This summer, in summary

Back at the beginning of June I opted to do Cathy Brown’s summer reading meme. This involved listing either ten, fifteen or twenty books one aimed to complete between the beginning of that month and the end of August.

Ever cautious I went for just ten titles, but in complete confidence that I would over the 93 days be close to not only reading but reviewing 20 books.

So how did I do?

Well, not too bad. According to my Goodreads Reading Challenge I’ve logged twenty books since June. It’s a little more nuanced than that of course: I’ve reviewed three out of four of Charlotte Brontë’s Unfinished Tales, and Brendan McMahon’s The Princess Who Ate People was an updated review of a title which this time I merely skimmed through extremely rapidly without writing a reconsidered critique. And Adrian Gilbert’s The Holy Kingdom is a did-not-finish pseudohistory but one which I can assure you is not worth the time of digesting.

But I’ve read or reread every word of all the others, introduction, epitaph, acknowledgements (though not, I must confess, all the academic references).

So here are some stats. The female to male author ratio is 40:60, mainly because there are four Philip Pullman titles in the list. If discrete names are counted there’s a better balance of eight female authors to nine male. (So far this year that’s close to the balance over eight months: 20 women to 22 men.)

As for genres this is a losing battle where defining categories is concerned. Is Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own a non-fiction essay or autobiografiction? Are Pullman’s overtly fantasy titles for young adults, for mature adults, or for anyone of any age? Is a book purported to be history but based on sheer speculation to be classed as non-fiction or simply as fake old news, one step away from badly-written fiction? Is a literary rendition of a Persian classic (with introduction and notes) poetry, literary criticism, a scholarly hoax, or all three? Are Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles fantasy, alternative history or what could be termed paracosms?

Let me stick to observable facts then. Ten of the titles listed are by authors who are no longer with us (the rest still are, obviously). As for the authors’ countries of origin, eight are/were from the UK, two from the US, and one each from (in alphabetical order) Austria, Canada, Finland, Ireland (I think), and Malaysia, and one with joint authors from England, India and what’s now Iran.

One final point: bar one title (Robertson Davies’s Tempest-Tost) I’ve not read any of the titles on my original list of ten books. Does that matter? No. The crucial point is that I’ve read, and read, and read books (in addition I’ve actually reviewed 95% of those titles).

And that, I think, was the whole point of Cathy’s meme.


If you were also participating in this meme I look forward to reading blog posts on your own progress.

And look, here’s another meme!

18 thoughts on “This summer, in summary

  1. The main thing *is* to read and read and read, I think. I don’t do this because I can’t stick to lists, although my little spreadsheet tells me I read 39 books since 1st June – so maybe I will try next year. Anyway – well done and I agree about genres – I hate pigeonholing a book! 😀

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    1. 39 books over three months is not bad going, Kaggsy, thirteen a month and … well, I don’t really have to do the maths, but that’s quite intense! Cathy’s meme is just an encouragement to read, and no one is forced to stick to the titles or even numbers on their list so that suits me fine.

      Genres and categories are helpful but much too straitjacketing with many titles, especially the ones I love which happily cross genres, styles, subjects and approaches. In fact those which can be too easily pigeonholed I weirdly find I myself avoiding!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Genres are slippery beasts and the publishers seem to be coming up with ever more variations.

    well done on more than completing the project even if the titles are not those you thought you’d be reading. Being able to switch out books is what makes 20booksofsummer enjoyable because it takes the pressure off

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, that’s what makes Cathy’s so user-friendly — that it allows flexibility and, even, creativity to take centre stage with the prime objective of reading. And those “slippery beasts”? I suppose it’s up to us to decide if they become Frankenstein creatures or friendly chimeras.

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  3. Well done! That’s why I enjoy Cathy’s challenge – no one cares if the list at the end looks anything like the list at the beginning! Ha, trying to decide genres is a nightmare, isn’t it? I never used to think about it until I started blogging and suddenly had to give books categories and tags. Since then I’ve spent way too much time trying to work out if it makes sense to describe Dickens as “contemporary fiction”. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right, ‘contemporary’ to him or to you?! Still, it’s occasionally intriguing to see how adventurous authors might be: I’ve at times enjoyed constructing Venn diagrams or sociograms to see over many different genres some titles cross over into!

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  4. Well done, Chris! Having done the inevitable for me and read the books without reviewing many, I had more or less decided to avoid future challenges. But you’ve reminded me that it IS all about the reading and I did plenty of that! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s not a competition, nor even an excuse to show off how many literary conquests are notched up on some tally stick, but a way of informing oneself what progress has been made and hopefully quantifying what pleasure has been had. And you obviously had much pleasurable reading, Sandra!

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    1. Well, thanks for pointing me to the outstanding books in your summer reading! I’ve posted these comments on your blog but I’ll add them here as well:

      “The Jo Walton I’m now desperate to read, having cast around for something else of hers to enjoy after Among Others. Migrations too sounds as though I’d like it, while I also was another one who didn’t know Bradbury wrote crime fiction. A worthy haul, well done! 🙂 “

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