2023 Books of Summer

Cathy of 746books.com invites people to make a list of 20 (or 10 or 15) books that they plan to read during the summer months. This is not the first year she’s done this, but I just learned about it from my Mastodon feed. I’ve already admitted that I tend to bounce from book to book, finishing some but not others, and bumping a book down on the list if something else grabs my interest for the moment. But I’ve decided to accept Cathy’s challenges – not only the challenge to make such a list but also the challenge to post it publicly. I’m mostly at ease with this, primarily because Cathy says up front that she’s not all that strict about it: “It’s pretty common knowledge that I am the slackest challenge host and will bend the rules to help anyone reach their goal.”

So, here’s my initial take on the list. It’s a rather strange and perhaps awkward collection of genres. I fear that I might be attempting to chew much more than I’m able to bite off, and I definitely reserve the right to amend the list as I go along. (Just how many caveats can I put here before I make this more or less public commitment??) Surely that’s more than enough, so without further delay:

  • Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
  • Lester J. Cappon (ed), The Adams-Jefferson Letters
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Song of the Cell
  • Charles Hartshorne, Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers
  • May Sarton, The House by the Sea
  • Eleanor Catton, Birnam Wood
  • George Saunders, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain
  • John McPhee, The Crofter and the Laird
  • Samantha Rose Hill, Hannah Arendt
  • Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, In Love with the World
  • Terrence Real, I don’t want to talk about it
  • Shane O’Mara, In Praise of Walking
  • Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being
  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
  • Elisa Gabbert, The Word Pretty
  • Owen Flanagan, The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World
  • Naomi Alderman, The Power
  • A.M. Homes, The Unfolding
  • Cormac McCarthy, The Passenger
  • Annie Dillard, For the Time Being

An ambitious list, perhaps overly so. But at least I’ve given myself a head start – I’ve already begun to read a couple of them, and I don’t want to put them down without finishing them.

I can’t resist commenting on the implicit challenge of Cathy’s website. It’s captured in the name – several years ago she discovered, much to her dismay, that she was continuing to purchase books even though she had 746 unread books already in her collection. (Yes, she counted.) For three years, she didn’t purchase any new books but instead focused on books she already owned. That’s a challenge that I can’t bring myself to take on!

I’m not going to count the unread books in my collection, but I have to admit that the number is well over 746. But the twenty books on the list above are already in our condo, so if I can limit myself to purchasing fewer than 20 books in the next three months I’ll make a small dent in that number.