Welcome to Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately on the 15th of the month. Since the 15th falls on a Tuesday this month, when we post our show notes for our Tuesday What Should I Read Next episodes, I’m posting this month’s edition a day early.
I’ve read A LOT this month, much more than usual, and struggled to narrow down my monthly reading to any kind of manageable list. I typically share five or six titles. Today’s list has eight, because I wanted to share a representative sampling of what I’ve been reading, and couldn’t (or didn’t want to?) do it in less.
This month I’ve read a dozen romance novels, listened to half as many audiobooks (half of today’s titles were audiobook listens, as noted), and several literary and nonfiction titles. My recent reads have been more backlit than brand-new.
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 can’t wait to hear about your recent reads in comments.
What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable
I thought this was a re-read for me: I was certain I'd read all of Maryilynne Robinson's novels, and downloaded the audiobook version of this first, her 1980 debut, for some familiar comfort reading. As it turns out, I was entirely mistaken—and grateful for the mistake, because I wouldn't have wanted to miss this tale of two orphaned sisters in Fingerbone, Idaho, struggling to find their place in the community and with each other after their mother's death. They're first cared for by a string of relatives, one of whom is named Nona. (This was the dead giveaway I hadn't read this book before. Nona is my grandmother's name, I've never met another, in real life or the pages of a book. This detail would have stuck with me.) Finally, their eccentric Aunt Sylvie steps in, and comes to "keep house" for them. But Sylvie's odd ways disturb the staid members of their little town, and the misunderstanding threatens the little family's stability. I listened to the newly released 40th anniversary edition, narrated by Therese Plummer. More info →
I've been meaning to read this narrative nonfiction about Garfield, his assassin, the circumstances under which he was shot, and the medical care that killed him for ages. When Suzanne of Goodreads chose this as one of her favorite books in What Should I Read Next Episode 242 ("Sharing Good Reads with good friends), I bumped it back up to the top of my TBR. Millard devotes considerable space to Charles J. Guiteau, the man who thought he was doing a political rival a service by pulling the trigger, but I found this thread far less interesting than that of Garfield's political career and short presidency. I'm sure I learned some of the details of his nomination and subsequent electoral win in history class, but I had completely forgotten how reluctant he had been to assume office—and how scholars agree that he would have survived the bullet wound just fine if the doctors had only left him alone. I'm interested in reading more by Millard. More info →
Over the course of the past month I've been reading scads of romance novels, including this entire series, each of which features a female protagonist who works in STEM. When this first book opens, Melody is having a terrible night. First her date stands her up, then the creepy guy at the bar won't leave her alone. When a handsome stranger offers her an escape, it leads to one fabulous night—and that's all it can be, because the next day Jeremy has to fly home to L.A. But then three years later, Melody graduates and lands her dream job at an aerospace company—in L.A., where she reconnects with Jeremy and discovers not only is he as charming as ever, he's the CEO's son. And a billionaire. (This series is closed door, but that's not true for all of Nix's work.) More info →
Funny thing about this book: I had it checked out of the library for SIX MONTHS (due to COVID-19 closures), returned it unread, and only then downloaded the audiobook after a reading friend told me it was fabulous in that format. This reflective and often pained retrospective examines a complex mother-daughter relationship. Daughter Norah's musings are prompted by a graduate student who comes calling, seeking insight into the life of her mother, the brilliant Irish actress Katherine O'Dell. The style is almost—but not quite—stream of consciousness, as Norah examines her mother's early years as an actress, her sudden and enduring fame, and then her encroaching mental illness. I loved this book for its voice: Norah is a remarkable narrator of her mother's story, and I loved the sly way she lets her own story slip into the frame. Anne Enright is equally remarkable: very few novelists narrate their own audiobooks, but Enright reads hers here in an incredible performance. More info →
In my recent WSIRN episode with Afoma Umesi (Episode 249: "Who would read the dictionary for fun? We would."), she says one of the reasons she loves middle grade novels is that they're short—so you can read a whole stack of them in a weekend. I was happy to recommend this new Jaqueline Woodson novel for her TBR. Black preteen ZJ has always had a strong relationship with his father, a football star who's a living legend and fan favorite. But ZJ and his mom have been struggling lately, trying to make sense of his dad's increasingly erratic behavior. The doctors suspect the many concussions he's suffered over the years are the culprit, but they don't know what to do about it. Woodson doesn't sugarcoat the suffering, but a drumbeat of hope and resilience anchors ZJ's story. I listened to the audiobook narration by Guy Lockard: the story was AMAZING in his voice, and delivered a wholly satisfying story in just 2 hrs and 14 mins. More info →
I loved the premise of this brand-new psychological thriller: on a dark and stormy night, a guilt-ridden mother walks away from her life, five years to the day after her youngest child was killed in a tragic accident. Two days after she disappears, police find Molly's handwritten note in a local motel: it says the pain is too much to bear, her family will be better off without her, she's leaving. "Don't look for me," she writes. The police call it a walk-away, saying it happens all the time. But Molly's daughter is suspicious and begins her own investigation into her mother's disappearance. This was a serviceable mystery; I enjoyed the first half more than the second, and listened to the audiobook version narrated by Therese Plummer. More info →
I thoroughly enjoyed this new crime novel set on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Sicangu Lakota nation. (Weiden is a citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts.) Virgil Wounded Horse is a Native American vigilante for hire: when people can't get justice through the reservation's official channels they turn to him to enact their own. This happens with depressing regularity because of the 1885 Major Crimes Act: certain felonies can only be prosecuted by the federal government, but at their discretion—and they typically decline to prosecute any case that doesn't include murder (Weiden says in his Author's Note that this circumstance is factual and all-too-real.) When Virgil's nephew gets entrapped in a fake drug bust, authorities more or less force the young teen to take a dangerous undercover assignment so they can nail the men who are trafficking heroin on the reservation. While the story is solid, this book shines for its setting, and its powerful exploration of identity. Though this reads as a standalone, Weiden left the door wide open for a sequel; I'm certainly interested in reading more. (Though the story is rarely graphic in portraying violence, the novel does begin with Virgil knocking out a child molester's teeth in a parking lot, please be mindful of the associated content.) More info →
Even before I finished Welcome Home, I was putting Myquillyn's principles into action—and enjoying the process. There's no one I trust more for guidance on making my home livable, welcoming, and beautiful. Her new book walks you through the seasons of the year, highlighting simple and gratifying ways to decorate (yay) and host (eventually) in tune with the rhythms of the year. For the fall season, I'm ready to shop my backyard for fall decor, as she suggests, and my kids can't wait to try the stacked apple cider bar she demonstrates how to do for a fall celebration. This would make a lovely gift book. 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.