What I’ve been reading lately: 1 new release plus 4 books I’ve been meaning to read for years

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

This is total coincidence, but this past month I happened to finally finish one book my daughter’s been begging me to read for months and three books I’ve been meaning to read for YEARS. Plus one new release (that I’ve nevertheless been meaning to read since Christmas!)

Quick Lit July 2016
Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen

I love foodie memoirs and have been meaning to read this essay collection for years. When Will and I visited a bookstore devoted exclusively to cookbooks and cooking books in Chicago last week, this was my impulse buy. I started it immediately and loved it so much. Colwin's chatty style is funny and endearing, and the book is so slim—and so enjoyable—I finished it in an afternoon. I'll be reading more of Colwin's work. Highly recommended for fans of Ruth Reichl and Molly Weizenberg. More info →
Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove

This big, fat, Pulitzer-winning novel has been on my radar for years, so I chose it as one of my 2016 Reading Challenge picks to inspire myself to finally cross it off the list. It's not the kind of book I expected to love: the story revolves around a 3000 mile cattle drive from a dusty Texas border town to the unsettled lands of Montana in the 1880s. Yet I enjoyed it so much. I listened to the audio version of this one (all 36 hours of it—although thankfully at 1.5x speed it didn't take *quite* that long). More info →
Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Special Topics in Calamity Physics


The narrator is Blue van Meer, a 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 of high school, her father declares they will spend the whole year in one place, and Blue falls in with an enigmatic teacher and a hand-picked group of students she's gathered around her. The whole book is strongly reminiscent of The Secret History, yet despite this I still didn't see that big left turn coming. Smart, snappy, and interesting.

More info →
Muggie Maggie

Muggie Maggie


My 9-year-old adored this Beverly Cleary title (that I'd never heard of until this year!) and has been begging me to read it for months. It was even one of her 3 favorites when she was a guest on the What Should I Read Next podcast. I finally tracked down a copy and read it in an hour. It's the same Beverly Cleary we know and love, although this one is aimed at a slightly younger audience than the Henry and Ramona books we love so much around here.

More info →
Amy Snow

Amy Snow


I'd heard enthusiastic reviews about this new release, but was intimidated by its length. If you cringe at a page count that's 500+, don't worry: it's a relatively fast read. The title character takes her name from her startling origins: as a tiny infant, she's found in a snowbank by a young heiress, who persuades her parents to take her into the family. Amy Snow is subsequently raised by this wealthy family, an uneasy combination of companion and servant. Years later, when Amy is just seventeen, the heiress dies, but she's left behind letters that send Amy on a treasure hunt of sorts all over England. Lovers of gentle historical fiction (think Susan Meissner, or a toned-down Kate Morton) will enjoy this. Published June 7 2016.

More info →

What have YOU been reading lately?


Leave A Comment
  1. So many books, so little time. Your descriptions of all those books make me want to put them on my to-read list.

    I have recently finished The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom, Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica, Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen, and Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay Andrews. I highly recommend both of Kathleen Grissom’s novels, Don’t You Cry, and Lost Lake.

  2. Jennifer Kepesh says:

    “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” also reminded me of Lolita. Of course, not so outrageous, not so taboo, not so gorgeous, not so funny, but sort of like hearing from Lo instead of from Humbert Humbert.

  3. Sara K says:

    I will be adding Amy Snow to my list for sure. A few of the others look promising too!

    I was VERY fortunate to win a Goodreads giveaway of Heartless by Marissa Meyer which doesn’t come out until November. I devoured it in one day and thought she did a fabulous job of giving the Queen of Hearts a heart-wrenching backstory (no pun intended).

    I also read Lily and the Octopus which was an odd mix of touching and just plain weird 🙂

    I finished Kiera Cass’s Selection series. I think the last two books weren’t as strong as the first three, but it was still a nice light read and I enjoyed it.

    I have gotten the urge to delve into the world of Oz all of a sudden so I started reading book 2 – The Marvelous Land of Oz yesterday. I also requested a copy of the movie Return to Oz from the library. One of my childhood favorites!

  4. Laura Schwartz says:

    Added “Amy Snow”, “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” and “Lonesome Dove” to my TBR list! They all sound very interesting!

    I just finished reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” which as been on my TBR forever, and I might be the only one around here but I wasn’t that impressed by it. It was interesting but I found it too hard to believe in such brainwashing of women in such a short time! Especially when the main character seemed to be the daughter of a very liberal woman.

    Also been reading “The Queen’s Thief” by Megan Turner, which is a fantasy trilogy with very unexpected twists, just finished book 2 and can’t wait to see how it ends in book 3.

    And I JUST got “The Last Boy and Girl in the World” from my overdrive library and will start reading it today, I hope I like it!

  5. Tale says:

    I really want to read Amy Snow now, it sounds amazing! 🙂 It’s going right on my goodreads to-read list 🙂

    I recently finished All the Light you Cannot See, and loved it! I plan on reading more historical fiction this summer ^^

  6. Jennifer N. says:

    Right now I’m in the middle of both Sleeping Giants and Crossing to Safety (both per your recommendations.) I typically only read one book at a time, but since these are vastly different books, in topic and style, it’s been pretty easy to keep them straight.

    I just finished A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4 on audio (just as a refresher as it’s been years since I finished the hard copy) and am continuing to listen through Stephen King’s “11-22-63: A Novel.” The story is very interesting, but it’s a beast of a novel and I haven’t been able to get as fully immersed in the story as I have other tomes by Mr. King, so it’s taking me a couple months to get through it.

    I’m new to your blog and podcast, and I love them both! If left to my own devices I would add nearly every book to my “list,” which is clearly impractical. Your recommendations are helping me narrow things down to “must reads” and introducing me to new titles I missed.

  7. Lisa says:

    I wanted to say Thank You! for all of the time and effort you put into posts like these, not to mention the Summer Reading Guide! Our family is in the midst of moving, and I have very little time to read right now, much less identify the books I want to read! Your posts have been a lifesaver and have inspired much thought and discussion, too!

    PS – I just finished The Nest. I enjoyed it so much!

  8. Ann says:

    Wow, I had forgotten Lonesome Dove. I loved that book. I’d look up from reading at wonder that I didn’t have dust in my mouth and eyes. So vivid.

  9. Heidi M says:

    Thanks for sharing these, Anne. Now I have to add to my TBR list!
    I’ve had lots of spare time this summer and have been binge reading to catch myself up on the 2016 reading challenge. So far, I’ve tackled the following: The Silkworm and Career of Evil from the Cormoran Strike series (excellent), First Comes Love by Emily Giffin (not my favorite of hers), Of Mice and Men (for the reading challenge – brilliant but so heavy), The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (also for the reading challenge – beautiful, heartbreaking, haunting), The Nest (again for the reading challenge – so good!) and just started Anna Karenina, in the previously abandoned category for the book challenge. Here’s to finishing it soon, crossing another one off the list, and moving on to a lighter novel!

  10. Lauren P. says:

    I recently finished “Jane Steele” per your recommendation, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Very fun! Now I’m listening to “The Passage” (I had to bump it up to x2 speed as it’s at 36 hour one, too), and I’ve started “Eligible”. I’m also re-reading Sarah J. Maas’s “Crown of Midnight.”

    Adding “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” and “Amy Snow” to my TBR list. Thanks!

  11. Kathy says:

    I love the sound of Lonesome Doves and Amy Snow. I have been have been really enjoying reading longer length books recently. There’s something even more relaxing about a book that you can really settle into for a while! My most recent foray was Middlemarch by George Eliot.

      • Amy says:

        Oops! I was referring to Middlemarch. Also, “My Life in Middlemarch” (sorry, can’t remember the author…maybe Rebecca Mead?) is a really neat book about the author’s immersion in the world of Middlemarch from a young age — and how the book still speaks to her. Also explores the life of George Eliot. Very worth the read, just lovely!

  12. Am currently reading The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes. I just finished Me Before You and liked her writing style very much, so I’m on a JoJo roll.

    I also have Armadale by Wilkie Collins — big, thick Victorian mystery — waiting in the wings.

    Thanks for reminding me that I meant to read Amy Snow!

  13. Joanna says:

    I recently read The Paper House by Anna Spargo Ryan. It’s a literary fiction tale of a family’s attempt to put their lives back together after a miscarriage and to grapple with past and current experiences of mental illness in the family. It’s not nearly as depressing as it sounds. Certainly it’s sad in spots but it’s also beautiful and hopeful. Anna has an incredible writing style that’s poetic and full of vivid depictions but still very readable and compelling.

  14. I remember really loving Muggie Maggie as a kid. I must have liked to read about kids with learning issues, because Yours Turly, Shirley by Ann M. Martin was also a favorite of mine. (Maybe one Lucy would like?)

  15. Krista says:

    Just finished The Nest (one of your recommendations) and loved it. So appreciate a story that stays interesting and still has heart impact. Also reading Spinster and Urban Monk.

  16. Dana says:

    Recently finished:
    The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett- loved it, wished it had been longer.
    Wellth: How to Build a Life Not a Resume by Jason Wachob- Quick read. This provided a much needed a jump start back into a healthier lifestyle after neglecting that while caring for an ailing parent.
    Last Ride To Graceland- Kim Wright. Love her books! She lives in my town and I met her in Raleigh last year at the SHE Reads event. This is my fave of her so far. Laugh out loud funny in many places with a compelling narrator and a quick read.

    I have gotten interested in comics/ graphic novels lately, but I had to search for ones that were not too violent and superhero oriented:
    Read Farlaine in the Tinklands by Anonymous. It would be appropriate for anyone. A gentle quest about a goblin searching for a home for himself and his pet tree.
    Read Descender# 1 about a boy robot. It was supposed to be tame, but a bit too violent for my taste.

    Now reading:
    Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud Fascinating book about all of the science and art behind comics. It presents some meaty subjects in a comic-book format. I never realized all that went into the art of comics.

    I am a Town by Shari Smith. Short stories/essays about her town, Claremont, NC. I met her last year in Raleigh as well. Reading her book has now led me to Rick Bragg. I just picked up 2 books of his from the library.

    The View from The Cheap Seats- by Neil Gaiman
    Essays covering a number of years and a variety of subjects including writing, books and literature. Liking it a lot. This is the first book I have read by him.

    Lonesome Dove is one of my top ten novels ever. Who would think that a book about cowboys could be so beautifully written?

  17. Jessica Kong says:

    I love your blog…especially the name. I am a huge Pride and Prejudice fan! LOVE LOVE LOVE the books you have been suggesting. I came across your blog through a link about a 2016 Reading challenge, which I just started this month. I am reading Rising Strong: The Rumble. The Reckoning. The Revolution by Brené Brown. It is very eye opening. I’ll definitely be back to read more reviews!

  18. Kate says:

    I love Laurie Colwin! I read Home Cooking and More Home Cooking a few years ago and they’ve become two of my favorite books. Hard to find but well worth it. I’m also glad to hear you enjoyed Lonesome Dove. The miniseries with Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones was also very well done. I didn’t care for the book’s sequel, Streets of Laredo, and put it down after just a few pages.

  19. Leigh Kramer says:

    I am thrilled you enjoyed Special Topics! I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts if you read Night Film, Pessl’s second book. It’s a total departure and a creepy yet lush and enjoyable ride.

  20. Julie says:

    I loved When We Were the Kennedys and Everyone Brave is Forgiven-excellent on audio. Thank you Anne! Gearing up to tackle some long overdue classics from my tbr list. I wrote a blog post about how I plan to do that. Link below. Julie (aka nursebeansews)

  21. Sarah says:

    I just added most of these to my goodreads! I am so excited to hear about another food memoir I love food books! Thank you for your wonderful reviews!

  22. Shea says:

    Ooh I haven’t read any of these but I just added Amy Snow and Special Topics… to my to-read list. Both sound so different, yet so intriguing.

  23. reb says:

    I agree with you on Special Topics… It was actually one of my favorite books when it first came out just because the story was SO unpredictable and a little shocking!

  24. Home Cooking! I love Colwin’s voice so much. And you know I adore Lonesome Dove. I remember liking Muggie Maggie when I was in elementary school. And I’m so curious about Amy Snow!

    I just read Amy Stewart’s new novel, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, and loved it so much. And Everyone Brave is Forgiven, which was heartbreaking and gorgeous.

  25. By says:

    Just added mine! Oh, I loved Special Topics in Calamity physics – did it as an audiobook, which I’m normally super impatient about.

  26. Felicia says:

    I love Laurie Colwin, and long ago, when I was a food writer, drove all over Fort Lauderdale in search of burnt sugar so I could make the Jamaican Black Cake recipe in Home Cooking. Quite the project! I also love her fiction, which has great titles like A Big Storm Knocked It Over. And I’ve always felt so sad that she died so suddenly and so young.

    Lonesome Dove and Special Topics are other favorites, so we seem to be in sync with literary tastes this month.

  27. Melanie says:

    I just finished Lonesome Dove yesterday. I started it about a month ago and kept just reading a chapter or 2 at a time. Once they left on the drive, the pace picked up and I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up way past my bedtime several nights and read it most of the weekend. Ahhh, so many feelings.

  28. Re: Lonesome Dove: Be prepared to fall in love with the handlebar mustache. This book will prove to you that nothing says manly like a bit of center-parted hair between the nose and the upper lip. 🙂

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