Looking for a good book to read? This post is part of my monthly “What I Read” series and features the books I read in July 2019 with lots of recommendations for you! All of these book pair perfectly with donuts, cookies, pasta, or pizza… And always a glass of wine.
I recently heard the question asked “are a love of books and a love of reading the same thing?” And at first I thought, definitely! Why would you love books if you didn’t love reading? And then I read this article in Town & Country magazine about how Gwyneth Paltrow has a “book curator” who helped build her home library, painstakingly choosing books that represented Paltrow and her family and went along with their home aesthetic. One of the best quotes from the article? “Gwyneth remodeled her L.A. home a few years ago and when she moved in she realized she needed about five or six hundred more books to complete the shelves.” Five or six hundred MORE books? Hello. So, clearly these books aren’t so much for reading and are more for looking at.
Don’t get me wrong; I love a pretty bookshelf and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with designing bookshelves that work with your aesthetic and fit in with your home’s decor. However, I do think it’s a little disingenuous to claim you love books, but don’t like to read. What is there really to like about a book aside from what it holds inside? If you’re just simply decorating your home with them and never cracking them open, something tells me you mainly just like the idea of books and the image they portray of you (but if you’re not even reading them, I’m not exactly sure what that image is!).
But at the end of the day, to each their own. I’m clearly a big fan of both books and reading, which is why I’m back again today to share with you all the books I read in July. And July was a really good month! I have so many fabulous recommendations for you. And some really pretty books, too, that just might look perfect in your home library… Even if you never actually crack them open. LOL!
Just an FYI that links to some of the books below are affiliate links (meaning that at no extra cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase) and some were gifted to me by their publishers. One was from the Book of the Month Club, which I highly recommend if you’d like the chance to pick a new book every month; it makes a great gift, too (you can sign up with my affiliate link here). Thank you so much for supporting WANM!
Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner: Kicking things off with a book I highly recommend! Fleishman is in Trouble is incredibly well written and the perfect combination of playful and realistic. This novel about marriage, divorce, parenting, and dating, follows Toby Fleishman, a recently divorced man trying to navigate his new life. Though he’s clearly still getting over his marriage, he’s navigating the new world of dating apps all while working as a surgeon and sharing joint custody of his two kids. And then? His wife drops the kids off and basically disappears. Yikes. The title, description, and everything you’ve heard about this book make you think it’s all about a man… But that’s the thing. This book really is so much more about women than men (I mean… look at the above situation and think about how often that happens to women without any fanfare). This book actually has a women narrator (Fleishman’s friend) and thankfully, we eventually get insight into Rachel, too. Yes, Fleishman is in trouble, but which Fleishman? Toby or Rachel or both? The book is a bit depressing at times and goes on a touch too long for me, but it’s all worth it in the end and I feel like it’s the kind of book that warrants a second read at some point. (thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book!)
Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe: This book is odd, but in a really good way. The main character, Lizzie Vogel, is an odd duck. But once you get to know her mother, you’ll see exactly why she is the way she is. I actually had no idea this book was part of a series when I started reading it. Now that I know, I can see how it would have been helpful to jump back into Lizzie’s childhood and understand what her mom and the family went through. But it’s also not necessary at all in order to enjoy this book. The book starts in the early 1980s with Lizzie leaving home to work as an assistant for an odd (and kind of creepy?) dentist, JP, and to live above the office. She works alongside JP’s other assistant who is also his girlfriend and gets to know a dental technician named Andy who she develops a crush on. Pretty much all of the characters in this novel are totally strange, but in a funny way. In case you can’t tell from my review, this book is a strange one, but in a good way. If you go into Reasons to Be Cheerful knowing it’s full of quirks and appreciating that, I think you’ll really enjoy it! (thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my copy of this book!)
Right After the Weather by Carol Anshaw: OK, so this book starts pretty slowly. To the point where I almost stopped reading it because I wasn’t totally feeling it. But then, it suddenly hit a turning point for me and I started really, really liking it. Cate is a theater set designer and is currently living with her ex-husband (as he goes through another divorce), getting over her ex-girlfriend, dating a new woman, and spending time with her best friend Neale and her son Joe. Throughout the start of the book, there are little interludes featuring a man and woman breaking into houses. At first I thought these interludes were really strange, but they’ll all make sense about halfway through the book when Neale is attacked. While not a particular likable character in many ways, the more I got to know Cate, the more I really liked her. Emotionally, I feel like I have a lot in common with her, especially in regard to her thoughts on animals and observations on life. She’s flawed, yes, but in ways I think many people can relate to. Overall, I’m happy I stuck with this one and will likely return to it at some point. But first I want to read more by Anshaw! Right After the Weather’s official pub date is October 1, but you can pre-order it now (thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my copy of this book!)
Summer Hours by Amy Mason Doan: Last summer, I read Amy Mason Doan’s The Summer List… And I’m happy to say that her new novel, Summer Hours, was even more enjoyable. Soo, now I’m just waiting to see what she’ll have for me next summer! I really loved the main character in Summer Hours (Becc) and also really enjoyed the quietly beautiful plot and the way it unwrapped. The book flashes back and forth between present day Becc and Becc during the summer after her high school graduation and at the start of her college career. Present day Becc is taking a seemingly awkward road trip with her childhood friend Eric. We’re not sure why things are so awkward and why they haven’t seen in each other in so long, but as we read about her final high school summer, we know we’ll start digging out some details. Despite her flaws and some mistakes she makes, Becc is an incredibly likable character and someone I really connected with. Doan does a wonderful job getting into the head of a high school/college girl and the friendships felt so realistic to me. I love how everything unfolds in this book and how we slowly learn what happened to Becc and Eric’s friendship. Oh, and in my opinion, the ending is absolutely perfect. Despite its summer theme, this book is perfect for any time of year! (thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book!)
The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger: The Gifted School is about a group of adults all trying to get their kids into a very selective new gifted school… and the crazy things they’ll do to make it happen. Clearly, this book came out at the most appropriate time in light of all the college admission scandal stuff in the news. So timely! At times some of the details in the novel feel a little ridiculous, but in many ways, so realistic (at least in the world of the privileged). I’m not a parent so I’m not in that competitive world, but this book shows how much damage you can do to your kids (and yourself) when you pin your own worth on their successes. And how the social pressures in this day and age make things that much more difficult. Though I’m making this book sound so serious, it’s actually really entertaining and though it looks like a longer book, it’s a very fast read!
There’s a Word for That by Sloane Tanen: This is the kind of book that I really enjoy reading, but that probably won’t stick with me for a long time and before long, I may have trouble remembering what it was even about. But that’s OK because I enjoyed it in the moment and sometimes that’s all that really matters! The book is about several different people who are all tied together in some way (all the relations may not be totally clear from the start, but they’ll eventually come together). Mainly, There’s a Word for That is about the complications of family, especially dysfunctional families. But even if your family isn’t technically “dysfunctional,” it’s very likely you’ll find things to relate to here, whether it’s dichotomous feelings about things that happened in your past or knowing when to stay close and help or pull away from your loved ones. I did really enjoy this novel and think Sloane Tanen does a wonderful job building her characters. This book and its plot may not stick with me long-term, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great book! (thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my copy of this book!)
Savage News by Jessica Yellin: There’s a lot I really liked about this book, but at the same time, I found it to a bit slow-moving and boring at times. That said, I’m glad I read it! It gave a nice inside peek at what goes on inside of network news and I actually read it at the recommendation of MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace who highly praised it. The book is incredibly timely and the issues and presidency in the book definitely mirror that of our current times. The book follows Natalie Savage, a rising reporter at ATN News (which we imagine is similar to MSNBC or CNN) who has just been given her first White House correspondent assignment. But in the midst of her excitement, she gets a lot of criticism from her boss and producers and quickly realizes it’s not so cut and dry. When the chief decides to pit Natalie against another newscaster (the very attractive Ryan) to see who can get the best ratings, things get pretty stressful. In addition to trying to find the best stories, Natalie also has to be sure to look her best, balance her home life and her kinda crazy mom’s wedding, date, and grapple with the moral issues of reporting the news vs. getting high ratings.
Overall, this book as a lot of good to it and if you’re interested in getting an insider’s look at how network news works (obviously fictionalized, but Yellin does have lots of network news experience), definitely pick this book up. As much as so many of us want this current administration to end, Savage News did make me wonder even more what will happen to network news if things go “back to normal.” How will they keep ratings up? Something tells me, I don’t really want to know! (thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book!)
The Two Lila Bennetts by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: This is, without a doubt, my favorite Liz and Lisa book. Criminal defense lawyer Lila Bennett struggles with parts of her job. Though she truly respects and believes in the court system and is amazing at her work, there are occasionally cases that she doesn’t feel great about representing. Not only that, but there are many other aspects of her life she’s not proud of. She’s just won a murder trial and knows the victim’s family is incredibly upset that the husband didn’t end up convicted. When she’s suddenly abducted after going for a drink with her married boss, she is forced to face many wrongs she’s done in her life. But the book jumps back and forth between her time being captured and another scenario. One in which she doesn’t accept the drink with her boss and thus avoids her captor… But not necessarily the effects of her bad decisions. The back and forth is done so well and I spent the book wondering how everything was going to come together in the end. I honestly can’t say I absolutely loved parts of the end of the book (I don’t want to spoil anything, but part of it just seemed a little far fetched to me), but I did really like the resolution and how everything in the book comes together so I can’t be too upset. Lila Bennett is a great character because, despite the fact she’s mad some pretty bad decisions, she’s still a likable character and you can see she’s a good person at heart. If you’re looking for a thriller that also feels very “real life” and will keep you turning the pages, definitely pick up The Two Lila Bennetts! (thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book!)
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: I get really excited whenever Elizabeth Gilbert comes out with anything new. Which is saying a lot because I honestly thought she was going to be a “one hit wonder” and/or wouldn’t live up to the Eat Live Pray levels of hype. But now I just worry that people aren’t reading her because they thought ELP was too over-hyped. Her other books are NOTHING like that one… But are all so awesome in their own ways. And she did not disappoint with City of Girls. I’ve heard some critiques about this book that it’s merely a novel about a self-absorbed privileged girl who moves to NYC and has a lot of sex with no moral cares or self-reflection. And on the surface, sure, that’s what it starts out as. Vivian is a sheltered 19 year old who moves to the big city and gets close to a hard partying sexually liberated crowd. You might not like her for part of the book, but this would never make me not like the book. Because really, the story is about her growth and evolution. And though I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I don’t understand how people can claim there wasn’t any growth. Maybe it’s not the traditional 1950s type of growth people want to see, but that’s the whole point! This book is about women making their own choices and not feeling badly about them. Yes, feel bad if you hurt people in the process, but if you’re not hurting anyone, live your life how it best suits you without caring what’s “right” or “normal.” City of Girls uncovers a part of the 1940s that we don’t often have a chance to see and I loved that. In some ways, I didn’t love how the story was told (though a letter to a girl named Angela), but that wasn’t overly distracting to me. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am already excited to see what Elizabeth Gilbert does next!
What a great month, right?? But guess what? I’m pretty sure August is shaping up to be an even better month and I can’t wait to share even more books with you! I also can’t believe the final month of summer reading is almost over. SOB. But fall brings lots of great new releases with it… And obviously the perfect reading weather, too!