This was my first year taking part in the #20BooksOfSummer challenge run by Cathy over at 746 Books and it proved to be an interesting exercise for me. Not least because while I succeeded in reading more than 20 books (managing 29 in total over the 3-month period), I only stuck to half of my original selection which you can find here. The books I actually read are in the photo above (minus ebooks and a library book), with the ten books in the column on the left those initially chosen for the Challenge.

How did the books on the right replace the originals on my list and become part of my revised #20BooksOfSummer? Easy. They probably should have been there all along. I’d wanted to read and had agreed to review some, such as Something to Live For, Inland, The Light in the Dark & The Day We Meet Again; I was interviewing Laura Kemp at the Penarth Literary Festival in June, and prepped by reading The Year of Surprising Acts of Kindness & Bring Me Sunshine; I hadn’t included all the book group choices for the summer, which added The Doll Factory, The Immortalists & The Lost Letters of William Woolf to the list; and I also wanted to read a friend’s book, Widow’s Welcome, before its launch in August.

The additional books read were 7 ebooks, one proof copy and a library book: The Winker by Andrew Martin; The Most Difficult Thing by Charlotte Philby; Beneath the Surface by Fiona Neill; Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas; The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney; Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane; The Daughter of Hardie by Anne Melville. The proof I read was Looker by Laura Sims and the sole library book was My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Thanks, I think in part, because I was on the road for 3 weeks over the summer, which made returns tricky.

I wasn’t very good at posting reviews as I read and instead concentrated on posting those I’d agreed to do to tie in with release dates or for blog tours. If I do this challenge again next year, that’s an area I could improve upon. As is reading posts by others taking part in the challenge.

I’m happy with what I read and having more non-fiction in the mix was a positive. I enjoyed all bar one of the books. I’d been so excited about reading The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen that there was always a danger it wouldn’t live up to its promise. I’d loved the idea of working in the Dead Letters Depot and reuniting lost mail with its intended recipient but the book dragged for me with all the time spent on the central character’s relationship issues. A striking hardback cover was scant consolation.

I found Amy Engel’s The Roanoke Girls to be far more troubling and darker than I’d been expecting but thought she handled the difficult subject matter well. A surprise standout – only because I wasn’t sure it would live up to the hype and praise it had garnered – was The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin which I thought was an excellent way of looking at fate, life choices, and how we face up to our mortality.

And the other 10 books I didn’t read? Well, I’m reading one this week, so they haven’t been reshelved and forgotten. I will get to them, even if it’s too late to count for this year’s challenge. Better late than never.

Thanks so much to Cathy for coming up with the Challenge. It’s been fun to see how I’d respond to choosing a list of books to read in a set timeframe but it’s also made me reevaluate how I spend my precious reading time, on which books and why. I’ve spent time browsing and reorganising my groaning TBR shelves. And while I’m not planning to count them as Cathy has done, I am going to stop ignoring them quite so often in favour of the shiny new thing that’s out this week.

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