Welcome to Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately on the 15th of the month.
Today’s round-up has more nonfiction in the mix, partly to balance the heaps of brand-new fiction I’m reading for the 2021 Summer Reading Guide, and partly because I’ve found myself on a kick with books about the craft of writing (which inspired last week’s blog post). I frequently enjoy books about art, creativity, and the writing life—just not so many consecutive great ones on audio.
This is just a sampling 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.
I can’t wait to hear about your recent reads in comments.
What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable
I listened to the audio version from Libro.fm for a buddy read with a friend (funny thing: I finished the book, she did not), and it made me realize how much I enjoy books set in the theater world or with a connection to Shakespeare. This book has both, along with a really fun dialogue structure. Oliver Marks has just been released from jail after serving a ten year sentence, and he's finally ready to tell the truth. Ten years ago, Oliver was part of a close-knit group of Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, where rivalries and romance affect the troupe off stage with just as much drama as their performances. Their final year reads more like one of Shakespeare's tragedies. When violence erupts, the group tries to find out what happened while covering the truth to protect each other. This campus mystery is perfect for fans of Donna Tartt. More info →
Though I've enjoyed Saunders' work in the past, I wasn't eager to pick up anyone's hefty analysis of Russian short stories. I'm so pleased that I listened to my writerly friends who said "this is fascinating, you have to read it!" In this workbook-like book, Saunders explores the craft of writing through the lens of four Russian short stories. It's surprisingly engaging, especially on audio, with narrators like Nick Offerman, Rainn Wilson, Glenn Close, and Renee Elise Goldberry. Listening felt like sitting in a fantastic lecture hall with my favorite literature professor, and now I want a physical copy for making notes. You don't need an English degree or any interest in Russian lit in order to pick this one up—a healthy dose of nerdy curiosity will do. More info →
As a literary thriller, this book is very well done, but wasn't right for me, at least not right now. Wildly praised by friends, and for good reason, Langan creates a solid set-up and fantastic payoff built around unjust accusations and terrible things happening in a tight-knit suburban neighborhood. The action gets going when a sinkhole opens in the neighborhood park—an inciting incident that hit a little too close to home since sinkholes are prevalent where I live. My reading taste leans toward the lighter side these days, so this was not the right time for me to pick up this tense, noir-ish novel. However, if you love true crime, dysfunctional family drama, or well-written mystery, this may be exactly right for you. Sensitive readers should be aware that this book contains violence, abuse, harm to children, and other trigger-warning-worthy content. More info →
Saltz fits a bounty of inspiration into a short 150 pages in his handbook for letting go of self-doubt and enjoying the creative life. I listened to it on audio and thoroughly enjoyed his snappy, slightly snarky tone. I've been on something of a kick with books about creativity and craft lately, and this one stands out as a book to return to again and again. I took SO many notes while reading, and I shared a few of them in a quick IGTV video for What Should I Read Next. Whether you consume art, create art, or want to engage with art, this is an excellent pithy read, well worth your time. More info →
In 1976, Tomás Oriilla moves to Buenos Aires to reunite with his childhood crush and complete medical school, but when an oppressive regime "disappears" him, he lives for years in New York as Thomas instead. Answering a summons back to Argentina, Tomás finds himself communing with ghosts and reckoning with his past. This book is undeniably well-crafted, and critics are calling it ambitious with good reason. It's difficult to describe the balance of warm endearment and weighty prose in this sad, haunting novel. I'd never read about Argentina in 1976 and found the history fascinating, but the tough content made for a difficult read for me at this time. Readers who like darker literary fiction and want to read about this specific part of history will enjoy this unique novel. Content warnings abound, so take care as you pick this up. More info →
Readers, I know it's right there in the title, but this book is FUN. If you have the print version, don't miss out on the lists of what sounds like fun to Annie F. Downs' podcast listeners—they're in tiny text throughout the book and such a delight to peruse! In her joyful book on how fun is individualized and unique, Annie shares why we need to pursue fun in our own lives. She also declares that what sounds fun to you is individual, and you don't need to be good at something in order to enjoy it (which reminds me of my rock climbing days). I loved the many mentions of Dolly Parton in this charming book about family, passion, and trying new things. You can listen to WSIRN Episode 198: Reading for the FUN of it to hear Annie gush about Dolly and talk about the importance of fun in her reading life. More info →
J.T. Ellison's newest thriller takes place at a gorgeous villa off the Italian coast, where the beautiful setting clashes with sinister events. The book opens right before a big society wedding, and nothing is going right for the bride and groom as skeletal remains were just found on the island they reserved for the wedding. Could this be an omen? As more guests arrive, we learn that almost every character has something to hide—and then they start dying. With suspicions and secrets swirling, the bride realizes that she knows very little about her groom's first wife or the circumstances around her death. Twisty and treacherous, this gave me serious Rebecca vibes with a dash of And Then There Were None. 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.