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

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

This month I’ve been systematically tackling the old stuff, mostly books I picked up at a used book sale here in town earlier this spring. Plus a few titles coming this August that I can’t wait to tell you about.

Today, we’re covering the old stuff. I read a few modern classics I’ve been meaning to read for AGES, a gentle YA novel that everyone in my family had read but me and my 7-year-old, and an easy-reading (or easy-listening, for me) political memoir.

Quick Lit June 2017
The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking

I've been meaning to read this for ages, but there's never been a good time to read a memoir about grief. I decided to read it anyway, now. This book is Didion's account of year following her husband's death, but it's really about the many years of the life they lived together. Writing in real-time, she captures emotion on the page so well. I felt like this wasn't just an exploration of her own grief and mourning, but an inquiry into capital-case Grief and Mourning. So well done, and so worth reading (if a little tough to do so at times). More info →
Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go

I'm so glad I finally read this. I wish I could have gone into it knowing nothing at all, but I saw too many movie trailers for that to be possible. Even so, I enjoyed (though that doesn't seem like the right word) the way Ishiguro slowly introduces the reader to three teens in a 1990s British boarding school. His prose says so much while revealing so little, as it slowly dawns on the reader what is not-quite-right about these children's lives. So well done, and it makes me want to read more of his work. More info →
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House

I downloaded this audiobook on my husband's recommendation, and WOW was it not what I was expecting! Imagine Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me?, but with politics instead of Hollywood production, and you've got this chatty memoir about right. While Mastromonaco does offer the promised behind-the-scenes look at the Obama White House, she also shares many personal stories about everything from relationships to packing tips to her cats to meeting the Queen. More info →
Our Souls at Night

Our Souls at Night

I can't believe I didn't read this book years ago, because now that I've read it, it reminds me so much of my all-time faves Stegner, Berry, and Robinson. I don't want to say too much, but I found this up-close look at an unlikely relationship between two long-time acquaintances in small-town Colorado completely absorbing. This is definitely one of those books where the flap copy doesn't do it justice. More info →
Love and First Sight

Love and First Sight

I was the FIFTH person to read this newish YA release in my family! Everyone but the 7-year-old has enjoyed it so far. This is the story of 16-year-old Will Porter, who's been blind all his life. We meet Will on his first day at a "mainstream" school—not his old school for the blind—and it could be going better, though he makes a few friends and develops a serious crush. Then Will finds out he qualifies for an experimental procedure that could enable him to SEE, for the first time in his life. But he's not sure if he wants it—and from Will's point of view, we discover just how complicated this vision thing really is. Make sure to read the author's acknowledgements for some very interesting backstory. More info →

What have YOU been reading lately? Link up your post below, or tell us all about it in comments!


Leave A Comment
  1. Elaine says:

    I have been recommending “Our Souls at Night” to everyone. One of the most beautiful books. I am also a huge fan of Wendell Berry (Jayber Crow especially) and Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose being one of my favorites). I’ve been going through a period of reading things I picked up used and have not gotten around to–just finished Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence” and thought it delightful, with lots of good insights (similar to Austin).

    • Rachel Hannah says:

      I adored All Souls and also love Berry. Can you tell me who Robinson is and what they have written that you recommend? Thanks so much!

      • Elaine says:

        I didn’t mention Robinson but the one that I know and love is Marilynne Robinson. “Gilead” is a favorite that I re-read about every five years. Forgot to mention that I read Didion’s book when it first came out–thought it was beautifully written but can’t say I found it compelling. I think because she didn’t sound like someone I would like. Two books I read in May and loved were “News of the World” by Paulette Jiles and “The Secret Keeper” by Kate Morton.

    • SoCalLynn says:

      I loved Our Souls at Night, his language is spare and raw and perfect. I was able to attend a talk he gave when Evensong (the sequel to Plainsong)came out and he is just how I imagined him to be. Sadly he has passed away, but his books will always be among my favorites.

  2. Jennifer N. says:

    Never Let Me Go has been on my TBR list for ages. I really need to dive into that one.

    Recently, I’ve finished “The Princess Diarist” by Carrie Fisher on audio (short and sweet), “You Will Know Me” by Megan Abbott (this was at times fascinating and frustrating), and “Age of Myth” by Michael J. Sullivan (a great, but longish, fantasy for folks that don’t necessarily get into fantasy). I also finished the audiobook “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz and read by none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda. I loved it, and obviously the narration was fantastic :-).

    • Jennifer N. says:

      I forgot to add that I’m currently reading Every Wild Heart from the MMD summer reading guide. So far I’m enjoying it!

  3. Alison Heffes says:

    Never Let Me Go is on my top ten list of books. I read this many years ago but I find myself thinking of it still. Love his “clean” prose and the dawning sense of what is happening.
    Remains of the Day is also a favorite.

  4. Stacey says:

    I adore both Our Souls at Night and Never Let Me Go! I’ve recently read Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee (atmospheric and beautifully written but I feel like this one possibly fell into the right book, wrong time category – though I did finish it, I feel like if I had read it at another less busy time, I could have been swept away by it) and finally picked up This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. Really enjoyed this one, despite one or two reservations about the Thailand part of the story. For those who loved this, I’d recommend the podcast How to Be a Girl!

  5. Kristin says:

    Perhaps I’ve missed the answer, but why do I have to click through to the blog to read your new posts instead of reading it in the email?

  6. Susan says:

    Can I say this is one of my most favorite times of the month? What you’ve been reading lately, for sure. And, what everyone else has been reading, too!!!

  7. Great list, and I am definitely going to check out the Haruf book because I’ve heard others praise his work.

    I felt very different about Never Let Me Go than most reviewers I’ve heard. Having read Remains of the Day (which came before NLMG) years ago, I found NLMG to be a poor imitation of that same winding, folding-back structure. I just LOVE Remains of the Day. There Ishiguro has a very clear, well-developed narrator and a precise time frame (pre-WWII) — but NLMG lacked that, in my opinion. I can’t remember a single concrete thing about the main character: I found her too bland and faceless. (Maybe given who/what she is that was intentional, but it didn’t work for me AT ALL.) I know I’m probably in a small minority, but this book was a big letdown for me.

  8. Lisa Gelber says:

    These all sound wonderful, especially Love at First Sight. I’ve been reading more YA this year. I think this because I have two teenagers and reading YA reminds me how much pressure today’s teens have – whether it’s academic or social. I have recently finished Beartown and The Dry, so I will likely pick up something a little more light-hearted next!

  9. Sarah says:

    I just finished reading The Futures, which is a book I think you recommended at some point, and it was SO good! I feel like it made me self reflect and assess my own personal choices and life decisions that make you or break you. I also just started Eye in the Needle by Ken Follett an oldie but a goodie. And I CANNOT wait to read my new BOTM club selection The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I mean that cover is to die for!!

  10. Janet Miles says:

    Just finished re-reading Little Women. I had forgotten so much! Now I am reading Tuesday’s With Morrie for the first time. Who Thought This Was A Good Idea looks interesting. I’m adding that to my ever growing list! Thanks for sharing Anne!

  11. Jackie says:

    I listened to the audiobook of A Year of Magical Thinking and I hated it. I’m not sure if it was the book or the author’s tone while reading.

  12. Kinsey O. says:

    I’m in the middle of Tsh’s “At Home in the World” and “The Turquoise Table” by Kristin Schell. Just finished “The Dry” and immediately passed to on to my husband. He’s flying through, as it’s due back to the library tomorrow, and loving it! Other recents read include “Very Married” by Katherine Willis Pershey and Tolkien’s “Beren and Luthien.” 🙂

  13. Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? made my list too. I like your description of a chatty memoir. I thought the writing was pretty distracting but the stories were enough to make me keep reading and I loved the inside look at politics. I’m on a memoir kick right now and am enjoying the genre as a nice gateway for me as a resistant non-fiction reader.

  14. Donna says:

    Thanks for sharing, Anne! I am adding Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? to my reading list. It sounds fascinating.
    I read Our Souls at Night in January and it’s definitely one of my favourites. I also highly recommend Haruf’s Benediction. I find his stories stay with me long after I’ve read them! I just love the fictional town of Holt.
    After I read Benediction, I found out that Haruf had died and that Our Souls at Night was his final work. I was so sad. I am working my way through the rest of his books.
    I am currently reading and loving “Better Now” by Dr. Danielle Martin. It’s so well-written and I’m learning so much about how our healthcare system here in Canada works.
    Also, I recently read Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and really enjoyed it. I found this surprising because I’ve had such trouble getting through her books in the past.

  15. “There’s never been a good time to read a memoir about grief.” <——- That's exactly why I've avoided picking up this book as well. Glad to hear your experience of reading it. And I just heard about "Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?" this week and put it on my to-read book. As a political junkie it sounds right up my alley.

  16. Susan Clark says:

    Reading “Never Let Me Go” thanks to your 80 podcast with Cori I believe who said it was one of her all time favorite books. And you are reading it too!!! Thanks Anne for your wonderful podcasts and website – love them SueC

  17. Nikki says:

    I read Never Let Me Go last year, so just finished Ishiguro’s s Buried Giant last week. So different and unexpected. Will check out Haruf and Berry based on your recommendations. Love finding new authors.

    Another book which is not an easy read, but certainly an informative one and one I’ve recommended repeatedly is Tom Friedman’s Thank You For Being Late.

  18. D says:

    Decisive: Did not want to return it to the library. thanks, anne, for this rec.

    The Red Badge of Courage: Tried it for Memorial Day and loved it. What prose!

    The Defining Decade: Recommended by a coworker and am recommending it to everyone.

    Dark Matter: Thank you MMD Reader for this rec! I bought it at your suggestion for my dad who loved The Martian. I preread it and loved it! I am not sure my dad will though. I have Boys in the Boat as a back up. We’ll see!

  19. Melissa Gerber says:

    I am 2/3’s of the way through Margaret Atwood’s “Cats Eye.” I had a hard time getting into it and sticking with it — I think that is because it “cuts to close to the bone” reminding me of my own friendships at that age and the unbelievable cruelty of girls to each other. But finish I will do! She is one of my favorite authors.

  20. Erin says:

    I recently finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I never would have picked up on my own (because the title sounds so chick-lit-ish- to me), but which I really enjoyed.

    Also just finished The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins, on audio. It was not what I expected and I really enjoyed it.

    I’m in the middle of A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and I am enjoying it so much! I read Rules of Civility earlier this year, but I’m enjoying this one so much more. 🙂

    Next two weeks we’re road-tripping; not sure if that’ll be awesome or dreadful for my reading life. LOL

  21. I recently read Jane Austen: The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly. After listening to your latest podcast yesterday, I think you might enjoy it, if you haven’t read it. Jane Austen’s work is so much more than light romances, and the “heroes” are sometimes much darker than the movies and miniseries show.

    I’m now reading the first in a fantasy series, Khe by Alexis Razevich. I see by the comments above that perhaps fantasy is not a favorite genre of your readers. Since I’m new here, I may be wrong. I love fantasy. This series is rather unique because the characters are humanoid but not like us. Their social structures, religion and world is quite different and very well detailed. When I finish the series, I will most likely write about it in one of my Sage Woman Chronicles, blog posts.

  22. DebMac says:

    Our book club recently read “Our Souls at Night”. The book was well received and struck home with our (mostly) older members. We had quite a discussion about “would we” or “would we not”.

  23. Torrie says:

    I liked Never Let Me Go when I read it, but I initially didn’t give it a super high rating (3 stars) for reasons I don’t even remember now. The funny thing is, that book has really stuck with me (which makes me probably think I should have given it a higher rating!).

    I’ve also always intended to read that one by Joan Didion, but like you said, it never seems to be the right time to read a book on grief (which is probably a good thing, for many of us, that we don’t have such tragedies going on in our own lives at the moment to feel that need). But maybe I’ll take a leaf out of your book and just jump in with both feet anyway.

    Currently, I’m reading The Lost Book of the Grail (thanks to your reading guide) and the nonfiction book Grit, which is basically blowing my mind. Summer reading is the best reading!


  24. Maryalene says:

    Three months in, and I’m still working on Middlemarch. Maybe this will be the month I actually get it done.

    I really want to read The Year of Magical Thinking, but I’m worried that it will hit too close to home. What’s silly is that it Isn’t the grief that worries me as much as the regret. I have lost virtually all memory from much of the first year after my husband died. I’m worried I’ll read the book and kick myself for not recording that time for myself. Or maybe I’ll read it and feel grateful that I forgot??

  25. Anne says:

    Really enjoyed “Who Thought This Was a Good Idea” earlier this year and especially enjoyed the references to the Pod Save America crew. Almost done with Connie Willis’s newest “Crosstalk” – screwball sci-fi fantasy comedy – a book you can just give yourself up to, not challenging but just fun and well done. And a little over halfway done with Ai Jen Poo’s “The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America” – which addresses the difficult subject of caregiving in a way that is warm, personal, and moving.

  26. Suzanne says:

    The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout, Beartown by Fredrik Backman, and The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. The library hold list is killing me; everything comes in at once!

  27. Andrea says:

    Wait, have you not read The Remains of the Day!? You MUST! I’ve had Never Let You Go sitting on my kindle for awhile – will move it up in the queue ?

  28. chlo says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this 🙂 I really want to read “The Year of Magical Thinking”. I’ve never heard of it before but, it sounds amazing as well as very emotional. It seems like a book that will open my eyes and really make me appreciate the good things in life.

    Have a lovely weekend.

    Chloe @ https://girllgonerogue.blogspot.co.uk/

  29. I absolutely adored Our Souls at Night – such a sweet story! And am planning to listen to Who Thought This Was a Good Idea as well.

    I didn’t realize Never Let Me Go was a boarding school novel…I LOVE those! And I also haven’t read it yet. Adding to my TBR now 🙂

  30. Sarah says:

    I managed to get an advance copy of a new YA novel – The Secrets of Islayne by Kari Lynn West. So so good. It comes out June 30th, I believe. Highly recommend!

  31. Cath says:

    I read our souls at night recently and had exactly the same reaction as you – had such a similar feel to crossing to safety. Love love love these short reviews! Thank you for some great ideas!

  32. Victoria says:

    Never Let Me Go is one of my all-time favourites! I was so happy to hear it mentioned on the podcast recently. I too knew about it from the movie trailer, but it didn’t change a thing for me. So good. Your post reminded me to read Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day now! 🙂

  33. Kathryn Bojanowski says:

    I’ve just finished reading Girl’s Weekend and Practicing Normal, both by Cara Sue Achterberg. Really enjoyed them both. Not your run of the mill story lines. I also read the Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell. Fantastic!!!

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