Vroom! Vroom!
A Little Diversion

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2020

The fall equinox is not until next week, but it sure feels like fall around here! It's cool . . . and the clouds are just different now. Although the leaves aren't really turning yet, it won't be long. It's time for me to wrap up my summer reading with with a Top Five books list.

In the summer, I tend to slow my reading down just a little bit. I have more outdoor things going on that distract me in the summer, for sure. But my reading tastes also change in the summer, when I tend to read more classics . . . or long epics . . . short story collections . . . and lots of poetry. 

Looking back over the last 3 months of reading, I've put together my Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2020 list:


First up . . . Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell, pushing Apeirogon out of first place for my favorite book of the year. This one really just blew me away. I can think of no better words to describe this incredible book than these (from Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles): “through the alchemy of her [author Maggie O'Farrell's] own vision, she has created a moving story about the way loss viciously recalibrates a marriage.” I was intrigued and entranced and, finally, totally in awe of this book. Hamnet is a powerful testament to love and marriage -- and grief. The writing is beautiful. The entire premise so inspired! This one will haunt me for a long, long time.

(Hamnet was awarded the Women's Prize for Fiction last week.)


Next . . . Deacon King Kong by James McBride. Energy, vitality, and heart come together perfectly in this tight package of a book, where fates collide, everything connects, and it is all so very satisfying in the end. Absolutely packed with richly-drawn characters and a strong sense of place, this book transports readers to 1969 Brooklyn. Humor, agony, resilience -- and a really great vibe. Deacon King Kong is a delightful read any way you look at it.


Next up . . . The Door by Magda Szabó, translated from Hungarian by Len Rix. This is a fabulous book -- originally written in 1987, but not translated to English until decades later. This book is one of those that will rattle around in my head for quite a while. The story - about an aspiring writer and her hired housekeeper - sounds rather basic, but from the opening paragraphs, you know you’re in for something of a ride. Slowly, the author unravels details about the housekeeper and her history. . . and before you know it, you’re lost in intricate layers of just fabulous storytelling. What I was left with . . . was an intense character study of two women, drawn together over decades and life circumstances. The Door is beautifully written, and the translation makes it sing.


Now we have a re-read . . . Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout. I originally read this when it was first published -- way back in 1998. I thought it was brilliant then -- and it set me off on a path of total Elizabeth Strout fandom. I was reminded of Amy and Isabelle when I read Olive, Again in late 2019 . . . when Isabelle shows up as a background character in Olive’s life. (Strout is amazingly skilled at dropping characters in and out of storylines and even whole novels.) I decided then that I needed to re-read Amy and Isabelle! Still brilliant, over 20 years later. Compelling. Strong characters (both major and minor). And a story with heart.


Lastly we have my near-constant summer companion . . . The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel.

There is no question that this is an incredible novel; an incredible feat for the author (and the reader, actually). But, oh my. Reading this one takes A Commitment! I loved the first 2 books in this trilogy, and was really looking forward to this one -- the third and final installment. Hilary Mantel absolutely does not disappoint. She brings Thomas Cromwell to LIFE. It's fascinating. Entirely believable. And . . . ungodly long. Still. I really enjoyed this cherry-on-top of a great trilogy. (Thanks, Hilary Mantel. You set the standard for historical fiction with this trilogy.) (And ruined me for reading any other historical fiction, probably forever.)


How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of summer reading?


If you want to see what I'm reading now, or check out my recent reviews on Goodreads, just check out the sidebar here on my blog.  You can find me here on Goodreads.  And you can read my past Top Five lists by clicking the links below:

Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2019

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2019




Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I am in the midst of Hamnet right now, and loving.every.word! (although, I don't think it will knock Apeirogon down for me) I have added a few more titles to my read-list, thank you!


I’m on The Long, Long Hold List for Hamnet. Longer list than Caste! And that’s a long one :) But you and Carole quickly convinced me it will be worth every minute of wait. Thanks for some new fall titles! (I’ve had trouble sinking my teeth in since wrapping up the summer reads.)


Well, so many of you have recommended Hamnet that I finally put myself on the Overdrive (long) wait list. The Door looks really interesting to me as well. I sure hope my reading mojo returns pronto!


I’m currently reading Apeirogon and Caste and Hamnet is on my list but now I will also need to look at The Door. I’m not sure about best books yet. Need to slow down and savor these books but I get so distracted and inspired by what others are reading.


I'm waiting for Hamnet too and think I should read rather than listen. Any thoughts on that? Deacon King Kong was a joy! The Reason You're Alive by Matthew Quick was a wonderful surprise and 5 stars from me. And on a lighter note Evvie Drake Starts Over was just plain fun.


Hamnet is also my top book of the summer, and I'm almost positive it will be my number one book for the year. I had to look back at goodreads to see what else I've read and I also enjoyed The Summer Book and Twelve Moons of the Year. I just finished The Boy in the Field yesterday and it was unexpectedly good. I've never read anything by Margot Livesey before but will be definitely looking for more in the future.


I can't wait to read Hamnet and I'm hoping to get a copy for my birthday!
My top five books from this summer are: The Night Watchman, What You Have Heard Is True, Deacon King Kong, One Long River of Song, and This Is Chance.

Kathy Boyer

Im nNOT READY FOR AUTUMN . Even though I usually love it.

Death in the Grand Canyon
Nobody Will TellYou This But me

that's all I read, I think. :)


I tend to resist other people’s book recommendations (sorry!) but you may get me with Hamnet. I will put my name on the list today!


I have that gorgeous British cover edition of Hamnet on my physical TBR!! (Sara's gift) thinking I might need to block off a couple of days - maybe in early October? - to just READ it. can't wait! My favorite summer reads were Sally Rooney (both of them, but Normal People more) and James McBride. I read Song Yet Sung and Deacon King Kong and gave them both 5 stars. I also gave 5 stars to Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones, but it's brutal. especially in hurricane season.


Kym, I loved Hamnet too. And I bet you will love it more if you listen to Maggie O'Farrell's interview at the Edinburgh E-book festival from August. https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/maggie-o-farrell-giving-new-life-to-shakespeare-s-son/player
It's long, good for knitting or while exercising. She talks about her research process and growing a physic garden, etc.
If you haven't read The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, you're in for another treat.

Just downloaded The Door which I will get to after finishing In the Country of Women by Susan Straight (highly recommend).


Somehow I missed The Door. It looks wonderful. My favorite book this summer was Ledger by Jane Hirschfield.


I just finished Deacon King Kong and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it (though I probably shouldn't have been, given how many of you recommended it), and I'm on the wait list for Hamnet -- I think the current estimate is 7 weeks.

I think my favorites this summer were Caste and How the Light Gets In (still working my way through the Gamache series, as fast as the library lets me!).


I just put Hamnet on my list at the library -- since it beat out Apeirogon for you, and THAT was MY favorite book of the summer, that seems like a suggestion to take. My latest book was The Sun Does Shine, by Anthony Ray Hinton. Not a great literary novel, but worth reading. About a terrible situation yet inspiring.

The comments to this entry are closed.