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

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

This month I’ve been reading a nice list of old and new, and included the kind of coffee table book I don’t usually mention in Quick Lit, because I suspect I’m not the only one who’s interested.

If you want to load up your TBR, check out these 24 much-anticipated new titles to add to your fall To Be Read list.

Quick Lit August 2018
Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

I originally read this a few years ago, at the strong urging of my local booksellers and a few friends with good taste, and it was fun to revisit. Back then, I was expecting a Very Serious Literary Book, and instead it *almost* read like YA. The narrator is Blue van Meer, a bookish teenager who has been moving from town to town with her father ever since her mother died, accompanying him to each of his short-term professorial stints at tiny liberal arts colleges across the country. Her senior year, Blue falls in with an enigmatic teacher and a hand-picked group of students she's gathered around her. Blue doesn't know it, but this isn't a coincidence. This is our book flight pick for September in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. More info →
So You Want to Talk About Race

So You Want to Talk About Race

I'd heard such good things about this book, and it deserves every glowing review I've seen. Drawing on her personal experience and years of work and research, Oluo thoughtfully engages complex issues like micro-agressions, cultural appropriation, police brutality, affirmative action, the model minority myth, the n word, and more. She dismantles myths, exposes often-unseen narratives that govern our actions, and gives advice to those who want to do better. I listened to this on audio; Bahni Turpin's narration is perfection. More info →
The Overstory

The Overstory

When authors discuss what they're reading, Richard Powers' name is frequently mentioned (like in this Tayari Jones interview). This is the kind of book they write about in Outside Magazine (and I've gotten some great book recs from Outside). In the early chapters, Powers explores the lives of nine different people in a series of stories, which share one common thread: they all involve dramatic experiences with trees. It's a slow build, but eventually the stories come together. (With 512 pages, Powers has lots of room to play.) This intricately crafted novel, which ultimately explores the connection between humans and nature, and the responsibility of one to the author, requires a patient reader. Reading Challenge participants: this is a 2018 Man Booker Prize nominee. More info →
Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants

Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants

I've become a crazy plant lady, and this book was pure fun for me. This large coffee table book profiles five Europeans homeowners, sharing abundant lush photographs of how they style and live with plants. 18 bloggers also contributed to the book, sharing their own plant-filled spaces. And the book contains care tips and styling advice for common houseplants like monstera, succulents, palms, sanservieria, and pilea. I used plenty of book darts to mark the ideas I want to try in my own home. More info →
The Dinner List

The Dinner List

A friend recommended this months ago, and after Book of the Month dropped it in my lap, I read it in two days. You know the game: name five people, living or dead, whose company you would most enjoy for your dream dinner party. The book opens on Sabrina's 30th birthday, with her dream come true: she's dining with her best friend, her favorite college professor, the father she never knew, the love of her life, and Audrey Hepburn. The story alternates between the often-tense dinner party and flashbacks to the past, which reveal the origin—and perhaps fate—of Sabrina's great romance. Without Audrey Hepburn, the bittersweet story would dissolve into sappy, but with her wry presence, it works. For publishing nerds: this is an Amy Einhorn book. More info →

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


Leave A Comment
  1. Shannan says:

    LOL. Blast you, Anne (I mean that in the kindest way possible)! I cannot get on your site without adding extensively to my already exhaustive (I will never read them all) TBR list. But, seriously, thank you. You are a blessing.

    • Victoria Gessford says:

      I concur on all of that. I would also add the absolute frustration from waiting until the book ACTUALLY. COMES. OUT! Argh! I want Dinner List, like yesterday! 🙂 But agreed, you are a blessing. Thank you!!

  2. S says:

    Thanks to a rainy start of our vacation in a remote area I finished most of the books I brought with me but luckily found an indie bookstore to pick up my next read (Home Fire) along with books 5&6 in the Harry Potter series for my daughter. My husband is heading back up for the weekend so I can have him bring me a tbr from Home if I am desperate!! Recent reads: All We Ever Wanted (meh for me), Stay With Me (interesting but didn’t live it as much as you did?), Hourglass (loved but melancholy), and Us Against Them (absolutely beautiful book). Rain has stopped so my reading MIGHT slow down but doubtful!

  3. Jennifer says:

    I just finished The Hearts Invisible Furies, which I loved. Now I’m reading A Little Life..not exactly beach reads! I did just pick up The Overstory from the library and I am looking forward to starting it.

  4. Megan says:

    Rather than focusing on new books, I’ve been reading a number of classics I was never assigned in high school including East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, The Giver, and Fahrenheit 451. Human speech limits my ability to express how much I loved East of Eden. I have RAVED about it to whoever would listen (and maybe even a few people who weren’t listening!) I’ve also enjoyed The Last Mrs. Parrish, The Unseen World, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Born a Crime, and Calypso. I listened to the audio of Born a Crime and Calypso and laughed like a deranged person the entire time. Totally worth snagging the Audible version. So many good books so little time.

  5. I recently read Then She Was Gone. What has really stayed with me were these lines from Lisa Jewell’s acknowledgements:

    And now I’d like to say thank you again to Selina Walker and Viola Hayden for being brave and clear-minded, for sitting together with my bizarre pile of paper and talking and thinking and talking and thinking and seeing exactly what needed to be done and then telling me exactly how to do it. People might think that writers are possessive of their work, think that no one but them can possibly know how it should be. But a sensible writer knows that’s not true. Sometimes the writer is the least able to see the solution and sometimes the editors are the geniuses. And this was definitely the case with this book.

  6. Julia says:

    It’s very hard for me to give up and not finish a book but I might just have to do it with “Book of Essie”, I had such high expectations but the story is so predictable I just don’t feel like picking it back up.

  7. Katee says:

    I feel like I’ve been on a reading frenzy lately because I’ve had a lot of shorter limit library loans come in. Some of the titles I’ve read lately include The 17th Suspect, Then She Was Gone, The Incendiaries (currently finishing up), I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and Killers of the Flower Moon. As soon as I finish The Incendiaries I hope to start the 2nd book in the Crazy Rich Asians series.

  8. The Dinner List was my BOTM pick; I’m so intrigued by the concept! I just finished Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I loved it; I cannot believe I haven’t read it before. I’m excited to see the movie with Julianne Moore coming out soon.

  9. April says:

    I finally finished A Gentleman in Moscow. It took a few months, but I really loved it! Also completed Victoria by Daisy Goodwin on audio. The narrator was fantastic and really brought the characters alive. Plus I have a special place in my heart for Queen Victoria. It was so good! I have started reading Delicious! By Ruth Reichl at the beach this past weekend. I’m really enjoying it. It’s a great beach read thus far.

  10. Liz says:

    I just finished ‘Other People’s Houses’ by Abbi Waxman which I liked a lot – though the plot was pretty thin, the voice of the characters was hilarious and relatable. I just started ‘Matchmaking for Beginners’ by Maddie Dawson and am enjoying it though not loving it yet.

  11. Birgitta Qvarnström Frykner says:

    Well, i really enjoy ed the widows of Malabar Hill, The House (Armstrong house serie 1) Vittoria Cottage, the Matchmakee of Perigord, and now i read a very good translation of Sense and Sensibility in Swedish, love it

  12. Andrea says:

    I have a quite a few books going right now, but I feel I need to share one because it’s so good. I’m reading a short story collection – It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art. A number of authors and artists contributed to this, and the stories are so wonderful. I’m only half-way through at this point, but I trust the second half will live up to the first…

  13. Jamalyn Ackley says:

    Two books I recently finished (based on your podcast recommedations) An American Marriage
    Almost Sisters
    Best I’ve read in quite some time, I highly recommend.

  14. Eleanor Speakman says:

    I just finished Bear Town by Fredrik Back an and loved it! It centers on hockey, but it is such a good read that it didn’t matter that I have no interest in sports.

  15. Pam says:

    Since the middle of July, I’ve read:
    -Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (Meh; poetry is not my thing)
    -The 17th Suspect by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro (i’m Making An Effort to read more bestsellers; I haven’t read much by Patterson in years; enough said)
    -By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank (This author was new to me)
    -Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Anderson (graphic novel; meh)
    -The Dry by Jane Harper (really good; looking forward to reading the next book soon)
    -I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (okay; I have family connections to Russia until just after the Revolution, so I’ve read lots about the Romanoffs; no shockers here for me; the alternating narrative viewpoints, and reverse chronological for one of those, added some interest, however)
    -Tom Clancy Line of Sight by Mike Maden (see above re bestsellers; part of the Jack Ryan Jr. series; looking forward to watching the new series on Amazon Prime in a couple of weeks)
    -The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien (my modern classic for the month of August; I’ve never read TLOTR trilogy, so decided it was time to get started)
    -Unnatural Selection, and Little Tiny Teeth by Aaron Elkins (instalments #13 & #14 in the Gideon Oliver mystery series; the mystery series I chose to read/finish this year; I selected it for its physical anthropology details and varied settings; I have decidedly mixed feelings about the series, however).

  16. Birgitta Qvarnström Frykner says:

    Well I started with your book (last year’s) in the fall but was stuck in the question regarding introvert/extrovert, it made me think about myself and what I then thought was the meeting with the words. I saw them as my former outgoing always in the middle of the crowd enthusiastic always saying yes to everything. That was the former me. Then almost 20 years ago I was “burned” out, a chronic situation that transformed my life to one homebound, avoiding situations with a lot of people, I have to rationize my strength to the few occasions I had to perform (no longer working) I saw me than transformed to an introvert.
    This summer I made myself starting to read your book again and have now understood the real meaning of the words. I do marvel at all the different ways we have to learn about each other. The ways to love for example.
    I had also now read the book The Translator and together with your book it made so much more meaning to me.
    I read 1-2 chapters of your book daily and are almost through. Of course I have done Myers/Briggs at work, but it was so shallow that the real understanding went away.
    Thanks to making me a better both reader and fellow human being.

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