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 on the 15th of the month.

I’ve been reading up a storm around here! I’m in the thick of Summer Reading Guide preparations, which means I’ve been reading a ton of new-for-2022 releases, but you know I like to bring in some backlist for balance—even if it’s just a little bit.

I was on the road last week visiting colleges—and bookstores—and my conversations with booksellers influenced what I chose to read, as you’ll see below. (I also left signed copies and bookplates in my wake: order those from Main Street Books in Davidson, Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, and Bookmarks NC in Winston-Salem. That’s the Bookmarks new release table pictured above.)

I’ve been logging books at a steady clip in my reading journal. In fact, this month I filled up my old journal and switched over to a new one! I talked a little bit about how I made the switch in this short video.

This isn’t everything I’ve been reading lately: I recently shared a collection of six audiobooks I’ve thoroughly enjoyed lately; don’t miss that post!

I can’t wait to hear about your recent reads in comments. 

Short and sweet reviews of what I’ve been reading lately

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet

I asked Patreon supporters which audiobook I should listen to next for a recent bonus episode and this won in a landslide. I went into this not knowing much about John Green’s personal history, and was surprised to learn that he’d nearly become an Episcopal priest and that he held an early and formative job at Booklist magazine. Each topic he reviews here—Canada geese, sunsets, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest—is a jumping off point to reflect upon something else, something deeper. Green’s lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression is thoroughly and tenderly documented; it was these moments of deep personal reflections that I enjoyed the most. I’m glad I read it in the audiobook format; Green is an excellent reader of his own work, and the audiobook contains several essays that don’t appear in the print edition. I’ve often said the sign of a great book, to me, is that, long after I turn the final page, I keep thinking about it. More info →
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Perfect Black

Perfect Black

I've been a fan of Kentucky poet Crystal Wilkinson since reading her excellent novel The Birds of Opulence several years ago and was eagerly anticipating this new collection, which combines poetry and prose to great effect. Wilkinson seamlessly covers so much ground here—joy and heartbreak, love and trauma, heritage and family, Prince songs and plenty of food. Favorites include the poems Dance and Heritage, and the prose piece Praise Song for the Kitchen Ghosts. Don't miss the striking illustrations by her long-time partner, Ronald W. Davis, which punctuate the text. More info →
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The No-Show

The No-Show

You may know O'Leary from works like The Flatshare and The Switch; I've been looking forward to her latest, just out April 12. This is a tricky one to discuss without sharing massive spoilers, which also means it would make an excellent book club read! The premise is this: three women are stood up by the same guy on Valentine's Day—one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. As the story unfolds, the reader gets to know each woman, plus the no-show, and slowly begins to figure out what might have happened on that terrible day. This felt like a romantic comedy in the beginning, but gradually gave way to a deeper and surprisingly touching story of love, forgiveness, and second chances. More info →
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The Swimmers

The Swimmers

This new 2022 release made me an instant Julie Otsuka fan: I laughed, I cried, I'm now eager to go back and read everything she's ever written. The story begins with the collective narrative of the devoted regular swimmers at a community pool. But one day a crack appears in the bottom of the pool and it's soon closed to the swimmers. The swimmers, no longer able to gather for their laps, are forced to individually deal with the grave disruption to their routine‚ and no one is affected more than elderly Alice, whose story now takes over the narrative. The surprising pivot from snappy social commentary to a devastating portrait of encroaching dementia is effective and moving. Otsuka is a master of the tiny details throughout, be they witty or heartbreaking. More info →
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The Sign for Home

The Sign for Home

When Adah at Main Street Books in Davidson told me this book forever changed the way she sees the world, I couldn't start reading fast enough. This is the story of Arlo, a 23-year-old DeafBlind man whose world opens up when he meets his new interpreter Cyril as he begins courses at the local community college. Arlo's devout Jehovah's Witness guardians disapprove of Cyril because he's agnostic, gay, and inexperienced with DeafBlind clients, but Arlo takes to him immediately; he's never had such a fierce advocate in his corner. Thanks to Cyril, Arlo soon learns that the love of his life, who he never expected to see again, may not be out of reach after all. Fell has been an ASL interpreter for the Deaf for nearly twenty years; his fascinating and enlightening descriptions of the methods and ethics of interpretation absolutely made the story for me. More info →
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I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet: Discovering New Ways of Living When the Old Ways Stop Working

I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet: Discovering New Ways of Living When the Old Ways Stop Working

This collection of short essays and vignettes was my "right book at the right time" read this month. My copy is thoroughly dog-eared and highlighted, and I texted a dozen real-life friends one particular passage from the book. (I talk more about this in this week's new episode of the What Should I Read Next podcast, called "Fiction is my first love.") The book centers on Shauna's midlife experience of having to reconsider many things she thought she knew for sure, and find new ways to live, work, and be in the world when our long-held beliefs and methods fail us. (How interesting to read this on the heels of Adam Grant's Think Again.) Along the way she discusses love and friendship, trauma and loss, parenting and being parented, reading (so much reading!), and moving to Manhattan. I loved it. More info →
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What the Fireflies Knew

What the Fireflies Knew

I'm so glad I read this on the recommendation of a bookseller who's joining me on What Should I Read Next (episode coming soon!). It's from Phoebe Robinson's new Tiny Reparations imprint—I'll be keeping an eye on their future titles. This coming of age story unfolds over the course of a single summer, as narrated by 10-year-old Kenyatta, whose family is in upheaval. After her addict father dies and the family loses their Detroit home, her mother sends her and her sister to live with their grandfather in Lansing, where she begins to discover the world is not what she once believed it to be. I found this to be a moving exploration of family, identity, and race. Harris beautifully voiced her young book-loving protagonist; the many references to Anne of Green Gables were apt and touching. A note for sensitive readers: several content warnings apply that are not evident from the publisher's description; please do your research before diving in. More info →
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What have YOU been reading lately? Tell us about your recent reads—or share the link to a blog or instagram post about them—in comments. 

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Leave A Comment
  1. I loved the Anthropocene Reviewed and agree it was great on audio. And I am so excited to read Shauna’s newest, I enjoyed hearing her on your podcast this week.

    This month I’m reviewing a couple of endearing middle grade books, a few delightful essay collections, one sequel I adored and one that disappointed, plus a parenting book I’m now pushing into the hands of all of my mom friends.


  2. Well, looks like I’ve just added a few more books to my list and bumped up others. I’ve never read any of O’Leary’s books but I’ve been interested. I think I should make that a summer project!

    I’m working through my own to-read shelf by listening to them on audio and reading the physical copy and I moved 3 more off of my shelves in the last month, plus some great books for review.

    • Tracey says:

      I also added The Swimmers after listening to this week’s WSIRN. I want to read What the Fireflies Knew too! And I’ve already started the John Green.
      I had a great reading month! My 4.5 or 5 star reads were:
      Joan is Okay by Weike Wang (maybe my favourite this year so far)
      The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alammedine
      March graphic novel trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell
      Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
      Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
      All highly recommended!

  3. Sandy says:

    I have recently read:
    The Gates of Europe, by Serhii Plokhy, a history of Ukraine (a Hoopla audiobook;)
    Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the fall of the Soviet Empire, by Bret Baier:
    Brown-Eyed Girl, by Lisa Kleypas;
    American Jesuits and the World, by John T. McGreevy
    And I have started:
    Euro-Tragedy: a Drama in Nine Acts, by Ashoka Mody
    Termination Shock, by Neal Stephenson (over 700 pages)
    Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, Lois by Tverberg (on Kindle)

  4. Lisa Passarella says:

    My son is finishing his freshman year at Davidson College. I’ll be down there moving him out in a few weeks and will definitely check out Main Street Books. Thanks for the heads up!

  5. Louise says:

    Oh, you’re in for a treat with Julie Otsuka’s other books. She’s one of my favourites. Her books are always short and powerful with her gorgeous simple writing style. I have The Swimmerss on my bedside table and will dive in soon.

  6. Beth Gross says:

    I read two memoirs this month.

    Philip Yancey’s Where the Light Fell and Bonnie Gray’s Sweet Like Jasmine.

    Both of them chronicle sad childhoods, but my heart really broke for Bonnie. Despite her painful growing up years as the Chinese American daughter of a bus boy in a noodle shop and a mail order bride, the memoir was surprisingly hopeful.

    I also read Tears of the Giraffe, the second book in The Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency series. I gave up on that series years ago, but I was glad I came back to it.

    On my blog, I put together a list of Books Like Peace Like a River, which is one of my favorite books that I’ve read in the last decade.

    • I never would have connected those books with Peace Like A River, but I love how you did. So many of my favorites made that list, which makes sense now, since I loved Peace Like A River

  7. Amy Mair says:

    I just finished Groundskeeping by Lee Cole and really enjoyed it. It is a campus novel focused on class and the value of or non value of university education. I am currently reading Last Resort by Andrew Lipstein. It is a cheekier twist on the Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz. A loser and failed writer steals an acquaintance’s story idea and it becomes a smash hit. It is a debut novel and very well written and I think would appeal to all adult members of your family.

  8. Jill says:

    Definitely adding A Sign for Home and The Swimmers to my to-read list. Anthropocene is already on, but I’m adding it to my to-listen list now. My long-not-a-reader daughter recently discovered some authors she enjoys and is now a reader! Yay! She has read The Flatshare so I will let her know about The No-Show.
    I listened to A Summer in Italy on your recommendation. Walking while listening to it was just the lovely respite I needed from all-gloom-and-doom-news-on-high-volume-tv while visiting my parents. So thanks for that!

  9. Mary says:

    I listened to two very different but excellent memoirs. “This Time Next Year We’ll Be Laughing” by Jacqueline Winspear (author of the Maisie Donna series) is her story of growing up in post-war Great Britain. She lovingly tells her story and how the experiences of her parents and grandparents shaped her life. Mary Laura Philpott’s “Bomb Shelter” is not as easily described but I recognized myself and people I love in her thoughts and experiences as a parent, daughter, and human being. Both books were excellently read by their authors and made me laugh and cry. I also just finished “The No-Show”. Fiction like this seems to be a sweet spot for me. Anne described it well.

    • Allyson says:

      When I read Winspear’s memoir, I was struck by how much in the Maisie Dobbs novels were drawn from her parents or grandparents experiences.

  10. Cameron says:

    I’ve just started A Ghost in the Throat based on your recommendation and I’m loving it. It’s beautifully read on audio and so absorbing, and much funnier than I was expecting. Although it’s not a comedy, for potential readers. Also finished Firekeepers Daughter and Louise Erdrich’s newest on audio. Both excellent, both on your recommendation. Thank you!

  11. Janna says:

    Anne! I have FOUR of these titles coming to me via Amazon, and one on my Kindle. They all sounded perfect. It’s my Easter basket to myself. Thank you!
    I recently finished two excellent titles:
    In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden (a perfect Holy Week read for me) and
    Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald. (Good fantasy for those who like a little “scientific” maybe-it-could-happen thrown in.)
    Highly recommend both.

  12. Jana Griner says:

    I love Beth O’Leary! I’m so excited to hear she has a new book! I read The Flatshare last year and The Road Trip a few weeks ago. So far in April I’ve read….
    The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary
    Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
    Nine Lives by Peter Swanson
    One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
    Think Again by Adam Grant
    The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons
    Hide and Don’t Seek by Anica Mrose
    The Turnout by Megan Abbott
    The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

      • Diane says:

        My advice would be to save your money . If you want to read it borrow from the library. This was a very creepy read for me and not in a good way. I don’t enjoy reading about such sick and deranged characters. This is just my opinion

      • Holly says:

        I love ballet and books about ballet and I’ve loved some of Megan Abbott’s other books — but I found the Turnout to be disturbing and very unpleasant to listen for. Maybe my own sensibilities have changed, but while I’ve loved the brutal sensuality of her descriptions of athletics in the past, this book focused on (adult) sexuality in a creepy way.

  13. Deb R says:

    I’ve almost completed the 1000+ page book Hawaii by James Michener. I had always wanted to read this and it was one of my New Year’s resolutions. It follows two families through hundreds of years of Hawaiian history. Enjoyed it much more than I thought I would!

    • Christine G. says:

      Hi Deb.
      I finished “Hawaii” in December. I listened to it on audiobook, and it was really interesting, but there were times when I had to take breaks from it, so it took me about 3 months to finish!

  14. Katherine Hardee says:

    Recent reads I enjoyed:
    Groundskeeping by Lee Cole
    What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris
    The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughs
    My audio hold for The Anthropocene Reviewed is due in any day…can’t wait.
    I’m adding The Swimmers to my summer TBR. Thank you Anne for this great monthly post!

  15. Marie says:

    Comparing Think Again to I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet makes me want to look for it immediately. 24 week waitlist 🤦‍♀️ John Green text reminded me of anything I’ve read by Malcolm Gladwell.

  16. Marie says:

    My April reads so far…
    Where the Crawdads Sing (A)
    Yara’s Spring
    The Younger Wife (A)
    The Wish (A)
    This is Going to Hurt (A)
    You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacy (A)

  17. Caroline says:

    I just finished Emily St John Mandel’s latest Sea of Tranquility. I loved it so much. I might have a major book hangover.

  18. Amapola says:

    Reread: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. I enjoyed listening to the book and reentering this world. So timeless.
    C. J. Box’s Joe Pickett series has been with me for the last few weeks.
    The Man who Died Twice by Richard Osman super hilarious.
    Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger, second book of the O’Connor series that I’ve read and it was good. Actually I went into Desolation Mountain and Out of Season (Box) after finding a list about thrillers with an ecological angle.
    The Maid by Nita Prose
    Human Acts by Han Kang, a powerful book about the tragic student uprising in the 80’s in South Korea. Not the easiest read in light of the human rights violations that are happening in Ukraine right now.

  19. Adrienne says:

    Hello! It’s been a weird month or two… I haven’t read as many books as I would have liked, but I’ve been drowning in work stuff, and when I have had free time, spending it reading just felt…off. But I’m past the high-stress mark at work, and am looking forward to better reading next month. My recent reads are:
    * The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters – Balli Kaur Jaswal. I picked this up because the short description about three sisters, who were never close growing, up embarking on a pilgrimmage to India to honor their late mother’s request was intriguing and reminded me of my relationship with my siblings. This was a wonderful read: funnier and yet also sadder than I expected, and very rewarding. 5 stars
    * Bring Me Back – B. A. Paris – Meh… This started out strong but fizzled in the middle and the twisty reveal at the end was (to me) so implausible that I felt I had been lied to throughout the book. 3 stars, and that’s generous.
    * Wholehearted Faith – Rachel Held Evans. Beautiful book, which Evans was working on when she died unexpectedly, and so the book was finished by Jeff Chu. Few people wrestle as well with theological truths, the mystery of God’s love and grace, and how we as humans respond to God, as does Evans. 5 stars.
    * Such a Quiet Place – Megan Miranda. A twisty mystery, very well done. 4 stars
    * House of Hollow – Krystal Sutherland. This was a book chosen by my book club in a genre I would NEVER choose – YA Gothic Suspense story of three of the strangest sisters I have ever seen in print. This was a weird, creepy book, and if it wasn’t for the book club discussion, I would not have finished it. 3 stars, again being generous.
    * We Begin at the End – Chris Whitaker. The strength of this novel is the characters, which are so well developed, so diverse, and feel so real. This was a hard read, but weeks after finishing it I still think about the story and the main characters, Duchess and Walk. 5+ stars.
    Happy Reading!!

  20. Suzanne C says:

    This month I’ve read:
    ~ Booth, by Karen Joy Fowler (4 stars; this one is staying with me for a long time)
    ~ The Murder of Mr. Wickham, by Claudia Gray (4 stars; releases on May 3, Austen fans will enjoy this one)
    ~ Kyrie, by Ellen Bryant Voigt (4 1/2 stars; read for MMD Book Club, devastating and beautiful)
    ~ What Kind of Woman, by Kate Baer (3 stars; read for MMD Book Club, didn’t connect with this one as much, but really loved a few of the poems)

  21. Michelle Wilson says:

    I believe that The Swimmers will probably be my favorite book of 2022. Its going to have to be extremely amazing to unseat that title. Id forgotten how interesting and yet perhaps unsettling first person/plural is. and then the switch to memory care and dementia. I worked in a skilled nursing facility in college (there was not yet memory facilities…unfortunately we medicated those folx and used soft restraints) and the writing about the facility was amazing. It took me right back to some of the things that I thought all that time ago. (The first day I worked, I let people stay in bed cause they did not want to get up yet…nope, not something you can do!)

    • Aimee says:

      Your comment made me so sad. Grateful that treatment for those who are mentally ill and/or cognitively decline has improved but so sad to think of the thousands (millions?) of people who were simply medicated and restrained for so many year.

  22. Monica Wilson says:

    I just finished reading The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. Towles is my new favorite author. I just love his writing and his characters. This book was so different from A Gentleman in Moscow (it reminded me more of This Tender Land, another favorite), but I loved them both. I hope to see Towles at the LA Times Book Festival next weekend!

  23. This is my first time leaving a comment on Quick Lit even though Anne has been one of my go-tos for book recommendations for years now! Very excited for the summer reading guide!

    This past month, I finally got around to reading some buzzy books:
    • The Midnight Library—WOW, was it good on audio.
    • The Maid by Nita Prose. It was delightful…but I had some conflicting feelings.

    I also read some classics that have been on my radar forever!
    • The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery. So sweeeeeeeet and wholesome. Made me cry.
    • A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich. I was tempted to DNF this one, but it was WORTH it to make it to the end.

    And I devoured some wonderfully encouraging nonfiction.
    • The Next Right Thing by Emily Freeman. I’m chronically indecisive!
    • Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovick. Encouragement and straight-talk.

    And I read some GREAT middle-grade stuff too. Here are my full reviews:

      • Michelle says:

        I don’t “do” romance, at least not modern romance. (It always bombs for me.) But THIS story had my heart in its clutches. In a good way, haha. Now, I’m reading Pat of Siver Bush by Montgomery, and it’s wholesome and sweet as apples.

  24. Jennifer says:

    First, I am new to this group and thank you for all you do! My husband and I are currently reading aloud to each other every night from John Greens book. Fascinating reading and discussions.
    I recently read 100 years of Lenni and Margot which I heard on the podcast and loved it!

    I look forward to every Tuesday and more good stuff from What should I read next!!! Love the podcast ( your voice is so soothing) and the emails social media posts. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  25. Barb B in BC says:

    Thank you for the review of “The Sign for Home”. If I was judging whether or not to read this one by its cover alone, I would not even take it off the shelf. Your description has me adding it to my TBR list and will look for it at my LBS.

  26. Brooke says:

    Sadly, I’ve only managed to finish one book since last month’s post, and it was Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman. I’m in the middle of 3 other books though, so hopefully I’ll have a better list come the next 15th(ish).

    Meanwhile, my son finished two books for school:
    The Samurai’s Tale, by Erik Christian Haugaard
    Turn Homeward, Hannalee, by Patricia Beatty

    Read our tiny reviews at http://www.theshoreystories.com!

    • Brooke, I love how you post books on your blog read by your kids. Their narration is so thorough and impressive. I was trying to comment on a post, but was having trouble. I noticed you read In His Image a few months ago. I loved that one too. Women of the Word totally changed how I read the Bible, so I have been reading anything Jen Wilkins publishes since then.

  27. Kaye says:

    Finished Swimmers last week and can’t get it out of my head. Recommending it to everyone. (Maybe because I’m 77.) Her other books are equally powerful.

  28. Tamara says:

    I read 15 books in March and my 3 favorites all have a magical realism component.
    Sourdough by Robin Sloan, Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, and Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.
    I’m currently reading non-fiction: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary and Zero Fail by Carol Leonnig.

  29. Aimee says:

    Major Pettigrew is among my favorite books. <3 You've inspired me to go for a re-read.

    My favorite book of this month has been The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen. Five stars from me. Such a great story set in WWII Paris. (Not to be confused with the thriller of the same name by Lucy Foley which released this year)

  30. Traci says:

    True Biz by Sara Novic might be a good pairing with The Sign for Home if interested in knowing more about ASL and deaf culture.

  31. Sue Baum says:

    I have read some great memoirs this month…The Boys by Ron and Clint Howard ( how their parents raised two children actors with relatively normal childhoods), Eat a Peach (restauranteur David Chang shares how he managed to run very innovative restaurants), and the BEST book I’ve read in a year…Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri (about immigrating from Iran to Oklahoma as a young child). Beautifully written and hauntingly honest.

  32. Jennifer says:

    Doing a lot of re-reading this month!
    Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
    The Interestings (both are NYC books)
    Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
    Re-reading the Anne of Green Gables books

  33. Betsy says:

    I just finished Groundskeeping by Lee Cole. Being from the same hometown as the author is what got me to pick it up, but I stayed for the simple, lyrical writing. He reminds me of Lily King and trying to maneuver the struggles of being a writer. Very good.

  34. Danielle says:

    I recently listened to both The Anthropocene Reviewed (thanks to the MMD Patreon entry) and The Swimmers on audio. I appreciated John Green’s narration of his book, & felt it really added to the quality of the book. I picked up The Swimmers on my library’s Libby, knowing nothing about it, but being pulled in by the cover. I was surprised by the narrowing of characters through the book, but loved learning more about one character. I give each of these books a solid 4 stars.

  35. Holly says:

    Spoiler warning below for Rosie Walsh, The Love of My Life
    Hi Anne, would you consider doing a blog post about how you suggest doing research around content warnings that are not evident from the publisher’s description? As an example, I had a traumatic pregnancy/postpartum experience and try to avoid stories that milk that for entertainment. It’s incredibly difficult to avoid, though – the very unexpected focus on postpartum psychosis in Rosie Walsh’s The Love of My Life, for example, really took my surprise in what seemed like a straightforward enough thriller. Everyone has their own sensitivities, but I wonder if you have suggestions on how to look for content warnings (especially when trying to avoid spoilers!).

    • Anne Bogel says:

      Holly—this is a great question and I can see how it would make a useful blog post. Thanks for making the suggestion.

      (In the meantime: some goodreads reviewers take great care in listing numerous content warnings for titles they review. If you want to check a book for specific content, I recommend visiting the book’s goodreads page and searching the page for “content” and “trigger” to see what others have shared.)

    • Hi Holly, this is such a great suggestion. If I see a book I am considering to read on a book review blog post from some of the ladies posting in this comment section, then I feel comfortable commenting and asking for trigger warnings about specific things. I like to add content warnings to all of my book reviews, since I am careful about avoiding certain triggers, so I really appreciate it when a blogger can give me a bit of info without spoilers so I can avoid books that would otherwise be hard for me to read.

  36. Kathy says:

    I’m listening to The Anthropocene Reviewed right now! It is so, so good. The only downside is that I can’t tape flag passages in a printed copy, so buying one is now on my to-do list. (My audio version is from the library.)
    I also just finished Michael Schur’s How to Be Perfect. I can’t remember if I read about it here or elsewhere, so if it wasn’t here, this book is a funny (really) and approachable look at moral philosophy. Another way to learn how to think as well as behave. Schur is the creator of The Good Place, which is how he became interested enough in moral philosophy to write a book about it.

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