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.

This month I’ve blown through a stack of recent and brand-new releases and I’m happy to finally get to talk about them.

Quick Lit 9/16
Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

I've been looking forward to this one for a long time. Great message (and one I'll probably never stop needing to be reminded of). More info →
You Will Know Me

You Will Know Me

Abbott has a reputation for writing real nail-biters but this is the first of her work I've read. In her newest release (just out in July), she builds her domestic suspense around an elite teen gymnast—an excellent backdrop for a creepy mystery because in this high-stakes world people will stop at almost nothing to get what they want. Abbott kept me guessing the whole way through: just when I thought I had the mystery figured out, she pivoted again. Recommended reading for fans of Mary Kubica and Gillian Flynn. More info →
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

I'd read a few interviews with the author and they left me eager to hear more of this story. I was captured by Vance's description of the hillbilly culture he grew up in: he said in one interview that "hillbillies, rednecks, and white trash" were the only people in America it was 100% acceptable to still make fun of, even by the supposedly "culturally sensitive." To Vance, these people were his family, friends, and neighbors. In an unusually nuanced approach, he reflects on his upbringing in rural Eastern Kentucky and the Rust Belt town of Middletown Ohio, coolly assessing the bad and the good of the culture that raised him, and examining why he was able to largely escape its woes while so many others cannot. An eye-opening, timely, and highly readable memoir. More info →
A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel)

A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel)

As you know if you've hung out on this blog for a few minutes, I'm a huge fan of this series and the lastest installment—#12!—didn't disappoint. I don't want to give even hints of spoilers to those of you not this far along in the series, so I'll just say that Penny returned to the big-picture plot in this latest mystery in a big way, and I loved it. More info →
The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad

First Oprah picked this, and I resisted. Then I heard about Whitehead's construct—that his "underground railroad" is an actual locomotive, powered by coal and running on actual track below the surface—and I was intrigued. Then I found out Whitehead is coming to my town later this year for my favorite literary event series, and I bought the book. While I felt like my time was well spent, it didn't blow me away ... although I may change my mind after I've heard the author speak about his own work. (I did this on audio, and while it was fine, it didn't add anything to the story. If I had it to do over again I'd stick to paper.) More info →

What have YOU been reading lately?


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  1. Lori says:

    Present over Perfect sounds like just what I need right now! Currently I am reading A Gentleman in Moscow and A Wrinkle in Time on audiobook…loving them both! Thanks for hosting the link-up!

  2. I hadn’t heard of Hillbilly Elegy before, but it has be intrigued as I currently live in eastern Kentucky. Now I am really intrigued to see what town the author is actually from. I just requested it from the library.

    So far this month I have read The Rosie Project, Kindred, Homegoing, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and Thrive. I highly recommend them all. The Rosie Project and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore are light-hearted and fun. Kindred and Homegoing are heavy novels that make you think. Thrive is a nonfiction book about living an environmentally conscious lifestyle to better health and true wealth.

  3. Sara K says:

    I recently finished book 2 in the Inspector Gamache series! It wasn’t quite as good as the first one, but it by no means put me off the series. I need to request the next one from the library!

    I finally broke down and purchased the Alexander Hamilton biography because I recognized that even when my number finally gets called at the library I don’t have a chance at finishing it before its due. It may take the rest of the year to work my way through it, but I look forward to the journey!

    I’m also reading The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry and Longbourn by Jo Baker – both recommendations from friends.

    I have my copy of Present Over Perfect (love Shauna Niequist’s books!) and am savoring it bit by bit 🙂

  4. Julie says:

    I’ve been looking for a good suspense book and “You Will Know Me” sounds really good. That one may be going on my TBR list! I will have to remember this link up for next time, looks like fun! =)

  5. Kimberly Bunyard says:

    I absolutely adored and inhaled the newest Louise Penny book. A Great Reckoning took me back to what is just pure beauty of this series.

    I also started rereading, which is not common for me, The Book Thief. I’m reading it aloud to my kids and need to switch to audio as it is already messing with my emotions and hard to read from chapter 1. The more I read this story, the more I realize that it is probably one of my favorite books of all time.

    And score one for me at the used book store, but I love a good mystery and I’m very intrigued by Tana French’s In the Woods.

    I never feel like I read more than one book at a time but I have these and Jerry Bridges’ Transforming Grace all open right now.
    Maybe the key for me is to keep a good blend of fiction, non-fiction and familiar?

  6. Ta says:

    Present over perfect is such a great title! It really makes me want to read it, because that’s what I want.

    I’m currently reading Fish Have No Feet by Jón Kalman Stefánsson, an icelandic novel and I love it so far!

  7. Shawna says:

    I just read The Widow by Fiona Barton. Very good. Reminded me of I Let You Go. Love your blog and podcast, though it’s made my reading list waaaayyy longer than I can finish!

  8. Dana says:

    I have Underground Railroad on my wish list after reading a long excerpt in the NY Times.

    Spent 4 days at the beach last week. Read a book a day for 3 days, spent the other time writing:
    A Clearing in the Forest by Kim Love Stump, a writing acquaintance of mine. It is her first book in a gentle YA fantasy series. A great read and perfect for tween girls. Suspense, adventure, romance but nothing inappropriate. Would be a great mother-duaghter book club pick.

    Neverwhere By Neil Gaiman. I am reading his book of essays called The View From the Cheap Seats and thoroughly enjoying it. It is my bedtime book. I had never read any of his fiction so I picked Neverwhere up. It is a gritty and in some places cringe-worthy urban fantasy, but a well done premise about an entire culture that exists below the streets of London. Warning: some gritty violence and language.

    Think Like a Freak by the authors of the Freakanomics books. Picked this up on a whim at the library. Fascinating book about how we think and make decisions.

    Still reading The Monuments Men, non-fiction about the men in WW II who helped find, save and return the art stolen by Hitler.

    Need to dig through the TBR pile for the next fiction.

  9. Laura Schwartz says:

    Recommended “You will know me” to my library, so it’s added to my TBR!

    As for what I’ve been reading lately, as in this past week:

    For YA (my guilty – or not so guilty for some of them that are quite good – pleasure), I read Amy Plum’s “Die For Me” trilogy, which was fun and will please any Twilight fan out there (to the point of finding character counterparts between the books).

    Also read “One Past Midnight” by Jessica Shirvington, which had a very interesting premise (every day at midnight the protagonist shifts between two lives, where she has different parents, siblings and friends, only to switch back exactly to where she left of the previous 24 hrs, so she lives every day twice) and was an easy read, and I enjoyed it, although not a masterpiece.

    Next I picked up “Missoula” by Jon Krakauer, after listening to Anissa’s episode and her love of “Into Thin Air”, which I also loved. This was also very good and makes me think I should pick up Krakauer’s “Into the Wild” soon, which I haven’t done yet ‘cus I’ve seen the movie.

    Also finally read “Eight Hundred Grapes” by Laura Dave, after seeing it listed here over summer, and it was a very enjoyable read! Easy and humorous albeit “tragically” themed. Devoured it in 2 days.

    Started reading Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth but I know I’ll work very slowly through that one, as I haven’t been on a high English phase.

    And just last night I started reading Hugh Howey’s “Shift” Omnibus, which contains books 6,7 and 8 of the Sci-Fi Wool series, which I read a year or so ago.

  10. Hillbilly Elegy looks really interesting! I have been reading some great books- including The Last One, about a woman whose competition on a reality tv show turns south when a viral apocalypse breaks out – it sounds like a lot to suspend disbelief for but it is actually really good!

  11. Libby says:

    I can’t wait to read Present Over Perfect. I just placed an order for “Finding God in the Waves”, too. I’m going to have a soul-enriching Autumn, I believe.

  12. Shannon says:

    I did NOT like You Will Know Me. In fact, it was my least favorite summer read- and my first Megan Abbott. Should I give her another chance?

  13. Mary Kate says:

    Funny, my boyfriend just purchased “Hillbilly Elegy”–he’s a reader, but nowhere near as big a reader as I am, so when he buys a book it’s kind of a big deal. He says it’s fascinating so far, so I very well may pick it up when he’s done, even though I don’t normally read a tremendous amount of nonfiction.

    As for why people think it’s “okay” to insult that class of people–that’s really interesting. I strive not to insult or generalize anyone, but I think people feel fewer compunctions about insulting “white trash” because those people are the ones people see as the racists who are busy insulting all people who are not white, straight, etc. (Also one of the reason we currently have an openly racist candidate with no qualifications running for president.) I look forward to reading, and hearing more of your thoughts, if you want to discuss!

  14. Donna says:

    Love it! You Will Know Me and A Great Reckoning are on my TBR list. I will probably pick them up this fall.

    I am currently reading Home going by Yaa Gyasi which I am absolutely loving. It’s so beautifully-written and brilliant! A few days ago I started The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman (finally!) It’s been on my list for years and I am thoroughly enjoying it! Last night I picked up Before The Fall by Noah Hawley and I am hooked. I stayed up late to read just one more page. His screenwriting g experience really shines through!

  15. Melanie says:

    I can’t wait to read Hillbilly Elegy. I also just put Allegheny Front on my TBR list. I think those two will be a good pairing.

    I’m planning on reading Underground Railroad but after your review I’m not going to be in a rush to get to it. I’m looking forward to Present Over Perfect.

    I recently finished and loved Homegoing and The Summer Before the War. I recently finished and liked Ragtime and Eight Hundred Grapes. I just started Death Comes for the Archbishop and now want to read all the books about the American West. I’m also currently listening to Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927 and it’s so fabulous as an audiobook that I don’t want it to end.

  16. Ottavia says:

    I just finished The Making Of Donald Trump (eyeopening) by David Cay Johnston and The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. Today I’m home in bed with a neck ache and cycling between Faithful by Alice Hoffman and Somewhere Inside by Laura and Lisa Ling.

  17. Sandra Mosolgo says:

    Loved Storied Life of A.J. Filkry-Liked The One-in-a-Million Boy
    The Boys in the Boat audiobook was fantastic.
    I am currently reading a British police procedural, The Dead of Winter, by Rennie Airth. It is third of a series but stands alone.
    I want to read Hillbilly Elegy and of course, the new Louise Penny.

  18. J. A. Hall says:

    Just finished reading a book I would have never, EVER picked to read. My Dad gave it to me; my sister got for him at a bargain basement book sale. He was wowed by it and though this book is completely out of my reading spectrum, I was riveted.
    The book: 13 HOURS, The Inside Account of What Really Happened In BENGHAZI, is written by Mitchell Zuckoff with the Annex Security Team.

    This book so compelling because it has nothing to do with the United States Government, conspiracies, controversies, talk shows, nothing. It is a firsthand account about what happened on the ground and in the streets of Benghazi, Libya on the night of September 11, 2012. It’s a story of unthinkable assaults, tragic loss and incredible heroes written from a totally neutral perspective. History told as a story.

  19. Shea says:

    I’ve heard good things about You Will Know Me and am tempted to pick it up, although I read The Fever by her and hated it… so I’m wary. I also read Still Life this summer, and I’m reminded now that I need to get to the next one in Penny’s series. Hillbilly Elegy sounds fascinating too–going to have to add it to my list!

  20. I read Present Over Perfect in August too (yay for release-day delivery from Amazon). I really enjoyed its message, even though my life is very different from Shauna’s. I just picked up Hillbilly Elegy from the library today (first on the list at my branch!) and already started – I’ve always been fascinated by Appalachian culture, and I am looking forward to learning more.

  21. Precillar says:

    I’ve just started reading again after a long hiatus and I find your reviews/reccomendations so very helpful!
    Now, is there any way to say in your review if the book is written in first or third person? I absolutely dislike reading first person books and I’ve had to return couple boooks because of that:(

  22. Donna says:

    Eeek! So I started Liane Moriarty’s Truly Madly Guilty yesterday evening and I’m already at page 275. I stayed up late last night and completely lost track of time. I went to bed at 4 am.?
    She’s so good at keeping us
    guessing throughout…geez!
    This is the fastest I’ve read any of her books. I loved Big Little Lies and I didn’t fly through it like this!

  23. Melissa says:

    I am excited about You Will Know Me! I hadn’t heard of it yet! I put in on hold at the library. I just finished Before the Fall and I Let You Go so now I am on a mystery kick!! I love a good mystery / thriller.

  24. Pam says:

    I’ve had a slow month of reading. I enjoyed One in a Million Boy and I’m currently finishing up After You. Next up is Present Over Perfect and You Learn By Living.

  25. Gisela Scofield says:

    Dear Anne – a few months ago I sent you a little book I had written and was wondering if you have had a chance to take a look at it. The title is My Childhood in Hitler’s Germany, it is the first of a trilogy. I would really very much appreciate hearing from you, even if you have not had a chance to review it.
    Thank you, and best regards
    Gisela Scofield

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