This month’s QuickLit features short and sweet reviews of the 22 books I read in September! Feel free to scroll until you find something you like. If you’re interested in listening to me CHAT about the books I’ve been reading lately, my lovely co-host Meredith Monday Schwartz and I debuted our podcast this month! You can find Currently Reading on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or the podcast player of your choice. You can even ask Alexa to “play Currently Reading” and she’ll help you out! We really spent some time figuring out what *the perfect book podcast* would be like and it seems that lots of our listeners agree! It would mean so much to us if you want to check it out. 🙂
Otherwise, you can just scan below to see what I read this month!
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Oluo pulls no punches in this book. It is brutally honest and convicting. It is for white people who “could never be racist” as well as anyone who has been hurt by racism. It expands and explains the hurt, the misconceptions, the teachable moments. It’s definitely worth picking up and going on my list of favorite social justice reads.
A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
Holy hell, this was rough. But also feels like it should maybe be required reading for every parent. And then maybe establishing your family with a family counselor should be required for every parent as well. And it wouldn’t fix the world, but it might go a ways toward helping us better understand and support our children, and those with mental illness, and especially better understand where those two roads intersect. This book is heartbreaking, but well thought and worthwhile all the same.
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Lisa Genova writes such well researched, poignant dramas. The juxtaposition of a concert pianist with a man suffering from ALS who slowly but surely sees his body decline is horrifying and heartbreaking. I love the way she gives us the viewpoint of Karina as well as that of Richard, her ex husband. It’s not an easy read, but it’s a good one. The audio was well done, but the narrator for Karina was far better than that of Richard, I felt.
Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart
My biggest critique of this book is that there are so many women in it with different relationships to one another that it gets a little hard to keep track of everyone until you really get a handle on the characters. Tiffany and Nora are friends who moved away from their hometown, where Nora’s mom Liz and sister Quinn live. Nora drops off Everlee, who she calls Lucy, to Quinn’s house, owned by their mom, and tells her not to let anyone know she’s there. Got all that? After you can wrap your head around all of the ins and outs of the relationships, you’re pretty much good to go on this ride, where we wonder who Everlee’s dad is, why she has to hide, etc etc. The mystery element is well-plotted if the buildup is a bit convoluted.
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
This book was interesting, but the timelines and jumping from one point of view to another left me disinterested and confused more often than not. Having to spend half of each chapter figuring out where we were in time was too much for this sleep deprived brain to handle.
Lilia disappears from her mother’s home when she is only 8 years old, spirited away in the middle of the night by her father. She spends her entire life as a migratory wisp, a nomad traveling with her father, staying for moments or evenings or months in one place before moving along.
The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst
Fun and lighthearted while also being convicting. Just what I needed to remember in this time of decision and opportunity and balance. But mostly it was a reminder, because it didn’t feel groundbreaking to me. Overall, it seemed like Lysa had some good points about seeking Godly counsel and spending time in prayer and not stretching oneself too thin (by looking at emotional, spiritual, time, and money resources). I did enjoy it though.
The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
I did NOT like this book. It felt like nothing I wanted. Christian books about hospitality are totally my jam, but this one is not that. This is a memoir about how self sacrificing the author is and about how only Jesus could make her ungay. And about how Christian pastor’s wives need to be serving everyone all the time, and should be giving to such and extent that they never get time or money to take care of themselves and enjoy their families. I feel like it sets a poor precedent for Christian hospitality. So many better titles in my coffers to recommend to you, if you like this idea!
The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I just totally adore this series. I can’t stop gushing about it. This one made me cry more than once, but it’s still just so great. Ada and Jamie continue to live in the English countryside as the British war with Germany heats up. They face loss and victory, heartache and joy. Ada has to learn how to trust, how to allow herself to really live. I know I’ll be recommending it across the board to everyone from 3rd grade to age 80.
I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
I love this collection. I’m not a re-reader, but I know I will pick This up to read these essays again and again. I know I will turn back to these book darted pages for smiles and comfort and sweetness and even ideas in the future. This is absolutely THE love letter to books that I’ve always wanted on my shelves, and this little book will be with me for the rest of my days.
All the Pretty Girls by J.T. Ellison
Really well put together thriller, if a bit gory and violent (yes, I *know*…. It’s a thriller). I followed along almost exactly with the way the author wants you to believe things are going to play out, and therefore thought I knew whodunit, but was wrong, and then was right, and then was still surprised. All without feeling like she had played me for a fool. Lieutenant Taylor Jackson is a great character to root for. I’m a fan.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
I really enjoyed this. I an beating myself for not listening to Melissa 12+ years ago and reading it ASAP. Instead, I let it languish on my shelves, almost gave it away, and finally decided to pick it up.
This multi-generational saga starts in Greece at the beginning of the 20th century. It follows Lefty and Desdemona and their family, as told through the eyes of their grandchild, Calliope. You’ve got the fabulous Greek culture, you’ve got early 20th century immigrant experience, the auto boom, World War II. It’s all contained in these pages and they are so worth reading.
What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
Historical fiction mystery. 15 year-old Evelyn, her mom, and stepdad head down to Florida and spend the late summer and fall at a hotel. Post World War II. She meets Peter, who served with her stepdad Joe in the army during the war. Relationships are messy. Lies are told. I liked this plenty, but it didn’t draw me in like I feel like it could have.
Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson
I didn’t realize I had already read one of Dawson’s books until the end of this one. But I liked it quite a bit more than the previous one I had read (A Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness). I picked this up as a Kindle First read, and then I wasn’t sure I’d even read it. But it was a fun read after a week of heavy ones, so it fit the bill. Blix is an eccentric older lady, who is going to die soon, and she’s a self-proclaimed matchmaker. She meets Marnie, her great-nephew’s fiance and knows that she is meant to be part of her life. Marnie is a bit of a mess, goes through a breakup, etc etc. She ends up living a “big life” in ways she definitely didn’t expect, and you keep wondering how this is going to resolve without Marnie looking like a total toolface. It does… kinda. She still kinda carries that self-centered vibe with her until the end.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I’d call this novel a book version of Sliding Doors. Was that a book first? I don’t know.
Hannah moves home after a breakup to LA, where she no longer has a home because her parents picked up and left to move to London when Hannah was in HS. She meets up with her ex-boyfriend, Ethan, one night right after her return and then she needs to make a choice: go home with Ethan or go home with her longtime friend Gabby. We follow both timelines. The chapters switch back and forth between leaving Ethan at the bar and leaving the possibilities open with him or going home with him. We see this one decision change the course of her life and see how the thigns that were already in place play out in each timeline. It’s SO cool. It’s like a girly version (i.e. no blood and guts) of Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch, or a more interesting version of How to Walk Away, by Katherine Center. Definitely read it!
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
I don’t have the right words for this book and the ways it spoke to the circumstances in Brown’s life, and the ways she helps us white women to see the racism inherent in our interactions and comments, and the ways she affirms the struggle of the Black women in her life. Brown is a racial sensitivity trainer, often for religious organizations, so she has seen and spoken to and been involved in some super tricky situations. She uses all her knowledge and experience to really clearly outline white guilt and white fragility and affirmative action and separate but equal and, just… life. This book is absolutely a must-read, for anyone. But especially for white Christians.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
This one was talked about so highly on the Great American Read that I decided to pick it up. Went into it knowing nothing about nothing. Ghost (Castle Crenshaw) is a young Black boy whose life has not been easy. His father tried to kill him and his mother before being sent to prison. He has no great male influence in his life. But that changes at the track one day. His coach, his mom, and his teammates show him what it means to show up, to be committed, to care for one another, and to trust each other. This was a great YA read.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This book sits very differently with me now than it did when I read it as a teenager. Then, I read it as the story of a young girl, who idolized her father (and brother). Atticus was mostly definitely a good man who deserved to be idolized.
Now, and especially with the reading and listening I’ve done of late to writers of color and women of color, I find this book to be a portrayal of white southern culture in the 30s. We get nothing from Cal, from Tom or Helen Robinson. These pivotal characters of color are not remotely fleshed out.
Lee’s later (earlier) novel Go Set A Watchman seemed to cast doubt on Atticus and his infallible character. And I kind of feel like it was maybe deserved? Even though I didn’t feel like that when I read GSAW a couple years ago. I’m not saying that I love this book less than I did then. I’m saying it’s a different story because I’m a different (and I hope, more knowledgeable and more informed) person now.
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
I spent entirely too long caring only about Robin and Strike instead of their investigation. It finally got interesting about 1/3-1/2 way in and then I couldn’t put it down. This case centers on a minister for culture, blackmail, accusations of strangling a child from a mentally unstable young man. It seems to be easily disconnected and dull as we get the entire story set up, but then things start coming together and happening quickly. Overall, I’d recommend it, but tell the reader to push through the boring bits to get to the good stuff.
March: Book One by John Robert Lewis
Excellently done. Drawings are black and white, which seems totally appropriate. Can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of these. And possibly find a Lewis biography, because: dang. At Obama’s swearing in, John Lewis is met by a young mother and her two young boys. He has to go, but he tells them the story of his life, starting from a young age, going through the Montgomery bus boycott, the non-violent resistance and civil disobedience of the civil rights movement, the times he met Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s amazing.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
I’d like to review the power of The Power of Habit. I feel ARMED with all this knowledge now! How habits are formed, triggered, changed. Between this and Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, it feels possible to change anything about the way one behaves. Duhigg has the research about habits themselves and Rubin shows us how to harness that research.
The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones
Fun and silly with a bit of weirdness. It’s 1912. Emerald Torrington is getting ready for her birthday party when a nearby railway line suffers and accident and the survivors are sent to the Torrington home for shelter. This happens right as the party guests start to arrive as well. It’s a bit of a mess, of course, but the show must go on. How should we feed these people? How do we entertain ourselves with the study taken up with all these “guests”? What in the world is happening in there anyway? I found myself laughing at the situations, even when it was getting a bit creepy.
This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick
I liked that this was like a place attachment experiment. But I also happen to love books that fall into the “stunt journalism” genre (i.e. I tried to live like this for a year and here’s how it turned out)… this feels kind of like that. Warnick outlines some guidelines for place attachment and then spends time telling us how it looked in her life as she attempts to root herself in her current city, Blackburg, VA.
It feels like a checklist: here’s what I’ve already done to love where we live, here’s something else I could do to love it more or love it better. Warnick is really readable, but I feel like the chapters are each a bit too long.