20 Books of Summer 2021 (Colour Theme) & Other Reading Plans

It’s my fourth year participating in Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer challenge. Three years ago, I read only books by women; two years ago, I did an animal theme; last year, all my choices were related to food and drink. This year it’s all about colour: the word colour, or one mentioned in a title or in an author’s name, or – if I get really stuck – a particularly vibrant one on a book cover. My options range from short stories to biography, with a couple of novels in translation and a couple of children’s classics to reread on the piles.

As usual, I will prioritize books from my own shelves, but this time I will also allow myself to include library and/or Kindle reads. For instance, I have a hold placed on Nothing but Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon, which was on the Women’s Prize longlist.

Here are the initial stacks I’m choosing from:

One that’s not pictured but that I definitely plan to read and review over the summer is God Is Not a White Man by Chine McDonald, which came out earlier this month.

Tomorrow I’m flying out to the USA as my mother is getting remarried in mid-June. I’m not completely at ease about travelling, especially as on this occasion it has involved expensive private Covid testing and quarantine periods at either end, but I am looking forward to the fun aspects of travel, like downtime in an airport with nothing to do but read. For this purpose, the first two books for my challenge that I’ve packed are the novel Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the short story collection Emerald City by Jennifer Egan.

This week and next, the Hay Festival is taking place. I went nuts and booked myself onto eight different literary talks, three of which have already aired, with two more coming up this evening. Then there will be a few to keep me occupied during my first few days of quarantine next week. It’s a fantastic program and all the online events are free (though you can donate), so do take a look if you haven’t already. I’ll try to write up at least some of these events.

Liz’s Anne Tyler readalong is continuing throughout this year, and I happen to own one novel that’s scheduled for each of the next three months: Saint Maybe for June, A Patchwork Planet for July, and An Amateur Marriage for August. The last two I’ll be rescuing from boxes in my sister’s basement.

I always like reading with the seasons, so this is my summery stack:

I’ll start with Three Junes. Others I will contemplate getting out from the library include Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth, The Summer before the Dark by Doris Lessing, and August by Callan Wink.

In mid-June I’m on the blog tour for Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau, a novel that’s perfect for the season’s reading – nostalgic for a teen girl’s music-drenched 1970s summer, and reminiscent of Curtis Sittenfeld’s work.

I have also managed to amass a bunch of books about fathers and fatherhood, so I’ll do at least one “Three on a Theme” post to tie in with Father’s Day.

 

Are you joining in the summer reading challenge? What’s the first book on the docket?
 Do you spy any favourites on my piles? Which ones should I be sure to read?

43 responses

  1. Good luck with the travel, Rebecca. I hope all goes well for you and your family. At least you’ll have lots to read to get you through quarantine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I certainly won’t run out of books!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aaagh! Thanks for the reminder about the Hay Festival. I had the email, but was away from home so put it by for later. It was by first time last year, and it was such a great series of events.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think if you subscribe to their channel (£10?), you can catch up on any of the events. I’ve only watched two so far, but both have been fantastic.

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  3. What a good idea to have a theme – if I were doing this my only plan would be to make a big dent in the TBR! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope at least 10-15 of mine will be from my own shelves, with library books making up the rest. Challenges are always a good way to get to grips with the TBR!

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  4. Safe travels, Rebecca, it’s certainly a strange experience, no doubt. I’m not able to attend as many Hay Festival events this year, as they clash with work, but I did see Raven Leilani yesterday, who was very different from what I expected having read her book (always dangerous to confuse narrative voice with the author). And I think the theme of colour is an excellent one for the summer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I have that event to catch up on later today! I booked it before the announcement of the Dylan Thomas Prize, so didn’t know who I’d see chatting with Bryan Washington. Interesting that you found her own voice different from that in her book. When she did a reading during the prize ceremony, she picked a surprisingly dark passage about the narrator’s father, whereas I might have expected her to read a funny bit.

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      1. And the other thing that really struck me about that conversation was how supportive and complimentary they were of each other. A model for others.

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  5. Safe travels Rebecca – I hope you have a great trip. Love your theme, I remember liking Black Dogs, but it’s been a long time since I read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cathy! It’s a McEwan I don’t know anything about, but I’m sure it will be macabre.

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  6. Safe travels and hope your trip goes well. How fabulous that you’ll be reading three Anne Tylers along with me – hooray! I hope you manage to dig the later two out OK.

    I have Jonathan van Ness’ book up first for my 20 Books of Summer, hopefully a nice quick and jolly one to get me off to a good start.

    And God is Not a White Man looks amazing – I will definitely watch out for your review of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. buriedinprint | Reply

      I listened to van Ness’s memoir on audio and it was surprisingly moving. It is very much in his voice but, just as in the show, it’s not all jolly. Still, I’m sure you will enjoy it overall.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That will make it better, then. Still jollier than some of the tomes I have given myself to work through, though! I would have liked to listen to it on audio in a way but I’m hopeless at taking things in that way – I have listened to bits of his podcast and he talks SO FAST, too!

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    2. Thanks! I’m looking forward to a Tyler-filled summer. I didn’t read any of the recent crop of antiracist books because I didn’t want to feel like I was just jumping on a bandwagon, or doing it out of obligation. But this one should be just right for me because of the progressive Christian perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I hope I don’t look like I’m jumping on the bandwagon, but I have been reading them along the way, dripfeeding them in, and my 20 Books of Summer is about diversity as a whole. This one does match your interests and I will look out for your review as it’s an area I haven’t yet read about in depth.

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      2. It certainly wasn’t a comment on your reading choices. I just wanted to be sure of my own motivation, that I wasn’t reading a certain kind of book because I wanted to be seen to be reading it, if you see what I mean.

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      3. Yes, of course. I’ve had a few people comment, O, it’s great to see you reading more diversely! but I’m confident I have always done so. And I also know those reviews will be less popular so that reminds me I’m not doing it performatively, if you see what I mean.

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      4. I saw Jacqui say that the other day, that her reviews of books by BIPOC get significantly lower engagement. Such a shame.

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  7. buriedinprint | Reply

    What a delightful combination. I’m especially drawn to that old Sarton paperback, an original Norton by the looks of it? Not sure I’ve read that one…I get her all muddled, partly from also having listened to some audio readings that were excerpts. You might find that Purple Hibiscus is less complex in some ways, as you’re returning to her first novel after having fallen hard for her later writing, but I think you will love some elements of the actual story even more than I did. Three Junes introduced me to Julia Glass and I love her way of telling stories, but I feel as though you might be in for a lot of eye-rolling, given your meh response to some of my other favourite writers. 😀 Also, what an amazing collection of events at Hay. Off to check that myself now: thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I ordered the Sarton paperback sight unseen from a secondhand website and was very pleased with what arrived. I see what you mean about Purple Hibiscus being a lesser achievement, but I’m enjoying it well enough thus far. I read Glass’s The Whole World Over in 2019, not knowing it was a sort of sequel to this, and loved it, so I should be okay with this one, too. All four Hay Festival events I’ve watched thus far have been phenomenal!

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      1. buriedinprint

        “Lesser achievement” doesn’t reflect my reading of it. 🙂 She wasn’t aiming for the kind of complexity that we see either in Americanah or Yellow Sun in Purple Hibiscus, so I see her having achieved her goal wholly in her debut, but I know we’ve chatted before about having different ideas about how works are/aren’t in competition.

        I’d forgotten (if I knew) that you enjoyed that Glass novel (one I loved more than Three Junes though) so I hope it turns out to be a great summer read for you. I’ve attended a few different writing events lately (finally!) but nothing at Hay so far. it’s been fun though. Hope things are going well for you these days.

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  8. I adored Anne of Green Gables as a child but couldn’t get through it as a adult… very sad. I agree with Buried In Print that Purple Hibiscus may feel a little simpler than Adichie’s later work, and it’s quite a familiar Nigerian coming of age story now, which perhaps it wasn’t so much when it was published. The only other one I’ve read is The Colour which I hated ha but then I have hated all the Tremain I’ve read, and I know you get on with her better than I do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, I’m sure I won’t be as enchanted with the Anne books as an adult, but I hope I can at least read and enjoy this one.

      I’m 50 pages or so into Purple Hibiscus and liking it well enough, though the depiction of the cruel father does seem pretty unsubtle.

      I did try this Tremain once before and didn’t make it very far, so we’ll see how it goes this time!

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  9. Yay for Anne of Green Gables! I also really liked Purple Hibiscus and Blue Shoe.

    Hope you have safe travels!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m 1/3 through Purple Hibiscus and enjoying it, though I think it’s safe to say it won’t compare to her later novels for me. I’ve never tried Anne Lamott’s fiction and I’m worried I won’t like it as much as her nonfiction…

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      1. I didn’t care for Lamott’s earlier novels but this one was a four star for me FWIW.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Love your theme for 20 Books! (I don’t have a theme, short of trying very hard to read from what I already own).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an adequate goal! My colour theme is proving remarkably easy. I’ve finished one book so far, I’m partway through another two, and I’ll start a fourth today. And the challenge hasn’t even officially started 😉

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      1. The stars have aligned for me and I’ve finished one book yesterday and will finish another today, meaning I’ll be starting Books of Summer with a clean slate.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I also always enjoy that air travel means time to read. I hope all your travel goes well and that you have a great time at the wedding!

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    1. Thanks, Katie! I managed to finish three books (two of which I had started earlier in the week) on the plane 🙂

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  12. I’m going to Hay-on-Wye in a few weeks time, and I’m looking forward to rummaging through the bookshops even if it’s not festival time! My parents had a cottage booked nearby last year and they allowed to booking to be carried over, so it will be nice to go somewhere new, even if it isn’t very far away. I hope your trip to the US goes OK and good luck with 20 Books of Summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have you been before? It’s one of my favourite places. My last trip there was in September and we stayed in a little Airbnb. I hope you enjoy the book shopping!

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      1. Only as a child, I just remember there being books everywhere and not much else.

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      2. You’ll find it very different now — it’s gone hipster and has lots of boutique-type stores and cafes in addition to the bookshops, which have drastically decreased in number. However, some of the flagship stores are still there and overall there are plenty of book-shopping opportunities.

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  13. Mary Jane sounds fun–and could be a potential comp to my WIP I’m wrapping up (the part that takes place in the 80s anyway). So, I finally read an Anne Tyler–and it was great. The Beginner’s Goodbye, not even one of her big ones. Don’t know what took me so long!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary Jane was a lot of fun. I finished it up on the plane. It’s set in Baltimore, and the author has written about her debt to Anne Tyler: https://lithub.com/on-finally-finding-a-home-where-the-outsiders-are-in/

      Funnily enough, The Beginner’s Goodbye was my first Tyler, too, right when it first came out. I wasn’t too impressed, but I’m glad I’ve persisted and read another dozen or so since. That’s great that you loved her on first try!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, Baltimore strikes again! Reading that essay now. Thank you!

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  14. You know how I love reading themes – and this is a great one, and one that takes more than one month to do it justice, so very appropriate for 20 Books of Summer. I do hope, though that you get more out of Three Junes than I did. https://www.exurbanis.com/archives/7486#junes

    I got held back by a book I started in May and didn’t finish until last night (Jun2nd) but I’ve started my 20 books with Something for Everyone, short stories by Newfoundland writer Lisa Moore.

    Have a great summer – hope your travels go smoothly and that it’s a lovely wedding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read Part I of Three Junes so far and haven’t been as entranced as I hoped to be … we’ll see if the other time periods and settings are any better.

      I’ve read several books by Lisa Moore before and especially enjoyed February.

      Thank you! My quarantine week at my sister’s house, where she and four kids are all engaged in virtual learning, is feeling endless and chaotic. I’m looking forward to being able to go out and about from Sunday.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. February has been my favourite of Moore’s books, as well.

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  15. i like your idea of a colour theme for 20booksofsummer. I’m prioritising my ‘physical’ books too though have added a few NetGalley titles to reduce my embarrassment at requesting them and then not reading.

    Good luck with the trip across the Atlantic, it’s going to feel strange I suspect. Just being in an airport that is much quieter than normal will feel odd

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