Summer’s lease

20 Books of Summer

Hurray! I always look forward to a certain well-established annual event and Cathy of has reported that it’s time to, at the very least, start considering listing intended summer reads, all to be enjoyed over the months of June, July and August. I already have some titles planned, most already suggested by other memes or prompts, so I shall be including those in my proposed list.

I must be honest, though: I’m in a bit of a slump now and, if not quite a Slough of Despond, I’m feeling slightly dispirited. My mojo for reading, usually purring away quietly, is spluttering: I frequently pick up a book and then put it down after a page or so; it’s often a struggle to continue. A bout of Covid, the dire state of politics, international relations, the environment – they’re not helping the mood; and I sense I’m not alone in my mildly demotivated state.

I need a holiday, a different physical and mental environment; could be that a summer accompanied by a select group of varied books might be the tonic I need! So let’s see what I may choose …


Mallika at Literary Potpourri has announced a cat-themed reading week for the middle of June so I aim to be reading at least one title on the furry feline, and possibly a short story or two – for example, Diana Wynne Jones’s 1993 ‘What the Cat Told Me’. The book? Yer tiz – a children’s story, set, erm, at Christmas.

• Nina Warner Hooke: The Snow Kitten (1978).


In Adam of‘s books-to-be-read prompt I have three titles listed chosen from my notional to-be-read pile:

June. Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853).
July. Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (1532). (Classics Club.)
August. Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels (1981). (Reading Robertson Davies.)

#LoveHain #UKLGsf


Meanwhile I have the following three titles scheduled for the online readalong of Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish novels, #LoveHain.

June. The Dispossessed (1974).
July. The Eye of the Heron (1978).
August. The Telling (2000).


From my Classics Club list I’ve selected three chunky titles, two of which I’ve started but, lamentably, am currently stalled on; by my committing here and now to read them they stand a better chance of actually being revisited and completed!

• George Eliot: Middlemarch (1972).
• Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943).
• Mervyn Peake: Gormenghast (1950).

10 Books of Summer

If your math(s) is good that comes to only ten titles, but that’s alright because Cathy graciously allows us to be super flexible and go for 15 or even 10 titles. In any case I think Eliot, Hesse and Peake may take me longer than the odd novella that I often slip into my reading.

Still, the fact is that though I aim low my arrow paradoxically often goes higher, so don’t be surprised if I reach the giddy heights of 15 Books of Summer!

15 Books of Summer

As Shakespeare once noted, “rough winds do shake the darling buds of may; and summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” In other words, after the hawthorn sheds its petals the seemingly long lazy days of the high season go by far too quickly. The lease might well, if I’m not too careful, be up before I get through this little pile, so I hope that mojo starts purring along very soon. 😀

Kittens © C A Lovegrove

Have you read any of these titles? Are you intending to join in with Cathy’s event? Let me know!

55 thoughts on “Summer’s lease

  1. I’d missed Mallika’s cat themed reading challenge, because I’ve been having a blog slump, overwhelmed by the number I follow, bored by my own. I might look out one of the cat related books buried in my pile.

    It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found that tricking myself out of a reading slump with short, easy reads often works. Your cat themed book/short stories would do the trick for me.

    From your choices I’ve read Villette (loved), The Prince (for my degree, so ambivalent), Middlemarch (hated) and Gormenghast (loved).

    I hope you get an actual holiday this summer, too, Chris.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve settled on novella-length books in the past to get me enthused when a chunkster weighed down my spirits, and so this time I’ve included a few shorter tales like the Le Guin titles to help me through; and of course I don’t intend to only exclusively read what I’ve listed! Of the titles you refer to I’m most looking forward to Villette, the late novel that everybody raves about.

      Like you I follow a lot of blogs, but not all have been posting recently, which is both good and bad! I look to book bloggers to alert me to authors and titles I wouldn’t normally consider, though to be clear if I actually read 1% of what appeals that’s a bonus.

      The slump isn’t helped (and I think you might recognise this) when a post I’ve lavished a lot of care and attention over merits hardly any response! But then isn’t that a perennial issue with us bloggers?!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do recognise that, Chris, yes. I also feel the reverse sometimes, where I feel beholden to those who take time to respond to my reviews with their own perspectives. I’ve been avoiding reading most of the blogs I follow recently because I also feel beholden to respond when someone has taken time to share their thoughts about what they’ve read. In both instances, I haven’t had the energy to interact lately because life is too full of interaction. Speaking as an introvert! But then I remember that this is what blogging is about, for me at least – having a conversation about books.

        I’m hoping very much that my new job will be less energy sapping than the current one has become – a change being as good as a rest as the old adage goes.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Energy – that’s the key, Jan, isn’t it; and I think outside issues (quite apart from any personal ones that may impinge on our wellbeing) have been sapping most of my energy recently, and probably yours. Good luck with your job, and I hope it’s all that you hope for and need.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cathy, and thank you too for linking to this post! I’m sure the slump will perk up soon: I’m essentially someone who follows a route that avoids any extremes of euphoria or despair, but I can’t help occasionally straying off the path when circumstances take charge. Thank goodness I’m the right side of Covid at the moment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I am, thanks, testing negative now – I only felt rough for a couple of days but we’re still advised to self-isolate for at least five days after a positive, aren’t we. Thank goodness for all the booster jabs!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, “20 Books of Summer”. I admire anyone who participates, because of the commitment to specific titles involved.

    As I pack for a lengthy trip, I’m finding it difficult to decide which books to stuff into my luggage. Le Guin’s Hainish tales (in one Library of American volume) fill one slot, but what should the other be? I’ve had The Master and Margarita on my TBR for years, and actually got as far as placing it in my “for the trip” pile, but now your mention of Villette has inspired me to replace Bulgakov with Bronte — much more sensible. I have another month before I leave, and Villette might be jettisoned for something else, or with packing I may discover that there’s room for no book at all.

    I can plan no further than that. The rest of my reading will be as the mood strikes and NYPL e-book availability allows, which is my normal pattern: If a browse through my shelves (both actual and Kindle) reveals nothing appealing, I turn to recommendations from my library.

    I hope you get your mojo back soon, Chris, so that you can look back on this summer’s lease with all rental fees paid.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I tend to limit myself to the basic minimum of titles so I have more freedom to explore, Lizzie; I leave myself wriggle room to fit in a book that suddenly appeals otherwise I feel I’m setting myself up for failure!

      I sort of envy you your ability to use electronic readers, but for me there’s nothing so satisfying as having a selection of physical books to shove in a bag when off on a trip or a holiday.

      I haven’t ever considered the Bulgakov (though I do see it occasionally mentioned in blogs). I’m far more likely to consider another SF by the Strugatsky brothers, especially as I have a copy of Hard To Be a God among some recent purchases. But it’s interesting you might go for Villette when you’re off on your jaunts; had you considered a quick diversion to Brussels as a mini-pilgrimage?!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A diversion to Brussels would be complicated, Chris, since I’m heading west for the summer. But certainly for any future European tour, it’s a possibility.

        I long resisted e-readers, but the logic of having 1000s of books at hand — something for every mood — couldn’t be gainsaid. The NYPL app saved me under lockdown in NZ, and since then, most of my phone-time is spent reading books. And don’t forget the Online Book Page, Project Gutenberg, or other troves of out-of-copyright books.

        Of course, these account for about half of all the reading I do — the real thing is preferable, but not always possible.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I meant your next European jaunt of course! Where west are you heading?

          I’ve tried ereaders, Lizzie, but to no avail – I can see their worth but I find I always have very short attention spans when using a screen. A collection of printed pages has a finite feel to it, but I have an entirely irrational fear of an onscreen page scrolling on forever, or an e-reader stuck on a low percentage regardless of how long I read for or how much I finish … a foolish nightmare scenario, I admit.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Colorado Rocky Mountains for the duration. Snow-topped mountains, with some short trips to Santa Fe, other national parks, etc. Night skies full of stars! It’ll go all-too fast, but I plan to enjoy every moment.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Announcing 20 Books of Summer ’23: Add your links here!

  4. Strange coincidence that I just started watching Gormenghast TV adaptation. To my surprise, I found Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing Steerpike, one of the most fascinating fictional characters in recent memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I watched that adaptation when it first came out, Lex, and quite enjoyed it, but honestly I prefer the writing, at least as far as I got in the second volume before as it were pressing the pause button. Would I watch it again? Possibly, but only after I’d got stuck into Titus Alone. Unlike Titus Groan, for me Gormenghast lost a sense of direction, feeling more like a series of vignettes with an extended cast of characters; but I’m sure I will have stopped at just the wrong moment when it all started coming together! Let’s see what happens when I pick it up again…


  5. I recently read Gormenghast after starting it when I was 16 or so and never finishing it because I found it boring (and because it was in with Fantasy and I didn’t think it qualified). Guess what? I didn’t like it when I finally read all of it, either. It seems to me to be all atmosphere and no matter.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “All atmosphere and no matter” is a fair comment, Jeanne, and it was also my impression of the second title when I temporarily put it aside. I tried Titus Groan after I finished the one-volume edition of Tolkien’s trilogy in the late 60s, and like you couldn’t see where the magic in the ‘fantasy’ came.

      It took me several decades to get into it and appreciate it as almost sui generis, but then at first sight Gormenghast just seemed just more of the same. Perhaps I’ll find myself mistaken when I finally complete it!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You are one of the few people I follow who reads Ursula Le Guin! This book is considered a SF classic. I read The Left Hand of Darkness. Le Guin was one of the first female writers who questioned gender roles in SF. The book combines political complexity and
    …groundbreaking approach to gender: people in society had no gender….or both genders! The book was good…
    …but I found Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven and
    her novella Vaster Than Empires and More Slow.…much better.

    It’s just my personal preference. I really should try some of the Hainish novels!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Aonghus Fallon

    While looking for something entirely different a few days back I came across a 1984 radio adaptation of the first two books in the Gormenghast sequence that’s generally regarded as excellent – Sting(!) plays Steerpike.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was aware there was a radio adaptation, Aonghus, but I think I hadn’t realised Sting was in it! His next project must’ve been 1986’s version of Dune though – thankfully (?) – I’ve never watched it.


      1. Aonghus Fallon

        It’s not a good movie, but it has its moments, plus I think the faults of the film are pretty much the faults of the book (which I only read for the first time last year).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. All I can say is that having read the novel (albeit many years ago) watching part one of the new film made a lot more sense to me than possibly those watching this version for the first time. My son, who works as a film grip but hasn’t yet read the novel, has had to watch it a few times to get a handle on it.


  8. Well, good luck Chris, and hope you get out of the slump soon and read the Peake!

    Re the radio adaptation, I was pretty much running the Mervyn Peake Society alongside Brian Sibley (who was editing the society’s journal) while the radio adaptation was being done. Brian did the adaptation (as he also did with Lord of the Rings for BBC Radio) and so used to feed us little drips of info from the recordings. I think the received wisdom was that Sting wasn’t that great as an audio actor, but I thought the adaptations worked well, and better than the TV version as I preferred to conjure Gormenghast mentally myself whilst listening to the radio…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a lovely story, Karen, I’d forgotten you’d had that connection with the Peake Society and Brian Sibley. Like you I prefer to conjure up mental pictures from a close reading of a text than trusting a concept artist remaining faithful to the author’s vision. So I shall definitely be carrying on with the second and, hopefully, the third volume (despite the last taking a different direction). And then there’s my copy of the Maeve Gilmore expansion Titus Awakes to consider after that…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I read Gormenghast, as every die hard fantasy fan must (which I was once upon a time), but like Jeanne, I didn’t like it enough to read the sequels. However, it might strike you differently. It will be interesting to find out! With that, The Glass Bead Game, Middlemarch, AND Villette (all of which I do recommend), you have quite a substantial load on your plate. Le Guin may come as a nice diversion!

    In fact the only book on your list that I have not read is The Eye of the Heron, which is sadly not included in my Hainish Cycle LOA collection — I guess the author said it might be Hainish, but it didn’t make the cut — and is not in my e-library either. I shall have to decide whether I acquire a copy in another way.

    Rooting for you to summer-read your way out of the slump!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that The Eye of the Heron has a question mark over its inclusion in #LoveHain, but Le Guin being ambivalent of its place in the Cycle was justification enough for me – and like you I haven’t read it, though at some stage I acquired a copy of this novella-length tale.

      And yes, the Hainish tales will come as a respite from those chunksters, all of which I’m looking forward to finally tackling properly. As for Gormenghast, its predecessor Titus Groan had the growing menace of deaths and ‘accidents’ like fires to propel it forward, but I stalled after the lengthy stretch of Titus’s schooldays in the second title – it just felt like Peake over-larding the extreme experiences of his own schooldays. But when I get over that hump I may sense the direction he’s leading us towards.

      Anyway, I’m enjoying the couple or so novels I’m currently reading so maybe my slump is coming to an end – I do hope so!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m going to check out the cat reading challenge, I love that! I hope you get to Villette, it’s one of my favourites. This is a nice, well-rounded list. I am also going to try and boost my mood for a 20 (or 10) books of summer list soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry your mood has been down, Laura – I wonder how many readers and book bloggers like us have been drifting on the wrong side of enthusiasm? But thanks for approving my list, especially Villette which so many other readers I rate have declared their favourite Charlotte Brontë novel. And good luck with finding a cat book or two!


  11. I can empathise with your slough of despond mood Chris. I’m also finding my reading going very very slowly these days. Novellas may indeed be one way of getting the mojo back….

    Will this be the year you finally get to read Middlemarch I wonder??? You’ve threatened it often in previous years I think! It’s a lot more interesting than Villette IMHO

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I began the first few chapters of Middlemarch in the year it turned 150, Karen, then started again in 2022 before stalling again – I’m hoping third time lucky will be my watchword! I also find it interesting that aficionados of the Eliot find the Brontë not to their liking, but also vice versa! I come to them both if not quite tabula rasa then at least in a state of curiosity. 🙂

      Anyway, in between – or simultaneously with – the doorstop novels I expect to be whipping through shorter offerings; so I hope you too will find a way out of your own slough – noticeably we’re not the only book bloggers to experience a drop from our usual levels of enthusiasm.


  12. A nice mix of lighter reading and chunky classics! I hope your slump fades under the summer sun and your reading mojo bounces back reinvigorated! You’ll need all the reinvigoration you can find to get through Middlemarch 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind thoughts – tempered I see with your usual mischievous humour! – and yes, I’m sure my mojo will return: I have a lot of books waiting to be read and then gifted to charity shops!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, that’s a heavy duty list!

    I read lots of classics, but have only read, actually no, DNFed Middlemarch!

    I usually pick 20 books, but am going soon to publish my 15 titles list, to leave room for spontaneous reads

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Spontaneous reads are so important, one of the reasons I don’t specify twenty titles for summer reading, Emma – that’s too onerous a commitment for me! But it’s interesting you couldn’t finish the Eliot – it really does seem to be, as it were, a Marmite title, one either loves or loathes it!

      Anyway, I know you get through a fair number of books as a matter of course so I shall look out for your list whenever you get to publish it for possible prompts in my future reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You’ve made me feel a little better about my own reading slump, Chris. I keep starting and discarding at the moment and am beginning to feel under pressure which isn’t helping. Even reading and commenting on blogs is difficult to fit in at present. I shall enjoy following your summer reading and wish you luck with your third attempt at Middlemarch which I too have attempted twice but not persisted. Perhaps we need the right book at the right time? That’s what I used to tell the children! I like the variety of your challenges too. I hope you’re feeling better now, I hadn’t realised you had Covid recently.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My Covid infection was only fairly mild last week, but after singing in two choral concerts seemingly without any symptoms I had to pull out of accompanying some singers at a recital after suddenly feeling under the weather and then testing positive. I felt gutted. And now, ten days later I’m bug-free but with a croaky voice. It’s such a weird virus, isn’t it?

      More serious is the slump, and it’s clear from comments here that we’re not alone in feeling a bit demotivated. What was a huge pleasure – interacting with other book bloggers – at times feels like a chore, which isn’t right, is it. I’m sorry you too feel it, Anne.

      Anyway, Middlemarch – yes, it’s a challenge but I think I just have to find that sweet point where it ceases to feel an uphill struggle. This time I’ll get there, I’m sure, and surge onwards!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. That looks like a wonderful summer of reading to me. I hope whichever ones you choose to start with help get your reading mojo back. I happened to notice the comment on energy above and that’s something that I seem to be facing too, plus lately it seems like time is just flowing away with hardly anything getting done (compared to how one used to be). I’m so glad to see Reading the Meow is part of your plans too and will be looking out for your reviews. Also Middlemarch and Villette. Like Jan, the Prince is something I read years ago in university, not for a specific course but as related reading and I don’t much remember my reactions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your wishes, Mallika, I certainly hope my choices will revitalise me! That loss of energy we’re all feeling I hope is merely temporary because the alternative is a bit awful to contemplate – so, onwards and upwards!

      I just had to join in your cat theme to add more spice to a range of genres: classics, classic speculative fiction, and modern classics, it’s all a bit heavy on, um, classics, is it not?!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Good luck with your summer reading.

    I love the idea of a cat themed reading challenge having just finished a book in which a cat became a bit of a scene-stealer.

    Every time I see this challenge come around I’m so tempted to sign up, and it’s the same again this year but as I’m only just about on to my 10th book for the whole year so far I think even the lowest target might be a bit of an ask for me.

    I’ve become so much more of a mood reader these days too that I wouldn’t know where to start with a list 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. By nature I’m a mood reader too, Lily, so I get where you’re coming from. 🙂 But I was finding I was just heading towards the same safe genres much of the time so I value these prompts for encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone.

      But like you perhaps the upper limit of twenty for summer reading is too daunting so I’ve played it safe (even if that lower target is a step too far for you). But good luck with what you choose to read – I look forward to reading what you make of the titles you do complete!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Each summer I plan to re-read a Robertson Davies book and don’t, to be honest, I’m considering creating space on my shelves by donating them and just retaining fond memories of reading them the first time spurred on by Lory, yours and others’ summer reviews. (I have the three trilogies plus Murther on my shelves, so that would clear about six inches of much needed space). Feel free to try to persuade me to read your favourite trilogy once more! Gormenghast, however, I will make an effort to re-read one day.

    I will be joining in Mallika’s cat week too and have a book picked out for that.

    I’m going for the full 20 once more – aiming high – only achieved twice so far, but apart from a few books, I don’t pick my titles in advance. The only criterion for me is that they arrived in my TBR last year or before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah, I understand how you feel, Annabel – having read the Deptford and then the Salterton trilogies I too ask myself if I’d read them again. The latter was certainly fun but I can’t see myself revisiting it in the near future, whereas the Deptford trio I found more satisfying psychologically and I can imagine myself curled up with them in, say, a decade’s time with my cocoa and a tartan blanket… Maybe until I finish the Cornish novels and consider the two ‘standalones’ I’ll postpone a decision on discarding. 🙂

      The great thing about Cathy’s meme is that it’s so open – change the number, change the titles, or fail to reach a conclusion, it’s all the same, reading’s the thing! And, yes, a story or two about cats is very welcome.😀 Enjoy your summer!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Sven Nordqvist’s book about Pettson and Findus are really nice picture books (I’m loving the detailed drawings), and feature a rather anthromorphic cat, so in case your library has them it might be a way to read about a cat for the challenge even if you have a hard time focusing on reading. The fox hunt/Findus and the fox is my favourite, but I like most of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. The cat-themed reading week sounds fun! I have decided to participate in the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge (first time for me), and am going for only 10 books, too. I’ll post my selection today or tomorrow. I agree that it is so nice that we can swap, lower or exceed the number of chosen books and contribute to other challenges while doing it, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. conmartin13

    I’ve decided to read Middlemarch too and to make sure I don’t give away my copy as happened the last time I got stuck in the first 30 pages, I persuaded my book group to read it – half in June and half in July. They were eating my chocolate cake when I suggested this so maybe they were brainwashed . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah, a bit of bribery and guilt-tripping never goes amiss, but then what chocaholic can resist chocolate cake?! I plan to spend most of June finishing Gormenghast and seeing how far I get with Villette, so Middlemarch will have to wait till July; until then it’s taken up a chunk of my bedside reading pile. 🙂


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