Every darn year this happens to me.
In the lead up to summer, I pull together a massive list of books to read, anticipating all of the amazing free time I will have once the warm weather kicks in. (BTW, why do I think summer means more time? There is zero logic backing that up.)
And every summer, I barely read anything.
Between June and September I only managed to finish 2.5 books a month!
For comparison, in May alone I knocked out 8. Eight!
Why do I think that summer reading is a thing? I never manage to get through any books. So now, I have a TBR pile to rival all TBR piles. I stacked ’em up all spring, and they just sat there all summer, and now I have a bagillion books to read.
So now I’m winnowing it down. These are the top 10 books that are staying in my TBR pile post-summer.
1. GO SET A WATCHMAN, BY HARPER LEE
Honestly, I’m almost getting embarrassed that I haven’t read this yet. It was made insta-famous, and I loved Lee’s original, so I can’t believe I still haven’t been taken in the hype. I think part of my challenge is that I want to re-read To Kill A Mockingbird before I grab this one. Set 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird, Go Set A Watchmen is a less generous exploration of the relationship between Scout and Atticus.
2. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SOPHIE STARK, BY ANNA NORTH
Winning the Lambda award in the category of Bisexual Fiction, Anna North’s novel has been popping up on all kinds of lists over the past year, and it’s been driving me crazy! I’ve been meaning to pick this up for ages, it officially made it on my TBR after winning the Lambda, but still never managed to make it to the top of by pile over the summer. The story follows filmmaker Sophie Stark weaving narratives from different perspectives together to tell the story of an incredibly talented artist who paid the price of pursuing the truth.
3. FATES AND FURIES, BY LAUREN GROFF
This is currently sitting on my bookshelf in my bedroom mocking me. It’s been there for so long, and I haven’t managed to actually pick it up! Especially after Anna recommended Fates and Furies as “gorgeous, intricate, and unexpected prose. Each sentence and paragraph is a joy and a surprise to read.” Obviously, I need to get to this sooner rather than later. I expect to get completely sucked in to the twists and turns of this one. I’m even considering making this one of our 2017 book club picks. What do you think?
4. DO NOT SAY WE HAVE NOTHING, BY MADELEINE THIEN
After popping up on the Man Booker short list earlier this year, I immediately was drawn to this book. Set in Canada in 1991, 10-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a woman who fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests.
In her review, Isabel Hilton wrote: ‘Thien takes this history and weaves it into a vivid, magisterial novel that reaches back to China’s civil war and up to the present day. I can’t wait to actually get to this one!
5. Summer Days and Sumemr Nights, edited by Stephanie Perkins
I’m seriously offended that I have not read this yet! Sarah’s review earlier this year totally convinced me to pick up this collection of short stories, inspired by the magic of summer. I was so excited to pick this one up, and still never managed to!
Sarah also mentioned how much she loved the winter collection – My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories – which might be more of an appropriate thing to pick up with the cold weather descending.
6. KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST, BY J. RYAN STRADAL
I saw so many people reading this over the summer! This is the story behind Eva, a baby raised on lutefisk, pureed pork shoulder, and all the flavors that only the Midwest can offer. It’s an emotional book, driven by personality and spirit, and really captures the foodie culture growing in the Midwest today. I knew this would make a great summer read, but I still didn’t manage to get it in. Curl up for a laugh, a cry, and a little appreciation of homeland.
7. HOT MILK, BY DEBORAH LEVY
Another of the Man Booker short list, I really wanted to read this during the summer! It sounds like such a slow burning novel, perfect for a long drawn out summer day. Maybe it’ll have to hold for vacation? I don’t want to waste it on a cold evening. Levy, who was shortlisted for the Booker in 2012 for her last novel Swimming Home, is up for the prize again. Hot Milk follows two women, a mother and daughter who travel to a Spanish village in search of a medical cure for the mother’s paralysis.
In her review, Erica Wagner called it ‘an experiment with truth and identity’ that has ‘a transfixing gaze and a terrible sting that burns long after the final page is turned’.
8. FRANNIE AND TRU, BY KAREN HATTRUP
I’m so irritated that I didn’t manage to read this over the summer! I wrote about it in early June for Pride Month and could not contain how excited I was to read it. Karen Hattrup’s YA debut has been receiving incredible feedback. Based in my former home base of Baltimore, Frannie and Tru tells the story of a summer which changes the lives of two cousins. After idolizing her older cousin Truman for years, 15-year old Frannie overhears her parents saying that after a bad coming-out experience Tru will be living with them for the summer. The confrontation of issues of race, class and sexuality are supposed to generate a fantastic coming-of-age story that will be moving to YA fans as well as contemporary readers.
9. The rest of the Neapolitan Novels, by Elena Ferrante
Two reasons I’m bummed I didn’t get to these amazing novels. First, Anna read them all and beat me to reviewing them to the whole series on the blog. Second, the author behind the psydonymn Elena Ferrante has recently been outed, which is a bummer on many fronts, and makes me sad on her behalf. But, I will definitely be grabbing the rest of the series (and soon!). I know that these novels are beautiful (despite their cover art) and cannot wait to get the whole behind the scenes on Lila and Lenu as their friendship grows stronger with age.
10. UNDER THE UDALA TREES, BY CHINELO OKPARANTA
When I heard about this book, I immediately wanted to not only read it, but to make it a book club book. Maybe that will still happen (wink wink). Winning the Lambda in the Lesbian Fiction category, this story pairs Nigeria’s folktales with the story of the coming of age of Ijeoma and her star-crossed love with a young girl from a different ethnic community. The pairing of the rise of Ijeoma with the rebuilding of Nigeria following years of civil war should make for a layered, complex, and insightful look into both statehood and personhood. The praise for Okparanta is overwhelming, and I’m going to make sure this sticks around the top of the TBR pile!
I really wish I had infinite reading time, but no luck this year!
What was your favorite read this summer? Was there a book you just didn’t get to?