20 Books of Summer – it’s a wrap

As the clock strikes midnight, the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge will draw to a close. Those extra few hours won’t make a difference to my final tally. I read 21 books (but I’m a little behind on reviews…).

My final list was quite different to what I started with – unfortunately the McInerney, King, Groff and Cannon that were on my original list were swapped out for books by authors that I was seeing at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Never mind, those books are still waiting for me.

The challenge delivered my second five-star read of the year – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – a breathtakingly clever book. I also thoroughly enjoyed Music & Silence by Rose Tremain and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

My list included five memoirs, the standouts being Staying by Jessie Cole and Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee – both were emotionally tough to read but very, very brave and important stories.

There were some disappointments – Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan and Albert Einstein Speaking by R.J. Gadney were both bland, and Educated by Tara Westover didn’t quite live up to all the hype for me. In contrast, there were some unexpected surprises – Clare Wright’s beautifully written tome, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka and Justin Cronin’s slim but emotionally complex novel, Mary & O’Neil.

And how did the weather compare in Belfast and Melbourne? I haven’t tallied the figures and worked out an average but I reckon this year, Belfast’s summer was consistently warmer than Melbourne’s winter – Melbourne has had a particularly cold winter and perhaps Belfast had an unusually warm summer?

Thank you again to Cathy for hosting this challenge.


16 responses

  1. For some reason I was expecting you to review Helen Garner’s Honour & Other People’s Children over summer. My mistake I guess. But I do have Forgotten Rebels on my to buy list on your recommendation.

    • I think I got a copy of the Garner around the time this challenge started so no, you weren’t dreaming! (and I will get to it… need to have a few weeks of choosing what to read next on a whim because the last few months have been structured around the Stella Prize and MWF).

    • Life took a little bit to get into but once I started I loved the clues left along the way. I guess there are plenty of those ‘sliding doors’ type of stories but I thought this one was a cut above (even better than Laura Barnett’s The Versions of Us which I also thought had a clever structure).

  2. I also read 21 books this summer, with quite a bit of nonfiction (Persepolis, March, In the Shadow of Statues, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States). I agree that Educated was good but maybe not great, and same with Manhattan Beach. I love Rose Tremain so I’ll check that one out.

    • Until Music & Silence I had only read Tremain’s short stories – I really enjoyed this book and have since recommended it to a fe people (and put in some library requests for more of Tremain’s long-form fiction).

  3. Congratulations – over and above the target! I had a terrible summer for reading – its been our joint hottest summer on record (I was an embryo during in the last one so that was fine) and my reading really suffered. Now its autumn hopefully I’ll follow your excellent example 🙂

    • The handful of IRL friends I have in the UK have done a lot of Facebook posts suggesting that they’re all wilting – of course, they are met with comments from the Aussies along the lines of “Hot? That’s not hot. I’ll show you hot.” As much as we joke, I do think that 28 degrees in London feels hotter than 28 degrees in Melbourne, simply because you guys aren’t equipped for it in the same way that we are (air-conditioning everywhere here!). The reverse is true for winter – I’m often complaining that it’s freezing and my UK friends just roll their eyes. Hard.

  4. I think we may well have beat you in the temperature stakes this year – June & July were unusually warm! Congrats on completing 21 books – Life After Life is a really wonderful book. Thanks for taking part again x

    • Certainly in previous years the Melbourne and Belfast temperatures overlapped but this year, not so – I would have preferred to be in Belfast than Melbourne (I hate cold weather!).

  5. I had a successful #20books this year too, but like you, a very cold winter in Sydney.
    I’ve been lucky enought to pick up an ARC of Clare Wright’s new book Daughters of Freedom. I have high hopes after Rebels.

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