Welcome to Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately on the 15th of the month.
This past month I’ve seen the worst reading slump I’ve had in ages: for several weeks, my poor brain just could not get into any of the novels I picked up! There have been times when I would try to push through, but instead I pivoted to nonfiction—a mix you’ll see reflected in today’s round-up.
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 can’t wait to hear about your recent reads in comments.
What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable
I so enjoyed revisiting this incredible classic this month, which we featured as one of our 25 must-read classics for women. Beryl Markham was an amazing woman, and one of the first people to successfully cross the Atlantic by plane. Yet she's not nearly as well known as others who share her arial accomplishments. In her autobiography, she preserves the moments that meant the most to her—from her childhood, spent in Africa with her British colonial family, to her adult years, when she became the first professional pilot in Africa and successfully crossed the Atlantic, alone. Absolutely riveting, on the first read or the sixth. More info →
I've had this on my shelf for years but only recently dug into it, as lately I've been sitting down with hefty cookbooks and reading them like novels. This is especially easy to do here, because the first half of the book consists entirely of enjoyable stories and explanations about the cooking process, as Samin examines how each of the key elements—salt, fat, acid, and heat—affect a dish. I especially enjoyed the way she drew from her experience at Chez Panisse, sharing stories of kitchen disasters that happened because one of these elements had gone horribly awry. Once you understand the essentials, Samin leads you into the recipes held in the book's second half. This book made me want to get cooking, and the gorgeous illustrations and flavor wheels make it particularly fun. More info →
This is a book I picked up at my local indie on publication day—I just couldn't wait! It shot to the top of my wishlist when Grettel mentioned it on WSIRN Episode 251 ("I love books and books love me back"). My fascination with urban planning is well documented. I love learning the stories behind sidewalk placement, street signs, or park-building. This well-researched guide to city design reads like an extra-nerdy encyclopedia and includes illustrations, stories, and explanations of the things we usually overlook, like crosswalk signals, building exits, and left turns. More info →
Susanna Clarke's hotly anticipated second novel is a fantasy novel that plays with fantasy tropes, a mystery but not just a mystery, an altogether weird and extremely compelling book set in a strange house with labyrinthine passageways and just fifteen inhabitants, only two of which are alive. It's decidedly weird and took me a solid 20% to get oriented, but once I did I couldn't stop reading. Our narrator is Piranesi—though he suspects that's not really his name—and while I don't recommend googling the plot before you begin reading, I do recommend those reading with a literary lens google the Italian artist who shares his moniker. Confession: despite having Clarke's debut, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, on my bookshelf for 5+ years I STILL haven't read it. Now would be an excellent time to talk me into it. More info →
Rick Bragg has become pure comfort listening for me: I especially love to listen to his stories while I'm cooking. This new collection compiles magazine essays from his decades writing for Garden and Gun and Southern Living. Some are piercingly poignant, like his tales of Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, a talented photographer, and his Aunt Jo (everyone needs an Aunt Jo). Others are laugh-out-loud funny, like his one about Tupperware, or what precisely is wrong with country music these days. While his books would make beautiful editions to any coffee table, I think I will always listen to Rick Bragg. 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.