#20BooksofSummer Update! How’s Your Reading Game?

This is my first summer jumping on the #20BooksofSummer challenge with Cathy over at 746 Books. I even unknowingly got another blogger friend to join in (welcome, An Anthology of Clouds!). I’ve tried following other bloggers who are doing the challenge, and it’s been a great way to meet new book friends, like BookTalker, Fictionophile, Drunk Off Rhetoric, LouLouReads, and Liz Dexter! I planned my reading very carefully. Cathy suggested we count all the pages in our 20 books and add them together, then divide by the 96 days of the challenge. I ended up with 60 pages per day. That’s about 60-90 minutes per day, right? I even made little markers to show where I should start on each day (I was born to be a secretary, folks).


I’ve also realized that some people are petering out a bit. I didn’t realize how difficult this challenge is until African Book Addict asked her readers: “7 books on my Summer TBR (to-be-read list) – too many books, or nah?” I nearly spit out my whatever I was drinking and wrote:

“Totally ‘nah!’ A bunch of us are doing the #20BooksofSummer challenge! We might be insaaaaane.”

African Book Addict wrote back:

“Thats a LOT of books. Are y’all just going to read the Summer away? No other activities lined up? Sheesh!”

And I paused.

Holy crap, I thought, I haven’t been watching movies or working on writing more of my spoofy romance novel or anything! African Book Addict had a point — and a good one.

book nerd problems

Does that mean I’m going to slack off, which, by the way, means exist like a normal human being? No way. Because I am a weirdo who won’t give up (because if I do I will fixate on my failure all year until next summer). I’ll be up all night and day reading these damn 20 books just to finish them and be able to cry out something celebratory.

adam sandler
Probably something inappropriate like this.

However, as this is my first #20BooksofSummer challenge, I didn’t realize how carefully I would need to plan my list. I had two goals that I created around Christmas time: read all 8 Anne of Green Gables and The Brothers Karamazov in the summer of 2016. Cathy’s challenge fit right in with those goals! I decided I wanted to get rid of my ARC pile (I haven’t taken review requests in ages and only occasionally request one. The pile is small, but alive). And I joined a book club, so I had to stay in pace with them. Therefore, 8 Anne books + one Dostoyevsky + 2 book club books + 8 ARCs = #20BooksofSummer.

But I forgot a few things: 1) I’m teaching a new comp class in the fall and will have to read books in the process of deciding which ones to teach. 2) Four of my ARCs are by the same author. 3) Dostoyevsky is huge. 4) My husband and I have “bed time” stories. If I keep my original list of 20, I’m going to have to read more than 20 books to accomplish all of my required reading. 5) I forgot August would have a book club book. I was only thinking June/July.

So, the list has changed a bit. Although I read an ARC of Robin Stratton’s book On Air and really enjoyed it, I don’t want to cram three more of her books into one summer, so they were cut from the list. I did add Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher by Monica Nolan. It’s the second in the Lesbian Career Girl Series, and also one of my and my husband’s “bed time stories” this summer. You may remember Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary, a spring “bed time” story my husband and I enjoyed.

We got our August book club pick, Christopher Moore’s Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, so that book was added. I chose two likely candidates for my new ENGL 100 course, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America (which I recommended to Valerie and she reviewed. I haven’t read the book, but have read sections in composition anthologies) and Jonathan Kozol’s Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America (also one I haven’t read except in excerpts from comp anthologies). Neither of these are textbooks; they’re both investigative journalism and appropriate for the #20BooksofSummer. One interesting aspect of these books is that I will include my thoughts as a teacher about the usefulness of these books in the classroom. As a result, Dostoyevsky was axed. Sorry, sir. You will be a winter break book.

Anne of Green Gables stayed. As I mentioned in a comment to Building Diverse Book Shelves in regards to her post about the feminist protagonists from her childhood:

This post made me sad because when I was a girl I tried reading some of the books you mentioned: Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, and also A Little Princess. I think I was around 8 or 9, but I just couldn’t follow the long sentence structures of such well-written books. Whenever people get into the debate about whether or not adults should read YA, I think about some of these older books and how complex the sentences are. YA today is nothing like that, but it adds to the conversation. This summer, for the #20BooksofSummer challenge, I am reading the entire Anne of Green Gables series. I’m kind of scared. What if I hate them? What if I really learn that 8- or 9-year-old me was a dumb kid and I should have read the books back then?

There’s some ridiculous part of me that feels like the Anne series is my own personal mountain. I must climb to the top and find the proverbial monk sitting there drinking tea, telling me it’s all gravy. Perhaps in my heart I will do my dead great-granny, who originally gave me the box set of Anne of Green Gables back in the 90s, a solid.

Here’s the final list for #20BooksofSummer, and I’d be surprised if it changed again:

  1. Harley and Me by Bernadette Murphy
  2. On Air by Robin Stratton
  3. Single Stroke Seven by Lavinia Ludlow
  4. Girls of Usually by Lori Horvitz
  5. Retelling by Tsipi Keller
  6. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
    1. Wondering if you missed this review in your reader feed? You didn’t. There are no reviews of works written by men on Grab the Lapels. Zero. You will find the link takes you to my review on my Goodreads account! Jonathan Kozol and Christopher Moore will get the same treatment.
  7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  8. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (*I am here).
  9. Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol
  10. Terror in Taffetaby Marla Cooper
  11. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  12. Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  13. Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  14. Anne of Windy Poplars by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  15. Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  16. Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  17. Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  18. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  19. Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher by Monica Nolan
  20. Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore



  1. I’ve already swapped out two books for two other ones, and although I got on well in June, I have two large hardbacks to review that I just didn’t want to include in the list. And I read an Easy Book when down last week. So I’ll be doing more than 20, too! We can do it! Go go go!

    And thanks for the mention. It’s been lovely to “meet” you through the challenge, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Last year I swapped my initial selections around a bit. This year, I left three spots blank so that I could add ARCs or book group picks but those spots filled almost immediately so may need to rejig the list in August! My challenge has got off to a slow start because I picked two very long books (one read and reading the other now), so figure I’ll see out July and start August with all engines running!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha! It’s not so easy is it? Last summer I read about thirty books but still only managed to do 19 of my 20 list – we always get diverted by something. And this year I had allowed for Wimbledon, but not for total political meltdown and days of obsessive news watching – nor for abandoning three of the 20 and having to replace them. You’re doing great! Who needs sleep anyway…?

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  4. Oh yes i can feel the pain too of having to make choices. I thought about my list fairly carefully but the minute i committed it to paper and actually started the reading I suddenly found there were other things i wanted to read instead. Sigh. So I started well and did 4 in a row but have now gone off piste twice – luckily both were good so I didnt feel i was wasting my time and they were both on the TBR pile anyway. But i shall have to watch this or I wont finish the list and I’m only doing 10…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Can’t you switch the ones on your list for the ones you did read? I know we’re supposed to try and stick to the list, but I think the girl is to read a lot and get out of summer reading slumps.


  5. Haha that is totally my exam face 😂 I admire y’all for trying this challenge, 20 does sound a lot! Nickel&Dimed is quite good, hope you’re enjoying it. Those bedtime stories sound like an awesome idea. Happy reading, you can do it😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve read excerpts from Nickel and Dimed, so I just ordered it unread for my ENGL 100 students this fall. Book orders are required really early for colleges (typically, fall orders go to the bookstore in April). If you are married, you should totally try doing “bedtime stories.” It’s great for relationships!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heh I’m aro, but sharing stories with friends sounds lovely too. That is really early! Over here we usually get most books by ourselves except for some primary lit.

        Liked by 1 person

        • What does “aro” mean? The university courses in the U.S. typically require at least one textbook. I never took a class that didn’t have one, but I do remember many classes had multiple books. And holy jeez are they expensive. Anything math/science is going to run you over $100 per book.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Whoa that’s extremely expensive. We’d probably riot. We usually read chapters from different textbooks and those we can copy or the prof uploads them as pdf.
            Aro is short for aromantic.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I’ve never heard of that before. Thank you for teaching me 🙂 I must confess that when my husband goes away for a work conference, I still read aloud to the cat. She gets all kinds of weird if her routines are interrupted, and that’s the easiest one to maintain.

              Copyright infringement prevents us from sharing or uploading anything like that. Publishers would sue us sky high in the U.S.

              Liked by 1 person

  6. 60 pages/day I can manage. What would wear me down is the reviews. It takes me all day to knock out a 1,000 word review. There’s 3 weeks of the summer gone straight off. So, you’re doing well, keep at it. I read your PK Dick review and I hear your concerns, but I grew up with WWII fiction, and then a heap of 60s trippy writing so Dick is mainstream for me.
    Not being American or a girl I missed Anne of Green Gables as a kid too, but I listened to the first couple last year and they’re great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have noticed that your reviews are quite long! One trick is to make the plot summary as short as possible, leaving out all the minor characters. Then, when you’re describing different things you like or dislike about the book, you can provide a little context to discuss anyone or anything left out from the main plot synopsis. For instance, in my review of Rebecca, which will be published Monday, I think I only mention the narrator and Mr. de Winter in the main synopsis. Later, I bring up Mrs. Danvers, Mrs. Van Hopper, Jack Favell, Beatrice, and Rebecca with a little context. Saves loads of time and makes the review less confusing because there is less info for the reader to take in all at once.


    • I got the idea from you! I thought you said to take the number of pages and divide by 96. I added the markers simply because I’m visually motivated, meaning I can see a goal coming and push through.


  7. I deliberately choose only books from my bookshelf for the 20 books of summer challenge but my scheduling for review books has gone awry – still planning to keep going but doubt I’ll hit the full twenty. The older children’s classics you mention are describing lives way outside those of contemporary kids which doesn’t help with accessibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I wondered when your ‘Man in the High Castle’ review would be up! I’m a huge Philip K dick fan. 🙂 Ah, it’s okay to switch a few things out here and there, I’m going to have to switch out one of mine since the release date was pushed back to 2017. You’re right about not having time to do much else, I’ve had to sacrifice some reading to make sure I don’t completely ignore writing.

    I finally worked out I need to read 45 pages a day to complete the challenge which sounds easy enough, but I’ve been in a rut with reading ‘Boy, Snow, Bird’ – hopefully I don’t get set back. Good luck reading the rest of your summer away haha

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I’ve read that most people love Boy, Snow, Bird — but some books totally make us slow down! Did you get to my Dick review by clicking the link? It should take you to my Goodreads review. It’s the only Dick book I’ve read, but I have to say, I felt both dumb and like the story was pointless. I wonder if I would do better with a different book (I didn’t choose this one; it was for book club and only 3 of us actually read it).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Smart choice ditching Dostoyevsky. That’s a lot of pages right there. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of the Anne of Green Gables novels. As I’ve said before, I loved them when my year five teacher read the first few to our class, but no idea how I’d feel about them if I read them now. I’m way too scared to try! I reread the Chronicles of Narnia a few years back (I LOVED those books as a kid) and I found them kinda underwhelming as an adult. It was devastating! So now I’m really hesitant to revisit childhood favourites. Anne of Green Gables, John Marsden’s Tomorrow series, Little Women & Seven Little Australians are all on my ‘Do not revisit’ list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Little Women, I believe, is written for adults, so that one might be okay (though I’m not 100% it’s for adults). I haven’t read all of the Chronicles books, but I remember reading the first one as an adult for a Children’s Book grad. class and finding it very “instructive,” which you might miss as a kid and take as truisms instead of preachy.

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