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 had a great reading month. My family spent the beginning of August at the beach, a trip for which my family packs a milk crate full of good reading material and I typically read a book a day. (It’s glorious.) This year I only read four books on our trip, but I’m okay with that. Two of them were REALLY LONG (including the new Amor Towles, which I can’t wait to tell you about when the time is right), plus I spent much of my regular afternoon reading time riding bikes with my kids instead. I love to read, but that was a trade-off I was happy to make.
This is just a sampling of the books I’ve read since our last round of Quick Lit. If you’re interested in hearing more about my recent reads, I highly recommend tuning into my podcast What Should I Read Next. In a show about books, I can’t help but discuss my current reading. (I also share what I’m currently reading in our weekly podcast newsletter: if you aren’t already signed up, click here to get on the list.)
I can’t wait to hear about your recent reads in comments.
Short and sweet reviews of what I’ve been reading lately
I thought I'd read everything by Taylor Jenkins Reid ... until our team member Shannan gushed about how much she loved this very short (just 86 pages) 2019 release, and told me she thought I'd love it, too. (She advised me to opt for the audiobook narrated by some of my favorites: Julia Whelan, George Newbern, James Daniels, and Dara Rosenberg.) In this epistolary novel, two strangers strike up a correspondence about the tie that binds them together: their respective spouses, who are having an affair—with each other. In every letter, a little more is revealed, until each couple is forced to decide what they ultimately want for their future. This little book worked for me. (Props to TJR for sliding in an effortless Daisy Jones reference.) More info →
This is another short epistolary novel—but while it might be slender, it's anything but lightweight. In it, two German friends exchange a series of letters discussing Hitler's increasing power and changing sentiments in Germany. One friend is a Jewish art dealer living in San Francisco; the other is his business partner, who returns with his family to Munich. The tone of their letters quickly changes as each grapples with current events in their native Germany. Reading this story now, it's breathtaking to know it was first published in 1938. I'm grateful for the recent reissue that put this old book on my radar. More info →
I've been meaning to read Ivan Doig for many years, as he's often compared to personal favorite novelists like Wallace Stegner and Wendell Berry. I wasn't sure where to begin with his work, but then I remembered that Jim Mustich said he thought I'd enjoy this book, a memoir and his debut, in episode 165 of What Should I Read Next. Doig wanted to tell the story of his father's extraordinary life, and his simple and stirring prose is well-suited to the task. This may be a story of one man's life, but he reads like a meditation on family, forgiveness, and survival. (I do wish I'd known that his father's slow death from emphysema occupies the last forty pages; I'm glad I read to the end, but it was tough to get there.) More info →
I recently gushed about this to the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club, choosing it as my best book of summer (so far) for our Best Books of the Summer 2021 event. I was reluctant to dive in (because it's 1000 pages), but I'm so glad I did. This family saga spans one hundred years, beginning in Tbilisi, Georgia in the years just before the 1917 revolution, and carrying almost to the present day, unfolding the story of each new generation. I was reluctant to dive in, but then I couldn't read fast enough to satisfy my need to discover what would happen next: I couldn't wait to find out where the story would carry each character. The book also has a touch of magic, thanks to the family's closely-guarded chocolate recipe that has strong effects on those who consume it. This book is a commitment but I'm so glad I read it. If you're considering picking it up, please know broad content warnings apply: if you're a sensitive reader, please do your due diligence before diving in. More info →
I picked up this romance novel—the first in a new series from Winston Brothers author Penny Reid—to give me some breathing room between a long run of heavier literary novels and memoirs. It was definitely a fun one, but the prominent themes of identity, family, and belonging weren't exactly lighthearted. The action unfolds in Green Valley, Tennessee—a world that will be familiar to Reid's readers—and this time deputy Sheriff Jackson James takes center stage as he seeks to find real love like his parents have and strives to repair his reputation after the playboy days of his youth that he's come to regret. I really liked the female protagonist Rae, an actor friend of Sienna's who's decided she needs to find just one thing in her life that isn't fake. A word about the title: it's cute, but after reading I still have no idea what it means for the story. Just know that past readers of Reid's romance will find much to enjoy here. (Heads up for a few open door scenes.) More info →
Mary Lawson is a new favorite author of mine; I found her work through my husband Will, who just happened to pick up her award-winning debut Crow Lake at our favorite local used book sale. He loved it, and passed it to me. Now I'm making my way through everything she's written—and was thus delighted to discover that not only does she have a new book out, but it was longlisted for the Booker Prize! This short novel examines disappointed hopes and disappointing families, and ponders how through love, forgiveness, and friendship we might patch together a meaningful life and grasp a glimmer of redemption. Highly recommended for fans of Ordinary Grace. More info →
As a rule, I'm hesitant to pick up cancer books—but so many trusted friends with great taste recommended this I tentatively give it a try. I'm glad I did, though I'll confess to heavily skimming in places. The author was diagnosed with leukemia just after graduating from college; this book details her road to diagnosis and inexpressibly awful treatment, and her shockingly (to her) difficult struggle to resume some kind of normal existence in the kingdom of the well. I found this book relatable in ways I didn't expect, and deeply appreciate how Jaouad put words to some experiences I've been struggling to articulate for decades. More info →
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.