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 finally tackled some books I’ve been meaning to read for years, and crossing them off my list was a great feeling (especially because I enjoyed them all, or at least the ones I finished).

I also read a few books that are coming out later this fall that I’m very excited to share with you when we get closer to their publication dates—including some nonfiction, which I know many of you will be excited about.

Quick Lit August 2017
Three Wishes

Three Wishes

We went to Colorado last week, and I only brought two physical books with me. Our schedule was pretty packed, so I thought 700 pages would be PLENTY. I was wrong. I usually travel with my kindle for backup—in case of just such an emergency—and this Liane Moriarty title was ready and waiting for me, thank goodness. This story about three triplets was light and breezy and a little bit slapstick, a perfect airplane read. Plus after spending a week at a family reunion it was fun to read about other people's dysfunctional families. More info →
I Know This Much Is True

I Know This Much Is True

I finally finished my first Wally Lamb novel—and at nearly 900 pages, I feel like I earned it. This is the story of two brothers born into a big, messy, complicated family. One is trying to keep his own life together as he attempts to watch over his schizophrenic twin. It's an emotional and challenging read, on many levels, but I thought it was so well done, and Lamb wrote one of the best endings I've read in a long time. (I hear I should read She's Come Undone next. Thoughts?) More info →
The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind

I read this as my book in translation for the 2017 Reading Challenge. This is a lifetime favorite of several readers I know with great taste, and I'm so glad I can finally see what the fuss is all about. This atmospheric novel is built around a literary mystery: who is Julián Carax, and why is someone systematically burning his books? I'll confess I had a hard time getting into it, but after I got oriented I couldn't turn the pages fast enough: I loved the post-war Barcelona setting, the rich cast of characters, and the surprising twists and turns the story took. More info →
Empire Falls

Empire Falls

Despite this being a 2002 Pulitzer Prize winner, I didn't consider reading this for myself until it was held up as an example in this writing book. I finally picked it up after a conversation with a What Should I Read Next guest pushed me over the edge. This story about a blue-collar town whose best days are behind it wasn't at all what I expected—especially the ending. I would love to talk this one over with a good book club. More info →
What to Say Next

What to Say Next

This is the only brand-new title on today's list. I adored Buxbaum's last novel, Tell Me Three Things, and when I found out she just released a new book I hopped on down to the bookstore and started reading it that afternoon. The plot line is similar: in the wake of personal tragedy, a teen can't go back to the way things were before ... which opens the door to new and surprising possibilities. I loved her characters here and didn't want to put this one down. 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. Lori says:

    I have been reading so many newer books lately that I am ready to get back into some backlisters as well! My husband has been gently reminding me about all those used titles I’ve been buying that are just gathering dust at the moment. Maybe next month’s Quick Lit will include quite a few of those?!

  2. Diana says:

    I really enjoyed What to Say Next as well! I’ve been on a good YA reading streak this year with so many great recommendations! (Also good: When Dimple Met Rishi, Shuffle Repeat, Windfall, the Lara Jean series…I’ve really enjoyed a bunch!)

  3. Glad you liked I Know This Much is True – it’s great, isn’t it? I love Lamb’s characters and the emotion he puts into his books. She’s Come Undone is excellent as well, and so is The Hour I First Believed (that one’s even tougher than I Know This Much is True, though – it’s partly about Columbine). I started his novel We are Water but couldn’t get into it at all.

  4. Alex says:

    I read and enjoyed We Are Water by Lamb. The middle was a bit slow, uut the audio helped me through that funk and it was definitely worth it in the end. It was kind of like The Nest, but more literary. If that makes sense. Less… melodramatic might be the word I want.

  5. Mikaela Skantz says:

    I really liked I know this much is true and I’m glad you did too!

    I’m rather new to your blog and podcast but I have to say I enjoy all your book recommendations!

    I wonder if you have read A gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles? I finished it last night and I LOVED it. I know you’ve recommended his first book Rules of civility on your podcast and I’m just curious if you read both of them 🙂

  6. Beth says:

    I just read Before the Fall by Noah Hawley and it was one of my favorites of the summer. It’s a mystery but also a character study, as the details of a tragedy unfold one backstory at at time. Definitely recommend that one. I’ve checked out Tell Me Three Things already this morning (yay library ebooks!) and am looking forward to getting into the other books on this list.

  7. Gram says:

    I finished Manderlay Forever a biography of Daphne duMaurier by Tatainia de Rosnay . If you have read Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek, Jamica Inn or even The House on the Strand this is the book to read next. She was a unique person in an independent family.

  8. I’m so glad you read The Shadow of the Wind! I almost chose it as a favorite when we talked on your podcast.

    I listened to Three Wishes earlier this year — as well as a handful of other LMs. Breezy is a good word for her style. Compulsive, too. She tackles difficult subjects, but the tone makes it all go down easy.

    Empire Falls has been sitting on my shelf for maybe 15 years. Really need to get to it!

  9. Lauren P. says:

    I’m working my way through the Anne books again 🙂 I think it’s been about 20 years since I read them last, and I’m very much enjoying them as an adult. Currently on Anne’s House of Dreams. And I’m about halfway through Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I’m loving it! I love Eleanor and her quirks and I want to find out her full backstory. Rooting for her to find happiness! AND I’m finally almost done with A Gentleman in Moscow. So good! I can’t wait to finish it and read Rules of Civility next.

  10. Stephanie says:

    Always enjoy Quick Lit and hope you are progressing on the book writing, but am REALLY missing the podcast! Can’t wait to listen next week. 🙂

  11. Amelia says:

    Things I’ve read this summer:
    -Blood of the Lamb (De Vries) – Recommended by my husband, who typically hates fiction. Humorous, but not incredibly cheery. I found the ending unsatisfying and abrupt, but also realistic, considering the subject.
    -Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff (Moore) – Don’t read this if you’re offended by anything about Jesus that isn’t Biblically literal. However, if you can enjoy it as fiction and appreciate the humor and the writer’s skill, this one is hilarious. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the author handled the conclusion.
    -The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Gaiman) – Classic Gaiman whimsy, but toned down a bit (and shorter length) for young adult readers. I read this in an afternoon. It was wonderful.
    -The Poisonwood Bible (Kingsolver) – How do I love this book? Let me count the ways…Five beautifully distinct narrative voices, a compelling (and sometimes horrifying) series of events, a hard look at the ethics of missionary work and international intervention (interference?) in non-western cultures; exploration of faith, tragedy, pride, love, loss, innocence, ignorance… This book is long, but every page is worth it.
    -Her Fearful Symmetry (Niffenegger) – This one was kind of bizarre, and probably the least favorite of this summer’s list (although still enjoyable). A tale of two generations of twin sisters, secrets, manipulation, family dysfunction, ghosts, regrets, and some British culture…I saw the ending coming from the halfway point of the book, but I kept hoping I’d be wrong, so I still had a reaction to it. It’s not my type of novel and doesn’t hold up well in comparison to the other books in this list, but some people may enjoy it.

    Book in progress: In the Shadow of the Banyan (Ratner) – This one is beautifully written, showing a child’s perspective of the Communist revolution in Cambodia.

    • Jennifer N. says:

      I read The Poisonwood Bible a few years ago and had the unique experience of not loving it while I was reading it but man that book has really stuck with me, so I tell me people now that I loved it. I had the same impressions of Her Fearful Symmetry and The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

  12. Sarah says:

    I remember reading I Know This Much Is True a few years ago and it being really intense. I also am forever haunted by The Shadow of The Wind, I feel like after I read it the first time I kept seeing copies of the book pop up in random places…

  13. jeanne says:

    I’ve only been reading whatever you post as a Kindle daily deal, as long as it’s valid in South Africa too. No questions asked. On your list, cheap, I read it. It’s worked amazingly well for me actually, so thank you! Latest one was Lexicon, which I really enjoyed, the kind where you wish the kids wouldn’t get hungry, so that you can keep reading!

  14. Cheryl says:

    Have read several of these–LOVE Richard Russo, so thanks for the reminder about him. I’m currently rediscovering Louise Penny & her outstanding Inspector Gamache series , takes place in Canada, which is fun!

  15. Shauna says:

    I Know This Much is True is one of my favorites of all time. I liked She’s Come Undone, but I liked The Hour I First Believed better. Fun fact about the latter book: a handful of characters from I Know This Much is True show up!

  16. Jennifer N. says:

    I’m kind of surprised you hadn’t read Shadow of the Wind, yet. I read it a few months ago and I, too, loved the post-war setting in Spain

    All I have to say about my reading life lately is Thank God for audiobooks or I would hardly be in the reading game at all. I keep picking books up and putting them back down. In the past month I’ve only finished three books in book format; Final Girls by Riley Sager was probably my favorite (I ripped through that one in a weekend. I’ve completed FIVE! Audiobooks, two of which I fully recommend: American Fire by Monica Hesse – this one is a pretty new True Crime story and SUPER interesting, and The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, which I would classify as a speculative YA read, but it has the nostalgic feel of an adult narrator telling the story of her childhood – REALLY good.

    • Jennifer N. says:

      Oh, and right now I’m reading All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, which was nominated for the Hugo award this year. I probably will finish this one, as it is right up my science fiction/fantasy loving alley. I’m listening to The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer.

  17. Dana says:

    I read:

    Serafina and the Black Cloak By Robert Beatty ( research on Middle grade fiction as I am writing a book in that genre).
    I met him at She Reads in Raleigh 2 years ago and have had the book in my TBR pile that long. I thought it was a bit too dark and violent for that age. Did not care for it.

    The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis. Debut novel. Literary fiction about a man recounting the life of his father who was a writer. It is set in the area of NC that I recently moved to. Has been compared to Thomas Wolfe’s work. Great story. Beautiful prose.

    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This is the book chosen to the the official “read” for the local literary festival in September. Reminded me of Beloved by Toni Morrison. Not an easy book to read, but important and worthwhile.

    The Woman in Cabin 10. I needed a break from heavy reading and this was just the ticket. Read way past my bedtime to finish it.

    The Orphan’s Tale.by Pam Jentoff. Had seen this on so many lists. Another tough read, but again really well done.

    In the middle of Moonglow by Michael Chabon. I am enjoying this a great deal. It is a semi-true memoir of Chabon’s grandfather recalling his life as he is dying. It has been on my TBR pile since Christmas. My favorite work of his is Summerland, which is a fantasy about baseball.

  18. Kate says:

    I actually had to stop reading/listening to The Shadow of the Wind (my initial pick for the translation category of the reading challenge, too). I was about 6 hours into it (out of 16) and I just really disliked the characterization of the female characters and the main character. It was making me not want to listen to more, so I stopped. I picked up The Bat by Jo Nesbo instead, so I’m looking forward to reading that!

  19. Emilie says:

    Lately I’ve loved All the Kremlin’s Men by Mikhail Zygar, Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif, and Lingo by Gaston Dorren. I also FINALLY picked up All the Light We Cannot See and didn’t put it down until it was done (seriously, 48 hours right in the middle of summer semester exams-probably should have been studying more during those two days). Evidently, my reading isn’t really confined to one genre (a political science book, a memoir, a linguistics book, and literary fiction all in one post? It can be done). My TBR list is never-ending and just gained a couple of books after reading this post.

  20. Allison says:

    So glad you have Empire Falls and I Know This Much Is True on here – both of these books are in my All Time Top 25 (I used to have a top 10, but there you go.) You would probably enjoy the HBO adaptation of Empire Falls – outstanding cast and the material is handled really well. If you didn’t love Paul Newman and Ed Harris before, well, you will after this.
    On Wally Lamb. I love this book so much. I vividly recall staying up WAY TOO LATE to finish it (I think it was a 3am finish), and I was weeping. I’ve read She’s Come Undone, but I’d recommend you try The Hour I First Believed, now that you’ve tackled I Know…
    Shadow of the Wind was a “best book” one year for my book club. Its so fun to see these titles on your list!

  21. Meg says:

    I read She’s Come Undone back when it was Oprah book club of the month many years ago. Read it you I think you will like it.

    My summer recommendation is A man called Ove by Fredrick Backman, my first novel by him. It’s funny, and sad, and makes you smile and cry and makes you remember that somewhere out here there are still many good people in this world. I loved this book so much I could reread it even though I finished it on Saturday. It’s an easy read but well worth the few hours it takes and when it’s over you wish there was more.

  22. I started The Shadow of the Wind last year for a book club (that I ultimately didn’t join) and I keep thinking about going back to it. Recently I’ve read The Lost Book of the Grail (love Charlie Lovett’s books – this took me longer to get into but I liked it), The Identicals (a fun summer read), The Hate U Give (so important to read right now!), Fitness Junkie (so fun!) and lots of “women’s literature” that I read when I want a cozy feeling but don’t want to have to think too much 🙂 Happy because NetGalley just approved me for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book, which I am eager to dive into.

  23. Bill says:

    I’ve been reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin and so far it is at least 4 stars. So glad I finally got to this classic. In the last year I’ve also read Huckleberry Finn, Melville in Love, Team of Rivals, and Moby Dick. I don’t know why I’ve suddenly become so interested in the mid 1800’s; it hasn’t been by design, just following my reading whims and interests.

  24. Jamie says:

    I tried The Shadow of the Wind as my Reading Challenge book for the same category. Everything about it seemed to point to a winner – bookish literature, post WW2, a hint of a mystery. Just like you, I had a hard time getting into it and I finally quit around 100 pages. I think part of the problem was that since it was written originally in Spanish and Spanish is my second language, I kept trying to ‘untranslate’ the book as I went along, wondering how the author phrased it versus the translator’s interpretation (nerd alert – I know!). Not sure if I’m up for tackling it in the original Spanish as reading the language is infinitely harder than speaking or listening for me.

  25. I don’t reread a lot of books, but this post includes two that I loved and now feel that nudge to reread. (If only there were more TIME!) The Shadow of the Wind is such an excellent book. I got a copy as a gift after I had to (reluctantly) return the library copy, and it’s been sitting on my shelf begging for a reread for a while. And I Know This Much is True… so good. It’s been years since I’ve read it and need to read it again as well. Yes, you should read She’s Come Undone too!

    • Gay B says:

      I was going to point out those two books as well. Both are on my favorites list. I may have to go back a read both of them again!

  26. Julia says:

    I’ve just finished Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly – such a brilliant read. I was hooked from the very beginning, and even more so when I realised it was partly based on real people.

    This month I’ve also read Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (it was ok) and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (really loved this one, but still reeling from the ending!)

  27. Libby Segerdahl says:

    Have you read anything by Thomas Christopher Greene? I’ve enjoyed The Headmaster’s Wife and If I Forget You, both wonderful! I had my hands on I’ll Never Be Log Gone at the library today, but had to resist it, as I have too many book on my nightstand right now!

  28. Libby says:

    She’s Come Undone was the first Wally Lamb book I’ve ever read. As a girl who was very fat growing up, and as an adult, I was awestruck at the way he knew how I’d felt growing up. That book is LONG but I finished it over a long weekend. I’ve read everything by him ever since.

  29. Leigh Kramer says:

    So glad you enjoyed I Know This Much Is True! It’s been so long since I read it that I can’t remember the ending but now you’re making me want to reread it. Definitely read She’s Come Undone next!

  30. Donna says:

    Great list, Anne! Empire Falls has been on my reading list for years. You’ve given me the push I need to finally pick it up.?
    My summer reading has been pretty much non-existent (compared to previous summers) thanks to work and school.
    But I’ve managed to read a few books.
    Here are the ones I’ve read and loved so far this summer:

    Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

    I finished this YA novel a few days ago and can’t stop thinking about it! It’s the engaging and devastating, yet empowering and hopeful story about Hermione, the captain of a high school cheerleading team who is raped at summer training camp. Johnston focuses on how Hermione deals with the aftermath and fights to regain control of her life with the support of family, friends and therapy. I love that Johnston never portrays her as a victim. Beautifully written, thought provoking, and necessary.

    Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

    This one was highly recommended by the CEO of Indigo Books (the big bookstore here). A mother and son spend an afternoon at the zoo. As closing time approaches, they hurry to the zoo’s exit. But the mother witnesses something shocking as they near the gates and what she sees has her running for her life and doing everything she can to protect her son. I raced through this in a few days. It’s beautifully written and well executed.

    Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

    I am a huge fan of Gudenkauf and I thoroughly enjoyed her latest thriller. The story is told from the perspective of a former nurse who lost her hearing in an accident. Gudenkauf kept me guessing throughout (as she always does). Also, I learned from the Author’s Note that Gudenkauf herself is hearing impaired. Highly recommended.

    Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

    I’ve been dying for the release of this one and I’m happy to report it doesn’t disappoint. Laugh-out-loud funny and relatable. I finished it last night.

    Around the Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson

    I shared my thoughts on this memoir on Instagram. I flew through it in 24 hours one Sunday. I could not put it down! It made me laugh, cry, and think. It’s so beautifully written, wise, unapologetic, 100% authentic, and so very inspiring. Henson shares her childhood growing up with a single mom, her experience as a single mother herself, her path to Hollywood, etc. Definitely one of my favourite books of all time!

    Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

    I read this YA novel after you talked about it in one of your posts. I devoured it in 24 hours. It was so beautifully written and as a sighted person, it opened my eyes to world of the unsighted. I see things so differently now.

  31. Kailey Vick says:

    Three Wishes is one of my least favorite books…I couldn’t even make it half way when I started it a few years ago! :\ I even tried audiobook and I just couldn’t. I LOVE Moriarty but I had to pass on that one.

    And way to go on Wally Lamb!! His books seem daunting but they don’t read like long books to me!

  32. Molly says:

    I listened to Shadow of the Wind on audiobook this summer driving home from Illinois. This version was narrated by Jonathan Davis. I enjoyed the novel, but I really fell into this audiobook. This has been one of the best audiobooks I have listened to in a long time.

  33. Karen Allen says:

    I just finished _Al Franken: Giant of the Senate_ and it was up there at the top of my list for the year! I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. I had heard him on an interview that was to be about the book (but veered off into current politics) and had seen clips of his questions for cabinet appointments – both of which showed great insight into the situations – and peaked my interest in his book. I found myself copying entire paragraphs and sending them to my husband. Reading pages aloud to him. And now I want my own copy so I can go back and underline and make notes in the margins!
    I also found out that he’s not just a great satirist (which means he can spot the lies which are the building blocks of satire), but he graduated from Harvard and he’s smart!
    One warning: He is a Democratic senator, so his politics are progressive. However, his commitment is to the state that elected him over party.

  34. Tracy says:

    For the first time, I’ve read most of these titles! I Know This Much Is True is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I devoured it even though it’s crazy long. I think it took me 5 years to finish Shadow of the Wind. I don’t know why. I liked it–just couldn’t get through it.

  35. Diana says:

    The shadow of the Wind made me fan of Ruiz Zafón, it’s actually a trilogy followed by The Angel’s game and The prisoner of heaven. All of them very good.

  36. I’m reading a few books right now. A larger book I’m reading is The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber, a reread is Merrick by Anne Rice,a new favorite author is Donna Tartt (The Little Friend),and a book blog pick The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. There are a bunch of there and you can check those out on my Instagram:concreterosereads

  37. Terrill R. says:

    New follower, here! Although I’m intrigued by the blog as a whole, I am an avid reader and love to see fellow reader interests and recommendations.

    I have yet to read a Richard Russo book.  Nobody’s Fool with Paul Newman is one of my ALL-TIME favorite movies and I’ve since added a couple of Richard Russo’s books onto my bookshelf waiting to be read.  I vaguely remember the Empire Falls mini-series, but that’s a good thing since I don’t enjoy reading books if I’ve seen the movie/TV adaptations and vice versa.  I’ll put Empire Falls on the top of my tbr.  Not meaning to contradict myself, but I will eventually read Nobody’s Fool, as well.  If my love for the movie is any indication, I should find the book amazing.

    Like you, I adored Tell Me Three Things.  YA lit. makes up about 30% of what I read and TMTT was one of my top 10 from last year.  In fact, many of my YA choices tend to be better reads than a lot of the adult fare I tackle.  The only reason I haven’t read What To Say Next is time and an overflowing tbr.  Soon, though!

    Two of my favorite reads over the past month are (surprise!) YA books – The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord and Words In Deep Blue by Australian author Cath Crowley.  Emery Lord’s book tackles cancer, faith and friendships while Cath Crowley tackles death, grieving and renewed relationships (and a bookstore!)  Although both are classified as YA romances, The Names They Gave Us leans heavier on family and friendships.  Words in Deep Blue has more romance, but also humor and a love for classic literature.  Both deal with heavy issues, but are never bleak.

  38. Janean says:

    I have to admit, Anne, that as much as I know it’s somewhat of an irrelevant measure, part of me still wants to know, but how many stars would you give it? I just can’t help myself! I suppose it’s because for many of us, you’re that person whose taste we trust and we want to know where this book falls in your brain of ‘good books.’ Is it good like a good cup of coffee or good like your first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season? Good like you enjoyed it and it is written well or your buying it and it will have a home in your stacks forever. Because I’m always looking for the latter. Good books are great, but life is short and I want to read the ones hat take your breath away, change your life and stay with you. So maybe my motto is life is too short to even read just the good books? I want the best! ? That makes me sound like the bad book people ? Can you figure out a way to help a girl out without making yourself do stars because I know you’re not doing that. Of course, my faves may not be the same, but hey, you’re pretty reliable. That’s why we keep coming back!

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