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 month I’ve been reading more than usual. I believe it’s due to a new habit: I don’t typically read first-thing, but recently, on cooler mornings (which means anything less than 75 these days) I’ve been reading on the front porch—and in these morning sessions, I’ve been opting for nonfiction. Those small sessions add up.
I suspect that accounts for my Quick Lit assortment today: while usually this list is novel-heavy, today I have three memoirs, all unusual in their own way, a short story collection, and one novel. I hope you enjoy the change of pace.
I’ve also been reading a ton on audio lately, thanks to running and weeding, and have indicated which titles were great in that format below.
This is only a small smattering 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. (That’s especially true for yesterday’s episode with the Goodreads crew.)
I can’t wait to hear about your recent reads in comments.
What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable
In this unusual memoir, "matrilinear love story," Bess Kalb tells the story of her grandmother Bobby Bell's life, and their special relationship, in her deceased grandmother's voice. (On the second page of the book Bobby, speaking from her own funeral, is telling the readers, "It's a terrible thing to be dead.") I enjoyed this story so much: Bobby is spry and spunky, fiercely opinionated, a force of nature—and firmly invested in (or committed to meddling in, depending on how Bess is feeling at the moment) her granddaughter's life. Bobby's fierce and sometimes persnickety devotion to Bess shines on every page, from Bess's birth to Bobby's dying days at age 90. For most of Bess's life, the two spoke on the phone every day, and my favorite parts of the book were these phone conversations. More info →
This group memoir has four authors, all English professors and colleagues who came together to read the works of Toni Morrison. The memoir focuses on four of her books: Beloved, The Bluest Eye, A Mercy, and Song of Solomon. Each writer contributes two deeply personal essays about how their life intersects with Morrison's work (or, as they say, how Morrison serves as a catalyst), which means that the reader gets multiple perspectives on each novel. I read this and the new Zora Neale Hurston collection nearly back-to-back and found this to be a serendipitous pairing; these two books, while written nearly 100 years apart, had a lot to say to each other. Moving, heartfelt, and intimate—as well as excellent on audio. More info →
This is an incredible, improbable book: though Hurston died in 1960, this short fiction collection includes pieces contemporary readers have never seen before, because they were published in periodicals and journals that have long been forgotten. There are 21 pieces in all, presented in chronological order, written between 1921 and 1937. (Their Eyes Were Watching God was published in 1937.) I listened to the audiobook version, which I highly recommend. Don't miss the excellent foreword by Tayari Jones and introduction by editor Genevieve West. More info →
I had the pleasure of participating in this year's virtual Jane Austen Festival, and read this book that has been languishing on my TBR for too long in order to prepare for my sessions. I found this deep dive into Janeite subculture to be insightful, entertaining, and surprisingly humorous. Yaffe's sense of humor shines when she discusses Jane Austen's Poisonous Bitches (two words: Lucy Steele), the history and intricacies of Austen fanfiction, and Darcy in the lake. Part journalism, part memoir, and recommended reading for Austen lovers everywhere. More info →
I've been hearing great things about this book though the "Gothic horror" label made me a little afraid to dive in, as I stay away from the scary stuff. But I needn't have feared: this new novel is deliciously creepy, but not frightening. Moreno-Garcia places situates her novel firmly in the tradition of Gothic country house classics like Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, and even references some of these titles in her novel. When Noemí's father appoints her to see to some business on his behalf, the beautiful, intelligent young socialite agrees to do her duty for the family. Her recently married cousin Catalina has sent an odd, urgent letter to the family, pleading for someone to save her—but from what? When Noemí visits her new marital home High Place, a remote and lavish estate built by ill-treated mine workers, she discovers her cousin's predicament is worse than she feared: her husband is a brute, her father-in-law a terror, the staff deeply hostile, and even the house itself seems set against her—and worse, determined to entrap her. No spoilers here, but if you like the sound of a deeply strange and spine-tingling read about a smart heroine who saves herself, this is the book for you. Excellent on audio. 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.