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.

The Summer Reading Guide (coming TOMORROW, yippee!) is signed, sealed, and almost delivered, which means I’m reading more older books these days, and fewer that are just-published or soon-to-be-published.

Today I’m sharing two backlist titles I love and was happy to return to this month, plus three books I was considering for the Summer Reading Guide, but decided not to include. (Don’t worry, I tell you why below.)

Luckily, that doesn’t mean they’re not worth sharing.

Quick Lit May 2019
Tell Me Three Things

Tell Me Three Things

I read this ages ago and included it in my list of Unputdownable books I read in 24 hours, but this month, I'm excited to talk to the MMD Book Club about it with author Julie Buxbaum—so I took the opportunity to read it again, for the third time. In this stellar YA novel, a girl-next-door type suddenly finds herself in an elite California prep school, and has to figure out how to navigate this new privileged world while still grieving her mother's death. When she gets an email from an unidentified boy who calls himself "Somebody Nobody" offering to be her spirit guide to her new school, she doesn’t want to say yes—but she really needs his help. A sweet and fun teen romance, but also a pitch-perfect portrayal of the grieving process. I couldn’t stop myself from cheering for Jessie as she put her life together again. (Hot tip: if you're an ebook reader, this is on sale right now. Check all the deals out here.) More info →
This Must Be the Place

This Must Be the Place

This was another recent re-read, and the subject of One Great Book episode 8. Family stories are commonplace in fiction, but I love this one for its intricate plotting, nuanced characters, true-to-life feel, and ultimate hopefulness. This is the story of an unlikely but successful marriage between a floundering American professor and a British film star who hated the limelight so much she faked her own death and disappeared ... until an unexpected bit of news, twenty years old but newly discovered, threatens to unravel everything they've built together. The story is told in interlocking scenes from different viewpoints, occurring between 1944 and 2016. More info →
Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2)

Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna (An Auntie Poldi Adventure Book 2)

Last year's hit Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Liions was a delightful surprise (and a Summer Reading Guide pick!) I'm happy the series continues here. I considered including this in the 2019 guide because it's such a fun pick for summer (Vineyards! Italy! Mystery!, but held back because though it's not strictly necessary to read book 1 before book 2, it would be more fun that way. More info →
13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do: Own Your Power, Channel Your Confidence, and Find Your Authentic Voice for a Life of Meaning and Joy

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do: Own Your Power, Channel Your Confidence, and Find Your Authentic Voice for a Life of Meaning and Joy

I enjoyed Morin's previous book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, and was interested in this female-specific follow-up. Through Morin's work as a therapist, she came to believe that people who were intent on reaching their greatest potential didn't engage in counterproductive bad habits. They made progress not just because of what they did, but because of what they didn't do. In this book, Morin examines why habits like perfectionism, overthinking, self-doubt, and deflecting praise are so destructive—and what women can do instead. An excellent, informative new read—but I decided to limit this year's nonfiction titles to more story-driven works. More info →
The Other Americans

The Other Americans

My husband has been pushing me to read the 2014 novel The Moor's Account from Pulitzer Prize-finalist Lalami, but this is the first of her books I've read. I thought it was incredibly well done, but didn't include the it in the guide because I found I could only read a few pages at a time—I had to stop and think! ( I read this on my Kindle, and the plot was complex enough that I strongly suspect I would have been happier reading this on paper.) The story begins when a Moroccan immigrant is hit and killed by a speeding car not far from his California home. What follows is part procedural, part family saga, part love story, and part American origin story. More info →

What have YOU been reading lately?

P.S. The Summer Reading Guide is going out to newsletter subscribers TOMORROW by email. If you’re not on the list, click here to sign up.

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    • Laa Spikes says:

      This line is long
      *Watched VIKINGS on History and Hulu (7 th century Vikings)
      *Watched THE LAST KINGDOM on Netflix (9th century Vikings)
      • Looked for books
      Found SIDROC THE DANE (9th century Viking) by Octavia Randolph which lead me to the Ceridwen Series. • Then on to Highland Raven book 1 by Melanie Karsak

    • Deborah Ball says:

      I have to second the recommendation of the Next Right Thing! I have given two copies as gifts and it makes an excellent graduation gift as well! Joined a Bible study friend to doing a coffee and discussion of this book. Mine is so marked up! Along a similar line I would highly recommend to you Linda, Praying for Strangers by River Jordan. An excellent non fiction read although I am usually following Anne’s choices pretty closely. Its an older book but an excellent testimonial on faith!

    • Anne says:

      Nodding along as I read through your post (not that readers have to agree, where’s the fun in that? But nodding along is fun, too.) Ask Again, Yes is in the guide, and Out East is high on my TBR. Of the books you skipped: I decided not to read one, read one much-hyped summer release to the end and found it way undeveloped, and have another on my TBR and am so disappointed to hear it was underwhelming!)

  1. Meghan says:

    These all sound great! I cannot wait for the summer reading list! Do you have a sense of the time it will go out (via email)? Thanks, Anne!

    • Harriet Clark says:

      I’ve loved Ruth Reichl’s books and am waiting for her latest to become available on my “Holds” list at the library along with Melinda Gates’ book, THE MOMENT OF LIFT. Currently reading Issac Mizrahi’s memoir, IM and have Lisa See’s THE ISLAND OF SEA WOMEN here to read next. Lisa See came here to do a reading at our wonderful non-profit bookstore, Bookmarks, in March. What a treat! So many(good) books; so little time!

      • Suelizbeth says:

        I just finished listening to Ruth Reichl’s new book and loved it. I am now listening to Tender at the Bone. I didn’t initially think that I would like it as much as Save Me the Plums, because it started out more slowly, but it is every bit as good. She is an excellent narrator and funny.

  2. Jen H. says:

    Somewhere along the line, Anne recommended Karen Joy Fowler’s “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” and I put it on my library reserve list and promptly forgot about it. It came in last week, I barely remembered anything about it, and settled on my couch to read for a few minutes on Saturday.
    HOURS later I was still on the couch, stunned and devastated. I’m so glad I went in not knowing anything about it, and so glad I read it. This one will stay with me for a long time.

  3. Deborah Larson says:

    I’m currently reading ‘I Know This Much Is True’ (all 900 pages) and listening to two audiobooks (one at home/one in car)- ‘At The Wolf’s Table’ (about one of Hitler’s food tasters-Historical Fiction) and ‘Finding Dorothy’ (told from POV of Maude Baum, L. Frank Baum’s (The Wizard of Oz) wife- Historical Fiction.

  4. Sandy says:

    I just finished The Last Romantics, which I did not like at all. I listened to it on audiobook on a looong car trip and found myself rolling my eyes frequently.

    By contrast, I just started Rules of Civility and I LOVE it! Beautifully written and evocative.

    Oh! I also just finished Purple Hibiscus. It was my first Adichie book and it won’t be my last! Loved it!

  5. Charmaine says:

    I’ve been immersing myself in Donna Leon’s Venice with two of her books this month and have just picked up ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ to read AGAIN!

  6. Dee says:

    I’ve told everyone else so I night as well share here, too. I recently finished The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow. Soooo good. Told in two timelines, one beginning at the outset of WWII and one near present day. It will make you want to visit Prague.

    I’m also reading an ARC of Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson. I was unsure at first, but am now really getting into this tale of secrets and extortion.

  7. Lynda Critchfield says:

    I’ve read a couple of your recommendations this last week, Sleeping Giants and Tell me Three Things, both of which I enjoyed very much! Now I’m reading Convenience Store Woman, and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.

  8. Britney says:

    The amazing Rebecca Makkai came to my town for a reading so I started rereading her first couple of books, The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House. Now, I’m reading her book of short stories, Music for Wartime. It is taking me longer to read this one because I enjoy taking in one story per day. Next will be her newest, award winning novel, The Great Believers.

  9. I finished and really enjoyed Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior. I loved I’ll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock last month, so this month I sought out some of her other books I had bought in years past at Kindle sales: A Room of My Own, inspirational fiction about a young girl’s coming of age during the Depression, and Travelers Rest, about a woman whose fiance comes back from Afghanistan paralyzed. Both were excellent. I’m listening to The Pickwick Papers by Dickens – not my favorite of his, but I’m enjoying it. I’m also still working through How to Understand and Apply the New Testament by Andrew David Naselli and greatly benefiting from it.

  10. Crystal says:

    I’m currently reading Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna 😊. I do agree that the reading the first book is very helpful in reading this one. The Sicilian Lions really establishes Poldi’s relationships with a lot of important characters that reappear in the second book.

  11. Carol Darden says:

    I just finished listening to Before We Were Yours. I found myself sitting in the parking garage after my commute to listen to the rest of the chapter. It was such a great story and the performance was spot on! I recently finished Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, so of course, I’ll add the next Auntie Poldi to the list. So glad there’s another one!

  12. Kelly says:

    I just adore Tell Me Three Things! It was one of my favorites that I read in 2018. If I didn’t have so many books on my TBR list right now, it would definitely be a re-read for 2019.

  13. Trisha says:

    Tell Me Three Things was the first YA book that I read as an adult and it absolutely converted me. It’s one of the books I recommend most often to readers looking for something quick and compulsively readable. When I turned the final page I said “Wow!” out loud at least three times. It makes my bookish heart so happy to see it here and as a MMD Book Club pick!

  14. Carolyn says:

    I just finished Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour…a great book for me, with my love for first-half 19th c.–as well as a fascination with nuns and convent life. I listened to this on audio and found myself responding to it aloud. What a story, up to the very end! (Though, I have to say, she hopped around a bit with narration, and I often felt I might be better off with a book in my hands vs. buds in my ears.)

    • Anne says:

      Agreed on the author’s note! I never skip them because I feel they always add extra layers of appreciation to my reading experience.

  15. Erika Shirk says:

    Wow, Other Americans sounds really intriguing and potentially sad. I’m an hsp and books about trauma and injuries can be too much. Did this one get too descriptive or did it mostly focus in the story? Also: I added the Aunti Poldi books to my library hold list! Can’t wait. I read two great YA trilogies (Rebel of the Sands was perfect!) and a few creativity books. Here’s my full list – https://erikashirk.com/2019/05/14/all-about-those-ya-series-and-creativity-books-quicklit-april/

    • Anne says:

      Definitely intriguing, definitely sad. The scenes from the accident and subsequent investigation aren’t graphic, but I wouldn’t call them easy to read, either.

  16. Christiana says:

    I have been savoring my way through Diana Gabaldon’s Drums of Autumn. I love the series, but since I received the Summer Reading Guide yesterday I need to race through the last 460, so I can move on to my summer reads! Yesterday was my middle child’s last day of school, so as far as I’m concerned, we are in SUMMER!!!

  17. Hannah says:

    In April I read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (this was “a book recommended by someone with great taste” for your challenge), and Sisterchicks on the Loose! by Robin Jones Gunn (and this one was for “a book in the backlist of a favorite author”). I haven’t gotten reviews up for ANY of them yet! 🙈

    Currently reading a biography of James Monroe, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. (As well as My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers which I’m working through this year.)

    • Harriet Clark says:

      The film of REBECCA is also not-to-be-missed. It’s at the top of my all-time film favorites list.

  18. “A Woman is No Man” by Etaf Rum. I read the book – I couldn’t put it down – before it was announced as the Today Show’s bookclub pick for May. Read this book, it will change your life.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    Just finished Maid by Stephanie Land, paper copy of Present over Perfect by Shauna niequest on my bedside table 3/4 done, and Brene Browns “Dare to Lead” on audible. Up next: The Murmur of bees and whatever on the summer reading guide peaks my fancy!

  20. Jeannine says:

    Just finished The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson and I cannot recommend that enough!! What a creative plot.

    Recently finished The Broken Circle: A Memoir of Escaping Afghanistan by Enjeela Ahmadi-Miller and definitely recommend. I love reading about the experiences of men and women from other cultures.

    I’m also reading The Accident by Chris Pavone and loving it so far, I’m not done yet so my opinion could change but for now.. a great read.

  21. Dana Schwartz says:

    Anne, I’m almost done with War and Peace. It was on my TBR since high school and I decided to finally tackle it. It has 364 chapters, so I’ve been reading a chapter a day since last June, and I will finish next week! Minimal commitment and no impact on my everyday reading! Thought this might help!

  22. Susan says:

    I just finished re reading News of the World by Paulette Jiles. It’s one of my favorite books probably because I live in Wichita Falls where the books starts off. Plus the writing is spell bounding! I have started The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson.

  23. Rachel says:

    Just finished reading the first two books of Christelle Dabos’s Mirror Visitor Quartet. I cannot describe how unique and un-put-down-able these fantasy YA books are! The world building and character building is excellent. I’ve read the first two “The Winter’s Promise” and “The Missing of Clairdelune” within a week. The third in the series is being translated into English next year and the final book is being published in French in the fall. I need to learn French fast!
    Here’s the synopsis:
    “Plain-spoken, headstrong Ophelia cares little about appearances. Her ability to read the past of objects is unmatched in all of Anima and, what’s more, she possesses the ability to travel through mirrors, a skill passed down to her from previous generations. Her idyllic life is disrupted, however, when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, a taciturn and influential member of a distant clan. Ophelia must leave all she knows behind and follow her fiancé to Citaceleste, the capital of a cold, icy ark known as the Pole, where danger lurks around every corner and nobody can be trusted. There, in the presence of her inscrutable future husband, Ophelia slowly realizes that she is a pawn in a political game that will have far-reaching ramifications not only for her but for her entire world.”

  24. Sandy Young says:

    I sometimes with I had three heads. Here are the books that I’m reading: A Gentleman in Moscow, Big Magic, The Library Book, Heaven, A Grace Disguised, and There There. The bad thing is that I’m a slow reader. There’s no telling when I’ll finish any one of them, but I’m having a wonderful time!

  25. Caroline says:

    I read The Widows of Malabar Hill (A Perveen Mistry Novel)by Sujata Massey, The Kitchen House: A Novel by Kathleen Grissom, and I am currently reading
    Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
    I am in love with every single character from the Kitchen House and HATE for this one to end!!

  26. Mary says:

    I’ve been happily reading a lot lately.

    1. Beyond the Point (on Libro.fm – thank you for the recommendation for using this service. I love them!)
    2. How Not To Die Alone – Book of the Month pick – this was light and funny, but not so light and funny in many ways, too. It was similar to Eleanor Oliphant, but more tame.
    3. Pachinko – I may be one of the only people I know who didn’t think this book was my cup of tea.
    4. Nowhere Boy – a read aloud with my 14-year-old son – we enjoyed the book, but I’m not such a huge fan of YA books that have a not-so-hidden agenda.
    5. Jane of Austin – this is such a fun book – I’m almost finished reading it and will be starting Sense & Sensibility next!
    6. Grace is Greater – a freebie from Christian audio last month. I’m enjoying it very much.

  27. What a great and varied selection! Love it! I would’ve been instinctively skeptical of 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do – the title makes it sound a little like a click-baity blog post, doesn’t it? – but your description has me thinking twice about that first impression. At the moment, I’m (finally!) reading Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner – it took me forever to get my hands on a copy!

    • Anne says:

      I hear what you’re saying—I didn’t read the first one for a long time for that very (clickbait-y) reason. But I found them both well-written and informative.

  28. Today was a good library day and the serendipity of my holds sent me home with:

    1. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
    2. Everything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
    3. Rabbit by Patricia Williams
    4. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (thanks to Anne’s recent podcast)
    5. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
    6. The River by Peter Heller (Also blaming Anne’s latest podcast on this)

    I SHUDDER to imagine what the Summer Book Club list is going to do to my library holds and my fines… Yet, I’m counting down the hours!!! These are problems I’m fortunate to have. 🙂

  29. Debra Benton says:

    Ahead of this month’s pick and reading Three Things, I am reading What to Say Next. Also reading Reading People (yeah, Anne), and How to Read Like a Professor. Thinking I will be reading the last one for a while as it is a more learning book. I have already downloaded a bunch of books for summer reading and have to start avoiding some of my reading emails so I don’t add too many more books. We have a trip to Europe planned (Germany, Brussels, Paris and Switzerland being the main stops) so looking for a good book to get me ready for that trip if anyone has a suggestion.

  30. Donna says:

    Thanks for sharing, Anne! I read Tell Me Three Things a few years after you shared it on here. It’s one of my favourite reads and the book that sparked my love of YA!
    Definitely adding 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do to my TBR.
    Currently reading The Huntress by Kate Quinn and The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell. Highly recommend both!

  31. Nancy says:

    Enjoying The Child by Fiona Barton. Also reading The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams as I continue on my ridiculous and likely unsuccessful mission of reading the books i haven’t read in 1000 Books to Read Before you Die. It’s been fun so far but this latest is a tough one. I don’t know enough history!! But it is a challenging and interesting book nonetheless. Also listening to Fatal by John Lescroart. Total opposite! LOL.

  32. Angela says:

    – The Seafront Tearoom by Vanessa Greene
    – A History of Scotland by John Oliver
    – Listening to North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
    – Rereading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone accompanied by the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast

  33. Stacy says:

    I recently finished The Joy of Less and really enjoyed it. It’s about minimalism, but practical, normal people, it’s ok to have keepsakes minimalism. We’re almost ready to finish unpacking in our fixer upper and I don’t want to just find a spot to stuff everything. Most of it has been boxed up for 2 years…we may not really need it all. (Cozy Minimalist by Myquillan Smith is also great – she writes about making a cozy, beautiful home while being the boss of your stuff).

  34. I’m late to the game, but here are my recent reads:


    Most of mine are backlist titles I’ve been intending to get to forever, but I am reading Setterfield’s new one currently (Once Upon a River). I haven’t read anything of hers since Thirteenth Tale (which I loved), but I’m excited to check out this one, though the reviews on it have been mixed.

    Also, I loved This Must Be the Place. I’ve wanted to try out another title by her for awhile.

    P.S. I’m super excited about your reading guide this year–I’ve already added 7 or so to my library holds list/TBR, and I’ll probably add more if more buzz comes in on a few I was on the fence about 🙂 Thanks for putting that out every year! I made sure to link to it in my blog so my readers can make sure to check it out, too.

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