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

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

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 read more than usual this past month, thanks in large part to a recent beach trip. (That above bookshop photo was taken at Seaside, Florida’s Sundog Books, and you can catch me reading on the beach here.) While there I divided my time between forthcoming releases (Fall Book Preview, here I come!), new spring and summer selections, and a backlist title or two.

Today’s collection of recent reads is nicely varied: an interesting memoir, a classic espionage thriller, a vicarious vacation to Maine, a gut punch of an essay collection, a quirky Japanese novel in translation, a heartfelt coming of age story, and a snappy love story I couldn’t put down.

I capture all the books I read in the My Reading Life book journal (which I absolutely took on vacation with me!) which makes it easy to compile a variety of recent reads for my monthly roundup.

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

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

The People We Keep

The People We Keep

Author:
Julia Whelan put this heartfelt coming of age story on my TBR with her effusive description of this new-to-paperback bestseller in Episode 340 of What Should I Read Next ("The Secret life of an audiobook narrator"). (Although I read it in print. Sorry, Julia!) When we meet April Sawicki she is only sixteen, living in a trailer her father won in a poker game, though he's left her to fend for herself. When her circumstances become unbearable she steals a car and hits the road, determined to create a life that's all her own and find people that feel like family. Her efforts yield mixed results. I found it impossible not to cheer for April as she fought her way through, though I struggled with watching her repeatedly sabotage herself, as she embodied the adage that hurt people hurt people. I'm glad I stuck with her because so loved the way Larkin pulled the pieces together for the ending. More info →
No Land to Light On

No Land to Light On

Author:
This contemporary novel follows one fictional couple, refugees from Syria, who meet and fall in love at school in Boston, and who then get separated under the worst possible circumstances. This is about their struggle to be reunited, which is all but impossible due to the implementation of the very real executive order issues on January 27, 2017. The story unfolds in alternating narratives from each partner's perspective, as well as texts, newspaper clippings, voice mails, and office memos. It's an emotional journey that unfolds over a short span of time yet manages to feel sweeping. I enjoyed this on audio, as narrated by Fajer Al-Kaisi, Ali Andre Ali, and Suehyla El-Attar. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Libro.fm
Buy from Bookshop
Funny You Should Ask

Funny You Should Ask

Author:
This was the perfect smart and sexy beach read for a recent vacation. The story unfolds in two timelines: back then, Chani Horowitz wanted to be a serious writer but she's stuck writing puff pieces for popular outlets, something her more literary colleagues (and novelist boyfriend) sneer at. But then, she lands a gig interviewing A-list movie star Gabe Parker, her biggest celebrity crush and the next James Bond. Fast forward ten years: The Profile (as it came to be known) launches her career, but Chani still feels conflicted about it, wondering if she would even have a career without Gabe. So when his publicist asks her to revisit Gabe for a second interview, she wants to say no ... but she's also desperate for him to answer the questions that still linger for her ten years later, the ones she never wrote about or disclosed to anyone. I flew through this: strong writing, interesting format, great narrative drive, tons of fun. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Bookshop
Vacationland

Vacationland

I've been on a roll with the Maine reads! When comments on this recent post featuring 12 recommended reads for those traveling to Maine (or who want to) mentioned that this new Meg Mitchell Moore release was set in the tiny (and real) town of Owls Head, I dropped it into my beach bag. This serviceable family novel unfolds over the course of one summer and focuses on three generations of the McLean family. Every generation has its troubles at the moment—the progressing Alzheimer's of the family patriarch, the midlife crisis and struggling marriage of the adult daughter, the adolescent woes of the kids—but the Maine house has always been a respite. The family's precariously maintained balance is tipped when a surprise visitor shows up to the island—a love child of the family's respected patriarch, whose existence has been kept secret for twenty-three years. All is well by summer's end in this easy-reading tale of family secrets, forgiveness, privilege, reconciliation, and happiness. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
Our Man in Havana

Our Man in Havana

Author:
I finally read this 1958 satirical espionage thriller so I could discuss it with Craig and Andrew on this episode of the Overdue podcast. I was stunned at some of the things I learned along the way, like Greene was dear friends with notorious double agent Kim Philby. In this Cold War tale, James Wormold is a bumbling vacuum cleaner salesman with a daughter who spends money faster than he can make it. So when a British Intelligence officer offers him a job as a British spy with an attractive paycheck, he feels he can't say no. But he doesn't know the first thing about espionage, so he simply pretends to be useful—and that's when things get strange. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Bookshop
Diary of a Void

Diary of a Void

Author:
This Japanese debut (translated by David Boyd and Lucy North) was just published in the U.S. last week; I describe it in more detail in What Should I Read Next Episode 336 ("Find your audiobook formula"). The premise hooked me immediately: when 34-year-old Ms. Shibata begins working at the cardboard tube manufacturer, she initially finds it a welcome change from her old job, where sexual harassment was a constant threat. But she quickly realizes her new position has problems of its own: as the only woman in her department, her colleagues expect her to serve the tea, do the dishes, and sundry other menial tasks unrelated to her actual work. Then one day, fed up with waiting on the men, she impulsively tells them she can't clear the tea: she's pregnant and the smell makes her nauseous. The thing is, she's not pregnant—but because her work life instantly gets a whole lot better, she determines to find a way to keep the ruse going for the whole nine months. A satisfying blend of clever, playful, and subversive. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
This Is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch: The Joy of Loving Something—Anything—Like Your Life Depends On It

This Is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch: The Joy of Loving Something—Anything—Like Your Life Depends On It

Author:
This was a quirky and surprisingly contemplative delight, which combines memoir, feminist treatise, and pop culture examination to great effect. If is about female creativity, then Cumberbatch is about female joy, play, and leisure. As the title promises, the actor isn't the subject of this book (though I learned a lot about him along the way) but a springboard to discuss the necessity of embracing the things that give us pleasure, weird as they may be. I read this slowly over the course of weeks, a chapter every few nights, and found that worked well. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
Stories from the Tenants Downstairs

Stories from the Tenants Downstairs

Author:
The frequent comparisons to Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place convinced me to give this debut collection of eight interconnected short stories a try. Banneker Terrace stand at the corner of 129th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, and it houses "a little bit of everybody." Rents are rising steeply, and gentrification is on everyone's minds. One by one, we hear from eight tenants, all of whom are Black, each dealing with their own struggle. My favorite story is "Ms. Dallas" (3C), voiced by a paraeducator increasingly exasperated with her job in a failing school, followed closely by "Federation for the Like-Minded" (2E), voiced by elderly Mr. Murray who just wants to play sidewalk chess in piece but the neighborhood police have other ideas, and he's not especially appreciative of the crusade launched by the building's busybodies to "assist" him. Readers should know content warnings abound: some stories are absolutely brutal, all are laden with compassion. I'm so glad I listened on audio: the full cast narration featuring Bahni Turpin, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Dominic Hoffman and more was outstanding and brought Fofana's Black English Vernacular narrative to vivid life. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Libro.fm
Buy from Bookshop

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. 

53 comments

Leave A Comment
  1. Scarlet says:

    Thanks for the book reviews to help me pick up some new quick reads. I like the sound of the one by Larkin. I can never resist a good title and that one grabbed me.

  2. Peggy Kressin says:

    I am currently reading The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford. I cannot put it down!! I loved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet but this book is entirely different. It has 7 characters, each followed in separate chapters. There are really two main characters. It’s so fascinating to see how they are all intertwined with a mind blowing premise on how trauma is genetic. A must read!!

  3. Sandy says:

    I have three books going:
    The Vietnam War: an intimate history, by Ken Burns and Geoffrey Ward, as a CD audiobook in the car;
    The Fourteenth of September, by Rita Dragonette, an audiobook on Hoopla;
    and, The Diamond Eye, by Kate Quinn, in hardcover.

  4. Jennifer Geisler says:

    I’m working my way through the Summer Guide. Loved Cartographers and Portrait of a Thief! Forcing myself to finish The Plot, but not enjoying it.
    I am so appreciative of Kate Clayburn’s excellent plots and depth of characters that she has spoiled me for any other romance author I’ve tried. Any suggestions for authors up to Clayburn’s level??

    • Tracey says:

      I’ve added your first three and maybe Diary of a Void to my TBR. Thanks! The two standout books I read this month were: 1) Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. Something about the combo of humour and heartbreak here worked for me more than Brosh’s previous book did, or maybe it was just the right timing for me. 2) Brilliant Imperfections by Eli Clare, a very thoughtful reflection on mind-bodies focused on disability but also gender identity, fatness, and much more. It’s one I am likely to revisit because it is so full of insight!
      This Time Tomorrow, Song for A New Day, Memphis, Looking for Jane, Malibu Rising, Harry Sylvester Bird, and Darius the Great Is Not Okay were all good one I read this month too. They were all four star reads, not five like the two above.

      • Tracey says:

        Oops! I didn’t intend to post the above as a comment on yours, Jennifer. But I do have a couple of suggestions:
        One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London and The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang (the latter is the third in a loose-series but you don’t need to read the other two first). Also, these aren’t romance exactly but they are love stories and brilliantly written: I am a BIG fan of Suanne Laqueur’s Venery Series. The first book is A Charm of Finches.

  5. Janna says:

    I’m struggling with finding something good to read–maybe one of these books will fill that void. Last night I started listening to the first book in the Maisie Dobbs series recommended by you–so far, so good.

  6. Maria says:

    Loved This Time Tomorrow and The Lincoln Highway, each in their own way. Take My Hand and Who is Maud Dixon? were only okay for me. Currently reading The Last House Guest and Patron Saint of Second Chances is top of my TBR

  7. Amapola says:

    Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen in audio. I couldn’t put it down.
    The Foundling by Ann Leary in audio. Leary is a great story teller and that’s what kept me tuning in to this story.
    City of Thieves by David Benioff, started solid, but the last part was not as compelling.
    A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church (W) by Wilda Gaffney, a great way to start the day.

  8. What a great list, Anne! My best book from last month was probably Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. I casually picked it up and read the first page and was like…um, I’m finishing this!

    I also loved Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund (a book about the heart of Jesus for sinners and sufferers). I also breezed through a Regency romance by Mimi Matthews.

    Here’s where I keep full reviews: https://bookdevotions.com/book-reviews-july-2022/

    • Debra Hale-Shelton says:

      I just finished Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living and loved it. I now want to reread Rebecca, which I read long ago. Among other books Schwalbe wrote about was John Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud. I read this book as a young teenager and still remember what a heartbreaking but wonderful read it was. Schwalbe’s previous memoir The End of Your Life Book Club is also a great read.

      Dare I admit it? I shall: I am trying yet again to read and enjoy Pride and Prejudice. I intend to finish it this time, but I cannot truthfully say I’m enjoying it. The near-constant dialogue is among the elements that make this classic a difficult read for me. I am fewer than 70 pages into the book and hope it picks up. I’m fascinated — make that perplexed — that so many readers adore this novel. Maybe I will later. Maybe.

  9. Glad you have a great trip to Florida.

    I haven’t done a lot of reading this month because I’m swamped at work and I have none of the books you mentioned on my TBR. Off to put a couple of them on it.

    In time for Austen in August in the MMD Book club, I did an interview with the creator of The Austen Connection podcast. If you are a Janeite, you might find it interesting.
    https://sonovelicious.substack.com/p/one-extraordinary-bookish-podcast

  10. Funny You Should Ask was just so fun. Delightful summer read!
    Vacationland is the one I thought of when I first saw your Maine post too! We went there earlier this summer (Acadia & Bar Harbor, not Owls Head) so I’ve been on a big Maine kick. It was good and I love the cover! It’s in my July recap below!

    I’m still not reading as much as I’d like but have been, mostly, reading more books I’ve really enjoyed! That’s something. July reading recap

  11. I read Lisa Jewell’s A Family Upstairs earlier this month and just finished her sequel, A Family Remains over the weekend. Now I’m thinking I need to prioritize her backlist titles!

  12. Listening to audiobook edition of interesting book “You Talkin’ to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue” by Linda Seger and John Rainey, which is like a crash course on writing fiction. This book can also help non-writers increase their appreciation and understanding of a work, giving insights on the many choices made in its creation. Fun to apply when watching PARIENTES A LA FUERZA, which I hope to do again from the beginning! (www.lapl.org has 74 copies of e-book edition available–fitting for city of aspiring screen-writers)

  13. Pam Spicer says:

    I just finished My Brilliant Life, by South Korean author Ae-ran Kim. It was beautiful and I highly recommend it!

    I started Our Man in Havana a few years ago but never finished it. I did listen to the Overdue podcast episode, though. I’ll probably finish the book some day.

  14. Hannah says:

    In the last month I’ve finished up a biography on John Tyler (10th US president), The Lord of the Rings (for the first time ever!), and the Lunar Chronicles which I never would have picked up on my own but could not put down (thanks to my book club!).

    Diary of a Void sounds very interesting—I’ll be keeping an eye out for that one!

  15. Eva Toews says:

    Anne, I always love this round up of what you’ve been reading! I mark a lot to come back to later.

    On another note, when are you going to do another series of ‘One Great Book’? That is One Great Podcast! Bring it back😊

  16. Elisabeth says:

    I just finished Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan on audio — absolutely fantastic narrator, and now I’m itching to reread Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as well as The Mysterious Island. In print I read On the Beach by Nevil Shute, a post-nuclear war novel initially published in 1957; this was heavy reading but absolutely incredible. Both were 5 star reads.

    I’m also working my way through Marvel Mystery Comics, among other Golden Age (1930s-50s) and Silver Age (1960s-ish) comics via Marvel Unlimited, which has been super fun and makes me appreciate digital platforms even more than I ever have.

    Also in my reading life this year I am slowly but surely working my way through the complete and unabridged Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, on my Kindle for short spans once I climb in bed. I hit the halfway mark last week!

  17. Georgia says:

    I just finished a lit fic read set in Maine that was a solid four stars for me – Lungfish by Meghan Gilliss. Comes out next month. It’s set in the summer, but the setting, a damp cottage on an island, makes it still feel chilly. This one deals with addiction, motherhood, and foraging. I think the stream of conscious voice won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I thought it worked well with the subject matter.

  18. Debbie says:

    I recently finished Trust and it was just okay for me, I’m not sure what all the hype was about with this one.
    I’m currently reading Mercury Pictures Presents and am really enjoying this one!

  19. Nanci says:

    I am binge reading Gail Tsukiyama abut China and/or Japan. She has a Chinese mother and a Japanese father. Most take place during WWII.

  20. Lucy Nichols says:

    Want to read “Funny You should Ask”, I really enjoyed “The People We Keep”. I just took my granddaughter on a road trip. I’ve always nagged her to read “Daddy Longlegs” by Jean Webster. I was so excited to find it in audible read by Julia Whelan. What a treat! We really enjoyed it.

  21. Sophia says:

    . Tale of Troy 3 stars
    . The Da Vinci Code 5 stars
    . The Midnight Library 4 stars

    Hi! These are 3 book that I read the month and enjoyed. I am 13 and I love you blog and podcast!

  22. Tamara says:

    A lot of 3 and 3.5 stars this month. This is possibly due to finding books that meet my reading challenges. Two 4 star reads: Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah, a genre mash up of magical realism and an explosive twist.
    The Inn at Ocean’s Edge by Colleen Coble, a Christian mystery suspense. Both novels had a different premise that realistic or logical readers might not be able to get past, but the themes of found family on both were nice.

  23. Kathryn says:

    I’ve been blazing through audiobooks this past month.
    Finished (in print):
    Patron Saint of Second Chances
    Book Lovers
    Lessons in Chemistry
    The Mother-in-Law

    Finished (audiobook):
    A Place for Us
    Two Nights in Lisbon
    The Widows Of Malabar Hill
    Portrait of a Thief
    The Change
    The Fire Next Time
    You Learn by Living
    Murder on the Orient Express

    Working on:
    Garlic and Sapphires
    Laundry Love
    The House in the Cerulean Sea
    The Secret Lives of Colour

  24. Mary H says:

    I never would have picked up Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow if not for the SRG but what a book. One of the best I’ve read in a long while.

  25. Kim K. says:

    I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately, but started Jaime Ford’s The Many Daughters of Afong Moy, which seems like a promising book to get me out of the slump. My book club chose Persuasion, so I’m looking forward to rereading that one.

  26. Angie says:

    I read “West With Giraffes” on Kindle and gave it 5 stars. I bought it in paperback to add to my Little Free Library to share. Loved the characters, loved the journey, loved the giraffes! Road trip books are always revealing; you won’t regret taking the journey.

  27. July was a fun reading month! I had time to read and each book was so different from the others. I caught up on my Scandinavian Reading Challenge which I had fallen behind on, and a reading challenge happening at work gave me the incentive I needed to read some middle grade and YA that had been on my TBR list for a while. I’m also sharing my current and potential reads for August’s Women in Translation Month.
    http://www.avikinginla.com/2022/08/what-ive-been-reading-lately-july-2022-scandireadingchallenge-update/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.