When books beckon

10 Books of Summer 746books.com

1st June. As summer beckons Cathy (of https://746books.com/) encourages – nay, entices – us to select 10, 15, or 20 books to complete over three months.

I usually shilly-shally over this, not because I don’t think I’ll get through any of these amounts – on past form that’s never a problem – but because I am a notoriously fickle reader, relying on the whim of the moment to decide which title I fancy at any given time.

But it’s good to commit to a wishlist, is it not, whether or not I actually get round to read them all, or indeed any of them! Herewith then that list of ten, which may expand to fifteen or even twenty before summer’s end.

Choices, choices
  1. The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien. Well, that’s a no-brainer – I’m already onto the second half of The Return of the King in my sixth or possibly seventh revisit of Middleearth. There’ll be further discussion in my #TalkingTolkien thread.
  2. Middlemarch by George Eliot. I stalled a hundred or so pages in, a couple of years ago, but with a restart I have high hopes of getting substantially through this over the summer. This year is the 150th anniversary of its appearance in book form.
  3. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake. Ditto as for my progress with Middlemarch: it’s odd how mood takes me, deciding if I have the intellectual curiosity and necessary passion to continue a book I would ordinarily enjoy.
  4. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. I began this for a meme on reading Italian literature, only to come across an updated Penguin edition, so have started again.
  5. The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol. I’ve read the first of four short stories in the compendium I’ve got and just need a bit of impetus to get on with the rest.
  6. The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse. Another title I’ve long wanted to reread: I’ve now gone and acquired a recent edition as my original copy disappeared sometime in the intervening decades.
  7. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I enjoyed The Secret Garden so why not this?
  8. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. I have three or four Ishiguro books to read, and it was a toss up between this and Never Let Me Go. I might read just one – or maybe both.
  9. The Genius and the Goddess by Aldous Huxley. I read Huxley’s Crome Yellow as well as his Brave New World so long ago most of the details pass me by, but this late novel caught my eye in the library. I ought to read it sooner rather than later.
  10. The Question Mark by Muriel Jaeger. A title in the British Library’s Science Fiction Classics, it’s said to have anticipated themes in Huxley’s Brave New World by a number of years.
15 Books of Summer 746books.com

Well, them’s me books for the summer. I plan to repost this piece at the end of August, adding a overview of what I’ve actually achieved. Who knows, I might have either stuck to my original wishlist or adapted it, or indeed read as many as fifteen or twenty titles; it’ll be interesting to see.

In the meantime have you read any of these, and if so which would you particularly recommend?

20 Books of Summer 746books.com

By the way, if you’re expecting some earnest congratulatory expression regarding somebody or other’s platinum jubilee tomorrow forget it: I’m no royalist, though I don’t wish the present incumbent any harm…

42 thoughts on “When books beckon

  1. Good luck with your list.

    I’ll be looking out for your thoughts on Middlemarch. Gormenghast is a recent addition to my list so that’s something I’m keen to read your review of. Hope you like The Little Princess. I loved The Secret Garden, and while I did enjoy the Little Princess a lot too, it is shall we say, a touch (but just a touch) oversweet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mallika. 🙂 I’m anticipating the FHB because I understand A Little Princess was her version of an unfinished novel of Charlotte Brontë’s, which I’ve read, so I’d be interested to see what she made of it (FHB, not CB, obviously!). As for the other two, I’ve deliberately opted for just ten titles because I suspect it’ll take me a while to get through them…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. piotrek

    A great list! Hesse I read long ago, but remember liking a lot, Ishiguro and Peake are also on my list of books I really want to read, especially Gormenghast as I bought a very nice copy several years ago… perhaps summer will be a good time, I’m no longer solely concentrating on war topics 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! Thanks, Piotrek, I always appreciate a seal of approval from you. 🙂

      I went through a phase of reading some Hesse in the 70s – Siddhartha, Journey to the East, Strange News from Another Star and this – and more recently enjoyed Steppenwolf, but always wanted to return to Game. I think I’ve even got a copy of Narcissus and Goldmund lurking somewhere… To misquote the proverb, my eyes are bigger than my ability to consume books!

      Anyway, glad you’re concentrating less on war topics, I’m sure like most of us we’re hoping for more creativity in our lives than the destruction that’s reported daily in the news.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good luck. I think aiming for ten, with the option of expanding to fifteen or twenty later on is a good idea. I should probably have done that myself! I loved both Middlemarch and Gormenghast and they are both books that I would like to re-read. I also enjoyed Never Let Me Go, but haven’t read Klara and the Sun, so I can’t say whether you’ve made the right choice there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was going to go for Never Let Me Go, Helen, until the paperback of Ishiguro’s latest unexpectedly fell off the local bookshop shelf into my hands, honest! I too am looking forward to the Eliot and the Peake, but it’s very likely I’ll be hard pushed to complete all ten titles by the end of August, methinks. Good luck with your reading though!

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  4. Nice list Chris, some real chunksters, but some nice short ones too! Look forward to hearing what you think of The Overcoat as I have it set aside for Novellas in November. I nearly put Klara and the Sun on my list but didn’t so will be keen to hear your thoughts on that too. Thanks for taking part!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No thanks necessary, Cathy, but thank you for hosting again! The quartet of stories includes the classics ‘The Overcoat’ and ‘The Nose’ (which I haven’t got to yet) but I’ve read one story set in Ukraine and started the next, ‘The Two Ivans’, also set in Gogol’s homeland.

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  5. Pingback: Announcing 20 Books of Summer ’22: Add your links here!

    1. Ah, I’ve nearly finished LOTR so I’m cheating a bit! But this time I shall be reading the Appendices, so perhaps not quite finished! I’m sure I’ll enjoy Middlemarch when I properly return to it.🙂

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  6. Some sizeable books here. I read The Glass Bead Game for the first time last year. I look forward to reading your learned response. I still haven’t read Gormenghast, but just added it to the list.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, we have a few overlaps. I have The Lord of the Rings and Gormenghast on my list. I was also wiffle-waffling over whether to add Middlemarch which I read about a decade ago and LOVED!! We’ll see.

    Great to get a look at your bookshelves. I have 17 of them in my house and now I don’t feel so guilty, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just had a look at your list and am mightily impressed! Not sure I could manage LOTR *and* the Gormenghast trilogy (as well as all those other titles) over just three months! At least I’m coming to the end of ‘The Return of the King’ to count that as a ‘summer’ read.

      As for shelves, you can never have too many of those – especially when there’s still space for more books. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a varied list, Chris, some I’ve read, some I mean to read, others I’ve never heard of before.

    I read TLOTR as a teenager. I haven’t yet made time to read it again. I’m afraid of spoiling my teenage memories of it!

    I read Middlemarch years ago, when the adaptation with Douglas Hodge was on tv. I didn’t get on with it. I know that many people think it the greatest work of English literature, and I wish I felt differently about it, but it bored me rigid.

    The Gormenghast Trilogy (as it was when I first read it) is a favourite of mine. I have a box set of paperbacks and the illustrated edition that came out a few years ago. I’ve read the trilogy three times. I also read Titus Awakes, the intended fourth novel he started and his widow finished. Peake’s fragment is magical and makes Gilmore’s effort to round off Titus’s story seem extremely pedestrian.

    I had to study The Prince as an undergraduate. As I am not at all a Machiavellian person, it hasn’t stayed with me!

    I love The Overcoat. It’s funny and sad. I have it in the Dover Thrift edition with
    The Nose, Old-Fashioned Farmers, and The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarrelled with Ivan Nikiforovich, all of which are decent, but The Overcoat is the best of the selection.

    I’ve yet to read any of Herman Hesse’s works, and have only read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I recently read an article about the possible inspiration for the garden https://manchestermill.co.uk/p/in-search-of-the-secret-garden

    I loved Never Let Me Go. I haven’t read Klara and the Sun yet.

    I’ve only read Brave New World which put me off trying anything more by Huxley.

    I hadn’t heard of Muriel Jaeger’s The Question Mark. I also didn’t know that the British Library has a Science Fiction Classics series. The novel sounds interesting.

    Happy summer reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How our reading varies and yet overlaps, Jan: I’ve read LOTR multiple times yet, when I tried Titus Groan in the 60s, I just couldn’t get into it the same way I did Tolkien’s trilogy. But I loved it a couple or so years ago and wonder why I’ve delayed started the second book. As it happens I’ve now also got a copy of the ‘fourth’ book of the trilogy – shades of Douglas Adams there! – and Two Lives, the biographies by Gilmore and their son (which I’ve already dipped into).

      I too have the Dover Thrift edition of the Gogol. The translation of course feels rather stilted but I’m into the tale of the two Ivans now and have the delights of the more famous tales to come!

      I last went back to Hesse with a first read of Steppenwolf, another one of his titles that somehow fitted the zeitgeist of the 60s and 70s, along with Demian and the one I’ll be rereading. As for the Eliot, all I remember from the TV adaptation apart from Juliet Aubrey’s appearance was Patrick Malahide’s character – Patrick had been in the local babysitting circle when I lived in Bristol (though I never babysat his kids) so I couldn’t divorce his role as Casaubon from his real self. Ho hum.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was the strong female characters in the Gormenghast books that captured me on first reading and brought me back, and the way they are as important as the male characters. Gertrude, Fuchsia and Irma Prunesquallor in particular. Irma is at the heart of my favourite sub-plot in the second novel. I also love the prism of Peake’s imagination and his combination of the grim with the satirical. I hope you enjoy Gormenghast. I’ve yet to open the illustrated edition, beyond flicking through Peake’s illustrations. Maybe I should treat myself to another re-read.

        I had forgotten that Juliet Aubrey was Dorothea. I’d even forgotten that Patrick Malahide, Robert Hardy and Rufus Sewell were in the tv adaptation! I just remember Hodge looming around as Tertius, being sad and frustrated.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. You already know how much I love Middlemarch so of course I’m egging you on to read that first. !
    I read Gormenghast during school holidays one year. Did finish it but had no clue what it was about.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. jjlothin

    I read a lot of Aldous Huxley back in the day (particularly loved his short story, ‘After the fireworks’), but I can’t remember even having heard of ‘The Genius and the Goddess’. Have just downloaded a Kindle sample, along with one of the Muriel Jaeger, of which I was also entirely unaware.

    And I have to admit I was very taken by ‘The Little Princess’ as a child, though I imagine its colonial ‘white supremacy’ context would NOT go down well with a lot of people these days!

    Looking forward to reading your end-of-summer report, Chris!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trying to avoid the obvious Brave New World (which I read eons ago) I spotted this Huxley in the library, JJ, and am now a few pages in – can’t say I’m overexcited about it yet! The Jaeger, though a little slow, is interesting however. Meanwhile, I reserve judgement on the FHB until I’ve read it!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. jjlothin

        … and I have to say, I wasn’t overly impressed by the Kindle sample of the Huxley either! Would it be sacrilegious to suggest that Huxley only really works when you’re young?!?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I only have the vaguest of memories where the two Huxley titles I read way, way back – Brave New World, Crome Yellow – are concerned so can’t really judge, but you may be right!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. jjlothin

            From the admittedly small excerpt that Kindle provide, he does come across as rather pretentious, which I may have been impressed by in my teens/early twenties, rather than annoyed by, as I am now!

            Liked by 1 person

  11. Some monsters on your list – good luck! I’m not the biggest fan of Middlemarch, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Question Mark. It’s a pity Jaeger wasn’t more prolific in SF, because both the novels the BL has reissued have been very good, and fit well into the tradition of SF at that time. Makes me wonder why that WOMAN should have been forgotten when the books of many of her MALE contemporaries have become classics… 😉

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    1. Thank you, Diana, and you as well! Glad to hear the two Ishiguro titles were well received in your household, though I’m still undecided which one I’ll go for first.

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  12. Wow, those first three are biggies, but then I love the first two (husband loved Gormenghast, for what it’s worth). I love A Little Princess, too, although that’s been a re-read like LOTR, not sure what it would be like coming to it cold. Enjoy, anyway!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I’ve cheated and aim to finish LOTR soon, following a year or so of slow reading. But yes, the Eliot and the Peake are chunksters, which is why I’ve included some shorter titles. I’ll in fact be coming to the FHB cold although I have actually read the incomplete novel by Charlotte Brontë on which it’s supposedly based, confusingly called … Emma.

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    1. Thanks! Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to the Ishiguro, and am on course to hopefully complete three by the end of this month. I’ll drop by your list presently!

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