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 knocked out five popular new (or new-ish) releases that I’ve been meaning to read since they hit the bookstore’s shelves.

Quick Lit 3/16
The Light of the World: A Memoir

The Light of the World: A Memoir

Alexander's husband died just four days after his fiftieth birthday. A few years later, Alexander looks back on their life together, their love, and the impact of that loss in her life. The author is a poetry professor at Yale, which obvious in the story's richness and language. Her source material is fantastic: Alexander is an American, born in Harlem. Her husband was born in Eritrea, in East Africa, and came to New Haven as a refugee from war. Both were artists—that’s his painting on the cover of the book—and their home sounds like this amazing, vibrant, multicultural extravaganza with food and friends and music and art. I could barely put this down. More info →
My Name Is Lucy Barton

My Name Is Lucy Barton

I finally succumbed to the buzz on this, my first novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout. This is a short, almost poetic, work—barely more than 200 pages—but Strout covers a lot of ground, from the perspective of a woman who's reflecting back on the time she spent in a NYC hospital in the 1980s: poverty, the AIDS epidemic, art and artists, and especially, the relationship between mothers and daughters. You could read this in an afternoon. Recommended for fans of Marilynne Robinson. More info →
Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

I've been looking forward to this one ever since I saw Cuddy's viral TED talk last year. Cuddy is best known for her advocation of "power posing": her belief that our posture literally changes who we are. In this longer treatment she unpacks what it means to be truly present in life, and how we can all achieve greater presence in our own lives. While a little uneven, I walked away with a pile of insights that made it worth my while. Highly recommended: if you don't find a few gems that will change your life, I'll be happy to share mine. More info →
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

The title is admittedly a little dry but the content is so good! This is Turkle's wake-up call to our modern era where we're over-connected to each other when apart but under-connected—thanks to our devices—when together. As a professor at MIT Turkle collected reams of research on how our devices are serving us well, and how they're not. (The latter column is the fuller one.) It gets depressing at times, but Turkle is persistently optimistic about how we can control our technology, instead of the other way around. Resistance is not futile, but highly effective, and once we understand how our devices are really affecting us, we'll be empowered to change. Surprisingly fascinating. More info →
When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air

I told you back in January that I probably couldn't handle this one ... and I'm mostly glad I let myself be talked into it. Kalanithi is nearing the end of his long and arduous training in neurosurgery when he receives his own terminal cancer diagnosis, and the role reversal is immediate: suddenly he's the patient, not the doctor. This is the book he wrote after his diagnosis: he'd always dreamed of writing a book "one day," and when his own timeline was dramatically shortened, he got to work. He didn't quite finish: one of the best parts of the book is the moving epilogue written by his widow. Recommended for fans of Atul Gawande: his Being Mortal is an excellent companion. More info →

What have YOU been reading lately?


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  1. Sara K says:

    Here’s a quick list of books I’ve finished in the last few weeks:

    The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – It was a very good read based on the true story of a female abolitionist from Charleston, Sarah Grimke. The only problem I had with it was the ending. It felt very abrupt. I think an epilogue would have given the book a more finished ending.

    Tears of the Desert by Halima Bashir – She is an MD from Darfur, and the book is her memoir of her childhood before the genocide and her early adulthood during it. Very well written and eye-opening.

    All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – Maybe this was a MMD recommendation? A sad story, but very good. Dealing with mental illness/teen suicide.

    In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick – I gotta say I didn’t really enjoy this. It was fascinating to learn about the voyage and how many times the crew faced seriously bad oddds, but I really struggled with the descriptions of whaling.

    A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman – I KNOW this one was a MMD podcast recommendation. Very good book. Who knew such a grumpy man could endear himself to so many?

    Right now I am working on The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.

    • Jana says:

      “My Grandmother Said to Tell You She is Sorry”, also by Fredrik Bachman is a fun book too. What a great storyteller he is!

  2. Courtney says:

    I just shared my February Reads on my blog a few days ago, but the cliff notes:
    -TONS of Sandra Brown, because she is the best fiction writer on the planet 🙂
    -an (cough, cough) abandoned (cough, cough) new Beth Moore.
    -The Selection series (ALL THE EXCLAMATION POINTS BECAUSE O.M.G.!) And yes, I know I’m late to that party.

    I’m adding Reclaiming Conversation to my to-read list.

  3. I’ve read two Strouts (I highly recommend Olive Kitteridge. Such an interesting, complex character) and have heard wonderful things about this new one.

    Wanted you to know I requested Presence after getting your newsletter yesterday. A friend had shared the YouTube video with me a few months back. Looking forward to reading more!

  4. GingerG says:

    I’ve been reading a lot memoirs lately. (Maybe it’s the season?) I’m adding When Breath Becomes Air and Light of the World to my reading list. As a side note, I’ve been thinking about guests for your podcast and I think it’d be super fun if you could snag some time with Gretchen Rubin! She’s a reader too and even has a reading hashtag. Just a thought. Thanks for all you do! Your blog and podcast are a happy place!

  5. Jeannie says:

    Lucy Barton is the only one of these I’ve read, and I loved it (though it’s quite different from Strout’s other books, which are all wonderful too). The Light of the World sounds so interesting. I have been reading some great memoirs lately; it’s become one of my favourite genres.

  6. Vicki says:

    I also read ” My name is Lucy Barton” I loved it, was like a bunch of stories in one short one. Ordered Elizabeth’s Strout novel “Olive Kitteridge. Hope it is just as well written and a great story as well.

  7. Christine says:

    Recently finished Being Mortal followed by When Breath Becomes Air. I enjoyed Being Mortal more but I believe that is purely due to my personal issues with aging and aging health care in the US coupled with being an only child of aging parents. It made me hopeful. Picked up The Wednesday Wars after last week’s podcast. Read it in two evenings. It was delightful. I want to be Mrs. Baker. Or maybe wished I had her and those Wednesday afternoons. It made me think about Shakespeare Saved My Life. Non-fiction. Good stuff.

  8. Corby says:

    Currently working on “On Hallowed Ground” a history of Arlington National Cemetery and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”

  9. The Light of the World and My Name is Lucy Barton both sound like books I’d enjoy immensely. Any multicultural memoir is a winner with me. I’ve been re-reading the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters and loving it – have you ever tried them? It seems like the kind of mystery series you’d enjoy – set in 1100’s England, deep examinations of human nature and motivation, great prose – good backlist reading!

  10. Janice says:

    Lately I’ve been reading historical fiction – Gwen Bristow’s Plantation Trilogy, Calico Palace, and Jubilee Trail – all very good. Also enjoyed The Elephant Whisperer, A Man Called Called Ove, and Brown Girl Dreaming.

  11. Anna says:

    I’ve been reading more fiction than non-fiction for the past month or more, unless the non-fiction ones memoirs or read like fiction. We’ve been dealing with a series of minor viruses & infections, and I’ve needed easy reading & entertainment. Some new, and some rereading of favorites- like Flavia de Luce.
    I keep adding to my TBR list and Wish list faster than I can ever read.
    Did you see that the new cover for Louise Penny’s book has been released. Can’t wait for that one! http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2016/03/cover-reveal-louise-penny-a-great-reckoning-chief-inspector-gamache-series-three-pines-mystery

  12. Kayris says:

    I’m loving Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance.” I thought it was a book about his love life. It’s not. It’s still funny, but it’s about relationships in the modern age-online dating, texting, marriage, etc.

    I’m waiting for the next book in the Heroes of Olympus series I’m just now getting to (Rick Riordan).

    And I just finished “Dreamland,” by David Randall, which was amazing. It’s about sleep.

  13. I’ve been putting off when Breath Becomes Air for the same reason, I’m not sure I can handle it! But it’s on my short list of books to read, so I’ll likely get through it be the end of the month!

    I just finished Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus and absolutely loved it! I didn’t expect to read such heartwarming stories about her experiences working with octopuses kept in aquariums, considering these animals don’t do well in captivity!

  14. Marina says:

    I just finished reading Daring Greatly for the 3rd time. Also finished Eleanor + Park in audiobook format. Working on Dinner: A Love Story and Still Alice.

  15. Kelli says:

    I just love your description of The Light of the World. Ever since you suggested it on the podcast, I’ve wanted to read it! I’m doing lots of driving lately so just got an Audible membership and have had such a hard time deciding what to start with, as I am a physical book lover. Elizabeth Alexander reads the book, so I’m thinking this may be my next pick to listen to. I can’t wait to learn about their amazing love and the multicultural extravaganza of the household!

    Any other suggestions for incredible audiobooks, anyone?

  16. Katie Roper says:

    A few of these are on my tbr list! I’ve been working on my reading challenge list, and at the moment I have Anne McCaffrey’s moreta sitting next to me. I read in a wide expanse of genres so dragons after finishing all the light we cannot see feels natural to me.

  17. Melissa says:

    I cannot stop thinking about the “power posing” after you wrote about it!! It is crazy how something so simple can be so powerful. So good. I am really excited to read Presence.

  18. Pam says:

    So far in March I’ve Read:

    Dear Mr. Knightley
    Ready Player One
    and just started
    The Boston Girl
    I will then get to a non-fiction: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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