Summer is finally at an end, which means that it’s time to pack away summer clothes, bring in the sweaters and return to university. And saying goodbye to summer also means it’s time to wrap up my summer reads in preparation for the new season. This past summer has been very prolific for me in terms of reading, and it took me few recounts to verify that I really read 30 books during the three summer months. One explanation this is that I set myself two rather ambitious reading challenges in the beginning of June: Books on the Nightstand Summer Bingo and the 20 Books of Summer list. Choosing books for these challenges motivated me to read things I otherwise might not have picked so readily, and I was also happy to finally read some titles that had been sitting on my shelves for quite some time. In the end, I got 21 squares and 4 ‘Bingo!’s in my BONTS bingo chart and read 17 out of 20 from the 20 book challenge – the only books I didn’t get to were A Storm of Swords, The Tenant of Wilderfell Hall and Hägring 38. However, all three are ones that I can see myself reading during the autumn months.
Because I read so much, I am still quite a bit behind with my reviews – I hear it’s a common problem among the 20 Books of Summer participants. I do plan on writing full reviews for most of these books, but for the purpose of this wrap-up post, I’ll share my quick thoughts on each individual book here. Make sure you have something to drink, because this ride will be a long one!
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Set in another country – Riveting and super fascinating read about the 21st immigration experience, on carrying both the past and present with you. Set partly in Dominican Repulic.
Mr Darwin’s Gardener by Kristina Carlson
BONTS Free square – Hauntingly beautiful and thought-provoking novel set in a Kentish village in 1800s. One of the most beautiful writing I’ve read in a while.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Set in a place you want to visit & 1/20 –Patti Smith’s memoir about New York in the late 60s and early 70s is truly as good as everyone says it is. It inspires you to create things and to work for your own art.
The Beggar and the Hare by Tuomas Kyrö
Has an animal in the title & 2/20 – “Hare-raisingly” funny romp across Finland with a sort of roadtrip slapstick plot. Also very clever satire on modern Finnish society.
Saving wishes by G.J. Walker Smith
Extra – Recommended by a friend. YA contemporary with insta-love. Lots of eye-rolling.
A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
About a disease & 3/20– Haunting story about growing up in a stiflingly religious environment. Strangely luring writing style and anonymity that gets under your skin.
Tähtikirkas, lumivalkea (Snow White, Star Bright) by Joel Haahtela
4/20 – Interesting novel about a young man driven away from his home country and making a new life for himself in the cusp of 20th century.
Ambitious summer reading plans is the way I roll.
The Sandman, vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman
That “everyone” but you has read – My latest dip into the works of Neil Gaiman proved to be very successful and I very much enjoyed the twists that Gaiman and co. have put to the legends and myths.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
5/20– A modern classic dealing with mental health and anxiety of a young aspiring female writer. Very poignant and harrowing read.
Dracula by Bram Stoker (illustrated by Becky Cloonan)
Written for adults, but with illustrations & 6/20– Surprisingly accessible and exciting gothic classic about Count Dracula. The illustrations fit the book well and made it truly an object of beauty.
Ich bin kein Berliner. Ein reiseführer für faule Touristen by Wladimir Kaminer
Nonfiction – Read in preparation for my second trip to Berlin. A collection of tidbits and experiences that Soviet-born Kaminer has had through his years of working as a broadcaster in Berlin. Funny and surprisingly easy to read!
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
About books, bookstores or publishing & 7/20– A cult classic that makes fun of all the fairy tale and fantasy tropes. Partly about writing the book and being a writer. Didn’t enjoy it as much as the film.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Popular Science & 8/20– Interesting look at introversion and extroversion, their biological and psychological sides as well as how culture plays a part in forming ourselves. Well research and accessibly written. A must read for introverts.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Science fiction & 9/20 – YA science fiction and fantasy novel retelling of Cinderella. Loved everything aside from the retelling part and was hooked enough to want to continue with the series.
Travel reads à la Berlin. (The colourful one is my calendar.)
Half Bad by Sally Green
Extra – YA fantasy novel that came highly recommended. Interesting premise and some promising points, but overall a bit of a let down.
Dikter och aforismer by Edith Södergran
Poetry collection – My first foray into the world of poetry was perhaps a bit over-ambitious as I chose to read a complete collection of a poet and in a foreign language (Swedish). It took me months to get through this entire collection, but there were some moving pieces that I’ll never forget. I think I enjoyed the later collections in this bind-up more than the earlier ones.
Blog by the book: blogiopas by Miki Toikkanen & Noora Kananen
By an author who shares your first name – A Finnish non-fiction book about blogging. My expectations going in weren’t high, but I quickly realised that despite the effort that the writers had put to this book, it read quite poorly. The writing needed editing and the claims had no factual backing. Came close to DNF’ing.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Published before 1900 & 10/20 – I don’t know why I haven’t read Dickens’ possibly most well-known novel before because it is a beautiful, beautiful treat of literature. I adored this from start to finish; the language is swoon-worthy. Published in 1859.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of a Pie by Alan Bradley
11/20 – Again, I had heard nothing but great things about the Flavia de Luce series and really wanted to enjoy it. However, I just didn’t find the story and the characters believable and that bothered me a lot. Perhaps a bit too quaint for me?
Nineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell
A classic that you should have read in school & 12/20 – The first time that I tried to read this, I couldn’t get into it because life was too hectic. And I’m glad I put it down then, because this book really requires you to let go of everything else and immerse yourself in this dystopian world and its functions. Excellent book and one that I didn’t expect to love as much as I do.
Colour coding: red for June, purple for July and mustard for August
Arvin kieliopas (Arvi’s Language Guide) by Arvi Lind
Extra – I picked this up on a whim at the library after having talked about it with a friend. A short collection of column from the newscaster Arvi Lind that don’t really focus on how language works, but more on how you should pronounce certain words and some cases where people’s grammar tends to slip. I expected more and better.
The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
Longer than 500 pages & 13/20 – My big and daunting classic book challenge of the summer (last year it was Moby Dick), The Eqyptian is a surprisingly easy to read. Intriguing intertextuality and research shines in this historical fiction novel set in the 1300 BC Egypt. 779 pages.
The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
A novella & 14/20 – My second Evelyn Waugh, and I loved it more than the first one! Waugh fears nor spares no one in his satirical look at British expats in Hollywood in the 1950s and the absurdity of funeral arrangements. Stretching the definition of a novella with its 127 pages, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken, right?
The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy
That you chose because of the cover – I checked out a bunch of poetry collection from the library after finishing Edith Södergran’s work, and this was luckily one of them. Absolutely stunning pieces that I kept reading over and over again. Became one of my favourites for the year.
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
15/20 – Next book in the Cormoran Strike series proved to be as good as the first one, but I’m still not really sold on the concept. I will probably continue reading the series, but will be checking them out from the library instead of buying. The publishing industry gave an interesting premise to the mystery.
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Reread something – I bought a boxset of Jansson’s short story collections and wanted to re-experience the quaint vignettes of The Summer Book. Rereading the collection was very strange but very familiar at the same time.
The best mornings are ones with a good book, a nice view and a cuppa.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Was turned into a movie or TV show & 16/20 – Beautiful and sad story about war, young love, misunderstandings and terrible mistakes. McEwan’s writing carries the feel and sense of the pre-war Britain and the desperation of the approaching tragedy wonderfully, and though slow at places, Atonement was a pleasure to read. Movie adaptation (2007) starring Keira Knightley – with that green dress.
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
Extra – A hearty story of a part-time working mother-of-three switching to a full-time position to plan a e-reading lounges and having to rediscover her work-family balance. Slightly different from what I usually read, but I enjoyed reading a book that was both bookish and all about the importance of family.
Rakkaus on ruma sana – valikoidut lauluteksti (Love is an ugly word – collection of song lyrics) by Ismo Alanko
Extra – A collection of song lyrics from 1980s to the 21st century. Reading the lyrics instead of listening to them being sung was a curious experience, and Alanko’s lyrics tell strange tales. Entertaining, but I’d exchange it for a live concert in a heart beat.
Kiinalainen puutarha (The Chinese Garden) by Markus Nummi
About a religion with which you are unfamiliar & 17/20 – A charming but terrifying story of cultural collisions, love and terror in Kashgar, China. Set in the 1930s, it’s a bildungsroman of a young muslim boy growing up in the midst of Christian missionaries from Sweden.
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Phew, this wrap-up post ended up a lot longer than I anticipated! Nevertheless, I am grateful for all the three book-filled summer months and so glad to have been able to discover so many new favourites. Because this post is already too long, I’ll be sharing my September TBR in a separate post tomorrow. If you’re interested to know what will be on my nightstand for the upcoming weeks, keep your eyes open for that! x