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

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.

Series: 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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →

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!

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