What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable

Welcome to Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately.

This month, in addition to piles of forthcoming titles I’m not quite ready to talk about yet (Summer Reading Guide—you get it!), I read a nonfiction book I’ve been meaning to read but afraid of, a literary novel I was excited about, a lighthearted escapist read, a book my daughter said I had to read, and a What Should I Read Next guest recommendation. (You know, the usual.)

Quick Lit April 2017
The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir

The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir

Laura Tremaine talked me into this one on Episode 68 of What Should I Read Next. Imagine Angela's Ashes, but instead of poverty and alcoholism in Ireland you have polygamy and child abuse in Utah. In this coming-of-age memoir, Wariner describes her childhood as the thirty-ninth of her father's forty-two children. This was absorbing and heartbreaking. (I thought this was very well done, but it's worth mentioning that it won't be on my favorites list anytime soon.) More info →
The Futures

The Futures

There was so much I loved about this story about a young couple who moves to NYC just before the financial meltdown of 2008. Let's start with the cover. And the tone was pitch perfect. (If Pitoniak writes another book, I'll read it.) But the plot REALLY stumbled for the last third of the book: I can't say more without dropping serious spoilers, but I sure would love to rant about it at book club together. More info →
My Not So Perfect Life

My Not So Perfect Life

I saw Sophie Kinsella's latest on a recent list to top-rated audiobooks and snatched it up as a palate cleanser. (Overall: 4.4. Performance: 4.7. It doesn't get better than that.) If you're looking for Serious Literature, keep moving, but for a light-hearted escapist read, Kinsella nails it. This one combines PR, family dynamics, instagram, and glamping (really!). I read ("read"?) it in three days. More info →


I read this much-anticipated new release from the author of Counting by 7s at the urging of my 9-year-old. (More about that here.) It's the story of a (much) smaller-than-average girl who comes into her own a bit when she's cast as a Munchkin in a summer performance of The Wizard of Oz, and it's really good. If you ever read middle grade, give it a try. More info →
The Case Against Sugar

The Case Against Sugar

This book is seriously messing me. This is Taubes' sweeping indictment of sugar and the industry behind it: he lays out the book like a legal argument and whoa, is it persuasive. It's true that after reading this, I'm a little paranoid and cranky about what's in my food and especially about what my kids are eating. But it's a worthwhile and timely read. Just be prepared to make some nutritional changes when you're done reading. If you're anything like me, you won't be able to stop yourself. More info →

What have YOU been reading lately? Link up your post below, or tell us all about it in comments!


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  1. Elaine says:

    The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to this one but I loved it. Beautifully written with interesting and complex characters and razor sharp satire about society, the role of women and American life.

    Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Not my favorite Jane Austen in that I found the main character rather annoying but a charming Austen read, nonetheless.

    The Dance of Fear by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. A non-fiction discussion of anxiety and shame. The precursor to Brene Brown, hitting some of the same themes and with a similar story-telling style.

    The Marrying of Chani Kaufmann by Eve Harris. Surprisingly, on the long list for the Man Booker Prize. A novel about orthodox Judaism, it is an interesting look at a life that is totally unknown to most of us, some of its joys and appeals but also its terrible burdens. Hampered by needing to refer constantly to an extensive glossary (which it contains)of Yiddish words and Jewish rites.

  2. Karla Wormington says:

    I just finished My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith as an antidote to my usual police procedurals and mysteries. It was a delightful quick read.

  3. This year I decided to read all of Willa Cather’s novels in chronological order, and I just finished the 5th one, One of Ours, which is set in WWI and the main character is a young man who goes off to war. So far this is not my favorite of hers–I loved O Pioneers! and My Antonia and The Song of the Lark.
    Other recent reading includes a charming memoir by Amy Dickinson, the advice columnist, Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things, A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home. Also I read La Rose by Louise Erdrich for a second time. and it left me breathless, plus the new Jacqueline WInspear mystery In This Grave Hour. On this rainy day I wish I hadn’t read it already, but I do have the new Anne Lamott for good company–Hallelujah Anyway.

  4. Susan in TX says:

    After seeing your Instagram post on Short, I promptly went to the library and checked it out…only I grabbed the wrong book off the shelf and brought home Counting by 7’s. I didn’t realize until I was nearly done with Counting’ that I had the wrong book (and then only because one of my girls pointed it out to me). That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Counting by 7’s and highly recommend. I’m happy to report that the library is currently holding Short for me…sometimes it’s best to let the librarians pull them off the shelves! 😉
    I love checking in on newer children’s literature – my baby is 16, so these days I rationalize it by “looking for future classics for the grandkids.” 🙂

  5. Veronica says:

    After listening to The War that Saved my Life (thank you for the recommendation) I went on a WW2 book binge. I read the newest Maisie Dobbs, In this Grave Hour, The Nightingale again, In Farleigh Field, and The Fire by Night. All were good, but the last one really surprised me in a good way. It was about two nurses in WW2, one in the Pacific theatre, and one in Europe. It was somewhat gritty and very realistic.

  6. Diana says:

    I read The Futures this month too and mostly enjoyed it, more than I expected. I completely agree that the last bit fell apart a little but still, it was a good, surprising read. Adding that Sophie Kinsella to my list…I’ve only read one or two of her books and haven’t been impressed but maybe those were just the wrong ones for me then!

  7. Keri says:

    I have finished A Fall of Marigolds & The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I am trying to finish Watership Down by the end of April. Also listening to Chernow’s Hamilton on audible.

  8. Eileen Slater says:

    I just finished All the Missing Girls, The Life We Bury and Commonwealth. All were fantastic reads. In the middle of Persuaion and This is the Story of a Happy Marraige. Thanks to you, Anne, I am in book heaven.

  9. Susan Schmitz says:

    One of my favorite books is “Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project” by Jack Mayer I loved this true story of a trio of small town high school students who came across a little known story of heroism in WWII. Their project eventually takes them to places they never could have imagined when they started their research.

    • Jamie says:

      If you want to go deeper about Irena Sendler, you might want to try Irena’s Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo. It was the first book I read this year and though it’s haunting and tragic, it impacted me immensely.

  10. Meagan says:

    I just finished reading “The Girl Before” by JP Delaney and I realized that I am so totally over unreliable narrators. The next time I go to check one out from the library someone please stop me! (I need this written on a post it note tucked into my ipad cover!). I think I’m just tired of not being able to trust what I am reading because of the “twist” that will be coming.
    I am also re-reading the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, one of my all time favourites. I am trying to read it slowly because I am always so sad to see it end.
    Just started The Muse by Jessie Burton this morning, I’m intrigued by it so far, I seem to either read WWII books about London or modern thrillers/mysteries that take place there so it will be nice to read one that takes place at a different time (I hope!).

  11. Erin says:

    I’ve been fiction-free for Lent and let me tell you, while I love me some good narrative nonfiction, I am super happy to dig into some fiction TOMORROW!!!! 🙂

    Standouts from the last month:

    The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap (this is a sweet, fun book about a bookstore. I really enjoyed the perspective and insights it gave me on life and just being part of a community. Plus books. Obviously.)

    Bird by Bird (such a classic and so good– it got what few books do: a permanent place on my bookshelf)

    The Pianist (devastating and beautiful and so sad and full of hope)

    American Notes by Charles Dickens (I know not everyone loves Dickens but I’m married to a superfan and I enjoy his sense of humor. His description of America in the early 19th century was entertaining and I enjoyed it. He absolutely detested slavery and gave a lot of the book over to describing it, so those parts weren’t as fun, but so necessary and good.)

    Some other books I read and enjoyed in the last month: The Professor and the Madman, Run the World, and Present Over Perfect.

      • Erin says:

        It legit made me laugh out loud. I read vast quantities of it to my husband, because it cracked me up and reminded me so much of HIM– he’s not a writer, but he’s a pastor, and her tortuous writing process reminded me of his process for sermon prep. It’s really funny. Not all the way through, but enough that you can forgive her for the heavier stuff.

    • Joy B. says:

      Also went fiction free for Lent and while I am going to finish the two books I’m in the middle of; Belong and Becoming, and The Year of Living Danishly, I am also really looking forward to diving into some fiction!

      • Erin says:

        I just have to be honest, I think that going fiction free was not a good idea. Like I literally cannot stop thinking about all the books I want to be reading. My excitement about the Resurrection is being totally trumped by the thought of coming home after church, feeding the family, and then curling up with The Scarlet Pimpernel (which would totally not be my first pick but I have to read it for book club).

  12. Cheryl says:

    Not much reading outside of student essays, but one book that is proving to be fun to read is _Henry and the Chalk Dragon_ by Jennifer Trafton.
    Henry Pentwhistle lives in the town of Swashbuckle with his schoolmates Oscar and Jade. Henry is an artist and draws a Mighty Chalk dragon on his door. When the Chalk Dragon leaves the door, Sir Henry and his friends must stop the Dragon before he destroys the town. It is a story about pursing creativity; having the courage to be an artist.

  13. Anne, I’m with you on The Futures. I got super frustrated with the plot, especially at the end. But, I’m not sure I can say I’ll try another of hers.

    I’ve had The Sound of Gravel on my TBR list forever and hope to get to it this year (I said the same thing last year)!

  14. Liz Ekstrom says:

    I’m reading The Futures right now. I’ll prepare myself for a questionable final third. I’m interested in your comment on The Sound of Gravel. Is it not a favorite for you just because of the heavy content?

  15. Susan says:

    I really liked The Sound of Gravel — absorbing is a good word for it! I just recommended it to a friend. I also liked the Sophie Kinsella book — her books are light and breezy but with some heart and humor.

    I haven’t liked very many books I’ve read lately, but Crazy Busy by Presbyterian minister Kevin DeYoung was short but insightful and a very good read. I just re-read 1984 by George Orwell (I read it first in high school) and that was good.

  16. Caroline says:

    Would you say The Sound of Gravel is very heavy or graphic? I have a hard time reading very detailed scenes pertaining to child abuse but the topic sounds interesting – might be my pick for a memoir in your reading challenge!

    • Jamie says:

      It’s not graphic in regards to physical child abuse (from what I remember; it’s been a few months since I read it). There is definite neglect and psychological abuse on behalf of the parents, but at the same time a very tender and ‘traditional’ relationship between the author and her mother (this relationship is what she unpacks as the driving force of the memoir). The ending of the book does include some tragic scenes, but are an essential part of her story and are told in almost a detached, unemotional way.

  17. Jamie says:

    Have you watched the documentary Fed Up? It might be floating around on Netflix or other free streaming sites online by now. Sounds like the perfect follow up to Taubes’s book (which I have on hold at the library and am both looking forward to and dreading getting my hands on it!). 🙂

  18. Makala says:

    I have read Me Before You this month and am now starting Before I Fall .
    I loved Me Before You even though it took me a box of tissues to get through it !

  19. I’ve been reading and really enjoying, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. The chapters are short and I love the included recipes. It’s hard to not eat or get hungry when reading the book, so be prepared to start craving food when you read it. It reminds me of another non-fiction book I read recently that had recipes (yes I see a theme here), 300 Sandwiches: A Multilayered Love Story by Stephanie Smith. Both talk about food and the author’s life.

  20. Nancy says:

    A couple of interesting books by an indie author, Exodus of Magic and River of Magic. It is classified as urban fantasy. Also just finished Sue Klebold’s A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy. It’s both chilling and sad, and well worth the read

  21. Dana says:

    I am on Day 21 of Whole 30 and found The Case Against Sugar in my neighborhood Little Library last week while walking the dog. I snatched it up and read it quickly. I have never been a huge sugar or sweets fan, but it is sobering to realize how sugar has invaded so much of our food. I shared this with my husband who needs a serious reduction in his sugar intake. I am getting him to read labels and cut down on his sweets. It will be a gradual weening for him, but the book helped me make a point I have been talking about for a while.
    Also read The Magnolia Story about Chip and Joann Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer-Upper show. My mom recommended it to me. A pleasant read.

    The Mysterious Charms of Arthur Pepper: enjoyable read
    Locally Laid ( true story of a start-up chicken farm in Duluth, Minnesota.), informative, interesting and hilarious. recommended by my writing instructor
    Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon- I re-read this once a year. Great short book for anyone working creatively..bloggers, writers, artists…
    Dog Songs by Mary Oliver Poems about dogs Love this. Found at library.

  22. Donna says:

    I’ve been so curious about The Futures! I’ll definitely be adding it to the list. The Case Against Sugar sounds like a good one as well.

    I recently read Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. It’s gripping, but a bit too creepy for my liking. It kept me up at night.

    I just started What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan and I am really enjoying it!

    Thanks for sharing!

  23. Tasya says:

    Woah, all of the books sound amazing. I’m especially interested in My Not So Perfect Life, the Case Against Sugar and the Futures. I’ve been reading a lot lately and I just finished Alex, Approximately. It’s so cute and perfect for summer, but there are some things that I can’t get behind.

  24. Ooh I just reserved the Sound of Gravel from the library. I love “saved from a cult” as a genre.

    I’ve also read Taubes book, but I was already sugar-free when I read it and convinced of the evils of sugar. I stopped eating sugar in December of 2015 and it made a big difference for me. I finally overcame my hypoglycemia and sugar cravings. My bowels act better too. And I effortlessly lost weight and puffiness.

    Here’s my list of reads: http://carriewillard.com/recent-reads-8/
    Just 3 books last month, mostly because I’m doing Ruth Soukup’s Elite Blog Academy course and it’s using up all my brain power at the moment!

  25. Jennifer N. says:

    I finished Under the Dome by Stephen King, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As is typical of King screen adaptations, it is much better than the show.

    I also read a Big Little Life by Dean Koontz. I enjoyed this one, but was looking for a bit more emotion. And now I want a Golden Retriever!

    Right now I’m blowing through The Shadow of the Wind. It took about 40 pages to pick up for me bit now it’s flying by. I have A Piece of the World waiting for me from the library so I also have a bit of a deadline.

  26. Grace says:

    Oh I just finished The Futures and now I’m about to start My (Not So) Perfect Life! I totally agree about the Futures and the last part of the book. I was super into it, reading it all the time, and then it sort of lost me.

  27. Leslie says:

    I could not finish The Sound of Gravel. I tried, but it was just too upsetting. I sincerely hope the author felt some closure or therapy through writing it, and I hope it helps future readers in the same way.

    I just finished All Quiet on the Western Front and have moved on to Huckleberry Finn. I’m trying to finish up some books I started last year.

  28. D says:

    I don’t have a blog, but I have read a few good things lately:
    -Into Thin Air by Jon Krackower, which was very good. Now I feel like a climbing expert even though I have never climbed more than the occasional recreational wall.
    -Brida by Paulo Coelho, picked up because I so enjoyed The Alchemist. I did not know how prolific Coelho is.
    -At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen, very much enjoyed the audio on this.
    -Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which my whole family enjoyed to my great surprise and pleasure (some scenes are gory/violent in a “that’s nature” kind of way, but it did not seem to bother my kids, ages 6+). We borrowed this from the library but will own a copy soon.

  29. Tara says:

    I love Sophie Kinsella’s work, and always look forward to her new releases; this was no exception! I’m so thrilled to hear that you enjoyed it, as well.

  30. The Case Against Sugar is one that I’m afraid to read. I have a serious sweet tooth (and consider ice cream my 5th food group…) so I know real tears will be shed if I ever pick it up. That being said, I really need to read it. Maybe one day, when my children are older and I no longer *need* that naptime chocolate. 🙂

  31. Just requested the sugar book and the gravel book. I’ve been reading Woman Code and it definitely has me thinking. Planning your month around your cycles in order to maximize productiveness, perfect your cyle, supercharge your sex charge, and increase fertility (if you want). So thought provoking! I also read a great book called Seasons of Waiting that is probably going on my favorites list for 2017!

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