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 has been an interesting reading season. Several weeks ago I found myself in a bit of a funk, staring down piles of forthcoming releases I theoretically am excited to read, but couldn’t bring myself to begin. (It’s not helping that so many of the new books I have on my TBR are very, very long.)
While I don’t experience such reading restlessness often, it’s far from an unfamiliar feeling. When I’m feeling blah about my current books, I like to mix things up by reading a few titles from genres I enjoy, but don’t read terribly often. That means this month I read crime fiction, middle grade, a spy thriller, and a lot more nonfiction than I typically do.
Something else noteworthy happened in my reading life this month: because my finished reading journals are ready to hit bookshelves next Tuesday, this is the month I got to start using my own journal. I’m having so much fun with it, and am thankful I could start it now, just in time to document my slightly out-of-sorts reading month—and soundly in time to capture ideas and reflections generated by the books I chose to read. (If you look closely, you can see my notes on one of those books below.)
Of course, 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 what I’m currently reading 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 of what I’ve been reading lately
When Will and I were on the beach last month we walked by a surf class, and the ensuing conversation led to me finally picking up Peter Heller's memoir about learning to surf as a forty-something. After taking a few lessons with a buddy, he realizes the only way to really learn is to dedicate serious time to the sport, so he and his girlfriend buy a VW bus, press pause on their regular lives, and head to Mexico for a few months in their quest to move from kooks ("beginner surfer," with a derisive spin) to accomplished surfer. I have zero intention of ever surfing myself, but that's fine: this book holds appeal for Heller fiction fans, lovers of nature writing, and (I'm being totally serious) those interested in a serious but not humorless exploration of a self-described midlife crisis. More info →
I've had this sitting on my priority cart for years (hey, it's a big cart!) When I was on the hunt for something off my beaten path, I dove in—and then hardly put it down until I finished! This cat and mouse crime novel is set against the backdrop of the JFK assassination. The characters—with a few noteworthy exceptions—are terrible people doing truly terrible things; I was in a state of perpetual shock at the awful things these characters do to each other! But Berney sold me on the story and its world. The ending was perfect (as opposed to the epilogue; I'm still debating if the book would be better without it). Heads up for several grisly scenes. More info →
I thought the latest Gabriel Allon novel, just out in July, would have made a fantastic summer vacation read—but I didn't get to it until this month! I had a good idea of what to expect: a fast-moving spy novel with a smart sense of humor. In this story, Allon recruits the titular cellist—a savvy banker by day—to go undercover to bust a corrupt Russian billionaire. Silva often weaves current events into his stories: the coronavirus is ever-present in these pages, and in his Author's Note Silva explains he wrote an entirely new ending after the January 6 Capitol siege. It felt a little long in places, but I still enjoyed this story of revenge, money, and power; I especially admired the recurring motif of improvisation. More info →
I buddy read this with a friend at her suggestion, and I so wanted to love it. With its British Columbia setting, interesting narrative structure, and complicated family relationships, it sure sounded good on paper. A family and its forest sit at the center of the story, and I did appreciate how the author compared the exposition of the story to examining the rings of an old tree. It sounded elegant, but in practice I found it a bit hard to follow. There was much to appreciate here, but it wasn't what I expected or hoped for. Take a look at the above photo to see the notes and quotes I captured in my journal. More info →
I loved this book, which will probably get its own blog post soon. The premise is this: life is short; each of us, on average, is alive for only four thousand weeks. It's impossible to accomplish and experience everything we want to. So how do we decide what is actually worth our time? I especially appreciated his thoughts on how everyone is just winging it, all the time, and that serializing our tasks will save us. I read this book very slowly: I rarely spend more than a week reading a book, but I read this one over the course of three, which was perfect for the material. More info →
This book's predecessor Parable of the Sower is our October selection for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club, and I'm getting ready for our discussion by reading more Octavia Butler. I'm grateful for the nudge. I don't want to spoil any plot points from Parable, so I'll just say this second installment picks up several years after the first left off. It's both action-packed and trauma-filled; the former made me want to read quickly but the latter slowed me down. I love a good story that focuses on complex mother-daughter relationships; what a pleasant surprise to discover this is such a book. Count me among the many readers who have noted how prophetic these 1990s novels feel now, in 2021. 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.