What I've Been Reading This Winter


It’s time for Quick Lit, where, joining with Modern Mrs. Darcy, I share short and sweet book reviews of what I’ve been reading lately. This is a juicy list, y’all — it’s not a stretch to say that there is at least one title on this list for nearly every kind of reader.

We have a twisty tale set on the river Thames, a strange epidemic, a mormon murder mystery, two immersive historical novels, a gorgeous coffee table book and a pair of must-read political picks for non-political people.


Once Upon a River

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

This is a delicious novel. “Old fashioned storytelling” is what immediately came to mind when I thought about how to describe it. Set on the river Thames in an indeterminate period in history, there is a mystery involving an old pub, three missing girls, and one child who appears to be dead and then lives again. A wee bit spooky and utterly transporting — perfect for cozying up with on a cold night.

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The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

I fully admit that the cover blurb by Emily St. John Mandel (author of Station Eleven) sold me on this book. In it, a mysterious sleeping sickness starts in a Southern California college dorm, and spreads to epidemic proportions. The storyline kept me frantically turning the pages, and I found myself thinking about it well after I put the book down, which is always a good sign.

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Not of This Fold by Mette Ivie Harrison

This book was recommended on the Indie Next list, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have picked it up — but I’m glad I did! A Linda Wallheim mystery set in mormon Utah, this felt like a comfort read (if cozy mysteries are a comfort read for you) but also illuminated Mormon culture in a way that, as an outsider, I would never have access to otherwise. If you’re at all curious about what it’s like to be a Mormon woman in the modern world, read this book. The protagonist is married to a bishop and is a feminist, which leads to some really thoughtful examinations of the intersection of beliefs, family life, gender roles and power structures.

Unread Shelf Project:

This year I am embarking on an intentional quest to winnow down my unread shelf a bit. If you’d like some guidance to do the same, I recommend checking out Whitney Conrad on Instagram and her interview with Anne Bogel on the What Should I Read Next podcast.

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To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

The January Unread Shelf Challenge was to read any unread book on your shelf. I chose a title by Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child. Like The Snow Child, this story is set in the wilds of Alaska, with a few strange and magical twists. Ivey follows a Colonel Allen Forrester, a Civil War hero, on an exploratory mission to map the interior of the Alaska Territory by way of the Wolverine River. Told in alternating perspectives, we see the Colonel’s adventures as well as his wife back at camp, who is learning about the photographic art. The rich descriptions of nature swept me away, and I loved learning about this slice of history I knew very little about.

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

For February, the Unread Shelf Challenge was to read a book that was gifted to you. I chose Manhattan Beach…which was gifted to me by my mother in-law and has been on my TBR pile ever since! This is historical fiction with a twisty little mystery, family drama, beautiful writing, and diving. It was fascinating to learn about the (scary!) early days of diving through our protagonist Anna, who works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard as a diver during World War II. I’ll definitely be adding Egan’s other works to my TBR!


Restoration House

Restoration House: Creating a Home that Gives Life and Connection to All Who Enter by Kennesha Buycks

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this coffee table-worthy book from the publisher. It is gorgeous and just one of those books that makes you feel all warm and cozy and cared for. Buycks is a Christian, and you should know that this book is centered around a Christian perspective. That said, I see a lot to appreciate here, whatever your faith tradition. The core purpose of the book is to help the reader create a home that nourishes on all levels, from your senses to your soul, a message I believe anyone can get behind.

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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Five million stars. Can I just leave it at that? Hah. This was my first Goodwin, and I can see now why people love this author so much. I wouldn’t have guessed that reading a presidential biography could be so compelling! Deep-diving into the life of Abraham Lincoln was a hopeful, inspiring experience worth savoring — and certainly worth the page count (which is not small).

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I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland & Beth Silvers

Necessary reading for every human being in 2019. I’m a huge fan of Sarah and Beth’s podcast, Pantsuit Politics, where they gather each week to talk politics from different sides of the aisle with “No shouting. No insults. Plenty of nuance.” But you don’t have to be a fan of the show to appreciate the book. It’s filled with the duo’s trademark insight, depth of understanding and empathy, while at the same time challenging each of us to do better — to make the effort to have tough conversations about politics with people who don’t agree with us, without falling back on the comfort of our own well-defined party lines.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my reading life as much as I enjoyed sharing it. Let's do it again next month! And please feel free to share a link to your own reading list in the Comments.

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