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 is always an atypical time of year for my reading life. There are two weeks during the year when I read more than at any other time in my life: our summer week at the beach and the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
I often use this winter reading time to vet tons of potential Summer Reading Guide titles, but this year I wanted my winter break reading to not feel like work. I decided to read books I had no need to read—and for me that looked like my favored urban planning books and lots of backlist. You’ll see both reflected in today’s round-up.
I hope you’ve enjoyed some good books lately as well. Please tell us all about your recent reads in comments.
What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable
My husband Will surprised me with a new urban planning book for Christmas, and I enjoyed reading this over our holiday break. The author, a Minnesotan who's been an urban planner for several decades, argues that our cities are on the verge of a long, slow decline, and that any solution needs to begin with a bottom-up approach. Marohn pushes for change beginning at the most local level—not by implementing billion-dollar regional plans, but instead carrying out whatever the "next smallest thing" is that can improve our community. I really enjoyed this, although I've gotta admit it was disheartening (as well as unsurprising, and validating) to see my city as a negative example for the recently completed Ohio River Bridges Project. More info →
When my husband, Will, was on the podcast, he named this as his favorite book possibly ever—and so I made it a winter break priority. I LOVED it and read it in two days. The story centers around two velodrome cyclists who are best friends and arch-rivals, training under the same coach for their last remaining shot at the London Olympics, while respectively navigating personal crises and the life-threatening sickness of a child (note that content warning, please). I was riveted as Cleave set out the complicated history between the two women and kept raising the stakes in the present. The story is told from multiple points of view to great effect; the coach's point of view made the book for me. More info →
This debut mystery was highly recommended by MMD team member Chelsey of the He Read She Read podcast and I'm so grateful she put it on my radar. These Canadian procedurals center the investigative team of detective Esa Khattak and his assistant Rachel Getty, who are often called upon to investigate crimes in the Muslim community of Toronto, navigating cultural and political divides to do so. I beg you, do NOT read the spoiler-laden reviews of this book, or even the jacket copy! I'll just say that the pair is called in to investigate the seemingly accidental death of a wealthy local man, and it slowly becomes apparent that this crime's roots go deeper than the detectives could have dreamed. The series is now five books strong; I've read two so far and am looking forward to catching up. (If I say this is another good series to read when you've run out of Louise Penny novels, will you add it to your TBR immediately?) More info →
This book was enthusiastically recommended by WSIRN alum Rissie Lundberg based on my love of urban planning. Author Robin Nagle embedded with NYC's Department of Sanitation to see what it really took to dispose of 11,000 tons of garbage a day. While a little overly detailed in places, I found this fascinating and surprising; I'll confess to constantly reading stats and insights aloud to any family members in the vicinity. I was surprised at how much this book overlapped with another old favorite nonfiction work, A Clearing in the Distance by Witold Rybczynski, because they both address the structure and practical concerns of New York City. More info →
Lucy Parker is one of my favorite authors for fast and fun romance; she's the author that inspired summer's 10 Romance Novels That Are Perfect for Summer Reading post. in her newest novel, out January 20, two rival tv presenters who hate each other's guts suddenly become colleagues who must not only work side by side, but act like they like it. This novel isn't super-explicit but is considerably more open door than the early books in this series. (It's not essential that this series be read in order, but if you want, go back and read the first, Act Like It, it just might be my favorite.) 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.