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

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 on the 15th of the month. This month, the 15th falls on a Tuesday, which is What Should I Read Next day around here, so I’m posting this month’s Quick Lit a day early.

I’ve been reading up a storm lately, plowing through books both old, new, and soon-to-come. As you’ll see below, my genre selections have been all over the place!

I hope you have enjoyed some good books lately. Tell us your favorite recent reads in comments?

Quick Lit October 2019
The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader

Author:
I've been meaning to read this slim book about books for ages, and thoroughly enjoyed crossing it off my list this month. When an unnamed (but not well-disguised) Queen goes for a walk, her corgis stray into a bookmobile library parked near the Palace, so she feels obligated to take a book to be polite. The Queen finds a newfound obsession with reading—so much so that she begins to neglect her duties as monarch. A fun tribute to the power of books, packed with reading recommendations. More info →
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Our Souls at Night

Our Souls at Night

Author:
I re-read this spare Haruf novel for the third time in preparation for a recent episode of One Great Book—if you'd like to hear me describe this book, go listen to that short episode! I only recently learned the surprising story of how this book came to be written, and discuss it there. I found this up-close look at an unlikely relationship between two long-time acquaintances in small-town Colorado completely absorbing, as we see them develop a friendship, and then something more, and Haruf hits just the right tone with his light touch. More info →
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This Tender Land: A Novel

This Tender Land: A Novel

I read Krueger's first book, Iron Lake, this summer, recommended by a reader as a good series for someone who had run out of Louise Penny novels. I loved it, and snatched up this new standalone novel when it came out in early September. This coming-of-age story focuses on three Minnesota kids during the Great Depression, whose respective situations become ever more impossible due to human cruelty and circumstance. They realize no one is going to save them, so they have to save themselves—and that's when the Huck Finn comparisons start kicking in. I alternated between text and audio on this one, and it was excellent in both formats. A great story, well told. More info →
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The Most Fun We Ever Had: A Novel

The Most Fun We Ever Had: A Novel

I love a good family saga, so I've been meaning to read this since the spring. To be honest, I was intimidated by the length, but when a friend assured me it doesn't drag and that Lombardo's authorial voice is gold, I picked it right up and read it in three days (and it's a 500-pager, so that's saying something!) This is the story of a married couple and their four grown daughters. In the opening pages, one daughter reveals a huge family secret, and the novel tracks what happens in the next year of every family member's life. Listen to me recommend this book in Episode 206 of What Should I Read Next, coming 10/22. More info →
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In West Mills

In West Mills

This debut novel unfolds almost entirely in dialogue, and unfolds over the span of nearly half a century in a small North Carolina town. At the heart of the story is a woman named Azalea, known as "Knot" to her friends, who loves good books, cheap booze, and handsome men who don't interfere with her love of either. Trouble inevitably results, and Knot's good friends step in to help her manage it, but in a small town like West Mills, Knot finds she can't put the past behind her—even if she wanted to. It started so sad for me, but as I kept reading I was amazed to see Winslow transform this into a story of unlikely grace, a found family, and gentle redemption. More info →
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Lovely War

Lovely War

Author:
This fun novel—and book club favorite—combines three unexpected elements to great effect: World War I, a love story, and Greek mythology. It begins with Aphrodite and Ares walking into a swanky Manhattan hotel during WWII, and soon enough Aphrodite's husband Hephaestus challenges her to show him what love really looks like. She obliges, and takes the reader back in time to meet four young lovers in 1917 Britain, showing her fellow gods how each couple fell in love, and what they mean to each other. It sounds unlikely but the interesting narrative structure totally works. More info →
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What have YOU been reading lately? Tell us about your recent reads—or link up a blog or instagram post about them—in comments. 

P.S. The 2019 Fall Book Preview, and 10 campus novels that will take you back to your school days.

108 comments | Comment

108 comments

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  1. Julianne says:

    I read two 5 star books for me in October – The Conscious Closet (sustainable fashion) and Know my Name (memoir about the Stanford sexual assault case). Both are must reads and are life changing. I’m linking up my GoodReads profile where I post reviews of what I’m reading lately.

  2. James M. says:

    I just finished the divine Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignatofsky. A very informative (sometimes maddening) and fun little book. I have literally just started Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker so no insights yet, but I have heard that it is a great substitute for Stephen King fans. Speaking of King, I am about half-way through Revival. Still uncertain, but it is definitely holding my attention. Keep up the great work Anne!

    • Gina says:

      I just popped over to your blog and read this summary. Good points about The Great Alone. I felt like the last part of the book was rushed also. I attributed it to me rushing through it to see how it wrapped up but now hat I reflect on it, it did speed through. I was tired of bad things happening to them. Congratulations on the birth of your twins! I’m going to go read more of your reviews. I like the way you summarize the books and have good insight.
      How do you read so much in a month with a little one? And now more?!

      • Gina, Thanks for the kind words! I do a healthy mix of audiobooks and ebooks, and before having the twins I was at the gym on the treadmill for an hour each day which doubled as my reading time (yay for free childcare!). I will have to regain a healthy reading rhythm now that our family has grown!

        Good to know I’m not a total outlier in my thoughts on The Great Alone!

    • Susie says:

      Kendra, I also love your reviews! They are thorough and long enough and interesting, hit both sides of the story, pros and cons, and they tell me the things I want to know! They are what I wish MY book reviews could be!

  3. Ann says:

    I have Lovely War on Hold at my library and Warlight has been on my radar for some time. I really like President Obama’s lists and have read from them. He reads a lot of great things.

    I’m currently reading an ARC of Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea. Loving it so far!

  4. Laura says:

    I read much as I’ve been traveling lately. What stands out: I read the latest Louise Penny in a gulp, read Josephine Tey’s “Miss Pym Disposes,” which enthralls with its characterization, Rainbow Rowell’s “Landline,” and a reread of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. A book that I found very inspirational is Gene D. Cohen’s, “The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life.”

    • Shay says:

      I’m so glad I picked up The Most Fun We Ever Had from the library on a whim. I had no idea what it was or what I was getting myself in to. It turned out to be one of the best books I’ve read this year!

  5. Malissa says:

    I’m reading a collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories, and enjoying it way more than I expected! He is truly a master. Also, I finished Prairie Fires about Laura Ingalls Wilder and I loved it. And I have Ocean at the End of the Lane in my nightstand.

  6. Carrie says:

    I read/listened to Uncommon Reader and while enjoyable it was only a 3 star read for me. It may be because of the audio version as I didn’t care for the narrator. My recent 5 star reads were The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson and The Whisper Man by Alex North. The last completely surprised me since I don’t typically do scary but this was more suspensful thriller than scary with a strong father and son theme. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

  7. I finished an audiobook of The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington. It took a while to get into–didn’t like the main character at all. But readers weren’t meant to. The town, and readers, wonder when he will “get his comeuppance,” so how that developed and the depiction of that era made the book enjoyable.

    I also enjoyed A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell, a novel about an arranged marriage set during Queen Elizabeth’s time.

    The last two I finished were Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight by Sheila Wray Gregoire (helpful!) and Loving People: How to Love and Be Loved by John Townsend (some good points, but not as helpful as I had hoped).

  8. Han Dang says:

    I just finished listening to The Lunar Chronicles series and NOS4A2 – a mixture of feelings between horror and fairy tales retelling. I really enjoyed the science fiction aspect of The Lunar Chronicles even though I rarely read books in that genre. NOS4A2 is at another different level of horror. I thought I would enjoy reading it, but not so much. I’m more into the haunting, ghost or spirits related types of horror. Another update on the Summer Reading Guide 2019 (I know it’s very late) is that I finished The River by Peter Heller and Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane.

  9. Rachel says:

    I’ve been bingeing the Veronica Speedwell series since reading the first with MMD book club, I can’t get enough. Also, The Nanny and The Good Girl. I just started When the Lights Go Out. I’m looking for something witchy or magic to finish the month. I adore Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic, so maybe something similar, any suggestions?

  10. Carrie says:

    I am loving This tender land, it’s giving me a view of my home state during the Depression. And a new understanding of orphanages all over our state.

  11. Sarah says:

    I just finished Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered, which was so much better and more interesting than I expected. It was less about true crime and more about being true to yourself and finding what you love to do. A lovely thread of friend love also runs through it. My spooky read for October has been Archival Quality, which is a graphic novel ghost story about a librarian with depression. I’ve rounded out the month so far with the heartbreaking Swing by Kwame Alexander and the charming Well Met by Jen Lucas.

  12. Carolyn says:

    This year I have read do many excellent novels! I read Laura Lippman’s Lady In The Lake. Great mystery, intriguing characters and setting of 1960s Baltimore. Also lived The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. Wonderful book set in 1930s Kentucky and a subject I knew little about. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager is terrific suspense and got my October off to a great start. I also read Olive Kitteridge in preparation to read Olive Again. I really it liked it and Elizabeth Strout is an amazing author.

  13. Susan says:

    Thank you for the tip on The Uncommon Reader; I checked it out on paperbackswap.com and ordered a copy already! So excited!
    I am reading or listening to a BUNCH of books all at the same time: Listening to Where the Crawdad Sings, and while I like it, I’m dreading to find out how it ends–how can it possibly end well?? What a tragic start in a life…
    I’ve just begun reading Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions on Kindle—so far so good. My mother thought it was good, but was too ambitious—it was a mystery, it was a romance, it was a travel/food book about Sicily, it was about a quirky character—and on audio, for her, it was read in British accents, and the common Italian people had COCKNEY British accents, so she found it disconcerting. So, I’m trying it in print. I’m also reading the hard copy of Born A Crime by Trevor Noah, and I like it so far (I kept stopping to read sections of it out loud to my husband), and Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik, which is slow going, and disappointing.

    • Guest says:

      I’m with your mom. I wanted so much to love Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions but finally gave up the ghost last weekend. That is a book that really needed a strong editor to edit!

  14. LolaB says:

    I recently finished two 2019 National Book Award nominees-Fleishman is in Trouble-longlisted. There were some great sentences/passages and a few good moments, but overall, I didn’t care for it. From the shortlist, I just finished Disappearing Earth. For me, good but not great. The story is told through what are essentially interconnected short stories, but I didn’t think this was as effective as it could have been. I thought the book needed to be a bit longer. I did love the end and will read whatever this author writes next-this is her debut novel.

  15. Fonda Goode says:

    I bought The Uncommon Reader years ago at a used book store. Read it to the very end where I found the last page had been ripped out of the book. I still don’t know how it ends! My favorite reads this month have been The Dearly Beloved & The Island of Sea Women (on audio – which wrecked me). I’ve also finished Ayesha At Last, Picnic At Hanging Rock, Waiting for Tom Hanks & Women In Sunlight (book club pick). I listened to Bury Your Dead, The Accidental Beauty Queen & The River (which was fantastic…I finished in one day because I could not turn it off.) I’m new to using the library for my TBR list and it has really changed the amount of books I read. I can’t bear to send them back unread after I’ve waited so long to get them!

    • Kim says:

      I read The Uncommon Reader last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. I recently read The River by Peter Heller and could not put it down (thanks for including it on the summer reading list Anne!). This month I finally tackled The Goldfinch. I loved the first two hundred pages and the last two hundred, but found it lagged a bit in the middle. Another fun read was My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

  16. LolaB says:

    I also read (and loved) Shirley Jackson’s memoir, Life Among the Savages. It was laugh out loud funny and surprisingly relatable in 2019, especially given that it’s set in rural Vermont (I live in a big city) and that it’s set in the 40s/early 50s. This is a fun follow-up to her The Haunting of Hill House. Such a versatile and talented writer! I liked it so much I ordered the sequel, Raising Demons.

  17. I put This Tender Land on my TBR list as soon as I heard you first recommend it (as well as his other novel, which I also haven’t read), and I’m excited to my name slooooowly inching its way up the holds list! Most of my October reading was thanks to your Summer Reading Guide, as that’s how long it took for my library to order me the books and get them into the system, ha ha. Here’s what I thought of Gravity is the Thing, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, among others:

    https://www.toloveandtolearn.com/2019/10/14/loving-and-learning-lately-19/

    • Sue says:

      Torrie, so glad to read on your blog that you liked Rules for Visiting!! My sister and I are so taken by it. Sweet little gems in there!!

  18. Ginny says:

    I second Anne’s praise of William Kent Krueger’s “This Tender Land.” I just finished it and it is the best fiction I’ve read this year. This Dickensian modern-day retelling of Huckleberry Finn was a profound work of historical fiction. I love it when authors use individual experiences to make commentary on social inequities, and that’s exactly what Krueger does here. His use of the river and scenery as a vehicle for plot is outstanding and so, so well done. I look forward to reading more of his work.

    Another outstanding book I’ve read this month is Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments.” The Testaments is told from the perspective of three women – a young woman growing up in Gilead, a young woman growing up in Canada, and a third woman working within Gilead. The true identities of these three women are not difficult to figure out, if you’re familiar with The Handmaid’s Tale…but, some of the decisions these women make raise some moral questions. Is it okay to sacrifice a few for the betterment of all? Does the end justify the means? When is it okay to deceive others? Does empowering a few women make up for oppressing the majority? Can we really judge the actions of others if we’ve never really been in their situation? I love novels that make me think and this one certainly did that.

    If you want more reviews from me, check out my blog at https://ginnywriteswords.wordpress.com/ or my Instagram at @ginnyreadsbooks.

  19. Marion says:

    I have read “A Jane Austen Christmas’ and “A Christmas Prayer”. I will be starting ‘The Way The Christmas Cookie Crumbles”. I have read 19 books of “The Elsie Dinsmore Series. Also have read Fall and Halloween books.
    Marion

  20. Marilyn says:

    I am reading the fifth book of “The Huckleberry Hill Matchmakers” Series. I have also read a few Christmas books. I am now reading my Fall and Halloween books.
    Marilyn

  21. Krissy says:

    I loved This Tender Land! I was in tears by the end. Final Girls was an excellent thriller and I just started The Fountains if Silence.

  22. Lori Samilson says:

    I just finished Never Have I Ever. I’ve been totally hooked on Joshilyn Jackson since I first heard about her through WSIRN. I borrowed Our Souls at Night from the library after hearing about it on One Great Book. So far, it is and a fast read also. The other notable book of the month is The Dutch House, which I listened to on audio.

  23. Dawn says:

    I just finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek–historical fiction at its best! I found it very interesting as it told about the “blue people of KY” and the “Kentucky pack horse library project” during the depression years–of which I knew nothing.

  24. Angela says:

    Currently reading:
    -The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett (loving it!)
    -A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver (dense, but enjoyable and learning a lot)
    Rereading:
    -Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling (of course)
    Recently read:
    -Amanda’s Wedding by Jenny Colgan (way back in her backlist – 3 stars and a fun, relaxing read)
    -The Early Cases of Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie (3 stars and it worked well on audiobook)
    -The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (1 star and the book that made me decide to look for a new book club if this is what the group wants to read)

    • Violeta says:

      Laughed out loud at your comment on The Hidden Life of Trees. My husband read that last year and similarly hated it. I was going to read it but his reaction has given me pause…

  25. Cathy says:

    I second (third?) The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – so interesting and inspiring! I also loved The Library Book – I highly recommend to anyone who loves libraries, or even to those who DON’T love libraries. It’s based on the true story of a devastating fire at Los Angeles Central library, but the book has so much more interesting information about the role of libraries and librarians in our society, history of libraries, and how departments actually work in a library! I’m probably making this sound REALLY boring but it is fascinating!

  26. Sabiha Chunawala says:

    My October reads so far have been:
    1. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – a fun but also thought-provoking look at a young woman coming of age in the 1940s while living in NYC and working in a small playhouse run by her aunt. The setting of NYC is utter splendor and glamour and the dangers that come with and lessons learned from that lifestyle. I loved the numerous strong female characters and the way they lived their lives their own way bucking social norms of the time.
    2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – a graphic novel about the author’s life growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Many heavy topics and scenes fill this book, but I love how the author inserts her unique sense of humor and perspective as she tells this story to add just the right amount of levity to an otherwise very dark time in her life.
    3. Currently reading – The Lost Queen by Signe Pike – this book tells the story of Languoreth a forgotten queen of 6th century Scotland and sister of the man who inspired the legend of Merlin. So far this does not disappoint in terms of being “unputtdownable”.

  27. Violeta says:

    This month I read:
    – Well Met, by Jen Deluca
    – Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell
    – Reading People, by Anne!
    – The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
    – The Unhoneymooners, by Christina Lauren

    Well Met and Unhoneymooners were fun romance reads; Talking to Strangers was smart but bleak; Reading People was super useful; and The Dutch House was masterful-but-totally-unpretentious fiction.

  28. Sarah says:

    I recently finished Tidelands by Phillipa Gregory and loved it! I’m now reading another book by her called, The White Queen and I’m enjoying it. I love historical fiction and I needed a break from WW2 stories and these are a great diversion. 🙂

  29. Carmen McKerlie says:

    I *just* finished the Harry Potter series for the very first time! It was magical to experience this story for the first time, having not seen all the movies either. I’m now reading an 80’s British mystery called The Man with a Load of Mischief, by Martha Grimes, and loving it!

  30. Christen says:

    I also read This Tender Land and loved it! I read the Dutch House by Ann Patchett and it was so good. A fun YA novel: Waiting for August. And now I’m reading The Current by Tim Johnson.

  31. Teresa Taylor says:

    I stayed up until 2:30 am finishing Steve Cavanaugh’s Thirteen. Good and creepy- with lots of plot twists. Also just finished The River by Heller which was recommended several times by Anne. Loved it.

  32. Joanne says:

    This is about last Friday’s one great book about synesthesia. David Baldacci’s Memory Man series addresses this. It is an amazing series about a man who was a pro football player who has acquired synesthesia & the condition that renders the brain incapable of forgetting anything. It’s a really good series by a very adept writer. I think there are five books in the series. All awesome!

  33. I read The Most Fun just before it came out and also had the opportunity to interview the author since she had been teaching at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. I was shocked that a young, debut writer could write so intensely about family and feelings and life but she did and did it well. Big things coming from her! I have This Tender Land waiting so patiently in my pile. I’ve also met WKK and he is just so kind and humble. My latest reads are all non-fiction and quite sad actually. I’ve been reading much lighter stories since!
    http://www.sincerelystacie.com/2019/10/quick-lit-mini-reviews-of-some-recent-reads-october-2019-edition/

  34. Jenny says:

    I am reading the Lady Julia Grey series since I have finished all of The Veronica series. I have one more book to go to be done with the series. These books are a lot like Veronica, but have included more interesting characters. The heroines family is indeed interesting, and they make for fun reading! These books are easy, fun, and give you your British mystery fix.

  35. I read The Uncommon Reader last year (I think) after I heard it mentioned on your podcast? I might be making that up. It was a delight.

    I didn’t realize how few books I had finished until I put together this list. But still read a few good ones and some so-so ones! My list here!

  36. Inspired By Hermione says:

    I’m reading Snow Falling on Cedars, which is a very slow, thoughtful, engaging book. I’m also reading Gatekeepers, about White House chiefs of staff, as well as Burial Rites, which is historical fiction set in 1800s Iceland. I’m really enjoying all three.

  37. Laura Fincher says:

    I’ve been reading The Education of An Idealist by Samantha Power and have really been enjoying it. It is the memoir of Ms. Power, who served at the US Ambassador to the UN during the Obama administration. She has lived a very interesting life– raised partially in Ireland, was a reporter during the war in Bosnia in the 90s, and how has 2 young children. If you enjoyed Becoming by Michelle Obama, you might also enjoy this memoir too.

  38. Patti says:

    My heart totally skipped a beat when Anne divulged during her Fall preview video that William Kent Krueger had a new release. Several years back I discovered ‘Ordinary Grace’ by Mr. Krueger Absolutely loved it. Beautiful book. The story really took over your imagination. I immediately wanted more by this author, but discovered he did not have other books along these lines UNTIL NOW! I am so thrilled. ‘Ordinary Grace’ is an absolute must read. And this new release will hopefully show up under the Christmas tree.

  39. Cara Duncan says:

    My reads for October have been quite diverse, genre-wise:

    The Princess Beard by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne (Book 3 in the Tales of Pell series, perfect for those who enjoy The Princess Bride and Terry Pratchett)

    Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper, her recently released memoir of growing up in and ultimately leaving the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s a local read for me as I live in Kansas, and I also had the opportunity to listen to her discuss the book at an event hosted by the lovely Raven Bookstore of Lawrence, KS.

    Devotions by Mary Oliver, a thick collection she curated from the span of her published poetry. It’s Mary Oliver, what more do I have to say. It’s beautiful and wonderful and wise.

  40. Officially adding all of these to my list! Thank You!!
    Here’s what I’ve been reading: https://erikashirk.com/2019/10/17/read-alouds-memoir-and-lovely-fiction-september-quick-lit/
    I have been so shocked with the amount I have been able to read this year. I set my reading goal to 120 at the beginning of the year thinking I was being reasonable/generous (last year my goal was 100 and I read 135). I have already read 153 books this year. I can’t believe it and really have no idea how many I’ll end up with at the end of the year. I’m not sure what switched, but I am so glad to have a long list of what to read next thanks to you and bookstagram.
    It has been such a fun thing to jump into the community of people who love books and are wild to talk about them!

  41. Jennifer says:

    Just read Rules of Civility, yes I’m late to this book, but oh such a good read. Listening to Anne’s old podcasts and that title came up much. Missing the characters and sad that the reviews were rather vile for those who loved his other book better. Sad, as I think the book is a stand alone winner in itself. Makes me even more excited though to pick up a Gentleman in Moscow. Read Commonwealth as my first Ann Patchett to get ready for Dutch House. Liked it better after reading it was her first stab at doing an autobiography. Also read a Man called Ove. Our librarian said everyone is loving it but I found it a little to slow. Nice but predictable story especially if you have watched Despicable Me with your kids ( not exact but reminded me of.) Rereading Rebecca by DDM now, couldn’t wait to revisit one of my favorites.

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