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The Summer Reading List Recap

Back in June, I announced my summer reading list. It was the first time I’d ever committed to reading a specific list of books within a set time frame, and I wasn’t sure if it would go well. I generally prefer to read according to whim and mood, sometimes bingeing on a particular genre, or re-reading old classics. The idea of committing to 23 books in a season seemed contrary to my usual improvisational approach to reading, but I was anticipating so many great summer reads that I felt it was worth making the list.

Result: I LOVED it.

At this point, I’ve read 21 of the 23 books; I’m in the middle of the second-to-last one. It’s been a glorious summer of reading. As soon as I finished one book, I started the next. And I loved almost all of them. There was one that I abandoned, and one that I skimmed– more on that later. But for the most part, I couldn’t stop talking about the great books I was reading. I felt like I was consuming meal after meal of beautiful, well-prepared food.

I didn’t completely stick to the list. It took me extra time to finish because I threw in some other books, ones that popped up as Kindle deals, or ones I needed for research. Those mini-tangents made the commitment less constraining, and in the future, if I make a new list, I’d allow myself to keep it loose.

How this was different from my to-read list

I’ve had to-read lists on Goodreads for years. They’re broken down into several different shelves: to-read historical fiction, to-read nonfiction, to-read YA, etc. I don’t always look at them when I’m finding something new to read. This was different because I chose mostly new books, and gave myself a set (though vague-ish) time frame. I think the “summer” part of the list was the key. I felt motivated to keep reading so I’d get through the list in a season. As a side result, I’m definitely going to hit my goal of reading 100 books this year. I’m up to 83 in mid-September.

Why it worked

  • I’m particularly committed to reading in the summer. Summer and winter are “reading seasons” in my mind.
  • I had more leisure time on my hands. I did a LOT of reading on vacation: in the car, at the lake house. I stayed up late reading, too, because I was able to sleep later in the mornings. I’m missing that now!
  • I read in a variety of formats. This isn’t new, but it’s becoming a strength of my reading habit. I’m always in the middle of a new book on my Kindle, on my Audible app, and in hardcover. That way, I have something to read wherever I go and whatever I’m doing.
  • I was really excited about most of the books. I’d read synopses from Modern Mrs. Darcy and the New York Times summer book list, and chose the 23 books that made my heart beat faster. It was a well-crafted list, with a lot of variety. (See it here.)
  • My birthday is in the summer. My dad bought me three of the new books in hardcover for my birthday. He always asks me what I want as a special present from him, and I never have a good answer. But this year, I did! I loved reading in hardcover. I’m generally too cheap to spring for it, but it feels decadent. Those thick pages, the beautiful type, the art on the cover, the weight of it in your hand…

My top rated books

I loved many books on the list, and enjoyed the variety of genres (as I usually do). But I do have a few favorites that I’ve been recommending nonstop. I’m not going to do synopses; you can find those on Goodreads or Amazon if you want to. Sometimes knowing too much about a book can be a turn-off. I’m just going to explain why I loved them.

Stuck with me longest: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I can’t say enough BIG great things about this book. I don’t know how Picoult did it (what with the long lead time in publishing) but this book, about the different forms racism takes, came out at the exact right time. It’s a must-read AND a want-to-read.

Recommended most: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I love, love, love Ove. I think he’s one of my favorite characters of all time. Please read this book– it will make your heart sing.

Read fastest: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. Cute book, fast read, well-edited.

Couldn’t read at night: I See You by Clare Mackintosh. You will never want to ride a subway again. Or have children. Or make friends. Or trust anyone, ever.

There were only two that didn’t feel satisfying to me. One, I listened to on audiobook, and realized halfway through that it wasn’t for me. The other, I read in hardcover and struggled with the story-framing device.

Abandoned: We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby. I wanted to like this memoir, and I did think some parts were funny. But I just didn’t connect to Irby.

Skimmed: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. This book is a murder mystery within a murder mystery. I only connected with one of them. I didn’t care about the other. So I skimmed until I got back to the initial mystery.

Did you read any of the titles on my summer reading list? What did you think? What were the best/worst books of the summer for you?

Up next on my book stack:

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (September book club pick)

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (new; pre-ordered months ago)

Reading People by Anne Bogel (ditto)

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh (bought at Writer’s Digest Conference)

The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig (ditto)

What Happened by Hillary Clinton (I’m going to a book signing in December– I can’t wait to meet her in person!)

8 Responses to “The Summer Reading List Recap”

  1. Louise Foerster says:

    Oh, where to start? Love the list — without having seen this, I read at least half of the same books! We share the same love of story, the same admiration for certain contemporary writers — and if I read one of your blogs right, you attended the Writer’s Digest Conference — in NYC, in August 2017?! Small world — and a smiling one. Going to see Beatriz Williams talk about her latest book under her psedonym.

  2. What a great summer of reading! There was only one book we both read this summer, The Dry (which I also loved). There are a couple on your list that I also have on mine but haven’t started yet. I’ve read Crossing to Safety and enjoyed it very much.

    My favorite reads this summer include: Fiction: Kitchens of the Great Midwest (J. Ryan Stradall), Classic: Dombey & Son (Charles Dickens); Non-fiction: America’s Women (!); and A Paris Year, by Janice MacLeod, which is sort of an illustrated memoir. I actually just finished America’s Women a few days ago, but I’m counting it since it’s still summer in Florida!

    • Leanne Sowul says:

      What did you think, about America’s Women, Kathy? Did you enjoy Gail Collins’ style as much as I do?
      PS- So glad to hear via your blog that your family and home is safe, including the horses!

      • Thanks, Leanne–it was pretty scary for a while, but we ended up with no damage, unlike some other parts of the state.

        I enjoyed Collins’ style a lot–such an interesting book. I want to buy my own copy now! I also want to go around thrusting it into people’s hands and telling them to read it. There was SO MUCH that I didn’t know!

  3. Funny, I did a lookback on my summer reading in tomorrow’s blog post and came to a similar conclusion: I loved it for the most part. 🙂 It doesn’t look like we read any books in common, though I do hope you enjoy Becoming Bonnie when you get around to it.

    As for my favorite summer reads, they include Becoming Bonnie, Anna-Marie McLemore’s When The Moon Was Ours, Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, Victoria Schwab’s Our Dark Duet, and N.K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky.

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