I’ve moved around my editorial calendar quite a bit this week for good reason but I did want to make sure I still got you this month’s reading list this week. I read a lot: nine books this month. I wanted to share that besides reading one anti-racist book a month for the next 12 months, I am committing to read at least 50% books by BIPOC, with an emphasis on Black authors. I’m also going to be donating all of my book-related affiliate income for June to Campaign Zero.
Everything I Read in May 2020
I almost felt guilty about how much I read this month. Is that weird? I definitely go back and forth between months where I read a lot and months where I watch a lot of TV and this was a reading month for sure. And with that, it was a REALLY good month of reading. Keep in mind that a big chunk of the list is quick, fun thrillers. And when I get my hands on those, it’s usually all over within 24 hours as once I start, I can’t stop. André Leon’s memoir was hands down my favorite thing I read this month. But The Last Flight is a close second. And, The Book of Longings, which my mom and I read together. I wouldn’t have chosen the latter for myself but I am SO glad I read it. Nine total books and three A+ books… wow!
TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE READING! I’m always looking for great recommendations… I love reading your comments!
IF YOU’RE NEW HERE AND ARE LOOKING FOR A BOOK, DON’T FORGET THAT YOU CAN ALWAYS CHECK OUT MY BOOK CLUB PAGE.
We just redid it and it looks so good! Every month I update it with everything I read – it includes every book I’ve read in the past five years. The best part is that you can filter + search by genre (memoir, light read, historical fiction, thriller, books by Black authors, etc!) Now you can also filter by GRADE to find exactly what you’re looking for or just peruse my top picks. If you’re feeling like you need even more book recs, check out last month’s list and everything I read in 2019!
The best thriller I’ve read in ages!
The Last Flight, by Julie Clark (out 6/23 – pre-order it!)
TW: domestic abuse. This is the first thriller I’ve given an A+ to since maybe Verity? It is SO good. Like, read in 12 hours good. I started it after work, read it all night until 2am, then got up early to finish it. That good. The book surrounds two women, both looking to escape very different (but equally dark) circumstances. When they meet in an airport bar, they hatch a plot to swap plane tickets and take each others flights: Claire going to Oakland and Eva going to Puerto Rico. But when the plane to Puerto Rico crashes, all bets are off and Claire must take Eva’s identity in California (and deal with the secrets she’s left behind).
This has it all: a disappearance, an abusive husband, money + power, drug deals… I could go on. I loved it so much and was on the edge of my seat the whole time reading it. So I can’t recommend it enough!
- Overall Score: A+
Wealthy Upper East Side Mommy Drama!
Happy and You Know It, by Laura Hankin
This one has gotten a TON of but I wasn’t sure what I would think. For whatever reason I have always loved books about rich Upper East Side New York moms (or teens – hello Gossip Girl!). It’s a fun genre, and also a peek into a lifestyle so different from my own. But you also never know. Books like this can be done well (I think of Lauren Weisberger or Liane Moriarty) or not so well (there have been so many of these sort of books that have never made it to the blog as they’re terrible and I DNF them. But when Book of the Month chooses something, it’s almost always EXCELLENT – I trust their recs so much. I’m happy to report that this book did not disappoint.
It’s about Claire, a musician who has just been kicked out of her band (JUST as the band makes it big) who out of desperation takes a job as a “playgroup musician” (yes that is an actual job!!!) for a group of six wealthy New York moms. She finds herself falling in love with the women and forming a real friendship with her new employers. There’s Whitney (the ringleader) who lives in a palatial apartment on the park, sarcastic and funny Amara who isn’t taking to being a full time mom very well, and 4 other women. But as time goes on, we realize each of the women have some pretty big secrets. I won’t say anymore but I really, really enjoyed the book. I found each of the characters likeable in their own way, and thought it was both fun and well-written!
- Overall Score: A-
An Absolute Masterpiece!
The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd
I want to start by stressing that I wouldn’t consider this to be a religious book – it’s historical fiction. A well-written, incredibly researched piece of historical fiction, at that. Sue Monk Kidd is an amazing writer (and researcher!) but I hadn’t prioritized this book until my mom told me she was reading it and so I decided to read it with her. The premise? Imagine that Jesus had a wife. A feminist wife. The book is the story of Ana, Jesus’s fictitious wife. We’re introduced to her as a girl, growing up in a wealthy family in Galilee with her aunt Yaltha and brother Judas, betrothed to a much older man she doesn’t love. Through a chance encounter, she meets Jesus in a cave – they end up marrying, Ana giving up everything to be with him.
The book is Ana’s story. It’s beautifully researched and incredibly written. It reminded me a bit of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (another classic!). I want to stress again that the book isn’t religious, it’s not claiming to be factual, and it’s also respectful to The Bible. (I’m saying this really as a response to DMs I’ve received which were a mix of “not wanting to read a religious book,” and also worried that the book would be disrespectful to the Christian faith. It’s neither!) I loved this book. I feel like I held my breath through parts of it, and it’s one of those books I know I’ll think about for years to come.
- Overall Score: A+
A few light thrillers – you’ll read these in a day!
Perfectly Famous, by Emily Liebert
This one had been blurbed by so many favorite authors that it was high on my list. And after The Book of Longings, I wanted a light and fun thriller. I read this in an afternoon – it’s quick and fun. I was only medium on it though – a solid B, B+. Ward DeFleur is a famous author, who has everything. The multi-million dollar house in Connecticut, a loyal fan base, and a career that just continues to grow and grow. Then one night, while she is at an event for her book tour, her teenage daughter (and best friend!) Stevie is brutally murdered. Consumed by her grief, she disappears… making the hard decision to never write again.
Meanwhile, Bree Bennett is recently divorced and getting back into journalism. Ward is her favorite author and Bree becomes obsessed with tracking Ward down and telling her story. But Ward does not want to be found, and Stevie’s killer remains at large. This one is fun and fast paced and I really enjoyed it. But the first 150 pages were on the slower side and I guessed the twist (though there’s another twist at the end that I loved!). So it only gets a B, but it’s still worth reading, especially as a palate cleanser after something heavier!
- Overall Score: B
The Lies We Told by Camilla Way
First of all, I love this author! Her other book, Watching Edie, was incredibly dark and twisty (and unsettling)… one of those books you think about for months after you read it. This one was a page turner. I started it on a Saturday night, stayed up way too late reading it, and finished it on Sunday afternoon. I could not put it down and needed to know what happened! It’s two intersecting stories, starting in the eighties with Beth who has a secret and a daughter who is showing sociopath tendencies and alternating between present day where Clara’s boyfriend Luke has gone missing.
The stories seem so different and far apart (Beth’s daughter Hannah is clearly extremely troubled and we know something goes terribly wrong; meanwhile Luke comes from – or at least seems to come from – that perfect, golden family). So you can’t really imagine how the two storylines are going to intersect… but they do, and it’s glorious… I’ll say no more! There is twist after twist and it’s written so suspensefully (so many mini cliffhangers as we go back and forth between Clara and Beth’s storylines. I couldn’t put it down, it was a really fun read!
- Overall Score: A-
Reputation, by Sara Shepard
Okay this came HIGHLY recommended to me by so many of you, including Hitha, whose recs I trust. If the author sounds familiar, it’s because she also wrote Pretty Little Liars. I really really liked the book. It’s a twisty soap opera. So many characters and so many fun twists. But if I am being honest, I was a bit let down by the ending. (It just felt implausible, IDK). I don’t want you to be deterred by that, but I personally found it to be a little too outlandish. I still really liked it though? The book is told from the perspective of five different women.
There’s the main character Kit, mother of two who works in fundraising for a prestigious university, and her competitive coworker, Lynn. Then there’s Raina who you just know is trouble… Kit’s sister Willa, and Laura, a nurse at the local hospital who married a cop. The university’s email database is hacked and everyone’s secrets are revealed. Just as it feels like things cannot get worse for Kit (it turns out her handsome doctor husband was also quiiiite the philanderer and his emails are leaked all over the internet), her husband is murdered and she finds herself at the heart of the investigation. This is fast paced and fun, I read it in 24 hours!
- Overall Score: B+
For Fans of Jasmine Guillory or Sally Thorne…
The Boyfriend Project, by Farah Rochon
Okay so I really struggled with this book at first. It has a slow start, I wasn’t interested in the main character’s job (and the company name, Trendsetters, irked me which is such a small thing but it was brought up so many times that I got annoyed). Also the Book of the Month description wasn’t very accurate. It described 3 women being cheated on and making friends and while I guess that technically happened (but not really, none of the women had even slept with the guy – yes I know, I’m weirdly hung up on this detail!!!) So I nearly DNF’d it but am so glad I didn’t. Because once I got through the first 130 pages (yes it took a while) I became downright obsessed with the main character, Samiah.
She’s incredibly strong and hard working and just.. someone I aspire to be more like? The character development for her was GOOD – I want to be friends with her and would read a whole series of books about her. The chemistry between her and Daniel (who is secretly a spy and there’s this whole money laundering sidebar!) is fantastic as are the relationship with the girls. I guess I just wish it started a little faster and that I hadn’t been set up for a book about 3 scorned women that had been cheated on because that’s not really what the book is about. Instead, it’s a steamy office romance with a side of female friendship and crime. I ultimately enjoyed it a lot but am only going to give it a B as it took so long to get good.
- Overall Score: B
Elizabeth Acevedo’s Latest!
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elizabeth Acevedo is one of my absolute favorite authors as her writing is always so beautiful and powerful with powerful storytelling and strong, diverse female characters. (PLEASE go buy all her books if you haven’t read them yet, you won’t regret it!) and I was SO excited to see she’d come out with a new book!!! Per usual I was not let down. This one is a deceptively fast read – at 417 pages I expected it to be longer but the way the pages are laid out make this one fly.
Camino and Yahaira share a father – they just don’t know it. Camino lives with her aunt in the Dominican Republic, where they lead a simple lifestyle. Her mother died when she was young. She wants to be a doctor and dreams of moving to New York and studying at Columbia. Meanwhile, her half sister Yahaira lives in New York with her mother. When their father dies in a plane crash secrets start to unravel and the girls eventually learn about each other. It’s heartbreaking but also heartwarming and I loved the diversity across the characters – both girls are Dominican, Yahaira is a lesbian and her girlfriend is black, Camino’s best friend is Haitian. It was the perfect quarantine read in that it’s light and fun enough to hold your attention but also very moving. I loved this one.
- Overall Score: A
A Masterful Memoir!
The Chiffon Trenches, by André Leon Talley
Alright. Whoa. I read SO many good books this month but this was my favorite of all. Remember how much I loved Save Me The Plums? This was like that, but FASHION! I said this on Instagram that my other favorite genre (besides trashy thrillers and rich unsupervised teens) is memoirs from people who have worked in publishing. In college and my earlier years in New York, I dreamed of going to work for a magazine but it never happened for me. I love that world and have always really enjoyed reading about anything Condé Nast or Hearst; ESPECIALLY during its heyday of clothing allowances and black cars. And this was just so much fun to read.
The book chronicles André’s rise from growing up in the Jim Crow South to moving to New York and working under Andy Warhol at Interview Magazine. From there he wound up at WWD, moved to Paris, then back to New York to Vogue. This book is positively dazzling. When it was over, I felt really sad to leave his glittery world.. Besides all of the glamour and fashion it also tackles some more serious (and timely things) like racism: the reason André left WWD and Paris was a terrible racist incident with a publicist at YSL.
There is also some SERIOUS fashion tea. From his forty year long friendship (and falling out) with Karl Lagerfeld, to all things Anna Wintour, to the political dynamics at Vogue…. it’s fascinating. If you love fashion or the publishing industry this is a must-read. It’s simultaneously a frivolous distraction but also a really important book. I absolutely loved it. I have a book hangover upon finishing it!
- Overall Score: A+
Would love any and all book suggestions in the comments section!
Thank you, excited to read some of these! Have you read The Dutch House yet? AMAZING!!!
I have not! I have heard really good things!
I just finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet and I LOVED it. I read the whole thing in a day.
That is on its way to me and I am SO excited!
Thanks for your reviews again! I always look forward to reading them! ❤️✨
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
I also read The Boyfriend Project in May! I really enjoyed it, and I think by the end I realized why it took so long to take off – it seems like she’s setting it up to be a 3-book series, with each woman having their love story told. We had to know the background in this first book to be invested in the other women.
Oh that makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing. Now I’m excited for the others.
This is posted on my refrigerator and has been for many, many years:
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is a stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thank you for sharing – that’s really powerful.
These all sound great! I will definitely read the Andre Leon Talley memoir. I also love reading about the heyday of the NYC publishing industry. I actually DID work at Conde Nast and Hearst but way after that heyday was over. It was still super fun and exciting to work at both places, but instead of sales meetings being held in Napa or somewhere tropical, with shopping trips to Paris, I worked there when those meetings were instead held in Times Square…womp womp. Though I did ride the elevator with Anna Wintour a time or two, so still an exciting place to be!
Hahaha, yeah it definitely isn’t as glamorous anymore. I wanted to live in the more glittery decadent part of his story forever!!!! He’s lived such an incredible life.
Wow, first of all, such a motivation to read! Added a few books to my summer wishlist!!