Category: Book Lists

12 Books By Favorite Authors I Haven’t Read Yet

September 25, 2018 Book Lists 45

Books By Favorite Authors I Haven't Read

 

One of the silver linings of discovering a new-to-you author a bit late is that the author likely has a pretty good, if not extensive, backlist waiting for you!  Most recently, this has happened with Anna Quindlen, Ann Patchett, and Kelly Corrigan…and I still have plenty more to go!

And, even with favorite authors I’ve been familiar with for awhile, I haven’t yet gotten to all the books of theirs that I want to read! Here are 12 Books by Favorite Authors I Still Haven’t Read…

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).
Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

12 Books By Favorite Authors I Haven’t Read Yet

Jami Attenberg
The Middlesteins
I loved Attenberg’s Saint Mazie (my review) and All Grown Up (my review). Her dry humor is right up my alley and I can’t wait to read her take on a dysfunctional family. Plus, this book is under 300 pages…making it way more likely I might actually pick it up soon!

For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. But now things are splintering apart, for one reason, it seems: Edie’s enormous girth. She’s obsessed with food–thinking about it, eating it–and if she doesn’t stop, she won’t have much longer to live.

When Richard abandons his wife, it is up to the next generation to take control. […] Through it all, they wonder: do Edie’s devastating choices rest on her shoulders alone, or are others at fault, too?

Margaret Atwood
Alias Grace
Like many people, The Handmaid’s Tale (my review) blew me away…and it was one of the only classics I’ve read in later life. I downloaded Alias Grace when it was free via a Kindle deal over a year ago and really need to crack it open! The page count (over 450 pages) is probably what’s been causing me to put it off for so long.

It’s 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

An up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories?

Kent Haruf
Plainsong
Our Souls at Night (my review) is a tiny, quiet book, but it really spoke to me. I’m interested in seeing what Haruf does with a family story…plus, I’ve heard new things.

In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl—her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house—is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they’ve ever known.

Emily St. John Mandel
The Lola Quartet
I (along with a gazillion other readers) loved Station Eleven (my review). It was the first dystopian novel I’ve ever actually enjoyed. Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy recently read The Lola Quartet from her backlist and devoted a special What Should I Read Next? podcast episode to it. Plus, it’s a literary thriller, which I generally love.

Gavin Sasaki is a promising young journalist in New York City, until he’s fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work. It’s early 2009, and the world has gone dark very quickly; the economic collapse has turned an era that magazine headlines once heralded as the second gilded age into something that more closely resembles the Great Depression. The last thing Gavin wants to do is return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he’s drifting toward bankruptcy and is in no position to refuse when he’s offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals in foreclosed homes.

Eilo recently paid a visit to a home that had a ten-year-old child in it, a child who looks very much like Gavin and who has the same last name as Gavin’s high school girlfriend Anna, whom Gavin last saw a decade ago. Gavin—a former jazz musician, a reluctant broker of foreclosed properties, obsessed with film noir and private detectives—begins his own private investigation in an effort to track down Anna and their apparent daughter who have been on the run all these years from a drug dealer from whom Anna stole $121,000.

Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood
I loved Murakami’s 1Q84 (and it’s hard to keep me interested for almost 1,000 pages!) and his memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I’m dying to see what he does with a campus novel (one of my favorite sub-genres)!

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

Maggie O’Farrell
This Must Be the Place
I loved O’Farrell’s memoir/essay collection, I Am, I Am, I Am. And, before I even knew about her memoir, I had This Must Be the Place on my TBR list. I snagged it in a Kindle Daily Deal and can’t wait to test out her fiction (hopefully sometime this year).

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Claudette was once the most glamorous and infamous woman in cinema before she staged her own disappearance and retreated to blissful seclusion in an Irish farmhouse.

But the life Daniel and Claudette have so carefully constructed is about to be disrupted by an unexpected discovery about a woman Daniel lost touch with twenty years ago. This revelation will send him off-course, far away from wife, children and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

Ann Patchett
Truth and Beauty
Ann Patchett is one of my very favorite authors. My favorites of hers so far are: Commonwealth (my review), State of Wonder (my review), and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (my review). I read about her memoir of a friendship, Truth and Beauty, in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and am thinking it may be a good audio choice for me.

Ann Patchett and the late Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and, after enrolling in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In Grealy’s critically acclaimed memoir Autobiography of a Face, she wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, years of chemotherapy and radiation, and endless reconstructive surgeries. In Truth and Beauty, the story isn’t Lucy’s life or Ann’s life but the parts of their lives they shared. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, from the long winters of the Midwest to surgical wards to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined–and what happens when one is left behind.

Jo Piazza
Fitness Junkie

I only read Jo Piazza (Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win) this year, but Catherine from Gilmore Guide to Books and Susie from Novel Visits told me to read Fitness Junkie well before that!

When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin–the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin–her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. […] As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can’t help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place?

Anna Quindlen
Still Life With Bread Crumbs
Y’all know how much I love Anna Quindlen (see my “Women Who Get Women” Authors Club post). Still Life With Bread Crumbs is one of her only novels I have yet to read.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Curtis Sittenfeld
Eligible
I loved An American Wife years ago, but was initially turned off of Eligible because it was a Pride and Prejudice retelling. But, my interest in it was rekindled when I read and loved her short story collection, You Think It, I’ll Say It (my review) this year!

This version of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. […]

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

Elizabeth Strout
Olive Kitteridge
I loved both My Name is Lucy Barton (my review) and Anything is Possible and, if you can believe it, still haven’t read her Pulitzer Prize winner, Olive Kitteridge.

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life – sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty.

Meg Wolitzer
The Ten-Year Nap
Meg Wolitzer is another one of my very favorite authors and I’ve rated every single book I’ve read by her 5 stars: The Interestings (my review), The Wife (my review), and The Female Persuasion (my review). When I was a guest on The Readerly Report Podcast recently, co-host Gayle Weiswasser recommended The Ten-Year Nap to me since I have toddler age children at home.

For a group of four New York friends, the past decade has been largely defined by marriage and motherhood. Educated and reared to believe that they would conquer the world, they then left jobs as corporate lawyers, investment bankers, and film scouts to stay home with their babies. What was meant to be a temporary leave of absence has lasted a decade. Now, at age forty, with the halcyon days of young motherhood behind them and without professions to define them, Amy, Jill, Roberta, and Karen face a life that is not what they were brought up to expect but seems to be the one they have chosen.

Have you read any of these backlist-ers? Which ones do you recommend I read first? And, what books by your favorite authors have you not read yet?

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The “Women Who Get Women” Authors Club

September 11, 2018 Book Lists 16

 

Women Who Get Women

 

There’s something about the stage of life I’m in right now that really has me gravitating towards “women who get women.” I didn’t know I needed this kind of writing in my life until I stumbled across Anna Quindlen (well, stumbled isn’t quite accurate…my aunt actually kept telling me I needed to read her). I listened to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake on audio and kept screaming “yes, that’s exactly how it is” over and over in my head. After I finished the audiobook, I felt like I’d seen a therapist.

I’m now experiencing marriage, motherhood, and a struggle to maintain my own identity through all of that (a struggle that I never anticipated nor even really knew was all that common until I ended up in it). Seeing many things I’d been thinking and feeling put so eloquently on the page brought a tremendous sense of relief…and camaraderie that others struggle with the same things. This is one of my favorite joys of reading.

All that being said, I don’t think these particular authors would have resonated with me before my thirties because I didn’t have the necessary experience under my belt to appreciate their wisdom. So, save these fantastic women authors for well after college…

The “Women Who Get Women” Authors Club

Kelly Corrigan
Tell Me More (my review), Glitter and Glue (my review)
My introduction to Kelly Corrigan was through Tell Me More and she immediately reminded me of a funnier, more irreverent, and more emotional Anna Quindlen. She touches many important life issues: marriage, motherhood, illness, religion, friendship, grief, and loss. And, she said things that inspired me to be better and things that made me feel like I’m absolutely not alone in the moments where I’m not better.

We all kind of hate each other in this minute, me most of all because I taught them the word bitch and I yell so they yell and Edward misses another brawl so they’ll like him more today and he’s better anyway and whatever lust for combat my daughters have comes straight from me and I thought I was going to be a good mom like Michelle Constable or Tammy Stedman and I’m not and according to a parenting blog I saw, yelling is as bad as corporal punishment and particularly destructive to self-esteem so oh my God, what am I doing?

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Gift from the Sea
My mom first gave me this book while I was pregnant with my first child. I didn’t quite connect with it then, but I re-read it after having my second child and that changed completely. Lindbergh beautifully vocalized the many conflicted feelings I’d been having about motherhood, maintaining my identity, etc. It’s every bit as relevant now as it was in the 1950’s.

What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. Look at us. We run a tightrope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now! This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of.

Maggie O’Farrell
I Am, I Am, I Am
Through her essays about near-death experiences, O’Farrell imparts wisdom about life, especially for women. She touches motherhood, illness, fitting in, etc. She makes you keenly feel your own mortality. 

The people who teach us something retain a particularly vivid place in our memories. I’d been a parent for about ten minutes when I met the man, but he taught me, with a small gesture, one of the most important things about the job: kindness, intuition, touch, and that sometimes you don’t even need words.

Camille Pagan
Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties
Through Maggie’s story of realizing she had lost her identity after having children and her struggle to regain it again, Camille Pagan talks real talk about aging, marriage, divorce, finding your identity, and piecing your life back together after an upheaval. Pagan reminds me of a lighter, more sarcastic version (her salty humor is on point!) of Anna Quindlen and I recommend this one particularly to the mothers out there.

I had not taken particularly good care of myself over the years, and it wasn’t like I could get a free pass by wearing a pin that said, I look like this because I have been caring for everyone else.

Anna Quindlen
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake (my review), Every Last One (my review), Living Out Loud
Listening to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake was like seeing a therapist. Quindlen just has such a grounded, practical outlook on life (particularly female friendship, aging, motherhood, marriage, and solitude) that really puts things in perspective for me. She’s probably the President of this club in my book.

There comes that moment when we finally know what matters and, perhaps more important, what doesn’t, when we see that all the life lessons came not from what we had but from who we loved, and from the failures perhaps more than the successes.

Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things, Brave Enough
Strayed is warm, relatable, and non-judgmental in her counsel and most people will find something in her writing that pertains to their own life past or present. Her advice generally boils down to the overarching theme of “be your true self.”

Trust yourself. It’s Sugar’s golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.

Meg Wolitzer
The Wife (my review)
The Wife explores the power dynamics of marriage. It’s about living life as a “babysitter for a successful man’s ego,” being married to a “gigantic baby,” and explores the role of “the wife” in society and the expectations and pressures that come along with that. It tackles the conundrum many women face of choosing to harness their talents or devote themselves to their families…or some balance between the two.

Everyone knows how women soldier on, how women dream up blueprints, recipes, ideas for a better world, and then sometimes lose them on the way to the crib in the middle of the night, on the way to the Stop & Shop, or the bath. They lose them on the way to greasing the path on which their husband and children will ride serenely through life.

What type of authors do you most identify with right now? What other “women who get women” authors do I need to read?

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16 Character-Driven Novels I Couldn’t Put Down

September 6, 2018 Book Lists 28

Character-Driven Novels

 

These are not the novels that are driven forward by action…the yearn to know what will happen next. Rather, these are novels that I can’t put down because I just can’t stop reading about these characters. But, the end result is the same as an action-oriented page turner. I flew through the pages…no matter how many there were (and some of these are LONG books).

As I was putting this list together, I realized how many of my very favorite books were on it…leading me to realize that character-driven novels I can’t put down might be my favorite type of book out there. Part of the allure is that character-driven novels can easily feel slow and boring. It’s rare to find a character-driven novel that grabs you so hard you can’t put it down.

A couple other random observations about the books on this list:

  • 9 were on my Best Books of the Year lists (and another two will probably make this year’s list).
  • 4 gave me big enough reading hangovers to qualify them for the Alcohol sides of my Alcohol & Advil posts.
  • 10 have a spot on my real life bookshelves…which are (surprisingly) not very crowded and only my very favorites make it onto the shelves!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

16 Character-Driven Novels I Couldn’t Put Down

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (my review)
Spanning 30 years, the story of four male friends (Willem, J.B., Malcolm, and Jude) trying to make their way in New York City while dealing with the implications of Jude’s tragic childhood. 
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
During a Little League baseball game, Owen Meany kills his best friend’s mom when his foul ball hits her in the head…and this is the story of their journey from there.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (my review)
An ill fated christening party is the catalyst that ruins the Keating and Cousins marriages…and creates a blended family trying to navigate their new world.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (my review)
The story of June Reid, who loses her entire family (her daughter and her fiancee, her boyfriend, and her ex-husband) in a horrible tragedy on the night before her daughter’s wedding.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (my review)
A sweet, calm, and uncomplicated novel about two older people (Louis and Addie) who stopped caring what everyone else thought and did what they needed to do to be happy.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (my review)
Four childhood best friends from the small town of Little Wing, Wisconsin reconnect at a wedding and try to find their places in the adult world.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Greer is a shy college student still in love with her high school boyfriend when she meets Faith Frank, an icon of the women’s movement, who changes the trajectory of Greer’s life.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (my review)
A group of gay friends and their female friend (Fiona) navigate the AIDS crisis and deal with the death of one of their own in 1980’s Chicago…and decades later, Fiona sets out to Paris to find her estranged daughter and encounters the past in the process.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (my review)
After Cyril Avery was born out of wedlock to an Irish country teenager and given up for adoption to a wealthy, Dublin couple, he wrestles with his identity and how he fits into the country of Ireland over the course of his life.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Jules Jacobson becomes best friends with five teenagers at a summer camp for the arts in the 1970’s, remaining friends despite completely different experiences in adulthood.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (my review)
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.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid (my review)
Legendary film actress Evelyn Hugo recruits young journalist, Monique, to write her life story, including the stories of her seven marriages.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (my review)
In a Detroit suburb, the five enigmatic Lisbon sisters commit suicide over the course of a year and the neighborhood boys who were obsessed with them try to understand why.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
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. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (my review)
When Claude, the youngest son of a family of five boys, starts to realize he wants to be a girl, the family must learn how to best support Claude and adjust to the situation.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler (my review)
The story of Zelda and author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s relationship as told from Zelda’s fictional perspective.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What character-driven novels have you not been able to put down?

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10 Contemporary Books I’d Love to See on School Curriculums

August 28, 2018 Book Lists 19

Books I'd Love to See on School Curriculums

 

I hate to admit it, but I remember very few books I was required to read in high school and college. On the bright side though, I’ve read so many books over the past few years that I’d love to see on school curriculums! Books that address important issues, but are also just straight-up awesome books that readers can effortlessly become engrossed in.

I would’ve killed for books that fit schools’ definitions of curriculum-worthy literature, but that I also loved reading when I was in school!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).
Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

10 Contemporary Books I’d Love to See on School Curriculums

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (my review)
Because it deals with a mind-blowing number of important “issues” (i.e. marriage, race, class, incarceration, love, friendship, family, grief, fidelity, recovery) in a totally organic way…wrapped in a straight-up, engrossing story.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe (my review)
Because it shines on mental illness through a teenage character that high school age children will be able to relate to.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (my review)
Because it portrays the experience of a partially immigrant family living in a predominantly white community…and the tensions that introduces to the family dynamics. Plus, school age children dealing with the death of a sibling, sibling dynamics, parents projecting their own ambitions onto their children, and women trying to balance family and career dreams.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Grit by Angela Duckworth
To show that people have far more control over their own destinies than they think…and reinforce the most important ingredient for success.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (my review)
To show the range of emotions a single novel can evoke. Plus, a background on the Catholic Church and homosexuality in Ireland and the experience of homosexuals in general.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (my review)
Because, like An American Marriage, it tackles a number of important topics (grief, losing a parent, faith, friendship, race, trauma, and teen pregnancy), but this time through the eyes characters that school age children can relate to.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (my review)
Because it explores the power dynamics in a marriage and women balancing career and family (probably better suited to college age students).

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Because Strayed is warm, relatable, and non-judgmental in her counsel and most people will find something in this book that pertains to their own life. This is the book I always wish had been around when I was in high school.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (my review)
Because it’s one of the rare books about World War II that is hopeful…and it’s based on a remarkable true story.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan
Because it’s a cautionary tale about immense pressure at a young age, depression, high achievement, social media, and teen suicide. 

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

What contemporary books would you like to see on school curriculums?

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My Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018

August 23, 2018 Book Lists 23

Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018

 

It’s big, buzzy book season! For those that don’t closely follow the publishing industry, Fall is traditionally when the buzziest books by the biggest name authors hit the shelves. We’ve got new books coming from Michael Lewis, Tana French, John Boyne, Barbara Kingsolver, and Kate Atkinson.

Today, I’m sharing the books I’m most excited about…from some of these big name authors and some under-the-radar ones.

As always for this year, my Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2018 list is mostly made up of books from trusted sources (to find your personal trusted recommendation sources, check out this post and free downloadable template) who, in as many cases as possible, have already read the book. I did not look at a single publisher’s catalog to create this list. I’m sharing the recommendation source for each book and will specify if that source has or has not read it yet.

I use my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker (available for purchase for $11.99), to keep an ongoing eye on my most trusted recommendation sources…and have improved my reading success by 26% from last year!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

September

Foe by Iain Reid (September 4, Gallery/Scout Press)
This book was not on my radar at all (I never read Reid’s debut, I’m Thinking of Ending Things) before Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books told me that her book whisperer loved it! I’m about 25% through it and am completely intrigued. It’s got the same “what the heck is going on” vibe as The Beautiful Bureaucrat.

In Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Pam Cady (Seattle bookseller and trusted recommendation source of Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books).

UPDATE: I’VE NOW READ IT AND IT WAS SUPER CREEPY IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE! I JUST HAD TO KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON.

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling (September 4, MCD)
Tyler Goodson (one of my top recommendation sources) rated this debut novel 5 stars. That’s kind of all I need to know.

In Lydia Kiesling’s razor-sharp debut novel, The Golden State, we accompany Daphne, a young mother on the edge of a breakdown, as she flees her sensible but strained life in San Francisco for the high desert of Altavista with her toddler, Honey. Bucking under the weight of being a single parent―her Turkish husband is unable to return to the United States because of a “processing error”―Daphne takes refuge in a mobile home left to her by her grandparents in hopes that the quiet will bring clarity.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA).

UPDATE: I TRIED THIS ONE AND COULDN’T GET INTO THE WRITING STYLE…IT WAS WORDY AND OVERLY DESCRIPTIVE.

The Wildlands by Abby Geni (September 4, Counterpoint)
This one is a bit of a risk for me…just because it hadn’t been vetted by a trusted recommendation source. But, I’ve already read it and really liked it! It’s a totally unique book without an obvious read-alike, but has bits of Before the Fall, Where the Crawdads Sing, The Animals, and This Dark Road to Mercy.

When a Category 5 tornado ravaged Mercy, Oklahoma, no family in the small town lost more than the McClouds. Their home and farm were instantly demolished, and orphaned siblings Darlene, Jane, and Cora made media headlines. This relentless national attention and the tornado’s aftermath caused great tension with their brother, Tucker, who soon abandoned his sisters and disappeared.

On the three-year anniversary of the tornado, a cosmetics factory outside of Mercy is bombed, and the lab animals trapped within are released. Tucker reappears, injured from the blast, and seeks the help of nine-year-old Cora. Caught up in the thrall of her charismatic brother, whom she has desperately missed, Cora agrees to accompany Tucker on a cross-country mission to make war on human civilization.

Recommendation Source(s): The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview (not read) and already read by ME.

UPDATE: I REALLY LIKED THIS ONE! IT’S A UNIQUE, FAST-PACED STORY ABOUT CHILDREN THAT HAVE LOST LITERALLY EVERYTHING TRYING TO FIND THEIR WAY AGAIN. 

The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman (September 11, Ecco Books)
I’m intrigued by this one. It’s a true crime / investigative journalism / literary history mash-up. 

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner.

Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time.

Recommendation Source(s): The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview (not read).

UPDATE: I TRIED THIS ONE AND FOUND THE EXECUTION LACKING. THE SECTIONS ABOUT THE CLASSIC NOVEL, LOLITA, READ LIKE A TERM PAPER AND THE SECTIONS ABOUT SALLY HORNER’S ABDUCTION WENT OFF ON TOO MANY TANGENTS.

October

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (October 2, W.W. Norton)
Michael Lewis is one of my auto-buy authors. I think he’s a master at making dry topics entertaining and breaking down complicated concepts so the layperson can understand them. However, I’m a little skittish because I haven’t loved his two most recent books (Flash Boys and The Undoing Project).

What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?

“The election happened,” remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. “And then there was radio silence.” Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them.

Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author (not read).

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller (October 9, Tin House)
I loved Fuller’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days (my review), and really liked her sophomore novel, Swimming Lessons (my review). Plus, her writing is generally gorgeous. 

From the attic of Lyntons, a dilapidated English country mansion, Frances Jellico sees them—Cara first: dark and beautiful, then Peter: striking and serious. The couple is spending the summer of 1969 in the rooms below hers while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens. But she’s distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she finds a peephole that gives her access to her neighbors’ private lives.

But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand their lives forever.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read by Rebecca Foster.

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson (October 9, Simon & Schuster)
This one came to be unsolicited from the publisher…and the multi-generational story of three women struggling with things many women struggle with sounded appealing. Plus, the two author blurbs caught my attention!

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a poignant novel about three generations of the Wise family—Evelyn, Laura, and Grace—as they hunt for contentment amid chaos of their own making.

[…] we see these women and their trials, small and large: social slights and heartbreaks; marital disappointments and infidelities; familial dysfunction; mortality. Spanning from World War II to the present, Thompson reveals a matrilineal love story that is so perfectly grounded in our time—a story of three women regressing, stalling, and yes, evolving, over decades. One of the burning questions she asks is: by serving her family, is a woman destined to repeat the mistakes of previous generations, or can she transcend the expectations of a place, and a time? Can she truly be free?

Recommendation Source(s): Blurbed by Tayari Jones (author of An American Marriage) and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (author of The Nest).

The Witch Elm by Tana French (October 9, Viking)
I haven’t read Tana French since The Secret Place (part of The Dublin Murder Squad series), which I thought was fine, but not great. But, I’m willing to give her another shot since two of my best recommendation sources rated The Witch Elm five stars…and, the fact that it’s a stand-alone novel doesn’t hurt!

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read (and rated 4 stars) by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA) and Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast, The Millions Great Second-Half Book Preview (not read).

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler (October 16, St. Martin’s Press)
I adored Fowler’s historical fiction novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (my review), so I wasn’t about to pass this one up!

The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read by Kelly Massry and Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast.

November

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (November 13, Hogarth)
Never in a million years did I expect a new John Boyne novel so soon after his masterpiece, The Heart’s Invisible Furies (my favorite book of 2017)! But, I’ll take it! Let’s see what he does with a thriller…

Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for success. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent – but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own.

Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful – but desperately lonely – older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice’s first novel.

Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall…

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author.

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads (edited for length).

What Fall 2018 books are you looking forward to?

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Where I Was When I Read It

July 24, 2018 Book Lists 12

Where I Was When I Read It

 

Have you ever read book in a spectacular setting or during a seminal point in your life that makes that particular reading experience truly memorable? I don’t often remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, or what was going on in my life when I read a particular book, but on the rare occasions when this does happen, it’s a truly memorable experience.

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Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Where I Was When I Read It

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (my review)
I read the second half of My Sunshine Away (one of my favorite books of 2015) while on a weekend away with my husband in February. I holed up in the relaxation room at our hotel (where, blessedly, talking is not allowed) and finished the second half of the book while watching snow fall into the ocean out a huge window. And, it really kick-started what was, up to that point, an extremely lackluster reading year.

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One Day in September by Simon Reeve
A account of the true story of the terrorist attack on 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the Israeli retaliation operation, Wrath of God. And, I read this while attending an Olympics myself. One Day in September was published in September of 2000, right in conjunction with the Sydney Olympics. I was over there working during the Olympics and not only read this book while I was there, but I saw the accompanying documentary in the theater. It certainly put me a bit on edge, but imagine I’d had this experience post-9/11…
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The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (my review)
Last year was a fairly mediocre reading year without an obvious best book of the year up until the very last minute. I was desperately on the hunt for a book that would stand out above the rest when I picked up The Heart’s Invisible Furies in late October. And, it not only ended up being my #1 book of 2017, but it’s my favorite book of the past few years!

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Wife by Alafair Burke
Another kidless vacation reading experience. I read this entire book over 2 days on the beach in Miami. And it was the perfect beach read.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (my review)
Indiscretion by Charles Dubow (my review)
I’m lumping these two books together because they were part of the same experience. I had a roller-coaster delivery with my second child and was in the hospital twice with early contractions before finally giving birth on the third trip to the hospital. During the first two visits, I read Indiscretion, a popcorn-y page turner that turned out to be totally necessary. I was in a room with lots of other patients separated by curtains and I could hear a nearby girl in labor who had no idea she was pregnant prior to that hospital visit (I am unfortunately not joking). For the real deal delivery, I read This is Where I Leave You in between contractions and it was the perfect humor to keep me somewhat distracted.

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10 Short Story Collections and Novellas for First Time Short Fiction Readers

July 17, 2018 Book Lists 17

Short Story Collections and Novellas for first time short fiction readers

 

Prior to starting this blog, I never read short fiction…in any form. Actually, I preferred doorstop novels (I hadn’t yet wrapped my head around the concept of opportunity cost…the fact that each doorstop novel I read meant losing out on multiple other books). But now, I appreciate a something short every now and then. A short story collection or a very short novel / novella can feel like a break or palate cleanser amid heavier reading.

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself being much more open to short story collections and even rated two collections 5 stars (unheard of for me a few years ago). And, I always get excited about a super short novel! So, I’m excited to share short story collections and novellas for first time short fiction readers…the ones that originally attracted me to the genre!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).
Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

10 Short Story Collections and Novellas for First Time Short Fiction Readers

Conventional Short Story Collections

Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler (my review)
Set in rural Wisconsin, many of these stories focus on the bond of old friends. Beneath the Bonfire is the first short story collection I’ve ever liked, let alone loved. It’s reminiscent of Shotgun Lovesongs, Butler’s debut novel (and one of my favorite books of 2014).

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Why They Run the Way They Do by Susan Perabo (my review)
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. This combination makes them incredibly relatable, yet still eye-opening and unique.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld (my review)
The stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It are mostly about otherwise normal relationships that have a hidden element of unconventionality or an awkward incident. They’re normal situations that end up taking unexpected turns…they’re relatable, yet surprising. If you’ve been hesitant to try short stories, You Think It, I’ll Say It is a perfect first collection!

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Interconnected / Linked Short Story Collections

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (my review)
This subtle book grew on me the farther I read and I loved the theme of small-town life with threads of darkness running just beneath the surface. Though it’s technically short stories, it feels like a novel told from different characters’ perspectives and would be a perfect choice for readers that are new to short stories.

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The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (my review)
Like Anything is Possible, this one’s linked nature makes it feel more like a novel told from different perspectives and time periods. The way Marra used characters and events to link each story perfectly rode the line of being brilliantly intricate, yet not too confusing to follow.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Short Novels / Novellas

I did a little research on what exactly a novella is and came up with so many different answers that I ended up making my own rule of thumb: a novel that’s under 200 pages long is a novella in my book!

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (my review)
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 the main character’s journal entries that read like little vignettes, a format that worked for me in this case because I absolutely adored her endearing, witty, real, and relatable voice.

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Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (my review)
It’s a quiet, gorgeously written story about the evolution of a woman (Jane) from the Mothering Sunday tryst with her illicit lover to late in her life. The story is unique, yet not weird and I could say the same about Swift’s writing style.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (my review)
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.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (my review)
Our Souls at Night is a sweet, calm, and uncomplicated novel about two older people (Louis and Addie) who stopped caring what everyone else thought and did what they needed to do to be happy.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (my review)
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.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I know many people have a hard time with short fiction. How do you feel about it?

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My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018

May 24, 2018 Book Lists 14

Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018

 

In case you missed it last week, I posted my 2018 Summer Reading Guide, which is chock full of awesome books for summer that I’ve already vetted. Today’s Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018 list focuses on upcoming releases that I’m excited about, but (for the most part) have not yet read. I hope I’ll be adding many of these to my Summer Reading Guide as the summer goes on.

My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018 list is mostly made up of books from trusted sources (to find your personal trusted recommendation sources, check out this post and free downloadable template) who, in as many cases as possible, have already read the book. I did not look at a single publisher’s catalog to create this list. I’m sharing the recommendation source for each book and will specify if that source has or has not read it yet.

I use my “Rock Your Reading” Tracker (available for purchase for $11.99), to keep an ongoing eye on my most trusted recommendation sources…and have improved my reading success by 26% from last year!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

June

Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton (June 5, Doubleday)
I’ve read this one and it’s intriguing, addictive, and extremely messed up. It’s super dark and definitely not for everyone, but I’m still thinking about it over a month after reading it. It was also my #1 “Intense / Fast-Paced” pick on my 2018 Summer Reading Guide!

Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by ME, Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA), and Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast.

Us Against You by Fredrick Backman (June 5, Atria Books)
The sequel to Beartown (my review), one of my favorite books of last year!!! This is probably my most anticipated book of the entire year. Beartown reminded me so much of Friday Night Lights and Us Against You sounds like it picks up about where Dillon was split into East and West.

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. […]

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted Author and already read by Modern Mrs. Darcy (2018 Summer Reading Guide) and Jan Belisle (blog reader whose taste I generally agree with).

Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard (June 5, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
I love novels based on real events and this one reminded me of a less epic A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe. I also loved Pittard’s 2014 novel, Reunion.

It’s a humid June day when the phones begin to ring in Atlanta: disaster has struck. Air France Flight 007, which had been chartered to ferry home more than one hundred of Atlanta’s cultural leaders following a luxurious arts-oriented tour of Europe, crashed shortly after takeoff in Paris. In one fell swoop, many of the city’s wealthiest residents perished.

Left behind were children, spouses, lovers, friends, and a city on the cusp of great change: the Civil Rights movement was at its peak, the hedonism of the 60s was at its doorstep. In Hannah Pittard’s dazzling and most ambitious novel yet, she gives us the journeys of those who must now rebuild this place and their lives.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted author and already read by ME and Modern Mrs. Darcy (2018 Summer Reading Guide).

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (June 12, SJP for Hogarth)
I love complicated family stories and this one sounds like a good one. I read the sample and was immediately intrigued. The author is only 26 years old and this is her debut novel! It’s also the first acquisition by Sarah Jessica Parker’s imprint at Hogarth.

A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding–a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement–the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children, and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Modern Mrs. Darcy (2018 Summer Reading Guide).

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (June 19, Viking)
I’ve never read Rebecca Makkai before, but have heard she’s kind of extraordinary. One of my best recommendation sources rated this one 5 stars!

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, he finds his partner is infected, and that he might even have the virus himself. The only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago epidemic, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways the AIDS crisis affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. Yale and Fiona’s stories unfold in incredibly moving and sometimes surprising ways, as both struggle to find goodness in the face of disaster.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA).

July

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (July 10, Knopf)
Believe it or not, I’ve never read Anne Tyler. But, women’s reinvention journey novels have been totally appealing to me lately and Tyler Goodson, one of my top recommendation sources, rated this one 5 stars.

A bittersweet novel of hope and regret, fulfillment and renewal, Clock Dance brings us the everyday life of a woman who decides it’s never too late to change direction, and choose your own path.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA), Modern Mrs. Darcy (2018 Summer Reading Guide), and Jaclyn Crupi

What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan (July 10, Little Brown)
I’m a sucker for family stories and the Shanghai setting of this one especially intrigues me.

Set in modern Shanghai, a debut by a Chinese-American writer about a prodigal son whose unexpected return forces his newly wealthy family to confront painful secrets and unfulfilled promises.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Modern Mrs. Darcy (2018 Summer Reading Guide)

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (July 17, Little Brown)
I’m super picky about my psychological thrillers, but Megan Abbott is one of my most trusted authors. She writes demented high school girls better than anyone I know. I loved The Fever and You Will Know Me and this time around she tackles the world of science.

A mesmerizing psychological thriller about how a secret can bind two friends together forever…or tear them apart.

Recommendation Source(s): Trusted Author

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (July 31, Riverhead Books)
Annie Jones got me interested in this one when she talked about it on Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next? podcast…she said the writing is gorgeous. Plus, R.O. Kwon was one of Bookpage’s 11 Women to Watch in 2018.

A powerful, darkly glittering novel about violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young Korean American woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA), and Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast

August

The Drama Teacher by Koren Zailckas (August 7, Crown)
Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books (one of my most trusted book bloggers) loved Zailckas’ debut novel, Mother, Mother and I’m always on the hunt for new-to-me psychological thriller authors.

Gracie Mueller seems like an average person. […] But she has a lot to hide—she’s not even a US citizen—and when Randy’s failing career as a real estate agent makes finances tight, he leaves town for a better job, their home goes into foreclosure, and Gracie turns back to the creatively illegal lifestyle of her past to keep things afloat for her kids.

An expert in fake identities, she becomes Tracey Bueller, who later becomes Mariana DeFelice. […] After a deadly stint upstate when a friend asks too many questions, she leaves town for New York City, finding her way into the best school in Manhattan for her kids, where she gets a job as the drama teacher. But as she struggles to keep her web of lies spun taut and her secrets hidden, more questions about her past are raised.

Recommendation Source(s): Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books (not read)

The Distance Home by Paula Saunders (August 7, Random House)
I’m a sucker for a good family saga and Tyler Goodson, one of my top recommendation sources, rated this one 5 stars.

A “riveting family saga” (Mary Karr) set in the American West, about sibling rivalry, dark secrets, and a young girl’s struggle with freedom and artistic desire.

Recommendation Source(s): Already read by Tyler Goodson (manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA)

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (August 14, Putnam)
I love a coming of age story that has a bit of mystery and the North Carolina marsh setting of this debut novel grabbed my attention (I’m secretly hoping she’ll remind me a bit of Pat Conroy). PS – Owens is a biologist and wildlife writer.

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Recommendation Source(s): None – I received an ARC of this from the publisher and the description caught my attention.

*All book summaries (in block quotes) are from Goodreads (edited for length).

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2018 Summer Reading List

May 17, 2018 Book Lists 52

2018 Summer Reading List

 

Summer reading means something a bit different to everyone. Some of you like to put their brains completely on vacation with fun, easy reads. Some of you like an action-packed page turner. Some of you want something with a bit more substance. And some of you might like to head off the beaten path.

Personally, I like books you can fly through, books you don’t have to work too hard on, and books you can get easily immersed in. I avoid books that demand to be read in perfect peace and quiet (last time I checked, the beach and pool generally have screaming kids around!).

I’ve read every book that appears on this list and, as always, will continue to add new selections throughout the summer. And, check out My Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2018 (i.e. books that will be published later this summer, many of which I haven’t read yet).

The Summer Reading Guide has a couple new elements this year:

  • Printable Cheatsheet – the Summer Reading Guide in quick recommendations in PDF format for easy printing (great for taking to the bookstore or library!). Download for free below!
  • #1 Picks for Each Category – I highlighted my very favorite book in each category in the Guide (Something Fun, Something Intense / Fast-Paced, Something With A Bit More Substance, and Something Different). Stay tuned because these picks could change as I add more books to the list throughout the summer!

IT’S COME TO MY ATTENTION THAT THE CHEATSHEET IS PRINTING OUT BLURRY.

WHEN YOU SIGN UP BELOW, BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR AN EMAIL FROM SARAHSBOOKSHELVES@GMAIL.COM WITH A NON-BLURRY VERSION OF THE CHEATSHEET!

Previous Summer Reading Lists: 2013201420152016, 2017

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

2018 Summer Reading List

Latest Additions (July 23, 2018)

CalypsoCalypso by David Sedaris
Nonfiction – Memoir/Essays (Released May 29, 2018)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Sedaris’ latest essay collection focusing on middle age.

My Thoughts: David Sedaris is generally known for his dark humor and his ability to make readers sob and laugh hysterically on the same page. Personally, I didn’t cry or laugh hysterically while reading Calypso, but I did chuckle and get sad and appreciate the crap out of his dark humor. I love how Sedaris says things that most people probably think, but are too scared to say out loud. And, though I read this one in print, Sedaris is fabulous on audio! Full Review.

 

Banker's Wife The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger
Fiction – Thriller (Released July 3, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When a private plane carrying a Swiss banker and his wealthy client goes off the radar, his wife is left to piece together the shady dealings Swiss United Bank was involved in.

My Thoughts: Despite it’s unfortunately domestic sounding title (really…can publishers try for at least one thriller without “Wife” or “Girl” in the title?!!), The Banker’s Wife is more of a conspiracy / financial thriller. It’s purely plot driven (so much so that I forgot to highlight passages to share in this post!) and will keep you turning the pages. Plus, there are characters who resemble real life people enough to make you wonder! Full Review.

Book of EssieThe Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released June 12, 2018)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When the youngest daughter (Essie) of a evangelical reality TV family becomes pregnant and realizes her mother is working with their show’s producers to come up with the best way to spin it for the show, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

My Thoughts: The Book of Essie is the type of brain candy I love…a story about weighty topics that reads quickly and easily. The first line will grab you immediately and I was dying to find out how all this was going to turn out. Bonus: you get an interesting behind-the-scenes look at reality TV and image management in the media spotlight. Full Review.

Favorite SisterThe Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released May 15, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A shocking death occurs during the filming of a Real Housewives-esque reality TV show.

My Thoughts: The Favorite Sister was just the type of brain candy I love: smart, a bit different, and containing an ending that’s surprising, yet makes sense with the story looking back on it. I’ve always been intrigued by how the sausage gets made in reality TV and The Favorite Sister doesn’t disappoint in that department. If you read Reality Steve’s blog, liked Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman (my review), or love the TV show UnrealThe Favorite Sister is for you! Warning: if dislikable characters ruin books for you, steer clear of this one! Full Review.

Something Fun

My #1 Pick

Charlotte Walsh Likes to WinCharlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza
Fiction – Brain Candy (Release Date: July 24, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Charlotte Walsh leaves her high powered job as COO of a Silicon Valley tech darling to run for Senate in her home state of Pennsylvania, she’s forced to confront the impact on her marriage, her sanity, and her past.

My Thoughts: I’ve been loving books about substantial topics that read easy this summer and I can now add Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win to that list! Though it reads easy enough for the beach, it’s full of astute commentary on women in politics, women in business, managing your image in public life, marriage, motherhood, and gender roles. But, it also has snappy dialogue, a badass sister-in-law (Kara), and a Friday Night Lights name-check (the easiest way to my heart). An excellent choice for fans of The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close! Full Review.

Alternative Remedies for LossAlternative Remedies for Loss by Joanna Cantor
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released May 8, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Olivia’s Dad brings his new girlfriend on a family trip to India only months after her Mom’s death from cancer, Olivia has to figure out how to navigate her grief and get her life back on track.

My Thoughts: I bet you wouldn’t expect a novel about grief to be a light, easy read, but Alternative Remedies for Loss is both those things! I flew through it in just a few days at the beach…and it was an excellent beach read despite the focus on grief. Beyond Olivia’s grief, Alternative Remedies for Loss is a story about a family trying to figure out their new normal after the loss of their mother and a daughter trying to get to know who her mother was as a person, beyond her role as mother and wife. Full review.

Bachelor NationBachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
Nonfiction (Released March 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Kaufman, a L.A. Times reporter who covered The Bachelor franchise until ABC shut down her access because they weren’t pleased with what she was writing about the show, exposes the inner workings of The Bachelor franchise.

My Thoughts: In Bachelor NationKaufman investigates The Bachelor‘s cultural place in America, how producers get contestants to give them good TV, how and why contestants think they fall in love over such a short period of time, and what happens to the couples after the show ends. Beware if you want to preserve the fairytale because you’ll for sure be watching the show differently after reading it. Full Review.

Dear Fahrenheit 451Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released September 26, 2017)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Spence, a public librarian, shares her “love letters and break-up notes” to her favorite books, as well as musings and rants about various aspects of her reading life…plus, a whole section of book recommendation lists.

My Thoughts: Dear Fahrenheit 451 is the anti-My Life with Bob (which was a similar book, but got too esoteric and intellectually snobby for my taste)! You’ve probably heard of most of the books she discusses and even read a few…and there’s no intellectual snobbery here. Spence is relatable, funny, and often snarky. The chapters are short and it will explode your TBR list…consider yourself warned. Big-time bookworms with a sense of humor, this one’s for you!

How To Walk Away How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released May 15, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After Margaret is in a tragic accident the night she gets engaged, she must figure out how to move forward and who she is post-accident.

My Thoughts: How to Walk Away is another book about a very serious topic that’s handled in a light-hearted way…and it reads like brain candy. How to Walk Away reminded me of a less ugly-cry spin on Me Before You. There’s a number of likable characters that I was rooting hard for, some romance, some humor, family drama, and a hopeful, inspirational tone. The ending is utterly ridiculous, but I would have been furious had it ended any other way (a sign of a true rom-com?). Full review.

Look Alive Out ThereLook Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley
Nonfiction – Essays (Released April 3, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: A collection of essays about Crosley’s mostly New York City life, with her “trademark hilarity, wit, and charm.”

My Thoughts: I generally have trouble with essay collections billed as humorous. Humor is hard. I often feel like the author is trying too hard with the jokes. But, Crosley’s humor is more subtle…the kind that has me chuckling rather than LOLing (a promise of so many of these types of essay collections), which is much more up my alley. Look Alive Out There is light and fun, but also smart and sharp. Crosley captures the ridiculousness and weirdness and occasional hilariousness of living in New York City and doesn’t hold back with the social commentary. Full Review.

The Heirs by Susan RiegerThe Heirs by Susan Rieger
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released May 23, 2017)
254 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Rupert Falkes passes away from cancer, the rest of his wealthy Manhattan family (his wife and five sons) struggles with their identity amid accusations that he fathered two children out of wedlock.

My Thoughts: Don’t make the same mistake I did by assuming The Heirs is another version of The Nest! It’s not “wealthy people behaving badly”…it is the story of one wealthy Manhattan family, their relationships with each other, and their own internal struggles. The writing about NYC society reminded me of Jay McInerney (a little pretentious with lots of needlessly big words), but the story reminded me of early Beatriz Williams (i.e. A Hundred Summers). If you read Rieger’s debut (The Divorce Papers), this one is very different.

Woman Last Seen in Her ThirtiesWoman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released February 27, 2018)
254 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When when 50-something year old Maggie’s husband abruptly leaves her, she is forced to rediscover her identity and rebuild her life.

My Thoughts: Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties is an easy and fun, but not silly read with small threads of darkness running underneath. There’s salty humor and real talk about aging, marriage, divorce, finding your identity, and piecing your life back together after an upheaval. I absolutely related to Maggie’s realization that she had lost her identity after having children and her struggle to regain it again. Pagan reminds me of a lighter, more sarcastic version of Anna Quindlen and I recommend this one particularly to the mothers out there.

Something Intense / Fast-Paced

My #1 Pick

Social CreatureSocial Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
Fiction – Literary (Released June 5, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Louise, a nobody trying to make it in NYC, meets Lavinia, an outrageous party girl/socialite, they embark on an intense friendship during which Lavinia ends up dead (this is not a spoiler…it’s revealed almost immediately and in the publishers’ blurb!).

My Thoughts: Social Creature is completely ridiculous and messed up, but also addictive and intriguing. This book made me say “holy sh*t” multiple times. This is one demented story and maybe the most messed up book I’ve read since The Roanoke Girls. If you like dark and twisted, Social Creature is for you (but try to go in as blind as possible)! But, fair warning, this book is not for everyone. PS – stick it out to around the halfway point, things really take off from there. Full Review (with spoilers).

Give Me Your HandGive Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
Fiction – Thriller (Release Date: July 17, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Diane and Kit become lab partners in high school, Diane shares an explosive secret. And, when the two women meet again as star lab scientists, the secret comes back to haunt them both. 

My Thoughts: Megan Abbott is one of my go-to authors for intense summer reads…generally about demented high school girls (The Fever and You Will Know Me are my favorites). She’s kept her streak alive with Give Me Your Hand…her most grown-up novel yet. This story is set in the world of science and Abbott’s writing makes the lab, the competition for limited positions on important studies, and the researchers’ dedication seem like the pressure cauldron of an Olympic Trials. Grab this one if you like dark and twisty with some substance! Full Review.

Grist Mill RoadGrist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released January 9, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Two and a half decades after Patrick, Hannah, and Matthew were involved in a childhood crime in their hometown of Roseborn, NY, they meet again in New York City and have to grapple with what happened years ago.

My Thoughts: Yates’ debut novel, Black Chalk, was one of my favorite books of 2014 and I had high expectations for his sophomore effort. Though Grist Mill Road wasn’t perfect and I didn’t love it as much as Black Chalk, I couldn’t put it down. It’s part coming of age story (reminiscent of My Sunshine Away) and part psychological thriller, while managing to remain literary (well…until the overly thriller-y ending). Grist Mill Road is a solid choice if you like dark, twisty, literary thrillers about extremely complicated friendships (a la If We Were Villains). Full Review.

Sunburn by Laura LippmanSunburn by Laura Lippman
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Release Date: February 20, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Polly and Adam meet at a bar in tiny Belleville, Delaware in the 1990’s each is merely passing through. As they become more enamored with each other, they discover both are keeping secrets.

My Thoughts: Recommended by Annie Jones from From the Front Porch podcast (one of my Go-To Recommendation Sourcesand Megan Abbott (one of my few trusted thriller authors), Sunburn is an unconventional love story where essentially everyone is messing with everyone else. There’s not a single character who is 100% likable or trustworthy (take note if dislikable characters bother you!). Sunburn kept me quickly turning the pages even while sick with the flu! Full Review.

Tangerine by Christine ManganTangerine by Christine Mangan
Fiction – Literary (Released March 20, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Alice Shipley can’t figure out whether to be relieved or unsettled when her college roommate (Lucy Mason), who she hasn’t spoken to in over a year after a deeply disturbing incident, shows up on her doorstep in Tangier, Morocco, where she’s living with her new husband (John).

My Thoughts: Told in dual perspectives, Mangan’s debut novel is the story of a fraught, obsessive friendship and all the wreckage it leaves behindTangerine is a very specific type of book that I generally adore (and I did in this case!), but that probably isn’t for everyone. It’s kind of a page turner, but not in the traditional sense. It’s taut with emotional and psychological tension and reminded me of Tender (my review), Sunburn (my review), and Based on a True Story (Spoiler Discussion). And, the Moroccan setting makes the story even more enigmatic. P.S. – Don’t be fooled by this cover because Tangerine does not read like historical fiction at all despite the 1950’s time period. Full Review.

The Wife by Alafair BurkeThe Wife by Alafair Burke
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released January 23, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: After Angela is plucked out of the Hamptons by her marriage to NYU professor and media personality Jason Powell, two women accuse Jason of misconduct and Angela has to figure out how to protect the most important thing in her life.

My Thoughts: The Wife is part domestic thriller / part legal thriller and is the first domestic thriller I haven’t DNF’d in ages! I read it in a day and a half at the beach and it’s absolutely perfect for that setting. The ending was mostly surprising, yet not outlandish, which is a must for me to like a thriller. I recommend skipping the Prologue, as I thought it gave away too much. Bonus: it deals with a timely topic.

Unraveling OliverUnraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Released August 22, 2017)
272 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When successful children’s book author Oliver Ryan beats his wife into a coma, their friends and acquaintances try to piece together how he could have done it.

My Thoughts: After reading the first line of Unraveling Oliver (“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”), you think you know what you’re getting. You think you’re getting a thriller. You think you know Oliver. You think you’ll unequivocally hate Oliver. But, you don’t know anything. I promise, you’ll be surprised. It’s a story told from different perspectives, a character study that peels back many layers, and all the pieces came together like a symphony.

Something With A Bit More Substance

My #1 Pick

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Fiction – Literary (Released February 6, 2018)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: When Roy goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit only a year and a half into their new marriage, Celestial must figure out how to cope with his absence and shape her life in the face of this massive upheaval.

My Thoughts: An American Marriage is an intimately written novel that tackles a number of weighty current issues in an organic way…and is one of my favorite novels of 2018 so far! It’s about so many things (marriage, race, class, incarceration, love, friendship, family, grief, fidelity, recovery), but not overwhelmingly about any one of them (kind of like The Mothers). Jones handles them in a way that doesn’t make the book feel overwhelmingly like “an issue book.” And, the last quarter of the book is absolutely riveting. Full Review.

All the Castles BurnedAll the Castles Burned by Michael Nye
Fiction – Literary (Released February 13, 2018)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Owen Webb, a scholarship student at the prestigious Rockcastle School (a private day school for boys) embarks on an obsessive, dangerous friendship with Carson Bly, the son of a wealthy and absent father.

My Thoughts: All the Castles Burned is a classic coming of age story with some dysfunctional family drama, some “outsider enters the realm of the wealthy” dynamics, a foreboding friendship, a father/son angle, a touch of romance, and basketball. You can feel the tension simmering and you know things will explode at some point. I’d recommend this one for fans of Shadow of the Lions (my review) and Unraveling Oliver…and campus novels in general! Full Review.

Educated Tara WestoverEducated by Tara Westover
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released February 20, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Westover tells her story of growing up in a survivalist Mormon family who didn’t believe in public education and her journey to break the mold by getting her PhD at Cambridge University.

My Thoughts: Imagine if you had to choose between getting an education (both the traditional kind and an education about life in general) and having a relationship with your family. That’s what happened to Tara Westover. Tara’s father insisted the whole family live “off the grid”…with no interaction with the government or modern medicine. There are many parts that are hard to read…and that I’d have found totally unbelievable had this been fiction. If you liked The Glass CastleHillbilly Elegy (my review), and/or Under the Banner of Heaven (my reviewEducated should be next on your list! Full Review.

Female PersuasionThe Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer
Fiction – Literary (Released April 3, 2018)
464 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Greer is a shy college student still in love with her high school boyfriend when she meets Faith Frank, an icon of the women’s movement, who changes the trajectory of Greer’s life.

My Thoughts: Meg Wolitzer is one of my very favorite authors, so I’m not entirely surprised that The Female Persuasion is one of my few 5 star books of this year! The Female Persuasion is ultimately a story in which the characters are the stars: Greer, her boyfriend (Cory), her best friend (Zee), and Faith Frank. I was completely enmeshed in these people’s lives and the issues (gender, feminism) this book addresses fit organically around the characters’ stories without overwhelming them (like An American Marriage and The Mothers). Don’t be scared of the 464 pages…I flew through this one in just a few days! Full Review.

Us Against YouUs Against You by Fredrick Backman
Fiction – Literary (Released June 5, 2018)
448 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Amid the wreckage of the previous winter, Beartown residents face their beloved ice hockey team being disbanded and a volatile rivalry with nearby Hed Hockey.
My Thoughts: Us Against You is the sequel to last year’s Beartown (one of my favorites of 2017) and I highly recommend you read Beartown before reading Us Against You. This time around, Beartown has lost its innocence. The story is even darker, more sinister, and more focused on the adults and the politics of sports (a very real thing). Like in Beartown, the story is about far more than hockey…friendship, rivalry, marriage, parenting, power, sexuality, and violence. I was completely engrossed in the emotion of sports, which Backman captures better than anything save Friday Night Lights (and if you’re missing FNL, these are the books for you!). Full Review.

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.). Full Review.

Something Different

My #1 Pick

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

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 nonfiction so far!) this memoir that spoke to me in a “yes, that’s exactly how it is” way. She covers many big life issues (marriage, motherhood, illness, religion, friendship, grief, and loss) in a relatable and irreverently funny way. Corrigan is a welcome addition to my “women who get women” club (current members include Anna Quindlen, Ann Patchett, and Cheryl Strayed) and I’d highly recommend Tell Me More to anyone who loved Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake or This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Full Review.

Laura and EmmaLaura & Emma by Kate Greathead
Fiction – Literary (Released March 13, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Laura, the somewhat quirky daughter of a blue-blood Upper East Side family, becomes pregnant after a one-night stand and wrestles with how to raise her daughter.

My Thoughts: The key to loving Laura & Emma is loving Laura’s voice and the writing style (which I did)…because there isn’t a ton of action to propel the story. Laura is offbeat, but likable and funny in an awkward way (she reminded me of a less damaged version of Eleanor Oliphant). The story is told in vignettes both momentous and mundane, which might turn some people off, but these hung together quite well to form a cohesive story (e.g. similar to Goodbye, Vitamin). P.S. – there’s an kooky, entertaining grandmother…always a plus in my reading! Full Review.

Heating and CoolingHeating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released October 10, 2017)
112 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: In a series of tiny chapters (some only a single paragraph), Fennelly shares anecdotes from her life.

My Thoughts: This memoir is told in a totally unique format…actually a number of different formats (short essays, single paragraphs or sentences, a poem, etc) collected into one volume. It’s clever and witty and random, but delightfully random. It’s a 100% “real life” book. She touches on marriage, parenthood, her writing career, her Catholic upbringing (Catholics beware – she sort of skewers them), and everyday life. It’s the perfect choice for a time when you’re distracted or don’t have much reading time…and would make a perfect “bathroom book” (i.e. the book that sits on the back of the toilet to be picked up by whoever sits down).

Red NoticeRed Notice by Bill Browder
Nonfiction – Business (Released February 3, 2015)
380 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The true story Browder’s experience as one of the first foreign investors in Russia after the fall of Communism and widespread privatization.

My Thoughts: You might think the premise of Red Notice sounds boring. Let me assure you…it’s not. It’s a financial thriller (if there is such a thing) that reads like fiction and kept me quickly turning the pages…while giving a fascinating picture of Russian culture in the Post-Communism era. During the course of his investing, Browder made a ton of money, partnered with billionaire Edmond Safra, angered some oligarchs via his anti-corruption battles, showed some serious guts, and ended up in a knockdown, drag-out battle with Putin and the Russian regime. Think a cross between Michael Lewis, Dominick Dunne, and the TV show Billions.

Tiger WoodsTiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
Nonfiction – Sports (Released March 27, 2018)
512 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: The new biography of the ex-World #1 golfer, including his fall from grace.

My Thoughts: You’ve probably heard much of the scoop in this book before (especially if you’re a golf fan), but mostly in little snippets over the course of his whole career. Benedict and Keteyian put all this together to paint a complete picture of Tiger as a person and an athlete. I found myself psycho-analyzing him right along with the authors. It’s a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of an elite athlete in the limelight who has been trained as a machine…and sorely under-trained as a whole person. PS – Bill Simmons, one of my favorite sports writers/podcasters, loved this book and read it in a few sittings.

You Think It, I'll Say ItYou Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld
Fiction – Short Stories (Released April 24, 2018)
256 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Plot Summary: Novelist Curtis Sittenfeld’s (author of PrepAmerican Wife, and Eligible) first short story collection.

My Thoughts: Short stories are not my thing, but this collection is unquestionably 5 stars for me! The stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It are mostly about otherwise normal relationships that have a hidden element of unconventionality or an awkward incident. They’re normal situations that end up taking unexpected turns…they’re relatable, yet surprising. I was completely invested in the characters in every story, which is a rarity for me with short stories. If you’ve been hesitant to try short stories, You Think It, I’ll Say It is a perfect first collection! Full Review.

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12 Books That Would Make Great Gifts for Moms

April 17, 2018 Book Lists 18

Books That Would Make Great Gifts for Moms

 

These books all examine women’s experiences and mothers’ experience in particular. I related to much of these authors’ and characters’ outlooks on life, love, marriage, friendship, work, family…and, of course, motherhood.

I’ll be giving one of these to my Mom for Mother’s Day this year…but, I can’t tell you which one since she reads the blog!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link).

Books That Would Make Great Gifts for Moms

Books for Living by Will SchwalbeBooks for Living by Will Schwalbe
Nonfiction – Essays (Released December 27, 2016)
288 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: The author of The End of Your Life Book Club‘s collection of essays featuring individual books and how they impacted his life.

My Thoughts: Each chapter of this introspective collection focuses on one book and how it impacted and contributed to Schwalbe’s life. He covers classics (Stuart Little), nonfiction (The Importance Of Living), serious books (A Little Life), and lighter fare (The Girl on the Train). I certainly hadn’t read all the books he discusses, but I related to many of his points about life. This book would be a fantastic gift for serious readers or someone who is reflecting a bit on life. Full Review.

Gift from the Sea Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released 1955)
130 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: During a seaside vacation, Lindbergh shares her thoughts on motherhood, marriage, aging, and many other topics related to women.

My Thoughts: My mom first gave me this book while I was pregnant with my first child. I didn’t quite connect with it then, but I re-read it after having my second child and that changed completely. Lindbergh beautifully vocalized the many conflicted feelings I’d been having about motherhood, maintaining my identity, etc. It’s every bit as relevant now as it was in the 1950’s.

Glitter and Glue Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released February 4, 2014)
224 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Corrigan’s stint as a nanny to an Australian family who had lost their mother helps her reflect on what it means to be a mother and her relationship with her own mother.

My Thoughts: I absolutely adored Corrigan’s latest memoir, Tell Me More, so was excited to delve into her backlist. While Glitter and Glue didn’t blow me away quite as much as Tell Me More, I still relished in sinking back into Corrigan’s signature brand of heartfelt, relatable, and sometimes irreverent observations about life and motherhood. Read by the author, this one is also great on audiobook!

Laura and EmmaLaura & Emma by Kate Greathead
Fiction – Literary (Released March 13, 2018)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: Laura, the somewhat quirky daughter of a blue-blood Upper East Side family, becomes pregnant after a one-night stand and wrestles with how to raise her daughter.

My Thoughts: The key to loving Laura & Emma is loving Laura’s voice and the writing style (which I did)…because there isn’t a ton of action to propel the story. Laura is offbeat, but likable and funny in an awkward way (she reminded me of a less damaged version of Eleanor Oliphant). The story is told in vignettes both momentous and mundane, which might turn some people off, but these hung together quite well to form a cohesive story (e.g. similar to Goodbye, Vitamin). Full Review.

Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Fiction – Literary (Released September 12, 2017)
384 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: When nomadic artist Mia Warren and her daughter (Pearl) rent an apartment from Elena Richardson in Shaker Heights, Elena’s entire family becomes enmeshed in the Warrens’ lives, resulting in uncovered secrets, unanticipated consequences, and a raging debate about what it means to be a mother.

My Thoughts: Little Fires Everywhere is an engrossing story about a family and a community that you can sink right into…and may have even broader appeal than Everything I Never Told You (Ng’s debut novel). It’s central theme is what it means to be a mother…is it biology or the act of mothering? Full Review.

Lots of Candles Plenty of CakeLots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released April 24, 2012)
182 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: A combination memoir/essay collection covering marriage, girlfriends, motherhood, faith, loss, work, and much more!

My Thoughts: Listening to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake was like seeing a therapist and falls into the same category as Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. Quindlen just has such a grounded, practical outlook on life that really puts things in perspective for me. Highly recommend for anyone craving a “life wisdom” type of read!

One True ThingOne True Thing by Anna Quindlen
Fiction – Literary (August 30, 1994)
315 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Ellen Gulden returns home from her prestigious job as a New York City journalist to care for her mother as she’s dying of cancer…only to be accused her mercy killing.

My Thoughts: Anna Quindlen is fast becoming a go-to author for me whenever I’m craving some “life lessons/perspective” in my reading. She just gets life…especially marriage, motherhood, and women’s work/life balance. One True Thing explores the relationship between Ellen (an ambitious career woman) and her mother (a Stepford-style stay-at-home mother) and their efforts to understand each other as people before it’s too late. Full Review.

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 one of my favorite 2018 releases 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. Full Review.

Female PersuasionThe Female Persuasionby Meg Wolitzer
Fiction – Literary (Released April 3, 2018)
464 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: Greer is a shy college student still in love with her high school boyfriend when she meets Faith Frank, an icon of the women’s movement, who changes the trajectory of Greer’s life.

My Thoughts: The Female Persuasion is my second 5 star book of the year! In a letter to the reader at the beginning of the book, Riverhead’s Editor-in-Chief (Sarah McGrath) says The Female Persuasion is a novel about “female power, ambition, leadership, and mentorship […].” And it is, but those issues are secondary to what is ultimately a story in which the characters are the stars: Greer, her boyfriend (Cory), her best friend (Zee), and Faith Frank. I was completely enmeshed in these people’s lives and the issues this book addresses fit organically around the characters’ stories without overwhelming them. Full Review.

This Is How It Always IsThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Fiction – Literary (Released January 24, 2017)
336 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: 
When Claude, the youngest son of a family of five boys, starts to realize he wants to be a girl, the family must learn how to best support Claude and adjust to the situation.
My Thoughts: 
This Is How It Always Is is an accessible story about a weighty topic that had me feeling a whole range of emotions…it’s the kind of book many people will enjoy, yet will also provide excellent discussion for book clubs. It’s heart-warming, but also heart-breaking. It’s unexpectedly funny, sad, inspirational, and made me angry at times. Full Review.

This is the Story of a Happy MarriageThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
Nonfiction – Essays (Released December 11, 2011)
308 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary:
Ann Patchett’s essay collection about the most important things in her life.
My Thoughts:
Pat Conroy is one of the rare authors whose fiction and nonfiction I’ve truly enjoyed. Now that he’s gone, Ann Patchett might be taking his place (thanks to his recommendation in A Lowcountry Heart). She covers the gamut of topics in this essay collection: marriage (obviously), divorce, writing, book tours, opera (the only low point for me), friendship, how to be productive, and the story behind the opening of Parnassus Books. She lives an interesting, yet fairly normal life and I like her outlook on things.

Woman Last Seen in Her ThirtiesWoman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagan
Fiction – Brain Candy (Released February 27, 2018)
254 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Plot Summary: When when 50-something year old Maggie’s husband abruptly leaves her, she is forced to rediscover her identity and rebuild her life.

My Thoughts: Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties is an easy and fun, but not silly read with small threads of darkness running underneath. There’s salty humor and real talk about aging, marriage, divorce, finding your identity, and piecing your life back together after an upheaval. I absolutely related to Maggie’s realization that she had lost her identity after having children and her struggle to regain it again. Pagan reminds me of a lighter, more sarcastic version of Anna Quindlen.

Book of the Month Club: The Gift That Keeps on Giving for Book Lovers

Can’t find the perfect book to get your Mom for Mother’s Day? 

A subscription to the Book of the Month Club is the book lovers gift that keeps on giving!

How it Works

On the first of every month, members get to choose one of five books selected by Book of the Month Club’s panel of judges (including a surprise guest judge). You also have the option to purchase additional books for $9.99 each and to skip a month if you want. Book of the Month Club will mail your chosen book (along with any extras you ordered) to your house for free. 

PRICING

MOTHER’S DAY DEAL: Give a gift and get a free month for yourself! And, check out their Best Books for Mom list for some ideas. 

New members will sign up for a membership that renews monthly:

A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
Add extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
Skip any month you want
Free shipping, always

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Books That Would Make Great Gifts for Moms

 

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