The inspiration for Great Books Under 300 Pages came from a July, 2014 article on Book Riot called Why Are Books Getting Longer? I commented on this article that, sure enough, I have a book recommendation list called Time to Kill, which is where my favorite chunksters go. Author Jeremy Anderberg responded to my comment with this:

Well maybe you’ll have to start a new list for short books! Huzzah!

Well, here you go, Mr. Anderberg! Plus, sometimes you just need something short and sweet.

Why did I choose 300 pages? As I perused my reading spreadsheet, I noticed there were lots of books in the 300-400 page range, but that it was more rare for an author to make it under the 300 page barrier. 

Latest Addition(s) (December 27, 2020)

Good Morning MonsterGood Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner
General Nonfiction (Release Date: September 22, 2020)
368 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Gildiner, who was a psychologist in Canada for many years before becoming a writer, shares the stories of her five “most heroic and memorable patients.”

My Thoughts: Gildiner explicitly chose five patients to profile whose stories ended well and were inspirational. There is a finite sense of closure with each patient, including a check-in years later in most cases, and I think readers will love this. The patients she profiles also had incredibly dysfunctional childhoods, so there’s a bit of a dysfunctional childhood memoir feel to the book as well. These stories will punch you in the gut, but leave you hopeful at the end. If you liked Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, here’s your next book! My Review.

His Only WifeHis Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: September 1, 2020)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Afi lives in Ghana with her widowed mother and is offered the “opportunity” to marry a wealthy man she’s never met. He doesn’t show up at their wedding, sending someone else in his place. Nevertheless, the marriage goes through and Afi moves to a swanky apartment in Accra, but discovers her husband is in love with someone else.

My Thoughts: Peace Medie grew up in Ghana and is a women’s rights advocate who shines that lens on fiction in her debut novel. His Only Wife begins with this intriguing first line: “Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding” and, from there, explores the impact of Ghanian patriarchal culture on women through Afi’s story. It’s propulsive and reads easily, yet challenges cultural norms in Ghana. A great pick for fans of readable literary fiction! My Review.

Leave the World BehindLeave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Literary Fiction (Release Date: October 6, 2020)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Amanda and Clay’s vacation in a Long Island rental house is interrupted when the home owners (a black couple) show up on their doorstep…saying that NYC is in the middle of a blackout. They must figure out what’s going on and if they’re safe where they are.

My Thoughts: This #readwithjenna pick is one of the most divisive books of the year. I thought it was immersive, dripping with emotional tension, and chock full of commentary on technology in the modern world. But, don’t give it to readers who need all their questions answered by the end.

Great Books Under 300 Pages

A Separation, Katie MitamuraA Separation by Katie Kitamura
Fiction (Released February 7, 2017)
240 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A young woman’s mother-in-law asks her to travel to Greece to find her estranged husband, who has stopped communicating, resulting in a rumination on the state of her marriage and the secrets they’ve been keeping.

My Thoughts: A Separation has catastrophically been described as a “whodunit” (by Elle Magazine) and “the literary Gone Girl of 2017″ (by The Millions). It is NOT either of those things. It is, however, a gorgeously dark rumination on a troubled marriage. It’s most definitely a “style” book (i.e. don’t look for a fast-moving plot), but I immediately adored the narrator’s voice and tone. Continue Reading…

All Grown Up, Jami AttenbergAll Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
208 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Andrea Bern is single living in New York City and is struggling to find her place in the world…until some family struggles force her to confront her issues.

My Thoughts: All Grown Up is a raw, compact story of a young woman (Andrea) trying to find her way in the world, but it’s taking longer than society says it should. Attenberg uses little snapshots of Andrea’s life to share her struggles with being single in New York City (a situation I could relate to from years ago) and provide “yes, that’s exactly how it is” commentary on how society treats single ladies in their thirties. It’s one of my favorite books of 2017 so far! Continue Reading…

All This Could Be YoursAll This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: October 22, 2019)
304 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Alex’s father (a shady businessman) has a heart attack, she rushes to New Orleans to try to learn who he truly was and understand why her mother (Barbra) stayed married to him. 

My Thoughts: 2019 was a stellar year for family dramas and All This Could Be Yours may be the darkest of them all! The level of family dysfunction is high, but what makes it truly dark are the thoughts and feelings of each of these family members. If you need hope in your books, this probably isn’t the choice for you. 4.5 stars. Full Review.

American Fire by Monica HesseAmerican Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
Nonfiction (Released July 11, 2017)
259 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of the hunt for a serial arsonist (to the eventual tune of 67 fires in five months) who burned down abandoned buildings in Accomack County, a small, declining town on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

My Thoughts: The story behind the hunt for this arsonist (actually, arsonists), who they were, and why they couldn’t stop burning down abandoned buildings is ultimately about a unique community and a love affair gone very wrong. It’s a well-told and engrossing story with a broad appeal beyond the true crime genre and is a perfect “gateway book” for those interested in dipping their toes into the true crime genre for the first time. Continue Reading…

Boomerang by Michael LewisBoomerang, michael lewis, finance, business, european debt crisis
Nonfiction – Business (Released October, 2011)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Lewis explains the European debt crisis by focusing on the culture and social norms of Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Germany, and, because it has striking similarities to these European countries, the state of California.

My Thoughts: Who would have thought a book about the European debt crisis could be funny? Lewis’ social commentary on how each country’s culture brought about its downfall is hilarious and makes Boomerang appealing even to those who aren’t remotely interested in finance. Continue Reading…

Brain on Fire by Susannah CahalanBrain on Fire, Susannah Cahalan, psychosis, memoir
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released November, 2012)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of 26 year old New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan’s unexplained “descent into madness” and her subsequent struggle to recover her identity.

My Thoughts: Brain on Fire is a fascinating medical mystery. Susannah’s first symptoms were flu-like (true of 70% of patients with her illness), which then spiraled into numbness, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, memory loss, loss of motor skills, and catatonia. After weeks of doctors haphazardly diagnosing her with all kinds of things (alcohol withdrawal was my favorite), she ended up at the renowned NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center for a month while the experts there struggled to figure out what was wrong with her. Continue Reading…

Concussion, Jeanne Marie LaskasConcussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Nonfiction – Medical Mystery/Sports (Released November 24, 2015)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Summary: The story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, a native of Nigeria, who immigrated to the U.S. and used his neuropathological research into brain injuries to football players (i.e. CTE) to take on the National Football League (NFL).

My Thoughts: Concussion is a so much more than a “football book”; it’s a medical mystery, a David & Goliath story, an immigrant’s story, and a story of a big-business cover-up…and, it’s my favorite nonfiction of 2015! Continue Reading…

Craigslist ConfessionalCraigslist Confessional by Helena Dea Bala
Nonfiction – General (Release Date: July 7, 2020)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The author shares personal stories from her project called Craigslist Confessional, where she asked strangers what they would “confess if you knew it would never get back to your spouse, your colleagues, or [their] family.” 

My Thoughts: These stories are the take-your-breath-away kind that I remember from Tiny Beautiful Things…just without the advice element (Dea Bala chose to strictly listen). They’re deeply raw and unfiltered and cover issues ranging from infidelity to addiction to racism to abuse to terminal illness to identity to mundane marriage issues. I was riveted. A 5 star book that came out of nowhere for me! P.S. – check out my podcast episode with the author! Full Review.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NgEverything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng, fiction
Fiction (Released June, 2014)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Lydia, the favorite teenage daughter of a Chinese-American family living in 1970’s Ohio, turns up dead, the family is forced to examine strains that have been lying just below the surface.

My Thoughts: I wanted to read Everything I Never Told You after seeing Shannon at River City Reading’s glowing review of this debut novel. Plus, I had great luck with 2014 debuts! I wouldn’t say I loved this book as much as Shannon did, but I did like it a lot, even though it turned out to be a bit different than I expected. Given the book opens with this doozy, I was expecting a thriller focused on how and why Lydia is dead. Continue Reading…

Ghosts of Manhattan by Douglas BruntGhosts of Manhattan, Douglas Brunt, novel about wall street, wall street, mortgage bubble
Fiction (Released October, 2012)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Amid the 2005 mortgage bubble, thirty five year old Bear Stearns bond trader, Nick Farmer, faces disillusionment with his career decision, personal life, and strategy decisions at Bear.

My Thoughts: I was a little skeptical because I’d read so many “Wall Street excess tell-alls” that they had started to run together in my head and ceased to be interesting. There’s only so many times you can read about money, drunkenness, cocaine, and hookers before it becomes a bit repetitive. But, this book was different…in a good way! Continue Reading…

Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel KhongGoodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Fiction – Debut (
Released July 11, 2017)
208 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Ruth returns to her parents’ home in the L.A. area to help care for her father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

My Thoughts: Goodbye, Vitamin is the type of book that could get overlooked because it’s all about the intangibles, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking this one! Though this story is about a sad and serious topic, it has a lightness to it and is amusing at times. The story is told through Ruth’s journal entries that read like little vignettes, a format that worked for me in this case because I absolutely adored Ruth’s endearing, witty, real, and relatable voice. It was the overwhelming reason I enjoyed Goodbye, Vitamin so much. Continue Reading…

Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. VanceHillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released June 28, 2016)
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Vance’s hybrid memoir of his childhood growing up poor in an Ohio town (Middletown) / social analysis of the plight of poor Appalachians.

My Thoughts: Before reading Hillbilly Elegy, I’d heard it compared to Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle (which I loved) and I agree that the memoir portion does bear some resemblance. But, Vance takes Hillbilly Elegy to the next level (5 star level for me!) by seamlessly blending in social analysis of why the poor, white working class is failing to achieve upward mobility. Continue Reading…

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura PhilpottI Miss You When I Blinkby Mary Laura Philpott
Nonfiction – Memoir / Essays (Release Date: April 2, 2019)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Mary Laura Philpott had an enviable life by conventional standards (i.e. happy marriage, children, career, house, etc), yet she still felt unsettled and unsatisfied. These essays are about her experience trying to navigate that.

My Thoughts: I’ve been on a kick with “women who get women” memoirs over the past few years and Mary Laura Philpott is an excellent addition to my club of go-to authors (also including Anna Quindlen and Kelly Corrigan). Philpott writes about this unsettling stage of life with openness, humor, and relatability. If you enjoy “maintaining your identity through marriage and motherhood” books, I Miss You When I Blink should be next on your list! Full Review.

My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth StroutMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Fiction (Released January 5, 2016)
208 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: During a long hospital stay, Lucy Barton has a heartfelt conversation with her mother spanning topics from her difficult childhood to gossip from her hometown to her marriage and motherhood.

My Thoughts: My Name is Lucy Barton was an unexpected winner for me…in the way I felt about it and what it was actually about. I expected a story focusing on Lucy’s relationship with her mother, and it certainly covers this territory, but it felt much more about Lucy’s own life: her childhood, what it was like to grow up poor and never quite fit in, and her adult life. Continue Reading…

My Salinger Year by Joanna RakoffMy Salinger Year, Joanna Rakoff, memoirs, J.D. Salinger
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released June, 2014)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The story of Rakoff’s experience as a young woman in the 90’s living in NYC and working at the literary agency representing reclusive legend, J.D. Salinger.

My Thoughts: Though the title mentions Salinger, he is not the main focus of My Salinger Year. Sure, he makes appearances, but this is more of a coming of age story about a young girl trying to make it in NYC and a company trying to adjust to the modern world. You do not have to be a Salinger fan to enjoy this book. I was pleasantly surprised by this and ended up loving this book. Continue Reading…

My Sister the Serial KillerMy Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Fiction (Released November 20, 2018)
226 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Korede, the “good” sister, does everything right and always cleans up after Ayoola, the beautiful sister, who sails through life without a care in the world…yet kills her boyfriends and manages to be their mother’s favorite.

My Thoughts: The premise of this book is ridiculous in a campy way and specific parts are preposterous, but it works! It’s a story of sibling dynamics…obviously taken to the extreme…and, it’s weirdly funny…even though people keep dying. Despite the murderous title, this one is a fun, light read and would make a perfect palate cleanser! Full review.

My Southern Journey, Rick BraggMy Southern Journey by Rick Bragg
Nonfiction – Essays (Released September 15, 2015)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A collection of Bragg’s previously published (in various magazines and newspapers) articles about Southern life and culture.

My Thoughts: Bragg shows off Pat Conroy-caliber writing in his essay collection about Southern life. His introduction to this collection is a thing of beauty. He shares that he tries to avoid writing about the South in cliches (i.e. “no pig pickin’, frat parties, or cutthroat beauty contests”) and he truly does accomplish this. Dare I say that his writing about the South reminds me of Pat Conroy’s (for regular readers of this blog, you know this is a huge compliment from me)? And, a minute after this comparison occurred to me, Bragg mentioned having dinner with Conroy. I thought, “of course.” Continue Reading…

Normal People by Sally RooneyNormal Peopleby Sally Rooney
Fiction (Release Date: April 16, 2019)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Irish teenagers Connell and Marianne are first drawn to each other in high school when Connell’s mother works as Marianne’s parents’ housekeeper…and, their relationship becomes confusing as they navigate the social dynamics of both high school and college.

My Thoughts: Normal People (which has been long-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize) is the kind of relationship book that is utterly riveting, but also made me feel a little uncomfortable in the best way possible (like White Fur and Tender). Connell and Marianne’s relationship is far from straightforward and is downright maddening at times, but I was rooting hard for them and completely engrossed in their story. 5 stars! PS – I should tell you this story involves a fair amount of sex and also does not use quotation marks for dialogue (neither of those things bothered me, but they might bother some people). Full Review.

Nothing to See HereNothing to See Hereby Kevin Wilson
Fiction – Brain Candy (Release Date: October 29, 2019)
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Lillian, a scholarship kid, and Madison, an heiress, become friends at their Tennessee boarding school. Years later, Madison is married to a U.S. Senator and asks Lillian to serve as “governess” for her ten year-old stepchildren. But, the stepchildren catch fire when they get upset and Senator Roberts is gunning for higher office. 

My Thoughts: I was nervous about the outrageous premise (kids literally catching on fire when they’re upset). I usually like my fiction firmly rooted in reality; however, I’m a mother, so I appreciated this idea as a metaphor. This book seamlessly combines dark humor with warmth into brain candy that has sass and heart. Lillian’s salty, filter-free commentary on rich people’s eccentricities and her rough-around-the-edges demeanor balance out the unrealistic premise. Full Review.

Out East by John GlynnOut Eastby John Glynn
Nonfiction – Memoir (Release Date: May 14, 2019)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Amid an anxiety-filled time in his life, Glynn joins a Montauk share house for the summer and finds friendship and love for a man.

My Thoughts: You might expect a memoir about a Hamptons share to be 100% debauchery (think Bravo’s Summer House) and Out East certainly contained a lot of that, but it’s one of the most heartfelt and emotional memoirs I’ve ever read about friendship and love. Glynn perfectly captures that unsettled feeling you can get in your mid-twenties when your friends are at very different stages of life. By the end of the book, I was frantically turning the pages late into the night dying to find out what would happen with John and the man he fell in love with. Full Review.

Perfect TunesPerfect Tunes by Emily Gould
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: April 14, 2020)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Laura moves to New York’s Lower East Side to pursue her music dreams, but her life is turned upside down by a love affair with a flaky fellow musician.

My Thoughts: If the theme of women struggling to pursue their dreams while being mothers and wives appeals to you (and you like character-driven novels), read this book. The story begins with a toxic relationship that reminded me of the one in Sweetbitter (my review) and turns into an exploration of motherhood and balancing time and attention to children with pursuing a dream of your own. Perfect Tunes packs a lot of themes and a long timespan into a small package, but the story and characters still feel fleshed out. Full Review.

Reunion by Hannah PittardReunion, Hannah Pittard, fiction
Fiction (Released October, 2014)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: As Kate faces turmoil in her own life, she is summoned to Altanta to join her somewhat estranged, extended (I don’t mean cousins and aunts…I mean ex-wives and half siblings!) family for her father’s (Stan) funeral.

My Thoughts: Reunion is a hilarious and irreverent take on marriage, stepmothers (four, in this case), half siblings (seven, in this case), strained parental relationships, the bond with siblings you grew up with, and the occasional ridiculousness of the rituals of death. I loved the combination of Pittard’s informal, straight forward writing style with the depth of the issues she covers. Continue Reading…

Southern Lady Code by Helen EllisSouthern Lady Code by Helen Ellis 
Nonfiction – Memoir / Essays (Release Date: April 16, 2019)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Ellis (an Alabama native living in New York City) shares her outrageous take on Southern etiquette and eccentricities. 

My Thoughts: Ellis has an inappropriate, outrageous sense of humor (my favorite!). And, pairing it with her spot-on social commentary on the South can be magic. She covers marriage, thank-you notes, general etiquette (courtesy of her mother), and crazy stories from her childhood a la Jenny Lawson (I loved these). Some of these essays are outrageously funny, while some are still fairly outrageous (but less so for Ellis), but also poignant. Full Review.

Still Points North by Leigh NewmanStill Points North, Leigh Newman
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released March, 2013)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Following her parents’ divorce, Leigh Newman spent her childhood splitting her time with her Dad in Alaska and her Mom in Baltimore before tackling early adulthood as a travel writer in New York City.

My Thoughts: This fantastic memoir has eccentric parents reminiscent of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and outdoor adventures reminiscent of Wild by Cheryl Strayed – a great combination in my opinion! Continue Reading…

StrayStray by Stephanie Danler
Nonfiction – Memoir (Release Date: May 5, 2020)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The author of Sweetbitter (my review) returns to her hometown of Los Angeles from New York City after selling her debut novel and faces her traumatic childhood including alcohol and drug addiction (in sections called “Mother” and “Father”)…and an unhealthy relationship (in a section called “Monster”).

My Thoughts: Danler’s memoir hit me in my core, but it’s one of those books I don’t think will be for everyone. It’s super dark and one of the most raw memoirs I’ve ever read, yet immersive and riveting. Ultimately, she’s scarred and bearing those scars for the world to see. 4.5 stars! Full Review.

Striking Gridiron by Greg NicholsStriking Gridiron, Greg Nichols, nonfiction, sports, football, 1959 steel strike
Nonfiction – Sports (Released September, 2014)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The story of a Pennsylvania steel town’s (Braddock) high school football team’s amazing 1959 season during the longest labor strike in U.S. history.

My Thoughts: My husband and I are big football fans and harbor soft spots for goose bump-inducing high school football stories. So, Striking Gridiron was right up my alley. The big question was if Nichols would be able to give me goose bumps in a situation where I already knew the ending…but, he succeeded! Continue Reading…

Tell Me More by Kelly CorriganTell Me More by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released January 9, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Corrigan’s memoir is organized around the “12 hardest things she’s learning to say,” including “No,” “I don’t know,” and “I Was Wrong.”

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored (it’s my favorite 2018 release I’ve read so far!) this memoir that spoke to me in a “yes, that’s exactly how it is” way. She kicks things off with an essay that will touch the conflicted hearts of overtaxed moms everywhere and moves on to cover many big life issues (marriage, motherhood, illness, religion, friendship, grief, and loss) in a relatable and irreverently funny way. Continue Reading…

Thank You for Your Service by David FinkelThank You for Your Service, David Finkel, Iraq war, Afghanistan war, PTSD in soldiers, Traumatic brain injury in soldiers
Nonfiction – War (Released October, 2013)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: An exploration of mental and emotional trauma facing soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and the military’s efforts to curb this group’s high suicide rate.

My Thoughts: Thank You for Your Service was named one of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly and one of the Top 10 Books of 2013 by the Washington Post…and I wholeheartedly agree. This is a heartbreaking and moving series of stories about various members of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion and their families dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) following war zone deployments. Continue Reading…

The Beautiful Bureaucrat, Helen PhillipsThe Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
Fiction (Released August 11, 2015)
192 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Josephine moves to a new city with her husband and takes a job at a data processing facility, strange things begin to happen, leading her to further investigate the company she works for.

My Thoughts: Helen Phillips’ debut novel is a tiny ball of weirdness…reminiscent of a demented “Office Space”…that had me on the edge of my seat. I was on the edge of my seat virtually the entire time I was reading. I just had to know…what the heck is going on here?! The entire book feels like a riddle that the reader needs to unravel. And, once the the riddle of Josephine’s company has been solved, you’re left with much broader questions to ponder. Continue Reading…

The Big One by David KinneyThe Big One, David Kinney, striper fishing, Martha's Vineyard, Martha's Vineyard Striper and Bluefish Derby
Nonfiction – Sports (Released April, 2009)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A behind the scenes look at the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striper & Bluefish Derby, a month-long, 24/7 fishing tournament that draws an eclectic mix of competitors (including locals, foreigners, professionals, amateurs, grandmas, and kids).

My Thoughts: You don’t have to be an avid fisherman to enjoy this book, although serious anglers certainly will love it.  Kinney gives you an entertaining mix of Martha’s Vineyard history, fishing strategy, love of competition, eccentric personalities, and unexpected results.

The Big Short by Michael LewisThe Big Short, Michael Lewis, 2008 market crash, housing bubble, mortgage bubble
Nonfiction – Business (Released March, 2010)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Lewis explains how and why the housing bubble and 2008 burst happened by focusing on the mentality of the few people (one of whom suffers from Asberger’s Syndrome) who saw it coming and acted on their instincts.

My Thoughts: Lewis is the master of making complex financial concepts relatively understandable AND making them entertaining. The Big Short is the best book out there on the housing bubble and should be required reading for anyone interested in business. Continue Reading…

Body in Question by Jill CimentThe Body in Questionby Jill Ciment
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: June 11, 2019)
192 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A courtroom drama set in Central Florida that’s focused on the jury (which is sequestered in a nearby Econolodge) for the trial of a rich, white teenage girl (who is also a twin) who is accused of murdering her toddler age brother.

My Thoughts: This slim novel is described by the publisher as a courtroom drama and it kind of is, but it’s not what you think of when you think of courtroom dramas. It’s about what goes on within a jury…personally and related to the trial and how those two pieces intersect. It’s a slightly weird book, but I was riveted the entire time and it went to places I never expected. PS – I think the publisher’s description gives away too much…go into this one blind! Full Review.

Girl Who Smiled BeadsThe Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released April 24, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Clemantine was six years old when she and her older sister (Claire) were separated from their family during the Rwandan genocide and spent the next six years as refugees before being granted asylum in the U.S., and in Clemantine’s case, going on to get a degree from Yale.

My Thoughts: The Girl Who Smiled Beads was one of my April Book of the Month selections and it came with rave reviews. The story is told in alternating timelines (Clemantine and Claire’s time as refugees and their later childhood / early adulthood in the U.S.) and the refugee portion is as heart-wrenching as you’d expect. What they went through is appalling. However, the U.S. portion was incredibly intriguing to me as Clemantine struggled with her conflicted feelings about her identity and the help she received in the U.S. (she was taken in by a white, suburban family and supported through high school before heading on to Yale). Continue Reading…

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac BissonnetteThe Great Beanie Baby Bubble, Zac Bissonnette
Nonfiction – Business (Released March 3, 2015)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: An in depth look at Ty Warner and the story of the mid-1990’s speculative bubble surrounding his Beanie Babies…and its subsequent crash.

My Thoughts: I was in college during the height of the Beanie Baby craze (1996-1998), so I was fairly unaware of exactly what “craze” meant in relation to these cuddly little creatures. I obviously knew they were popular, but did I know that adult collectors were “investing” in $5 stuffed animals as if they were stocks? Absolutely not…because that would be really weird, improbable, and somewhat creepy! The Great Beanie Baby Bubble analyzes the how and why…and the who behind it all (Ty Founder and CEO, Ty Warner). Continue Reading…

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fiction (Released April, 1925)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The story of wealthy interloper, Jay Gatsby, and his obsession with the very much married Daisy Buchanan.

My Thoughts: I’m admittedly due for a re-read of this quintessential example of “wealthy people behaving badly”. And, I didn’t realize until recently that this classic was only 217 pages! 

Knockout QueenThe Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: April 28, 2020)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The story of a teenage friendship between Bunny, a 6 foot 3 girl whose mother died and father is a wealthy alcoholic, and Michael, a gay boy who’s living with his Aunt after his mother was sent to prison and his father skipped town…set on the North Shore of California.

My Thoughts: It’s a dark coming of age story (though there is a life-changing incident that drives the plot) of two teenagers who feel like outsiders in their own ways trying to come to terms with who they are amid their own family drama. Thorpe’s voice and writing are the stars of this show…as are the characters of Bunny and Michael, who are flawed, yet endearing. I think readers will be drawn to them. Full Review.

The Mother, Yvvette EdwardsThe Mother by Yvette Edwards
Fiction (Released May 17, 2016)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Marcia Williams, drowning in grief following the murder of her sixteen year-old son, faces his teenage killer at the trial, she is forced to make sense of how something so horrible could happen to her son.

My Thoughts: This novel kicks off with an incredibly powerful first chapter that pulled me in immediately, even though it was obvious this would be an emotionally difficult read. The Mother is part story of a mother’s grief, part courtroom drama, part portrait of grief’s impact on a marriage, and part statement about race, poverty, and what happens to people born into a rough life on the streets. Continue Reading…

The MothersThe Mothers, Brit Bennett by Brit Bennett
Fiction (Released October 11, 2016)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: While seventeen year-old Nadia Turner is mourning the shocking loss of her mother, she starts a relationship with Luke Sheppard, her pastor’s son, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy.

My Thoughts: The Mothers was one of the most hyped books and the big debut novel of this Fall (author Brit Bennet is only 25 years old and was named to the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35). And, it completely lived up to the hype! The first page is one of the best first pages I’ve ever read and I highlighted three passages before moving on to Page 2. Continue Reading… 

New New Thing, Michael LewisThe New New Thing by Michael Lewis
Nonfiction – Business (Released 1999)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The story of the Internet age, as illustrated by Jim Clark, the eccentric entrepreneur behind Netscape, Silicon Graphics, and eventually, Healtheon.

My Thoughts: While Lewis’ depiction of such a fascinating time in Silicon Valley was certainly interesting, what really made this book for me was Jim Clark. That guy is weird…in the most entertaining way! For example, he’s totally obsessed with his computerized yacht (i.e. it can sail itself)…which he sunk a gargantuan fortune into. And, yes, Lewis’ ability to make business and industry interesting is on displace here.

Nickel BoysThe Nickel Boysby Colson Whitehead
Historical Fiction (Release Date: July 16, 2019)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Elwood Curtis is sent to the notoriously brutal Nickel Academy after being in the wrong place at the wrong time (based on the real life Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, FL).

My Thoughts: The subject matter is horrifying, especially since the crux of the story is based on real life, but Colson Whitehead writes about it in simple, yet hauntingly beautiful language. The ending is heart-wrenching and brilliant. The Nickel Boys isn’t the type of reading experience where I was saying “oh my gosh, I absolutely love this book” while I was reading it, but it made me face tough issues and still has me thinking…it’s one I can see being taught in schools for a long time. Full Review.

Other Wes MooreThe Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released April 27, 2010)
233 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Wes Moore, a Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Army Captain, traces his story about growing up in inner city Baltimore alongside the story of “the other Wes Moore,” a child from the same neighborhood (with the same name) who ended up serving a life sentence for killing a police officer.

My Thoughts: The structure of this book is a powerful and effective way for Wes Moore to make his point. The two men’s stories are pretty similar up to a point, at which they drastically diverge. It’s incredibly readable and I blew through it in a couple days. Full Review.

The Love Affairs of Nathanial P. by Adelle WaldmanThe Love Affairs of Nathaniel P
Fiction (Released July, 2013)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: As Nate becomes a more well-known figure in the Brooklyn literary scene (due to the imminent release of his first novel), he struggles with women and his new found status.

My Thoughts: I am ashamed to say that I bought this book because one of the ex-Bachelor contestants tweeted (I guess I am admitting that I follow ex-Bachelor contestants on Twitter – how embarrassing!) that it was the most fascinating look into guys’ heads she’d ever read. I’m not sure I feel THAT strongly about it, but it was a pretty interesting take on a guy’s view of relationships and dating, especially in New York. Continue Reading…

The Roanoke Girls, Amy EngelThe Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Fiction (Released March 7, 2017)
276 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Lane Roanoke hears her cousin (Allegra) is missing, she returns to the Kansas estate where she spent one fateful summer as a teenager and must face the dark truth about her family.

My Thoughts: The Roanoke Girls features quite possibly the most dysfunctional (although, supremely F’d up is probably more accurate) family I’ve ever encountered in fiction. It’s the kind of book that I was slightly embarrassed to be reading, but was completely unable to put down. The extent to which Engel pushed the premise of this book is preposterous (think The Flowers in the Attic on steroids mixed with a bit of Sweet Home Alabama). Continue Reading…

The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel LevyThe Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released March 14, 2017)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A searing memoir of self-examination by a current New Yorker staff writer (also a native of my current town).

My Thoughts: I immediately fell for Levy’s writing as she takes a brutally raw and honest look at her life including love, massive loss, and bad decisions. It’s a risky thing to market a book as “for readers of Cheryl Strayed” and, while I’m not putting Levy on equal footing with the giant, the comparison is not unfounded. Continue Reading…

Star Side of Bird Hill, Naomi JacksonThe Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
Fiction (Released June 30, 2015)
294 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After their mother becomes unable to care for them in Brooklyn, sisters Dionne (16) and Phaedra (10) are sent to live with their midwife grandmother (Hyacinth) on Bird Hill in Barbados.

My Thoughts: Everything about this debut novel is just gorgeous: most obviously the writing, but also the coming of age story with generational and cultural clashes front and center. Dionne and Phaedra have been raised in troubling circumstances in Brooklyn and experience quite a culture shock when they arrive on conservative Bird Hill. Continue Reading…

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle ZevinStoried Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
Fiction (Released April, 2014)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A.J. Fikry, the recently widowed and irritable owner of Island Books, is given the chance to turn his life around.

My Thoughts: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry was a common presence on book blogs a few months ago and I finally got around to reading it! And, in this case, definitely better late than never because I am unabashedly hopping on the A.J. Fikry bandwagon…I absolutely adored this book! I’m not even sure what type of book to say this is…it has great characters, gorgeous writing, and a twisty story…it has it all! Continue Reading…

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael FinkelThe Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
Nonfiction (Released March 7, 2017)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story of Christopher Knight, the man who lived alone in the Maine forest for 27 years before finally being arrested for stealing food and essentials from nearby vacation homes.

My Thoughts: This is one strange, but completely captivating story. Christopher Knight is one of those people who makes you want to figure out what makes him tick…and I waffled back and forth between feeling empathy for him and empathy for the people whose houses he broke into (and ultimately landed on the fact that they don’t have to be mutually exclusive). It’s like a mash-up between a wilderness story and a study of the introverted personality trait, coupled with a look at today’s extraversion-oriented society. And, the story of Finkel’s experience of developing a relationship with the man who has been dubbed “the last true hermit” is compelling in and of itself. This is a quick read (or listen, in my case!) that’s perfect for fans of Jon Krakauer (particularly Into the Wild) and Quiet by Susan Cain.

The Throwback Special, Chris BachelderThe Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder
Fiction (Released March 14, 2016)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Bachelder uses an annual gathering of a group of middle aged men to reenact the 1985 NFL play where Lawrence Taylor broke Joe Theismann’s leg (and ended his career) to opine on broader life themes.

My Thoughts: The Throwback Special is a book that’s about far more than the title and summary suggest. It’s about life (marriage, parenting, insecurities, human behavior, etc) with a weird football tradition as the backdrop, not the other way around. Continue Reading…

The Truth and Other Lies, Sascha ArangoThe Truth And Other Lies by Sascha Arango
Fiction (Released June 23, 2015)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: “Dark, witty, and suspenseful, this literary crime thriller reminiscent of The Dinner and The Silent Wife follows a famous author whose wife—the brains behind his success—meets an untimely death, leaving him to deal with the consequences.” – Amazon

My Thoughts: The Truth And Other Lies is the first summer book to blow my mind (and, it’s a translated debut)! It’s a tightly packed, demented thriller that kept me guessing from page one through the end. Continue Reading…

The Wife by Meg WolitzerThe Wife, Meg Wolitzer
Fiction (Released March, 2003)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: On a flight to Helsinki to watch him receive a prestigious literary prize, Joan decides to leave her famous novelist husband, Joe, after a decades long marriage.

My Thoughts: The Wife is easily one of my favorite books I read in 2014 and would have been a contender for my Best Book of the Year had it been published in 2014. Why? Because of the absolutely gorgeously perfect writing (and, yes, it needs 2 adverbs and an adjective)…that’s why! Continue Reading…

Woman Next Door, Yewande OmotosoThe Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Fiction (Released February 7, 2017)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A searing memoir of self-examination by a current New Yorker staff writer (also a native of my current town).

My Thoughts: The Woman Next Door was a fantastic surprise for me…and it’s likely to end up on my Underrated Gems of 2017 list. It’s like Grumpy Old Men crossed with Desperate Housewives set in South Africa and involving race. The story kicks off with snarky humor before taking a more contemplative turn. Continue Reading…

Visible EmpireVisible Empire by Hannah Pittard
Historical Fiction (Released June 5, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Following the 1962 plane crash at Orly Airport that killed over 100 Atlanta art patrons (a massive chunk of the city’s social elite), Atlanta citizens connected to the crash must figure out who to recover amid the Civil Rights Movement.

My Thoughts: In Visible Empire, Pittard uses the true story of the Orly plane crash as the big event that ties lots of disparate people and perspectives together (and the opening chapters recounting the crash are riveting) to create a portrait of Atlanta in the 1960’s. Pittard gives us a sort of gossipy take on the impact of the crash on Atlanta’s elite and those who come in contact with them. I felt like this would be the book that Dominick Dunne (former Vanity Fair columnist and author of “fictional” novels about real life crimes involving the wealthy) would have written about the crash…and it reminded me of a less epic A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe (R.I.P.). Continue Reading…

Want by Lynn Steger StrongWant by Lynn Steger Strong
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: July 7, 2020)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When aNew York City teacher (Elizabeth) with a husband, kids, 2 jobs, and a graduate degree finds herself completely overwhelmed and financially underwater, she reconnects online with an old friend who is also struggling.

My Thoughts: I figured I’d be able to relate to Elizabeth as a mother who often feels overwhelmed (which I did, to a certain extent). It’s about wanting more out of life in general, but also about the feeling that people constantly want and/or need something from you (hello, moms!) and being so overwhelmed that you don’t have the brain space to worry about other people. And, the book overall is bleak, but it also felt 100% accurate. Full Review.

Where All Light Tends to Go, David JoyWhere All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
Fiction (Released March 3, 2015)
274 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Jacob McNeely, son of his small North Carolina mountain town’s biggest outlaw, struggles to separate himself from the life of crime he was born into and to fight for the girl he loves (Maggie).

My Thoughts: I’ve read some great “Grit Lit” this year (Bull MountainThe Shore, The Animals), so I knew I had to make time for David Joy’s debut novel. It’s a story about fathers and sons, loyalty, love, and trying to claw your way out of your given circumstances. Continue Reading…

Why They Run the Way They Do, Susan PeraboWhy They Run the Way They Do by Susan Perabo
Fiction – Short Stories (Released February 16, 2016)
208 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A collection of short stories featuring the darker undertones of daily life.

My Thoughts: Short stories have historically been a tough sell for me, but I’m trying to be more open to them after loving Nickolas Butler’s Beneath the Bonfire last year. I’m so glad I gave Why They Run the Way They Do a shot (or, more accurately, that Tara at Running N Reading convinced me to give it a shot) because it’s now only the second short story collection I’ve truly enjoyed from start to finish. On the surface, these stories are about mundane daily life…a harmless middle school prank, a child’s toy, spending time with your mother after some bad news…but, they have a darkness simmering just underneath. Continue Reading…

Wild GameWild Gameby Adrienne Brodeur
Nonfiction – Memoir (Release Date: October 15, 2019)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Brodeur’s story of her role as facilitator of her mother’s affair with her stepfather’s best friend starting at the age of fourteen.

My Thoughts: I flew through this 5 star memoir in two days! Malabar (“Rennie’s” mother) is a vibrant, but highly manipulative character and she has her tentacles wrapped tightly around her daughter…and all this impacts Rennie’s adult life. But, this isn’t what makes this memoir shine. Brodeur can write…and the Cape Cod setting comes alive through vivid descriptions of the water, the wildlife, and the food. Full Review.

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