20 books of summer

This summer I’ll be participating in 20 Books of Summer, thoughtfully hosted by Cathy at 746 Books.


From June 3rd to September 3rd I’ll aim to read twenty books that have been on my radar for months.

In June I’ll focus on short story collections written by women:


(1) Loorie Moore’s Collected Stories

(2) Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women

(3) Grace Paley’s Collected Stories

(4) Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

(5) Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women

For the month of July I’ll shift to books blending criticism, cultural history, and aesthetics:


(6) Emily Nussbaum’s I Like to Watch

(7) Walter Benjamin’s Work of Art

(8) Sianne Ngai’s Ugly Feelings

(9) bell hooks’ Outlaw Culture

(10) Siri Hustvedt’s A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women

(11) Maria Popova’s Figuring

In August I’ll participate in Women in Translation month, focusing on Iranian and French writers, as well as the latest winner of the Man Booker International prize.


(12) Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s The Epistemology of the Closet

(13) Simone de Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity

(14) Annie Ernaux’s The Years

(15) Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies

(16) Parisa Reza’s The Gardens of Consolation

(17) Fariba Hachtroudi’s The Man Who Snapped His Fingers

Across June, July, and August, I’ll also be reading three books unrelated to each month’s theme:


(18) Kristen Arnett’s Mostly Dead Things (June)

(19) Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys (July)

(20) Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror (August)

I tried to focus on books that’ve been recently published, interspersing those with a few older works I sampled in college that I’d like to read in full. Have you read any of these twenty, or other works by the same authors? Are there any you’d recommend prioritizing or avoiding?

If I happen to finish a monthly list early, I’ll read more books within the same genre. Blogging’s already given me a lot of ideas of what to read beyond these twenty, but I’d appreciate any further recommendations regarding short story collections, essay collections, or works by women in translation!

33 thoughts on “20 books of summer

  1. This is a really ambitious set of books. I’m hoping to read the Whitehead as soon as it is available. It isn’t one of my selected novels but one of the ‘other’ books that I know I shall want to ASAP, which is why I’m only going for fifteen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m hoping that having many collections will make the list easier to finish, since stories/essays easily can be read here and there as free time arises. I received an ARC of Whitehead, which I’ll be rereading in July for a review, and the story’s really compelling. He has such a way with words.


  2. I have that Grace Paley collection and the Lucia Berlin on my shelf, but I haven’t gotten around to either of them yet. Lorrie Moore is one of my favorites, so I can definitely endorse that one, along with Amy Hempel. Another two I’d recommend picking up if you haven’t already are Alice Munro (especially Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage) and Mavis Gallant’s Paris Stories. Best of luck with the challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’ve been keen to read Alice Munro, and Mavis Gallant’s work looks really interesting. I’m dedicating a month to CanLit this fall and will definitely check out both authors then. The Moore stories I read in college were amazing, looking forward to starting that collection.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I took down my personal shortly after college, though I’ve thought about creating a new one as an extension of book blogging. It seems like the community’s really strong!


  3. Do you get ARCs because of your presence on goodreads? As for the list, I wish I had even a fraction of your ambition. I mean, a sliver. I look forward to your comments about them all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish I did! Most I get through reviews for Lambda Literary or BookBrowse. I can’t see myself having much reading time once I settle down into my career, which’s helped motivate me to check out as many authors as possible right now.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing! I’d always wondered if there was a term for that. The concept appeared so often in the books I read for college, but I never knew what it was called.


  4. Are you super excited about the Lucia Berlin stories? *grins* She’s edged out Amy Hempel in the list (but not in the cover images)! *ducks* It made me doubly anxious to get to even one Berlin collection, as I think this is your second. As usual, I love your lists so much that I wish they were mine! I’ve never joined this challenge before, but I often wish that I had, once people start posting their updates and, this year, I’m more tempted than ever.

    I also recommend Alistair MacLeod for short fiction, perhaps later for your CanLit month. He has two very slim collections, published together in a single volume, Island. His stories are written in the simplest language but hold tremendous emotional density, so you really can’t read more than one in a sitting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, you read so much, so efficiently, that you’d probably beat the challenge by mid-summer. If you do wind up joining, I’d be really interested to see your lists! I came across Hempel in college and remember loving her writing, but strangely I can’t recall what I read. Berlin’s been excellent so far! I’m reading the two collections in tandem.

      I’ll be sure to check out Alistair MacLeod! That sounds like the kind of work that’d help break up something that’s longer but compulsively readable, so I might pair him with Munro or another short story writer who’s published many collections (any ideas?).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Except that I would probably change my mind completely and read another set of books instead, then panic as August arrived and make myself crazy by trying to fit my actual list. I do usually make my own list for each month (mostly to manage duedates) and then wander off a good bit from that as well.

        Hmmm. Even though he and Munro are really different, there are similar themes and the lengths (and depths) of stories are comparable. They might take away from each other’s brilliance. Maybe someone like Clarice Lispector or Lydia Davis, Eve Babitz or Sherman Alexie, maybe Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, someone either decidedly contemporary or a bit magical? (Oh, you might like Heather O’Neill? I’ll keep thinking. But you have so many amazing options already!)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this update Michael! I’ve had A Women Looking at Men Looking at Women on my shelf for a long time now but have put off reading it, probably because of its sheer length. Would love to hear your thoughts. And, though I’ve said it before, really appreciate your commitment to reading diverse, progressive authors and books! Tbh when I first noticed you gathering steam and popularity I wasn’t sure what to make of you, but now I’m so grateful for your online presence and your great taste. (:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The length has deterred me as well! Since it’s a collection, if I don’t have time to read all the essays, I’ll just focus on those that look especially interesting to me for now and return to the others later. Haha, I seem to elicit that reaction a lot, for w/e reason, but I’m also glad we connected through GR! Your tastes are excellent, and I appreciate that you write so openly and honestly about your experiences.


  6. The is truly an ambitious project. I’m impressed. My heart skipped when I saw Grace Paley. She’s so good. And I’ve heard wonderful things about The Nickel Boys. Looking forward to your reviews.


  7. Interesting list of which, as usual, I’ve read precisely none! I like your idea of themed months, and will be particularly interested in what you think of the batch of short stories. It’s only in the last few years I’ve been learning to appreciate shorts of the literary variety, so maybe you’ll tempt me. Hope you enjoy the challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! June’s looking like it’ll be a busy time for me, so the short format seems perfect for my schedule. I’ve already started reading Berlin and Hempel, and I’m really enjoying both!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. An ambitious and diverse list indeed. I’ll be reading women in translation in August, which I’m looking forward too, though I don’t I can wait then to read Celestial Bodies.
    I’ve read The Man Who Snapped His Fingers, a thought provoking, slow burning read.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great selection, as always.
    I really enjoyed the Oyeyemi and think you’ll do too. Upon finishing that one, I immediately wanted to read everything she has ever written and then for some reason didn’t get around doing so.
    I didn’t get on with the Hustvedt, but hopefully you’ll do! I didn’t feel like something that was this difficult to read – and I found her a tiny bit smug in her cleverness which isn’t something I get on with particularly well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I hope I get to the Oyeyemi before the month ends! If not, perhaps sometime in July. Hm, I might pass on the Hustvedt then, especially since I read Figuring this month and had much the same problem with it – the author was obviously clever but a bit smug and rather out of touch with the times.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You might enjoy it more than me – although she definitely comes across as smug. I also read it entirely at the wrong time in my life.


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