayden has written about the situation in Sudan today. Her book won the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2022 and is described as a must read.#humanrights
- The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes – I should have read this in April, it was the One Dublin One Book choice for 2023. Last year we read the excellent Nora by Nuala O’Connor about the lives of Nora and James Joyce, this year it’s historical fiction set in 1816 Dublin, about a young lady sleuth operating at the dawn of forensic science.
- Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary – I have this in English and French and my neighbour keeps telling me to read it,I know this is going to be a gem, it is the story of the love for his mother that was his very life, their secret and private planet, their wonderland “born out of a mother’s murmur into a child’s ear, a promise whispered at dawn of future triumphs and greatness, of justice and love.”
- Homesick by Jennifer Croft – another title from Charco Press, not translated, but the author is a translator. This is a work of autobiographical fiction, longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
- The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak – I’ve read 4 of her novels The Forty Rules of Love, The Bastard of Istanbul, Three Daughters of Eve and Honour and one work of nonfiction The Happiness of Blond People – A Personal Meditation on the Dangers of Identity. I’m always interested in the work of Turkish writer Elif Shafak, who writes from the perspective, and comes from, the place where East meets West.
- Daughter of the King by Kerry Chaput – set in La Rochelle, France 1661 – historical fiction based on the true story of the French orphans who settled Canada, a story of one young woman’s fight for true freedom.
- The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler – far too long sitting on my shelf, I didn’t even realise I had this novel when I first read Tyler’s Ladder of Years.
- End of Story by Louise Swanson – and here is the wonderful Louise Beech, whose novel How To Be Brave was such an unforgettable experience; this novel sees her using a new pen name for a different genre, a novel that is making a bit of a splash, it came about after a tweet made by a British politician (now the Prime Minister) suggested that people in the arts ought to retrain.
“This got me trying to imagine about a world without the arts. Without stories.”
Have you read any of these titles above, any recommendations, suggestions as to which to read first? Do you have summer (or winter) reading plans? Let me know in the comments below.