Everything I Read in May 2024.

Everything I Read in May 2024

This was a solid month of reading. I read ten books total. There were some no misses, and others that I felt only medium on. First of all, Real Americans by Rachel Khong is probably the best fiction book I’ve read this year. I loved it. In my eyes, this is a no-miss. Such incredible characters and I loved the story. The two thrillers I read were also great. Jaclyn Goldis and Kellye Garrett have both become authors I always pre-order from when I hear that they have a new book coming out. Lighter fiction was just medium. I had really high expectations for the new Ruth Reichl and while I really enjoyed the story and still recommend it, I was a bit disappointed in the writing (outside the food descriptions which were of course glorious!). It was still good, don’t get me wrong… I just expected more from it. The writing felt very young to me, like I was reading YA. Not necessarily a bad thing but not what I was expecting or looking for.

Lastly, non-fiction! I listened to two books and loved them both. I will read anything Amanda Montell writes (Cultish remains a forever favorite) and her newest felt like an extension of that. I also devoured Private Equity by Carrie Sun.

What are you reading? Would love your recs for what to read next!

PS – Everything I read last month, and don’t forget about The Library where you can search and filter by genre and grade. It has every book I’ve ever read from the past ten+ years!

Everything I Read in May 2024

Literary Fiction

Come and Get It, by Kiley Reid

I wasn’t sure if I would like this book as I’d heard it was more character driven than plot driven but I wound up really loving it. It’s a meditation on a few things. Race. Class. Power. The way that a seemingly small decision can have huge ramifications. Millie is our very likable R.A. at the University of Arkansas. All that she wants is to own a home and bit by bit, through her job as an R.A. and other little side projects, she has almost saved up for the down payment. When she meets Agatha Paul, a visiting professor and writer, Agatha presents her with a unique opportunity that will help her earn a little bit of cash. But then things start to happen. Millie’s residents (mostly very privileged young women) play pranks on her. There is a lonely young resident. Millie finds herself in a romantic situation that could be a very bad idea and jeopardize everything she’s worked for. To be honest, not a lot happens in this book but it’s still very interesting as Reid is such a great writer. She is able to capture the messy nuances of life (and flawed but still lovable characters) so well. Overall Score: B+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com

Real Americans, by Rachel Khong

This is such a special book and my first A+ fiction book in a little bit. The way that I am describing it is going to sound a little bit boring but I am trying to describe it in a way that doesn’t give it away. Trust me on this one, I could not put it down! It’s a generational story that begins in the late nineties in New York City. Lily Che is 22, struggling as an unpaid intern for a media company. When she meets Matthew (heir to a pharmaceutical empire) they bond, despite their differences… ultimately falling in love. Fast forward twenty or so years and Nick Chen is fifteen years old, living on an island outside of Seattle. He knows he’s half Asian but looks nothing like his mother. He knows nothing about his father and constantly feels like an outsider, like he does not belong. When his best friend pushes him to take a DNA test, he gets new answers (which leads to more questions). We follow Nick through college and into adulthood and we also learn about Nick’s grandmother (Lily’s mother) and the difficult decisions she made. I will say no more, just trust me on this one – it is a must-read. My first real book hangover in quite a bit. Overall Score: A+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com

Thrillers

The Main Character, by Jaclyn Goldis

After this author’s last book (The Chateau!), I had been eagerly anticipating the release of this one. Excellent news: 1) It does not disappoint. 2) It’s transportive in the same way that The Sicilian Inheritance was. Like a vacation in book form. This one is also set in Italy, but aboard the Orient Express. Ginevra Ex is a best-selling author, with unconventional methods. Her recipe is to hire real people and conduct extensive interviews, taking a deep dive into their life. From there, she fictionalizes them into characters for her best-selling thrillers. Ginevra’s latest main character is Rory… and as an extremely extravagant bonus, she sends Rory on a luxury train trip along the Italian coast (aboard the Orient Express). But what Rory initially believes to be a luxurious solo trip is thwarted when she discovers her brother, best friend, and ex-fiancé are also on the trip. As they travel the Italian coast, secrets and lies unravel and Rory begins to think that Ginevra has masterminded a twisty trip for Rory and her friends. The book opens with a dead body, so we can only assume the trip culminates like one of Ginevra’s books: with murder. I really loved this one, I could not put it down! Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com

Missing White Woman, by Kellye Garrett

This was smart, fun, and a wild ride. Breanna is supposed to be on a romantic vacation with her new boyfriend Ty. He’s taken care of everything and rented a gorgeous four floor row house in Jersey City for the two of them to enjoy. Everything is going fine until one morning, she wakes up to find Ty missing and a dead body in the living room. Things escalate as she becomes certain that the body is Janelle Beckett, a white woman who has been missing for several days. The entire Internet is obsessed with Janelle’s disappearance. It’s inspired a famous (white) influencer to conduct her own investigation on social media and a mob-like hunt to discover what happened to Janelle. Bree is now a Black woman all alone in a new city, completely out of her element. As the social media mob closes in with accusations against Ty and then Breanna, she struggles to figure out what really happened…. all the while being doxxed, cyber-bullied, and accused of something she did not do. She finds herself turning to the only person who can help her but the last person she wants to talk to: her ex-best friend, now a hot-shot lawyer. There is so much to love about this book. The plot is fast-paced and twisty, and really kept me on my toes. I love the look it gives about social media and the Internet’s mob-mentality. And I loved the dynamic (and tension) between Breanna and her ex-best friend Adore. Highly recommend! Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com

Lighter Fiction

The Paris Novel, by Ruth Reichl

I want to start by saying this: no one writes about food like Ruth Reichl. The food descriptions alone and meals make this book worth reading. I also really loved the plot. It was engaging and absolutely delightful to read. But my biggest complaint is the writing. It felt a little bit like Reichl (whose non-fiction is incredible) dumbed things down a little bit to write fiction. I know that others agree with me per my DMs, but want to say that despite that criticism, it is still worth reading as the plot really is so good. It is 1983 and Stella St. Vincent’s estranged mother has passed away. She’s left her a small inheritance and a one-way ticket to Paris. Stella and her mother have never been close, and (thanks to horrible trauma that had happened to her as a girl) Stella lives a very small life of routine and comfort. She is not built for adventure and doesn’t want to go. But when her boss encourages her to take some time off, Stella heads to Paris! Adventure immediately ensues. A beautiful vintage dress at a consignment shop leads her to making a wonderful new friend, Jules. Jules is a dapper (very wealthy, very kind) older gentleman determined to teach Stella to live a larger life. Together, Jules and Stella explore the Paris literary, art, and culinary worlds. Stella lives as a tumbleweed at a famed bookstore… she solves an art world mystery, and discovers a passiod for food. Amongst other things, but I don’t want to give you any spoilers! Overall Score: B+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com

Wives Like Us, by Plum Sykes

This book is very funny in a satirical sense; kind of like The White Lotus (except with wealthy English socialites – or country princesses, as they are deemed in the book!). Not a ton happens plot-wise, but the character dynamics (they all constantly misunderstand what is going on) and interactions are priceless at times… making it a page turner regardless of plot. Set in the Cotswold villages of Little Bottom, Middle Bottom, Great Bottom, and Monkton Bottom, the book centers around Tata Hawkins, her two best friends, her butler, and an American divorcee who has just moved in. Tata and her husband have had a falling out so she’s out of sorts and has moved herself, their daughter, and her butler into their guest house. Meanwhile her two best friends Sophie and Fernanda are dealing with their own troubles. All three women are desperate to get to know Selby Fairfax, the glamorous American divorcee who has just moved in. The butler has nowhere for his Gucci loafers to live. What on earth will they all do; how will they possibly survive!? This is a fun beach read. Silly rich people drama! Overall Score: B+ // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com

Hate Follow, by Erin Quinn-Kong (out 10/8/24)

I was given an ARC of this one and was excited for it as you know I will read anything about influencers! Whitney Golden is a widowed mom to four girls. She is also an influencer. When she lost her husband four years ago, she sought solace in Instagram and now she has over a million followers. On her blog and Instagram she shares her life as a mother (and of course, her four children). When her fifteen year old daughter Mia decides she doesn’t want to be on social media anymore, she demands that her siblings and their deceased father be removed from Whitney’s channels. Whitney refuses: how else would she continue to provide for her family? Without a college degree or any technical skills… even if she wanted to shut it all down, how would their family survive. Mia decides to sue her mother for invasion of privacy. The case garners national attention as it would set a precedent for privacy laws and what parents can post about their children. As both Whitney and Mia’s lives implode, there is a media firestorm and an unrelenting amount of bashing from Internet snarkers. Whitney must make a difficult decision. I ultimately enjoyed this. I felt like it is the first book I’ve read like this, but I do wish it went deeper. Or even darker. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but it all just felt to simple to me I guess. Still, a fun beach read.. you can read it in a few hours. Overall Score: B // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com

Very Bad Company, by Emma Rosenblum

This was a fun read. It was stressful though! Also, I was hesitant to read it as last year’s Bad Summer People fell a little bit flat for me. (The writing was great, I just hated every character which was 100% the author’s intent but also not what I want from a book?). This is a dark mystery set at a corporate retreat in South Beach. Every year, Aurora (a trendy tech startup) hosts a fancy retreat for its top level executives. This year is Caitlin Levy’s first retreat. It’s also her first day on the job! She’s been hired to run the company’s events but isn’t entirely sure what her job entails. She’s being paid seven figures, given stock shares and endless perks… it all seems a little bit too good to be true. On the first night, the group heads out to party and a high-level executive disappears. No one knows what happened, but the disappearance has the potential to derail the future of the company’s sale… costing everyone on the team millions! So Caitlin and her team must pull it together. Team-building, group brainstorms, extravagant dinners: all while uncovering secrets about the company and what really happened to their colleague. I couldn’t put it down, even though I felt very stressed out reading it. Great characters (I felt like I knew them) and plot. Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com

Non-Fiction

The Age of Magical Overthinking, by Amanda Montell

Similar to Cultish, this book tackles irrational thinking . It is the perfect mix of cultural criticism and personal stories. I loved the combination of Montell’s stories (and vulnerability!) with her narrating the audiobook. She is clearly extremely smart (and super clever and funny) but her willingness to share her own experiences with irrational thinking really gives the book something special. It makes it feel relatable and entertaining vs. purely academic, if that makes sense. There are a lot of tangents, at times it is hard to even say what this book is about as she talks about everything from aliens to the apocalypse to believing you can cure cancer with positive vibes. The common thread is that in this age where we have so much access, where there is so much information… our brains are overloaded! Irrational thinking is how our brain copes, how we make sense out of the senseless. The book is deeply funny, extremely smart, and explores academic theories and research in a way that is really accessible to average people (me!). This is an enjoyable (fast!) read and one that I took a lot away from. It will absolutely make you think differently! I will read anything Montell writes; I love her work. I did not like this as much as I liked Cultish (but Cultish was a love-love-obsessed sort of book) but I still really liked it a LOT. A must, especially on audio! Overall Score: A // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com

Private Equity, by Carrie Sun

This is a fun read. If you loved Billions the TV show, you will absolutely devour this. And as I learned in the book, the author actually consulted with the show, which makes a lot of sense. The book is not a takedown or a juicy tell-all. The author is actually very fair and to be honest, when I compare it to some of my previous jobs in New York, the job actually sounds pretty great at times. (Though I agree with the author: work environments like that are not sustainable. They suck the life out of you!) This is a memoir of a young woman’s self-discovery. And with that, a look at privilege, extreme wealth, intense work cultures. What it’s like to lose yourself and give up everything for the company you work for. Carrie Sun is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She’s excelled at everything she’s done. An early graduation from MIT and a hot-shot finance job. Still, she’s trapped in an unhappy engagement and feels unfulfilled. When she gets the (very rare) opportunity to work at one of the best private equity funds as the billionaire founder’s assistant, she can’t say no. Her job is intense. She works constantly. There is never enough time. She has too much work and when she asks her boss for help, he doesn’t do it. Still: there are incredible job perks. Lavish gifts. Amazing company parties. But as Carrie dives deeper into this world, she finds herself losing herself. I really enjoyed it. I loved the look at what it’s like to work for a company like that. I liked the peek into the firm’s work culture. And of course it was fun to read about all the perks! Overall Score: A- // Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.com

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

11 Comments

  1. Katie:

    I had similar thoughts for The Paris Novel! I love Ruth’s memoirs so much and this sort of fell a bit short and was somewhat predictable. Ruth did say on a podcast recently that she is going to write a sequel to The Paris Novel so it will be interesting to see where she takes the characters – maybe it will give The Bear vibes in a more sweet and romantic way?

    6.3.24 Reply
  2. KV:

    I’m really enjoying Real Americans. On my last 100 pages, and I like that is beautifully written but the unanswered questions pull you forward, like a thriller.

    6.3.24 Reply
  3. Lauryl:

    This is such a great list — so glad you found so many good reads so I can add them to my list. I struggled a bit in May with fiction/non audio books so need inspiration.

    I listened to a ton of comedian’s memoirs in May and had two standouts:
    1) The Art of Small Talk by Casey Wilson, Jessica St Clair (and partially though uncredited as an author? Malcolm Gladwell). This book was silly fun and included a bunch of their celeb friends play acting good and bad small talk, giving their own stories (like Amy Poehler who I love) and scientific facts of the benefits of small talk and connection with others. They talk about it through the lens of introversion/extroversion and are just all around fun.

    2) Joyful Recollections of Trauma by Paul Sheer. Friends with Casey and Jessica, Paul’s book was his own life story which isn’t always pleasant. He had a rough childhood but is somehow still incredibly positive and hopeful and through it all deeply hilarious. He’s a great improv comedian (I’ve seen him on stage several times) and that wit comes through loud and clear in this story.

    Bonus 5 ⭐️ read was Martin Short’s 2014 memoir about his life. Heartfelt, romantic, and hilarious with him doing asides as his best characters over the years.

    6.3.24 Reply
    • Oh my gosh thank you for this list. I struggle so much with small talk so maybe I’ll enjoy The Art of Small Talk! And I love Martin Short so am going to download that as well.

      6.3.24 Reply
  4. Katie:

    Gah I knew you’d like Real Americans, but who wouldn’t! I think it was just perfect. I think it could make a good mini series? So much going on.

    I read Come and Get it back in September and still think about it. It wasn’t perfect but it was so raw and unique, I haven’t read anything like it!

    6.3.24 Reply
  5. m:

    I’m reading Night Watch by Jayne Anne Phillips. It’s a harrowing page-turner about the trauma endured by a mother and daughter during and after the Civil War. I was gripped by the story and how many themes echo what is going on in America today with political division, mental healthcare and reproductive rights. It just won the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. All the trigger warnings apply.

    6.3.24 Reply
  6. Nancy:

    I loved Real Americans as well! I bought it on a whim and so glad I did! I devoured One Perfect Couple, I love how her books are all so different. I did not love Zero Days and was really looking forward to this one, and it did not disappoint, I couldn’t put it down.
    Just started Funny Story and have a long list I am looking forward to reading this summer: Swan Song, Husbands and Lovers, The Cliffs, Middle of the Night, Look in the Mirror.

    6.8.24 Reply