I’ve been toying with the idea of reading a longlist or a summer book selection over the summer to help me take a break from all the history books I’ve read since January. Joining a book club last week will definitely help me shake up my reading but I still like the idea of moving some of the titles from my wishlist/should-read-rather-than-just-keep-bookmarking-reviews-list onto this summer’s TBR stack.
There’s currently three lists of books floating about on my radar where I suspect I would enjoy one or two titles from but not the whole selection. So, in typically eclectic style I am going to pick two books from each of the lists and promise myself that I will read them between now and September. Since six books isn’t much of a challenge I am going to add in two others, the one that got away last year and one that I’ve been waiting for the release of for years. Eight should be a decent enough challenge in amongst all my other book goals.
So, here’s my choices from the lists.
First up, The Readers’ Summer Book Club. The Readers is a book banter podcast that I came across at the end of 2011. Hosted by Gav of Gav Reads and Simon of Savidge Reads (yes, the same Simon who has a hand in Manchester Book Club but it’s not affected my choice), they announced the titles for their first book club selection yesterday. The eight selected are a mix of werewolves, ghosts, cemeteries, a serial killer, Senegalese folk tales, jazz, 1980s geekery and space travel. It’s a fairly dark list and a lot of it is otherworldly, all eight of these back to back would probably be too much for me. I’m going to go for:
Bleakly Hall by Elaine di Rollo and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline jumped out for me. Bleakly Hall is set in that post WWI setting that I really quite like as people have to come to terms with life after loss and huge changes in society. It tells the story of two friends who worked in the trenches now working in a huge hall-turned-spa. Ready Player One is an adventure story for gaming geeks and is based around the hunt for a secret key buried online that will make the finder King of OASIS, an online world. I’m not a gaming geek but lots of my friends are/were so this should be a nice slice of quest with a side order of nostalgia.
The Orange Prize for Fiction longlist of twenty novels by women was announced a month ago and it gave me a jolt to realise that I’d only read one and heard of two others. I’m therefore picking two I didn’t know anything about until the longlist was announced:
Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg and Gillespie and I by Jane Harris. Island of Wings is stalking me a little bit, I keep seeing reviews everywhere and it really appeals, it was the first book I picked. Set on a remote Scottish island in 1830 it details life on the island and the relationship between its newly arrived minister and his wife. Gillespie and I is a two part story, one set in 1880s Glasgow around the time of International Exhibition and one in 1920s London as the narrator looks back at the tragedy that unfolded. Both set in Scotland but very different in style and tone I think.
The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize appeals to me because the only foreign fiction in translation I usually read is either Russian or French. So my two from the IFF longlist are:
From The Mouth Of The Whale by Sjon and The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg. From The Mouth of the Whale is set in 1635 Iceland and is a tale of magic and religion in a remote landscape. I think it’ll be a very different story to Island of Wings but hopefully just enough in common to be an interesting contrast. Emperor of Lies looks at the actions of a notorious Jewish leader in the WWII ghetto of Lodz. Head of the Judenrat council that liaised with the Nazis was he a power-hungry traitor or trying to save ‘his people’ by making them a valuable part of the Nazi war effort?
Finally, books seven and eight from my wishlist:
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami and Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel. WITAWITAR is a book I’ve had on the wishlist since it came out… in 2009. Oops. It’s Murakami, the title pays tribute to Carver (one of my favourite short story authors) and I am currently about to re-start Couch to 5k. It’s time. Bring Up The Bodies meanwhile is due out in May and I’ve been eagerly awaiting it – it’s the follow up to Wolf Hall which I loved. Wolf Hall really shifted my ideas on what historical fiction can achieve so I expect great things from this sequel. It’s set in 1535-6 amongst the intrigues of Henry VIII’s court and we see the destruction of the monasteries, deadly political battles and wife-changing through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, the King’s chief advisor at the heart of the storm.
So, a slightly historical fiction slanted eight but hopefully they’ll play out well together as a conscious selection. Hurrah for lists highlighting new books for reading magpies like me. ;)
You can follow my progress by seeing other posts with the Reading Challenge: Summer 2012 tag.