What I’ve Been Reading Lately: June, July, August

JUNE
The Dry, by Jane Harper
Police investigator Aaron Falk returns home for the funeral of a friend and old wounds resurface in this “page-turner of a mystery set in parched Australia.” I loved everything about the set-up, plus this baby got 4.07 stars on Goodreads (and lots and lots of great press as one of this summer’s Must Reads.) I found it not as compelling. In fact, I sped read (is that a word?) the last half of the novel. But clearly, that’s just me.

My Southern Journey, by Rick Bragg
A collection of essays from the beloved Southern writer (and pulitzer prize winner). Okay, friends, I got this on audiobook and the introduction alone–read by Rick Bragg–is Everything To Me. His voice is thick and rich as maple syrup (the real kind) and his writing? I underlined every sentence in my head, then got a printed version to study. Plus those stories of his Mama and front porches and good heavens all the cats–this one will stay with me a long, long time.

Heat and Light, by Jennifer Haigh
We live in a world of opposing interests, and the struggle between two of them is at the heart of this book about a dying West Virginia coal town and the massive deposit of natural gas that lies beneath it. Jennifer Haigh brings fire and heart to this story through the complicated, very human characters that live it. She’s a master storyteller with an uncompromising voice.

JULY
This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel
I heard about this novel from a podcast I love, What Should I Read Next. Hostess Anne Bogel (AKA Modern Mrs. Darcy) suggests you not read anything about the plot, including the book jacket, and that you just jump in. I followed her advice and totally agree. And I loved this book. It’s smart, poignant, and beautifully written. Oh, those family secrets.

In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollen
I bought this book because it was a great Kindle deal and I am so glad I did. Practical, insightful advice and a perspective that was actually a bit new to me. Amazon says: Because in the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion–most of what we’re consuming today is longer the product of nature but of food science. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American Paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we see to become. Good one.

AUGUST
Trampoline, by Robert Gipe
I had heard many people I respect call this the best Appalachian novel in years and so it was on my radar. Then I met Robert Gipe at the writers’ workshop at Hindman. He is such a nice guy and LORD IS HE A POWERFUL WRITER. So I bought Trampoline on the spot, asked him to sign it, then cracked open that cover. I have never read anything like it and cannot recommend it strongly enough–particularly if you are interested in Appalachian literature or if you just want to be pushed. Intense, heartbreaking, fresh. Here’s the synopsis: Jagged and honest, Trampoline is a portrait of a place struggling with the economic and social forces that threaten and define it. Inspired by oral tradition and punctuated by Gipe’s raw and whimsical drawings, it is above all about its heroine, Dawn, as she decides whether to save a mountain or save herself; be ruled by love or ruled by anger; remain in the land of her birth or run for her life.  I do love me some Robert Gipe.

(Man, August was a good reading month.)

Fallen Land, by Taylor Brown
Gorgeous and oh so heartbreaking. Taylor Brown writes sentences that make you want to crawl up inside them. The synopsis: Fallen Land is Taylor Brown’s debut novel set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward. His descriptions of a decimated South* will leave you breathless. Plus the book jacket (hardback) is just so gorgeous.

 

If you have thoughts or other book recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any suggestions you have!

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Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little financial reward for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post, but since it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books, I thought it might be a good way to help with the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

I also share great book deals on my favorites via Facebook. If you are interested, be sure to like my The Daily Grace Blog Facebook page and select “see first” (under “following”) so it will show in your newsfeed. Oh, those crazy algorithms.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: March, April, May

I launched this What I’ve Been Reading Lately monthly book series on The Daily Grace in January and made it all the way to February. (That’s so me.) Which means the list is now very long. Still we should catch up, right?

Here goes Part 1.

 

MARCH
Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
An unexpected (and rather undramatic) kiss at a party changes everything not only for the individuals involved, but their families. Patchett shares the next 50 years as their lives weave this way and that.
I liked this book. Didn’t love it. But it was certainly highly acclaimed critically.

Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh
Three women marry the same charismatic opportunist: Ken Kimble. 
I had the great honor of studying with Jennifer Haigh at the Appalachian Writers Workshop this summer. This is her debut novel, so needless to say I read it with great interest. Enjoyed it.

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
The true story of Chris McCandliss, a young man who graduated from college then abandoned his car, burned his cash and walked into the Alaskan wilderness, alone. His body was found four months later.
There is so much to this story of independence and survival. I found it fascinating. (Great on audiobook.)

APRIL
The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Poole
Set in 1916 in Tennessee, two flawed yet endearing grifters pursue women, wealth, and a surprisingly valuable commodity for the troops in Europe—mules.
I loved this debut novel. Loved it–one of my favorite books of the year.

Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
It’s 1977, and the body of teen Lydia Lee is found in a local lake. Her Chinese-American family tumbles into chaos.
Heralded as a literary thriller and one of the best debut novels of the year. I thought it was…okay.

MAY
Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry
Publisher’s description: “Ignorant boys, killing each other,” is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan’s wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry’s unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter’s children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors “live right on.”
This book served as my introduction to Wendell Berry, who is without a doubt one of the finest writers living today. Quiet, beautiful, and so powerful, Hannah Coulter will live in my heart forever.  READ THIS BOOK.

Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes
Over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything. Shonda knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.
Oh, I want every young woman every woman of every age I know to read this book. Loved, loved, loved. (Fantastic on audiobook, read by Shonda.) In fact, I wrote an entire post about it: Introverts Unite, which you can read here.

Hallelujah Anyway, by Anne Lamott
A powerful little spiritual guidebook for helping you rediscover mercy in this messy, difficult life.
I love everything Anne Lamott has ever written, and this little book is no exception. Plus I got to hear her speak in Charlotte, a night that brought so many insights and heart whispers I still think about it. I wrote a little bit about that here: The Gift of Mercy from Anne Lamott

UP NEXT: June, July and August

If you have thoughts or other book recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any suggestions you have!

XXOO

Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little financial reward for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post, but since it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books, I thought it might be a good way to help with the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

I also share great book deals on my favorites via Facebook. If you are interested, be sure to like my The Daily Grace Blog Facebook page and select “see first” (under “following”) so it will show in your newsfeed. Oh, those crazy algorithms.

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately: February

February, here goes.

Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Harper Collins says of this book: A sparkling talent makes her fiction debut with this infectious novel that combines the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the page-turning spirit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I listened to the audiobook so the “charming pluck” really came to life. (To tell the truth, I’m not sure it would have held my attention in book form, but maybe.) Worth a listen, for sure.

The Mothers, by Britt Bennett
Called “dazzling” and “ferociously moving” and “luminous,” I could hardly wait to read Britt Bennett’s The Mothers.  The young author has become a bit of a literary darling with this–her debut novel–winning tons of awards and finding a spot on nearly every 2016 Best Book list. Plus I adore the cover. So I was thrilled when it came from the library just in time for our recent trip. I settled into my window seat on the plane, cracked the book open and nearly had a heart attack when I read the location for the story was our destination: Oceanside, California. Serendipity! But alas, turns out this is not the book for me. I finished it–but struggled. Please, please somebody read this book so we can discuss!

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
I’ve had the same title at the top of my Favorite Book of All Times list for nearly 20 years, but this reading season has served up two grand competitors. First I covet Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, a thick, rich, delicious novel I sank into and savored over several weeks last Fall. And now there is Lincoln in the Bardo. The first novel from George Saunders, it is–without a doubt–a masterpiece. Stunning and brilliant, Saunders offers a compelling (and original) story about the first days after the death of 11-year-old Willie Lincoln, beloved son of President and Mary Todd Lincoln. (You will want to read this one in hard back.)

Oh friends. This book.

(My previous Favorite Book of All Time? Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.)

Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
I mentioned this memoir in a previous post on The Daily Grace, noting at the time I had some mixed emotions about it. This is a tough read; the first three quarters detail Melton’s lifelong battles with addiction and the subsequent (and shocking) implosion of her marriage. She writes with an unsettling honesty and goes into great detail–so much so I nearly gave up on her/it. (Clearly this is the desired effect.) But just then the story takes a turn and the insights she offers about “unlearning” and living in truth are surprising and powerful. I think about this book every day.

TO BE READ

Mrs. Kimble, by Jennifer Haigh

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voscamp

Above the Waterfall, by Ron Rash

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

News of the World, by Paulette Giles

A Snow Garden, by Rachel Joyce

A Hanging at Cinder Bottom, by Glenn Taylor

If you have thoughts or other book recommendations, please share in the comments. I’d love to know how you feel about my selections or any suggestions you have! 

XXOO

Amazon has offered The Daily Grace an affiliate partnership and will give a little financial reward for any purchases made from the links provided here. That’s not my motivation in writing this post, but since it doesn’t cost anything extra if you click and decide to purchase one of these books, I thought it might be a good way to help cover the hard costs of this labor-of-love blog. I do want to fully disclose, however. I greatly value your trust as a reader.

Oh–one other thing. On the days I find a great deal on one of my favorite, favorite books, I often share it on Facebook. If you are interested, be sure to like my The Daily Grace Blog Facebook page and select “see first” (under “following”) so it will show in your newsfeed. Oh, those crazy algorithms.