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.

I’m just back from the beach, where I read a book a day. (It was awesome.) Here’s a peek at some of the titles I crossed off my list.

Quick Lit June 2018
The Lola Quartet

The Lola Quartet

Now that the Summer Reading Guide is out, I'm thoroughly enjoying reading some backlist titles that have been on my TBR for ages, like this 2012 book from the author of Station Eleven. This is the kind of book I love: a compulsively readable literary mystery, featuring stylish prose plus a plot that keeps you turning the page to find out what happens next. I was so impressed by the way Mandel unfolded the story piece by piece, introducing us to a seventeen-year-old girl in hiding (with piles of cash duct-taped to the underside of her baby's stroller), and slowly revealing how she ended up there—and how the members of the old high school musical group the Lola Quartet are connected to her disappearance. Set in muggy South Florida, the story is dripping with atmosphere and has a noir feel. This week, I tried something new on What Should I Read Next and shared a short episode focused on One Great Book. That book is The Lola Quartet, and you can listen to me tell you all about it—and how to know if it's the right book for you—right here. More info →
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

Austin Channing Brown is one of my favorite follows on twitter: I appreciate her perspective so much and have been eager to get her words into my hands in book-length format. I'm Still Here was worth the wait. The book opens with a story from the library, but it's not a warm and fuzzy one. Austin reveals that her parents named her Austin so that future employers would believe she was a white man, thus opening doors that would typically be closed to a black woman. She writes extensively about how white, middle-class Christians, though well-intentioned, perpetuate racial tensions—and provides guidance on what genuinely effective perspectives and behaviors could actually look like. A great read, important and timely. More info →
On Turpentine Lane

On Turpentine Lane

This was my first Elinor Lipman book, but it won't be my last. A fellow reader with great taste (read: taste similar to mine) highly recommended her work, so I downloaded the audiobook for a recent solo road trip. It was perfect: light and breezy in tone, but substantial beneath the surface. The miles flew by. This story revolves around a thirty-two year-old woman named Faith Frank, who's dealing with A LOT right now: a flaky fiancé, an incompetent boss, a new fixer-upper (on Turpentine Lane) with a disturbing past, a father who's having a midlife crisis. But her office-mate pal is helping her through, and it's a fun and funny journey. More info →
The Book of Essie

The Book of Essie

I made a conscious decision not to read this book: I didn't think a novel about a Christian reality tv star sounded like the right book for me. But then I recorded a podcast episode with bookstore owner Annie Jones, and she said she wanted me to read it so we could talk about it, and then it was a Book of the Month selection, and since I was visiting Annie's store .... I read it. And it GREATLY exceeded my expectations. Seventeen-year-old Esther Anne Hicks is the youngest daughter of an Evangelical family that stars in their own reality show called Six for Hicks. When her appearance-conscious mother discovers Essie is pregnant, it's not a parenting issue. Instead, it's all about the optics. But Essie is determined to finally take control of her own life and find a way out of her high-profile world. For me, this was a perfect beach read. More info →
The Black Widow (Gabriel Allon Series Book 16)

The Black Widow (Gabriel Allon Series Book 16)

When several thriller writers tell you that Daniel Silva writes the best spy thrillers out there, and The Black Widow is the best of the bunch … you read The Black Widow. In three days, despite its hefty page count. This is the 16th book in Silva’s series focused on Israeli intelligence agent Gabriel Allon. The story opens with a bombing in Paris, and to make sure another attack doesn't occur, Allon recruits an unlikely woman to infiltrate the terrorist cell responsible. This book stands alone just fine, but now I’m inspired to go back to the beginning of the series. 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. Teri says:

    “Women in Sunlight” by Frances Mayes
    from my Goodreads account:
    So enjoyed this book. The words written with the feel of a warm summer day, soft breezes caressing one’s skin. It awakens all the senses as it talks about food, wine, art, friendship, starting over. It is a coming of age story about women of age, learning who they are and finding their passion. The style of writing can be difficult at times as it jumps from one person to another but I soon found its rhythm. Perhaps it appealed to me because of the ages of the women, much of their feelings I could relate to and if I had the money they obviously did I just might consider taking a year or so in Italy myself. It felt almost like a continuation to her book, “Under The Tuscan Sun,” another book I have loved.
    If you are looking for that summer read while lazing through the day, dreaming of other places, look no further. This one is perfect.

  2. I definitely want to read The Lola Quartet and I’m Still Here.

    I’ve been reading A Gentleman in Moscow, and I’m trying to go slowly through it so I can savor it! Also, I started Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain after his death last week. It is fascinating to read.

  3. Christiana says:

    I’m currently reading the third book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series, Voyager. I am really enjoying it, but it is talking me FOREVER to get through. I’m about 500 pages in (out of over 800) so I’m hoping I can finish it by the end of the weekend.

  4. RachelZ says:

    Currently reading A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell), and listening to Killer of the Flower Moon. The latter is gripping. It has me thinking about my whiteness in an entirely new (and not particularly good) way. My favorite books this spring have been Auntie Poldi & The Sicilian Lions and Happiness: The Crooked Little Line to Semi-Ever After.

  5. Krysia says:

    I finished Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano this week – it was a charming mystery and I’m glad I stuck with it! I also have been on a Rainbow Rowell kick and read Fangirl in about a day. I recently read Attachments and Landline earlier this month – couldn’t put them down. Landline was my favorite!

  6. Jennifer says:

    Just finished The Great Alone and it was the best book I’ve read in awhile! I also finished No One Ever Asked and it was okay. I just started Educated and I’m hooked just in the first few chapters! It kind of reminds me of The Great Alone and The Glass Castle.

  7. Nancy Kvorka says:

    Driving Miss Norma, very uplifting despite the topic. Current only sale through tomorrow on Amazon for Kindle. Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying “Yes” to Living
    Book by Ramie Liddle and Tim Bauerschmidt

  8. Rebekah in Redlands says:

    Re: Dan Silva. I would start with book 3. The first two are darker and have more sexual violence. I also felt that the first two books ramble and seemed unsure of themselves. In the third book the writing is stronger and clearer.

    I finally got Lonesome Dove from overdrive and it was stunning.

  9. Erin in CA says:

    I am listening to The Great Alone, and almost done with Castle of Water. Both so good! Castle is for my book club next week. So glad to hear about Book of Essie, because I pre-ordered it with an Audible credit. My son went through a reading slump where he got disillusioned with YA (“It’s all romance and post-apocalyptic!”), so I started him on the Daniel Silva series. He’s on number six. I’m so happy that it’s a long series, and that our local library has all of them! (And standard disclaimer applies: Not all parents will think these books are appropriate for a 14-year-old.)

  10. Megan says:

    I read and loved both I’m Still Here and Lola Quartet within the last couple weeks. I’m currently finishing up a middle grade book called The Frame-Up by Wendy McLeod MacKnight. It’s been a fun read because it’s based in an art gallery and the protagonist finds out that the people in the paintings are alive. Next up is probably the newest by Anthony Horowitz – The Word is Murder.

  11. Kim Grady says:

    I have been reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Awesome book and a page turner. Also just finished Dan Harris’ 10% Happier…love his self deprecating style. If he can meditate anyone can!!

  12. Tara says:

    I loved On Turpentine Lane; I’m so glad you were able to get around to it! I have just received my copy of The Book of Essie and can hardly wait to get into it!

  13. S. says:

    Hi Anne,
    Thanks for sharing this list. I can’t wait to read I’m Still Here. This is at least in part by how the story how Austin came to be Austin Channing Brown’s name resonated with me. We’re in a similar situation in my family although unintentionally so. When my husband and I got married, we decided that our children would have South Asian first names (reflecting my ethnicity) and my husband’s last name (I did not take his name). As it turns out, we were not able to have biological children and our adopted son, who’s been a part of or family since he was a day old, is African-American. Because of the understanding between my husband and me, he has ended up with an Indian first name and a French-Canadian last name – and somewhere in the future, I can see a lot of people being surprised by an African-American named Avinash Drapeau. We’ll have to see how things shake out, of course, but I am hoping the surprise element could work in all of our favor if it forces us to check our assumptions, and opens up interesting conversations about names and identitites.
    Cheers, and thanks for all the great reading recommendations!

  14. Allison says:

    The Lola Quartet and I’m Still Here both sound excellent, for different reasons. I loved Station Eleven and articles I’ve read by Emily St. John Mandel, so I’m excited to read more by her.
    I’m Still Here sounds like it might be uncomfortable, in exactly the ways it needs to be.

  15. Fiona says:

    I really enjoy Elinor Lipman.

    I read a lot of mysteries and my favourite lately is It Begins in Betrayal by Iona Whishaw. The author is Canadian.

  16. Birgitta Qvarnström Frykner says:

    Started with the first Daniel Silva and am still not through,
    Little Beach Street Baker. Jenny Colgan funny and make you feel good
    Amberwell: DE Stevenson, feel good and await the next
    Facts and Fears, James R Clapper, a very good way of learning about your country and its military and really good way for to see another perspective of our life
    First Women: The Grace and Power of First Ladies Kate Andersen Brower
    a perspective of the life in the White House from the ladies view
    All roads lead to Austen: A Year Long Journey: Amy Smith with 3 of Austens novels seen in some South American countries + 2 swedish authors, one about the cloth habits in the late 17th hundred and one more or less a crime novell but in the plot is from 1793, the year after our king was murded and there was a very secret police awaiting every where. The first book and the second was connected in the way the clothes and how you saw on your fellow men due to their clothing

  17. Allison Mull says:

    Just saw your inclusion of Elinor Lipman on this and the audiobook post – I cannot say enough good things about her books, and I’m so jealous that you are just now discovering her. So glad that your friend with great taste highly recommended her – she knows what she’s talking about. I think you’ll love them all (saw someone recommend The Inn at Lake Devine, which is truly marvelous), but I’d also highlight The Family Man, The View from Penthouse B, My Latest Grievance, The Way Men Act. Good lord. All of her books. But maybe start with those. So jealous. You’ll want to read them again. She’s one of my “comfort” authors – people whose books I go back to when I just want to escape. ENJOY, lucky reader.

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