Welcome to Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately on the 15th of the month.
Readers, the 2021 Summer Reading Guide is almost here—which means that after months of reading primarily brand new and forthcoming novels, my personal book selections are swinging towards the backlist.
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 also share my current reads in our weekly podcast newsletter: if you aren’t already signed up, click here to get on the list.)
I can’t wait to hear about your recent reads in comments.
Short and sweet reviews on what I’ve been reading lately
You may recognize Moore’s name from her newer release Long Bright River. I bought the audiobook of this older title years ago—and finally listened this month! The story follows a young girl whose world collapses when her single father’s undisclosed Alzheimer’s begins disrupting the happy pair's peaceful existence. David is a brilliant scientist, but as he comes to terms with his encroaching illness, he begins to plan for Ava's future without him. But he runs out of time, and never gets to tell his daughter the truth about his own identity—and why he isn't the person he'd always claimed to be. Years later, a visit from a long-lost friend prompts Ava to investigate her father's history, relying on everything he'd taught her about computers and coding to decrypt the clues he left for her years ago. Wonderful on audio, as narrated by Lisa Flanagan. More info →
After reading A Place Like Mississippi, I was inspired to learn more about Margaret Walker, who spent her early years in New Orlean and went on to become a prominent writer of the Chicago Black Renaissance. Walker was a prolific poet; Jubilee is her only novel. The sweeping story follows a slave named Vyry through the antebellum era, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, focusing on her struggles and suffering, the men she loved, the children she bore, and her constant yearning for freedom. Walker modeled her protagonist after her own great-grandmother. I read the 50th anniversary edition and loved poet Nikki Giovanni’s foreword. (Sensitive readers, be aware of a handful of difficult scenes involving beating, lynching, racism, and cruelty.) More info →
I loved this when I first read it on audio, narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, and I'm rereading in print to prep for our Book Club conversation with Stacey Lee later this month. Set in Gilded Age Atlanta, our May 2021 MMD Book Club pick features a strong teenage heroine who gets herself into hot water when her anonymous advice column soars in popularity. Chinese American Jo works as a lady’s maid for the grumpy, privileged daughter of a wealthy white family. But in her scarce free time, she writes an anonymous advice column called Dear Miss Sweetie. Pretty soon Jo's sassy column is the talk of the town, and the fussy society ladies yearn to know Miss Sweetie's true identity, never suspecting the peril that would put Jo and her family in. This engaging novel shone a light on little-known historical events, something I always love in this genre. More info →
After enjoying Walking: One Step at a Time, which I wrote about in January’s edition of Quick Lit, I was eager to read more from Norwegian author and explorer Kagge. This short and compact book is part philosophy, part grand adventure, and part survival tale. Kagge was the first person to visit all three poles by foot, trekking the North Pole, South Pole, and Mt. Everest. He records his adventures in this small volume, along with philosophical musings prompted by his journeys. The stunning photos from his polar expeditions and related illustrations upped my appreciation for the stories recounted in these pages. Translated by Kenneth Stevens. More info →
Jennifer Weiner first put this book on my radar when she mentioned it as an all-time favorite in WSIRN Episode 234: The Recipe for a Delicious Summer Read. This twisty 2002 novel features a wannabe author who, despite his pretensions, can't write anything worth publishing. But then his studious roommate dies in a tragic accident, leaving behind a brilliant manuscript that's not only ready for publication, but based heavily on the wannabe author's own life. He lands a literary agent, publishes "his" masterpiece," zooms to the top of the bestseller's list—and only then finds out he's not the only one who knew about his roommate's manuscript. If you like the sound of this one, keep an eye out in the 2021 Summer Reading Guide, which features several thrillers about authors behaving badly. More info →
Anne Helen Peterson recommended this 2003 National Book Award winner on an upcoming episode of What Should I Read Next, describing it as a story of longing (her favorite!) and impossible love. The story opens in 1947 with British War hero Aldred Leith arriving in Japan on official business: he's tasked with documenting the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, and while on assignment falls in love with Helen Driscoll, a woman 15 years his junior, who is just 16 when they meet. While the story is compelling, what I really loved in this novel was Hazzard's introspective style and carefully crafted structure. I love discovering hidden backlist gems like these through WSIRN podcast guests, and I can’t wait for you to hear the episode. 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.