Once upon a time, I was able to make a reading list, and stick to it. That was pre-blog. I’m in year 14 now, so I’m talking ancient history.

Those were the days before I had access to dozens of recommendations from trusted readers, dozens of temptations from publicists on a monthly, if not weekly basis. Before I had a TBR of 1500+, every one of which I still want to read.

Throw this into the 2020 mix. With the world in lockdown, the online world rose to the challenge. Literary festivals went online, freely available for all. Independent publishers set up new reading groups. Rebecca Bradley reconvened the Virtual Crime Club, and I joined. Publicists organised irresistible blog tours. My neural networks tingling with these new stimuli, I discovered more books I wanted to read IMMEDIATELY, and sometimes I did just that. Is that my reticular activating system working as it should or not? Some would say, perhaps disparagingly, that I followed my whims. I would say I that the strongest synaptic signals seized the day.

With what effect on my original #20booksofsummer plan? Suspecting most of the above in May, I planned loosely around 4 categories this year naming only 11 specific titles. Of those I read 7. 9 if you count two DNFs. I completed 2 of the 4 named categories. My 6-book rainbow lost a colour but doubled up on my favourite. The 4th category, for which I was going to read 10 titles, took the biggest hit. Understandably so, given all the afore-mentioned digital competition.

This is the story in detail. All books listed were completed. Ticks denote titles named in the original plan. Links are to my reviews. Those outstanding will appear in due course.

Category One: The Six Five Book Rainbow

1. Red: The Zookeeper’s War – J W Mohnhaupt ✓

2. Orange: A Rising Man – Abir Mukherjee

3. Yellow : Two Blankets, Three Sheets – Rodaan Al Galidi ✓

4. Blue: A Necessary Evil – Abir Mukherjee

5. Violet: Purple People – Kate Burlitt

6. Violet: Uncanny Valley – Anna Wiener (Audio Book)

Category Two: 2 3 for #seagullbooksfortnight

7. The Last Country – Svenja Leibner ✓

8. A Cage In Search of A Bird – Florence Noiville ✓

9. Aranyak – Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay

Category Three: 2 from the Age of the Weimar Republic (1931)

10. Gilgi, One of Us – Irmgard Keun ✓

11. Käsebier Takes Berlin – Gabriele Tergit ✓

Category Four: (Past or present) EIBF reads

12. Around The World in 80 Trees – Jonathan Drori and Lucille Clerc ✓

13. The Wind That Lays Waste – Selva Almada

14. Dead Girls – Selva Almada

15. The Memory Police – Yoko Ogawa

16. Summerwater – Sarah Moss

17. The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

I’m quite surprised I got so close to the target 20 within my 4 original categories. But look what happens when I add a 5th. (Note to self: For a foolproof strategy, do this in future years. 😉)

Category Five: Synaptic Sabotage (and the triggers)

18. The Cold Summer – Carlo Carofiglio (The Lockdown Lit Fest)

19. Summer of Reckoning – Marion Bruet (Book 18)

20. A Walk in The Woods – Bill Bryson (Book 13)

21. Walks in The Wild – Peter Wohlleben (Ditto)

22. The Revolt – Clara Dupont-Monod (Blog Tour- Meet The Translator)

23. The Great Fortune – Olivia Manning (Blog tour)

24. Paula – Sandra Hoffmann (Forthcoming Blog Tour)

25. Their Little Secret – Mark Billingham (Virtual Crime Club)

26. The Weekend – Charlotte Wood (Melbourne Digital Festival)

27. Aspects of Edinburgh – Stewart Conn (Edinburgh Bookshop Crawl)