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 I’m still vetting 2018 Summer Reading Guide picks like crazy (can’t wait to share it with you in about a month from now!), and I’ve been reading at a snappy pace because of it. This month I’ve also read an unusual number of books about fraught family relationships, as you’ll see below.

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve finished this month.

Quick Lit April 2018
The Coincidence Makers

The Coincidence Makers

I enjoyed this strange little book, the first English novel from Israeli author Blum. This story follows three friends who work as "coincidence makers"—the ones responsible for the "random" occurrences we write off to chance—a spilled drink, a broken glass, a missed train. But these coincidences are important because they change the course of our lives and the course of the world, though we may not perceive it. I loved the varied and delightfully wacky coincidences these friends participated in over the course of the story: "Guy once managed to cause an entire floor to hang laundry on the same day following a wager with Eric. After two months of frustrating attempts, Emily was able to create a situation in which, for half an hour, only buses with numbers divisible by three were at the central bus station." A little bit Einstein's Dreams, a little bit Minority Report. More info →
The Clockwork Muse

The Clockwork Muse

I stumbled upon this book in an old Austin Kleon blog post. The author gives practical advice for completing hefty writing projects like theses, dissertations, and books—especially if you're also managing a day job. I read it in a little over an hour and came away with some terrific practical ways to manage my writing schedule, approach the initial drafts and subsequent edits, and figure out how long a big project will take. More info →
The Italian Teacher

The Italian Teacher

I thought this work about a successful and mercurial painter was well done, and therefore nerve-wracking to read: Rachman's portrayal of how one narcissistic artist's volatile temperament and fragile ego dominate and finally destroy his family had me on edge from about page 4. It was a bit much for me, but if you like fraught family novels about complicated relationships, this book is for you. (Bonus: the cover is gorgeous.) If you enjoy this, mark your calendars for Judy Blundell's The High Season, coming May 22. The novels are by no means the same but complement each other beautifully. More info →
Educated: A Memoir

Educated: A Memoir

In this memoir, Tara Westover tells of how she overcame her oppressive childhood: her survivalist family lived in the mountains of rural Idaho and practiced extreme fundamentalist Mormonism; her father's manic depression was undiagnosed and untreated. There was no question that Tara would marry and settle near her family to raise a family of her own, but she found a way out. I picked this up because readers with great taste told me it was a great example of the genre, but it didn't blow me away as it has so many others—perhaps because it felt so similar to Ruth Wariner's The Sound of Gravel? I listened to this on audio (not read by the author), which was fine, but didn't seem to elevate the experience. More info →


This is one of the buzziest books of spring, both for the stories in and surrounding the book. The author's agent plucked this one from the slush pile, sold it for a rumored price of nearly a million dollars, and Scarlett Johansson is already slated to star in the film adaptation. I read this in just two days because I wanted to know what happens next. If you love domestic noir, give this a try. (If you have had your fill of that genre, this book is not going to change your mind.) The story unfolded like a Hitchcock movie in my mind. If you loved this year's Dangerous Crossing, pick this one up (and vice versa). 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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Leave A Comment
  1. I have heard so much about Westover’s Educated recently. I wonder if all the publicity makes the experience of reading a book for myself less enjoyable. Not sure. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Elaine says:

    I’m reading “The Last Ballad: A Novel” by Wiley Cash and listening on audiobooks to “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Both books are beautifully written. “The Last Ballad” is reminiscent to me of “Grapes of Wrath”, about the same period although it moves back and forth through time. “Americanah” is a good candidate for audiobooks; I think it is enriching my experience to hear it rather than read it–at least it makes the names easier to keep straight. Also, a beautifully written book.

  3. Ellie Harte says:

    I bought The Italian Teacher before a flight (mainly cause I couldn’t resist that gorgeous cover!) but I unfortunately didn’t love it as much as the cover! It definitely made me feel a lot of things though, like you said.

  4. Susan says:

    I started and finished the book “The underside of joy” yesterday. It was a beautiful book and would strongly recommend it!

  5. I just tried The High Season and ended up putting it down around 20%…just felt enmeshed in annoying museum board politics, but The Italian Teacher sounds like a spin that is much more up my alley. I wonder if it would work better for me than High Season…

  6. Diane says:

    I am reading the Dry by Jane Harper. Just started it this morning and am enjoying it so far. I love your quick lit recaps! Usually there are links to be accessed, summaries of what people read during the month. I do nit see them. Is there an issue ?

  7. Claire says:

    I am reading The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. A very good but sad book and a part of American history that I never knew about.

  8. Allison says:

    Just finished Forces of Nature by Jane Harper – fantastic! Getting ready to go on a long trip and bringing The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian and This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel with me on the airplane. Any other suggestions?

  9. Melinda Malaspino says:

    Oh, the irony. I LITERALLY just finished reading News Of The World yesterday after paying full price. It was my IRL book club selection this month! I enjoyed it, but thought the ending was a bit rushed. It did remind me of The Road in terms of style.

  10. Susan says:

    I, too, am listening to Educated and I am loving it. I will admit I have not read many memoirs, but it is quickly becoming my new favorite genre. I am reading Beartown by Backman and cannot put it down. I have marked many passages. Beautifully written.

  11. Mary in TN says:

    I am 3/4 through 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff– listening to the cassettes in my car. IT IS DELIGHTFUL. At only two cassettes I had assumed it was abridged. I had already decided I would search for the full version. Sadly, it is the unabridged recording. 🙁 I could have listened to a dozen more cassettes.

  12. Deborah Lewis says:

    In the past 4 weeks I read Three Junes by Julia Glass and This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell (an Ann recommendation!). Both great reads and felt like a mini vacation to Scotland and Ireland.

  13. Amy says:

    I’m re-reading Cold Mountain after hearing Charles Frazier speak on his book tour for Varina. It’s been twenty years since I last read Cold Mountain and it’s capturing my mind and heart all over again! Also finished I was Anastasia, Tangerine (audio with two great narrators), Victoria, Let me Lie, Bonfire, The Wedding Date, I’ll Be your Blue Sky, and my first PG Wodehouse, A Damsel in Distress.

    • Melanie says:

      I LOVE Cold Mountain! When I mention that it’s one of my favorite books people often reference the violence, but that’s not what sticks with me at all. I love the sparseness of the language and the severe but beautiful role that nature plays in the story.

      I also just finished A Damsel in Distress as my first Wodehouse. What a fun, delightful read!

      • Amy says:

        I agree about the weather in Cold Mountain! It’s been raining hard all day here and I keep picturing Inman trying to get home in the atrocious conditions.

  14. Amy says:

    I just finished ‘Educated’ on Saturday. I really struggled with it and plan to write about it this week. Perhaps listening on Audible wasn’t the best choice; I’m not sure. I also finished ‘The Road.’ Wow. McCarthy lives up to his reputation.

  15. S says:

    I just finished Bus 57 – a true story expanding on an article the author reported on. The book starts with the fateful encounter between an African American teen and a white suburban teen and then in an interesting series of chapters that jump around, you learn so much more about both along with their families. What I assumed was a racial issue was really not…which honestly challenged my comfort zone. I can’t stop thinking and wondering about the future paths of these two and their families. Definitely glad I picked this one up at the library.

  16. Melanie says:

    I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump because I’ve been trying to get myself to read books I “should” be reading but have been avoiding in favor of Netflix.


    I just picked up – and shortly thereafter finished – A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda, which was recommended by one of the guests on the WSIRN podcast, and I LOVED it! Such a gem of a book that I never would have discovered were it not for the podcast.

  17. Kortney S. says:

    I absolutely love reading, and haven´t yet read any of these books. I am going to put these on my reading list and see if I like them. They sound pretty great!

  18. Shea says:

    I just picked up Tangerine when I saw it on your Kindle deals email (very dangerous…) and I also have Educated on my TBR. The Italian Teacher sounds like one I’d like, although I’d need to be in the right mood for it.

  19. Margaret says:

    I’ve been reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau for several weeks (that’s one of the books your recent podcast guest didn’t finish). I don’t know that I’d call Thoreau pompous, but he does put forth his opinions as the gospel truth. I seldom read recently-published books, but since I discovered your blog (via the Goodreads PopSugar Challenge Group), I’ve been tempted to try a few.

  20. Aimee says:

    Just got my hands on an advance copy of Clay & Sally Clarkson’s new book, The Lifegiving Parent. Hearing from older, wiser parents whose children have made it safely to adulthood is always an encouragement to me, but these two are especially inspiring. Can’t recommend this one highly enough – and I’m usually VERY skeptical about parenting books!

  21. Catherine says:

    I really enjoyed The Coincidence Makers but you’re the first person I’ve heard talk about it. I thought it was charming but with depth.
    My best read recently was Only Child by Rhiannon Navin. The aftermath of an elementary school shooting told from the perspective of a 6-yr-old who survives, but whose brother doesn’t. It evoked so many emotions and would be a great book for book clubs- so much to discuss.

  22. Abby says:

    I recently read How To Stop Time by Matt Haig – I thought it was fantastic! I also just finished is earlier novel The Humans, which was also very good.

  23. Krista Long says:

    I’m lucky, I just finished two I highly recommend. The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah, just as good as The Nightingale and Winter Garden. I also fell in love with Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances by Ruth Emmie Lang.

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