I seem to be posting reviews of NetGalley books, blog tours, books from my own challenges or other people’s, and there’s not really been room to round up what’s been coming in, plus an important decision about my 20 Books of Summer. So I thought I’d put it all in one place!

Books in

First off, I’ve been very fortunate to be asked to take part in the Wolfson History Prize shortlist blog tour, for the third year in a row. I reviewed “Birds in the Ancient Word” in 2019 and the large (and prize-winning) “The Boundless Sea” last year and this year I was able to choose Richard Ovenden’s “Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack”. Ovenden is director of the Bodleian Library and he looks at the long history of destroying libraries and archives and how this is gathering pace as history progresses – and what this means for history and civilisation. It’s already been a Radio 4 Book of the Week and I can’t wait to get started with it. Watch out for my review on 1 June.

Having already ordered one book from them, on the back of an email from the lovely indie publisher, Vertebrate Publishing, I ordered this gorgeous book by John D. Burns, “Wild Winter” in which he travels into the wild north of Scotland in winter looking for the area’s wild animals. We had a memorable bird-watching holiday in Inverness and north a few years ago so I’m looking forward to reading about some places I’ve been to. Do check the publisher out, too – they seem genuinely lovely.

Of interest to any editor readers I might have, “Respectful Querying with NUANCE” by Ebonye Gussine Wilkins looks at how we work with people who are not from the same ethnic/cultural background as ourselves and raise those queries that editors always have to raise when we don’t know the context as well. It’s a slim volume from the American Editorial Freelancers’ Association and I will get to it soon.

And lastly (I think – I bet I’ve forgotten an ebook) I managed to get myself into our local Oxfam Books on Sunday – I’ve been keen to get hold of some of those lovely books people have been donating furiously, and although I don’t think they had a lot of new stock out, I managed to find in the sport section Anna McNuff’s “The Pants of Perspective” in which she runs the length of New Zealand, and Alex Hutchinson’s “Endure” which looks at how athletes get the mental and physical strength to undertake greater and greater feats of endurance.

Shiny link fun!

I love reviewing non-fiction for Shiny New Books and very much enjoyed reading Mike Pitts’ “Digging up Britain”, which is a look at new archeological techniques applied to sites in Britain going backwards from the Vikings way into prehistory. He has a lovely engaging way of writing and makes all the technology very clear and easy to understand.

Many of us have watched Time Team and various other TV archaeology shows; many of us have seen or heard of some of the sites discussed here (I was particularly pleased to find the Staffordshire Hoard featured), but how many of us have been able to keep up with the enormous strides that archaeological science has been making over recent decades? Pitts is able to take an admirable long view over most of these sites, showing how knowledge has increased and dates have gone back in time or been refined as often generation after generation of archaeologists have studied, pondered, hypothesised and published. Read more.

20 Books of Summer 2021

And finally, it’s almost time for 20 Books of Summer again, hosted as ever by Cathy from 246 Books and people have begun sign-up posts already. I usually decide what to read right at the end of May and pick books off the start of my TBR. This year I decided to go a bit different and have a theme, particularly for the first two months.

I’ve always read diversely, especially since those days mining Lewisham Library for their LGB (as it was then) and “Black and Asian” sections. In the last few years, more and more publishers have been making books available that honour more diverse own voices and centre voices that have been marginalised. And of course, after the Black Lives Matter movement came to prominence last year, even more books have been written, taken on and published, which has been brilliant and inspiring. I have been reading the books I bought then and before, drip-feeding them into the blog, but I’ve decided to do an “othered voices / own voices” theme for June and July in my 20 Books of Summer this year. August has to be put by for All August / All Virago [and other books that celebrate mid-20th century lost women writers] and that worked out well as I had 6 or 7 Virago et al. books and 14 or 15 books in my othered/own voices category still waiting to be read (ones I have read include “Don’t Touch my Hair“, “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” and “Trans Britain“).

It’s quite an ambitious pile as it doesn’t include any of my Anne Tyler re-reads (there will be six during the period of the challenge), review books or ebooks (I never like including books I can’t physically see in 20 Books, no idea why!). So I’m not actually sure I can do it! I’ll share the full title list when I start the project, but here’s my exciting pile for the time being, with Black African, European and British, Asian British, gay, trans, working-class and Gypsy voices represented in the first two months, and some lovely indie publishers in the third. Don’t worry: I’ve left myself some diverse reads on the shelf (a couple of novels and an academic book on white privilege), have a load on the Kindle and am always buying more, so I won’t suddenly plunge into the white middle class for the rest of the year!

Are you doing 20 Books of Summer/Winter and have you created your pile yet?