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.

I’ve read some good stuff lately, including quite a few new or recent releases I’ve been waiting to tell you about. I’m thrilled that today is the day. (And since I’m just back from SIBA I’ll have more new releases to share very soon—did you hear about our Fall Book Preview? That’s coming this Wednesday for members of the MMD Book Club and our Patreon community.)

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

Quick Lit September 2019
Summer of ’69

Summer of ’69

Hilderbrand's new summer release, out in June, marks the first time she's written historical fiction, and the first time I've read one of her novels as an audiobook. The Levin family's life is thrown into upheaval during the landmark summer of '69, when instead of retreating en masse to the family home in Nantucket, they're spread out all over—to Boston, Martha's Vineyard, Vietnam, as they're forced to deal with the changing world and their own rapidly changing lives. I'll admit to reading ahead to make sure one character got her happy ending—and I NEVER do that! Don't miss the dedication on this one. More info →
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The Secrets We Kept

The Secrets We Kept

The story behind this historical thriller could launch its own novel, which is just one reason this book earned a dedicated bonus episode of One Great Book. Lara Prescott has always loved the book Dr Zhivago, and was stunned—along with the rest of the world—when the CIA declassified documents revealing that it had played a role in the book's covert publication and distribution in Russia during the Cold War. This is Prescott's imagining of what that might have looked like. The story moves between East, where the focus is on Pasternak and his muse/mistress, and West, where readers get to know the female spies of the OSS. The book has the feel of Kate Quinn’s The Huntress, with some of the storytelling flavor of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, or Brit Bennet’s The Mothers. More info →
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Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know

I read the Advanced Listening Copy of this new release, just out September 10, which turned out to be a fortuitous coincidence: the book is designed to be read in the audio format. “Think of this as an audiobook with the polish of a well-produced podcast,” Gladwell says in the intro. The title struck me as whimsical, but I quickly realized the tone and content of this book are somber: Gladwell seeks to examine why our interactions with strangers may go terribly wrong, drawing on examples of ruinous miscommunication such as Neville Chamberlain's misplaced trust in Adolf Hitler, Larry Nassar's crimes at Michigan State, and Sandra Bland's tragic traffic stop, which bookends this book. More info →
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A Better Man: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

A Better Man: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

I marched myself to the bookstore to snatch this up bright and early on release date, and was not disappointed. There's a lot happening in this new installment: a pregnant woman goes missing during a record-breaking flood, and the Sureté itself is in turmoil, thanks to ongoing corruption and power struggles. I thought this was one of the better Gamache books in recent memory. (And yes, I'm sorry to say, if you're new to the series, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning.) More info →
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Playing House (Uptown Book 1)

Playing House (Uptown Book 1)

When I found out there was a new novel that featured two urban planners falling in love, you can bet I was all over it: I'm fascinated by urban planning, yet this topic never comes up in fiction! In this short book—just over 100 pages—two professional planners get to know each other by touring homes all over NYC's Uptown. I so enjoy a book that makes me google locations, and this one had me searching for Strivers' Row and Forest Hills Gardens. This was fast and fun, but take note: this book was spicier (that is, more open-door) than I'm typically comfortable with. 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. 10 audiobooks to listen to while you clean, purge, and tidy, and the Quick Lit archives.


Leave A Comment
    • Laura says:

      Inspector Gamache is totally worth reading. I am sad that I am caught up because now I have to wait so long for each new one. Definitely keep on reading !!!

    • Katie says:

      The series is DEFINITELY worth reading through. I started with Still Life at the end of 2017, then blew through the series as quickly as I could get my hands on the books, and was done with Kingdom of the Blind (the last book before A Better Man) in the beginning of this year.

  1. Kendra says:

    I loved the dedication of Summer of ‘69 too—especially since I am pregnant with boy/girl twins myself!

    I’ve been working my way through the Summer Reading guide. Three of the titles I reviewed this month came from the guide, and one of them is the best book I’ve read all year! I’m also reviewing a brilliant science fiction novel (and I don’t usually like science fiction) and sharing my thoughts on Melinda Gates’ book.


    • Deborah G Ball says:

      No shame, Shannan, I have only read one about two years ago! Thinking I will go put the new one on my library hold list! Meanwhile, still cant say enough about The Dearly Beloved, my favorite book for my deep summer reads. Once More We Saw Stars, a sweet parent memoir, was also very well done for non fiction. I keep recommending The Next Right Thing by Emily Freeman. She has a very good short podcast each week that is quite helpful as well!

  2. Lisa notes says:

    Excited to see Elen Hilderbrand’s historical fiction here! I’ll have to put it on hold at my library. Looking forward to Malcolm Gladwell’s new book too.

    My turn finally came for Where the Crawdads Sing at my library. It was worth the wait. I also enjoyed Melinda Gates’ book this month and a delightful book about reading, The Art of Mindful Reading.

    More here: “7 books I Recommend”


  3. I’ve actually never read an Elin Hilderbrand book…I feel like that belongs on some sort of bookish confessions list! I did read lots of other lighter reads for summer though, like The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, The Accidental Beauty Queen, and others. I think I’m ready for some more serious, “literary” stuff for fall, though! I can only do the cotton-candy type reading for so long before my brain needs something a bit more substantial 🙂


  4. James says:

    Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison- so good!
    Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers- just started, but so good!
    Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King- overly long, and just ok.
    I have read just a little of Louise Penny, I will need to read more. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Chelsea says:

    I’m reading The Stationery Shop right now and really enjoying it. I purchased both The Secrets We Kept and Dr. Zhivago to read as a pair, but I’m not sure which I should read first.

  6. Angela says:

    I have been on a great reading swing in recent weeks! I read Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale and loved its dark, twisty creepiness, but it took some thinking to wrap my head around it. After that, I flew through Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours. Admittedly, I was not too excited about reading it, but did so since I am hearing her speak later this month.The book was so much better than I anticipated, though, and I absolutely loved it. I also listened to the audiobook of Jenny Lawson reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened which was hysterical. I am currently reading Deanna Raybourn’s A Curious Beginning and enjoying it.

  7. Lynda says:

    Let’s see…Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, The Cruelest Month ( I loved the audio book- loved the narrator’s French accent), and Rise and Shine Benedict Stone. This week has felt a little sluggish, reading wise…not sure why? I’m currently reading The Dearly Beloved.

  8. Ruth O says:

    I just finished This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger. I wanted to see what happened next yet didn’t want it to end, thoroughly enjoyed the story and so beautifully written. I have Talking to Strangers on hold at the library, and several things in progress: The Golden Hour, Elizabeth is Missing, and Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Better (memoir).

  9. I read An American Marriage this month, and wow, it was so good. I took the first half slow, but devoured the second half in an evening because I couldn’t wait to see how it ended. At times I caught myself thinking the book was a historical novel, but sadly the injustices faced by multiple characters were all very much in the present day. A powerful, sobering read with a bittersweet ending.

  10. Tracey says:

    I’ve read a ton this summer but the two books I LOVED and sadly not a lot of people have read are:
    One Night in Georgia by Celeste O Norfleet, a historical fiction novel about a group of young women who decide to drive from New York to Georgia in the summer of 1968. There are a lot of challenges for a group of black women traveling in the South in the 1960s. This book has great characters, drama, and some romance too! It’s emotionally intense at times and definitely a content warning for folks of colour who aren’t up for reading about overt racism. I read some reviews that felt the characters were a bit one dimensional and the story a bit flat but I didn’t feel that at all, maybe partly because I listened to this on audiobook instead of reading it.

    Another novel I love love loved is Such a Lonely, Lovely Road by Kagiso Lesego Molope. This is a beautifully written book full of emotion set in South Africa in the 1990sish. It’s very sad but also contains a beautiful love story. I kind of don’t want to say more than that so that people can be surprised. Highly highly recommended.

  11. Becky says:

    I am about half way through The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters and I am enjoying it. India is not a place I have a desire to visit, but I like reading about it. Plus, I have two sisters so I can understand those dynamics.

  12. Therri says:

    I’m halfway through Louise Penny ‘s The Better Man. It’s so beautifully written that I have to stop and meditate over so many sentences….what a writer! If I didn’t love every one of the Gamache books, I’d wish she’d start something else. Five a year would be too little! She’s amazing!!!

  13. Pam says:

    Just finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Historical fiction. Really, really good. Also, The Glovemaker is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Both of these books came out in the spring.
    For those who love mystery series, I’ve recently discovered Clara Black and her mysteries set in Paris with a female detective, Aimee Leduc.

  14. Sue says:

    Rules for Visiting—most underrated book of the year! Loved her wry comments, identified with May totally, and loved the different perspective on friends (not another novel about BFF’s, as if we all have BFF’s!)
    Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand—One of my favorites of the year. Love the Major.
    Gift from the Sea—a few nuggets, but I was not in the mood.
    My Grape Year—she was writing about her teen years, but it sounds like she WROTE it as a teenager…too amateur.
    Crossing to Safety—good writing, but….just didn’t make it to my Best List.
    Reading Bibliophile now—quirky and I wish I could paint books like that!

  15. judy kim says:

    I have recently enjoyed Eleanor and Park, The River (LOVED),11/22/63 (LOVED,not impressed with the miniseries though) and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (should be required reading for all with a smartphone). Currently reading I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, Celine, The Bullet Journal Method and The Broken Way (trudging through). All but 2 I heard about from What Should I Read Next.

      • judy kim says:

        Forgot: I’d Rather Be Reading (that one was so good I gifted it to a convent), Killing Patton on audio and Band of Brothers on audio. Listening to Reading People (which is so good I might gift it to the convent as well) and Born To Run (which I will definitely NOT be gifting to the convent. 😜)

  16. Michele says:

    My favorite August reads were MMD/What Should I Read Next? inspired: The Gown, A Hundred Summers, and I Miss You When I Blink (easily one of my top five books of the year so far). I just started Maybe You Should Talk to Someone and am looking forward to the cozy books of fall (if and when fall ever actually arrives here in D.C.)!

  17. You were so gracious about my mispronunciation of Elin’s name… 😉 I recently finished – and loved – The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall, which is a novel about two couples co-pastoring a church in Brooklyn during the 1960’s-70’s.

  18. Rada says:

    I am currently reading Kingdom of Ash, the last book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah Mass. Also, Maybe in another life by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and listening to Treasure Island on audio. All three books I’m enjoying.

  19. Sue says:

    Read and enjoyed Dear Mr. Knightley (even though I figured out his identity before the reveal). Liked Lady of the Lake by Lippman…good mix of mystery and hist.Fiction. Listening to The Great Alone on a long road trip…gripping!

  20. Stacey says:

    I’m weirdly almost disappointed with all the comments about how A Better Man is better than recent Gamache books. I LOVED this series through book 12, was underwhelmed by Glass Houses and really disliked Kingdom of the Blind, so much so that I had decided that maybe it was time for me to give up on the series and had kind of made peace with that decision, but now I feel like I’ll be missing out if I don’t pick it up!

  21. Katie says:

    I am reading A Better Man right now! On Friday I checked my holds list status and was #13 in line for the hard copy. That afternoon I got an email that the ebook was automatically checked out for me. I forgot I had gotten on that (much shorter) list too. So it was a fun surprise!

    I also just picked up The Secrets We Kept from the library and have The Gifted School on ebook for a book club I just joined 🙂

  22. Sheri Núñez says:

    I loved A Better Man, and agree that it was even better than at least the last one in the series. Even more than the mystery itself, one of the topics explored while arriving at the proper conclusion really resonated with some things a close friend has been going through. A friend recommended this series to me, but I think perhaps her daughter had gotten her hooked on Penny´s books due to a recommendation on your podcast. At least I know that was the same trail through which I discovered the podcast itself!

  23. I read The Summer of ’69 over the summer and while it wasn’t my favorite of hers, I did really enjoy it, especially corresponding to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

    Here is what I’ve been reading this month – slowly moving away from summer reads but I also still have a lot of your Summer Reading Guide books on my TBR!

  24. Beth Gross says:

    I recently finished Love Walked In, the first book I’ve read by Marisa De Los Santos. She’s a brilliant writer, but I have to admit I felt conflicted about this one.

    I also read the The Stationery Shop and handed it off to my mother. My favorite parts of that one were the Iranian history and all the talk of Persian food. Made me hungry.

    Talking to Strangers looks intriguing. Have to check that one out.

    My book list this month is something different. My favorite baby books! Getting ready for that new grand baby coming in December. One book a month for baby’s first year.


  25. Susan says:

    I read The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, A Better Man by Louise Penny, and listened to Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I read a few nonfiction books for my grad program. Achichie is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors!

  26. I feel like I’m going to be seeing Talking To Strangers EVERYWHERE the next couple months! I’m currently reading The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili (translated by Ruth Martin and Charlotte Collins). It’s a really chunky book – multigenerational saga! love, war, longing! – but I’m really enjoying it.

  27. Talking to Strangers sounds intriguing as it is written to be read as an audiobook, but I have to read Blink by Malcom Gladwell first since it has been on my bookshelf for too long.

    Here are my September reads! I managed to read 12 books (mostly audiobooks) in the weeks surrounding my son’s birth because I had insomnia prior to his birth (indigestion and his little kicks) and then his nights were swapped with his days the first 2 weeks so neither of us was sleeping! It apparently did wonders for my reading life though, haha!

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