This was my favorite month of reading in a very long time. I’m pretty critical with my reviews but everything I read this month got an A- or higher AND I gave two books an A+ rating which I never ever do. I highly, highly recommend everything on the list (though The Governesses is a little strange so it’s probably not for everyone). This list contains the best thriller I’ve read in AGES, Michelle O’s memoir, and A Sky Painted Gold which was so good that I read it in one sitting. And while My Brilliant Friend took longer to read, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Yes, ever. So beautifully written. Gahhhh, I love all of these books!
IF YOU’RE NEW HERE AND ARE LOOKING FOR A BOOK, DON’T FORGET THAT YOU CAN ALWAYS CHECK OUT MY BOOK CLUB PAGE.
Every month I update it, so it includes every.single.book I’ve read in the past few years. The best part is that you can filter + search by genre (memoir, light read, historical fiction, thriller, etc!) to find exactly what you’re looking for. I always add whatever it is that I’m currently reading in real time to my Amazon Shop.
And of course – last order of business! Tell me what I should read next! Your suggestions are the BEST.
The Memoir Everyone is Talking About…
Becoming, by Michelle Obama.
It’s difficult to put into words how much I loved this book. I had obviously heard wonderful things about it and admired her for a long time, but I don’t read a lot of memoirs and I didn’t want to read something just because everyone else was reading it. But once I started, I was sucked in. I inhaled it. I found myself wanting to get home from whatever I was doing just to read it. Michelle is such an eloquent, graceful writer. She takes us all the way through her childhood and early family life, through her Princeton years, to meeting Barack and their love story, the years before he ran for office, and their years in the White House.
It’s so humbly and thoughtfully written and her realness is just incredible. I’ve never read a “political” book like this, and that’s probably because she doesn’t consider herself a political person. Reading this book reads a lot like sitting down with your good friend Michelle and how her and her ordinary family came to lead such an extraordinary life and do incredible, amazing things. Can’t recommend it enough!
- Overall Score: A+
The Best Thriller I’ve Read in Oh So Long…
The Woman Inside, by E.G. Scott.
I have talked at length on the podcast, etc. about my frustration with thrillers lately. It’s been hard to find one that really keeps you up all night and constantly has you on your toes. I picked up this one and was like… FINALLY!!!! If you’re looking for the next Gone Girl-y thriller, I have found it for you. Rebecca and Paul have been married for twenty years and both have their fair share of secrets. Paul’s been unfaithful and Rebecca’s been fired from her job and has a nasty pill-popping habit. It all just unravels from there. Women in the neighborhood start disappearing, Paul & Rebecca’s lies and secrets intensify.
It’s fast moving and fun, there’s a murder (and then another murder and a HUGE twist), and I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil it. If you’re looking for a thriller, order this ASAP – it’s the best one I’ve read in ages. AND it’s already being made into a TV series, which I cannot wait to watch. I will say that the ending frustrated the hell out of me (but not enough to make me dislike the book). If you’ve read it and want to talk about the ending, message me!
- Overall Score: A
A French Book and an Italian Book; both Beautifully Translated.
The Governesses, by Anne Serre.
This was a strange little book! I’d wandered into Albertine (a French book shop) on The Upper East Side and was instantly drawn to it – mostly because of the smallness of the book, and the description on the back: “a hypnotic tale of three governesses and the sensuous education they provide.” It was originally published in 1992 but only just translated into English this past October. It’s only 100 pages long but still took me a while to read. There were words (and concepts) I didn’t understand, so I would pause and look them up as I read. It felt a bit like reading a fairytale – you want to devour every detail. I’ll tell you that it is a bit weird (the governesses essentially attack strangers in the woods to have their way with them), but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I think it’s important to read more books that take us out of our comfort zones and makes us think a little. I really want to challenge myself to read more books like that this year. Books you can’t necessarily breeze through, and books that make you really think. The NY Times review of the book (they call it seriously weird and seriously excellent!) says everything better than I could say myself, so definitely read that!
- Overall Score: A-
My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante.
This is book one of The Neapolitan Quartet. It’s also now a series on HBO which I cannot wait to watch. A friend (with much more highbrow taste in books than I) had suggested it, promising me that I would love it and it wasn’t too out there. He was right; I couldn’t put it down. There are two things that really struck me about this book. Nothing major actually happens within the plot; but it’s still completely captivating and a page-turner. It’s just the very simple, beautifully written story of two girls, growing up in the fifties in Italy. This book covers their childhood through adolescence and the remainder of the series will cover the rest of their lives. The second thing that struck me was that it’s a translation.
The book was originally published in Italian and translated to English. It’s amazing to me how the translator (Anne Goldstein) was able to translate it and keep it so vibrant and beautifully told. Oftentimes when books are translated to English, they lose something and can feel a bit flat/harder to read. Not the case with this one. What I loved about it is the storytelling and how perfectly Ferrante (and Goldstein) captured the nuances of friendship. I was so excited for book 2 that I made my sister take me to a bookstore in Minnesota so that I’d have it for the plane ride home. I will just say that you should definitely carve some time out of your calendar to read these books; they’re perfect for a wintery weekend where you stay inside reading all day!
- Overall Score: A+
A Can’t Put Down Fiction Read with Serious Gatsby Vibes
A Sky Painted Gold, by Laura Wood.
Oh my goodness. Becca raved and raved about this one on the podcast and I wasn’t so sure I could get into it for the first 30-40 pages. And then I sat down with it and just fell in LOVE, to the point of staying in all night and finishing it one sitting! It’s 1929 and seventeen year old Lou is growing up in the English countryside of Cornwall… used to a simple life. She sneaks into a nearby mansion to read and write, only to have its occupants (the wealthy and fascinating brother + sister duo Robert and Caitlin) nearly catch her.
An unlikely friendship transpires between the three of them and Lou is suddenly immersed in a glamorous world of parties, trips to London, beautiful clothes, and shiny new wealthy friends. But can she ever really fit in? It made me nostalgic for The Great Gatsby, had the MOST satisfying ending, and was just a very fun read. Please read this book, you’re going to love it!
- Overall Score: A
Looks like I need to get The Woman Inside! The thriller fan in me is super excited, haha! 😀
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I hope you do!! It’s amazing.
I LOVED Becoming!!! So fascinating!
So glad you loved it too!
I just started The Woman Inside! Liking it so far. Books I read in January that (I believe) you haven’t read already Bad Blood (The Theranos Story- OMG, so so crazy you can’t believe it’s true), The Great Alone (a beautifully written book about a family who moves to Alaska), Ghosted (an interesting twist on a love story, written in a subtle but clever way), Girl Go Wash Your Face and Educated (a must read, also sounds like it couldn’t possibly be true but is).
I’ve read and loved so many of those! Check out our podcast if you have time; we had a fun discussion about Ghosted.
Educated was probably the best book I read all of last year – and I loved The Great Alone. It was haunting. And sooo glad you’re enjoying the Woman Inside.
I will have to check out Bad Blood and Girl Go Wash Your Face; thank you for the recs.
I will have to double check your book club Page next time before I post a recommendation, ha! I read two other books last month I remembered you had done reviews on but not the others, wishing my memory was as good as it was before I had my kids, lol. I was thinking about it and Girl go wash your face aligns with your recent post on being kind to ourselves. Rachel starts each chapter with a lie we tell ourselves and how she got through it. I enjoyed the stories on her life more than the advice, but it’s always a good reminder to read things that help you be more positive!
Haha no worries – I read a LOT! I have been hearing such good things about Girl Go Wash Your Face!
I have seen Michelle Obama’s book in the bookstore here in Norway and I’m definitely picking it up after this review. Thanks Grace! 🙂
It’s amazing!! Hope you love it as much as I did.
You always have the best book recommendations. I can’t wait to read all of these! Thank you so much for putting these lists together every month, I love them!
I’m so happy to hear that you enjoy them!
Hi Grace! I have 2 recommendations that I think you will love! I just finished “Where The Crawdads Sing”, which was recommended in Reese Witherspoon’s book club, and it was beautiful. An older recommendation but a thriller that kept me on my toes is “Pretty Girls” by Karin Slaughter – it’s a little gruesome at times, but excellent.
I actually JUST finished Where The Crawdads Sing, too! It didn’t make it into this list but it will be in March’s list. LOVED it. Thank you for the recs – Pretty Girls sounds interesting!
Really? You didn’t find it unrealistic? A beautiful marsh girl- no dental problems, no hygiene issues? Self taught but critically acclaimed scientific author? So beautiful and a genius with no actual education? Gentle, shy, innocent yet the ending proves Kya wasn’t who the author had painted her to be through the entire book?
I heard The Tattooist of Auschwitz is really good. That’s on my TBR list.
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That is on my list as well!!
My fav post of the month! I am currently reading The Gown. It is a historical fiction book about the women who made Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown. It is a wonderful mix of history, female friendships and fashion!
I got sent a copy of that and it’s on my list!! I am so happy to hear that you loved it.
There was something about My Brilliant Friend that really sucked me in when I read it, but unfortunately, I kind of fell off after reading the second book which didn’t keep me engaged as much. I think it’s just me because pretty much everyone else who loved the first one loved the whole series. I’m curious to hear what you think!
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Oh interesting! I will definitely report back. So far I’m hooked in because of all the drama in Lila’s marriage. But it’s very long!
Nope, my friends and I all kind of gave up around book 3!
Just added a few of these to my reading list, YAY!
Also, I finished Lilac Girls and I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Currently reading, We Need To Talk About Kevin.
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Gahhhhhh Lilac Girls! I still get chills thinking about that book.
Wow! I want to read all of these! Thank you!
You’re so welcome!
The first is the best of the Neapolitan novels, but you have to read them all!
Oh I”m planning on it! About 70 pages into book 2 now!
I am adding all of these books to my list! So exciting that you gave them such high ratings this month too! I am currently reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and so far I am loving it!
Oh good! I’m so glad!
I read The Great Alone when it first came out (LOVE Kristin Hannah) and really enjoyed it!
My Brilliant Friend is one of my all time favourite books. I’d really like to see the HBO series as well.
I’m reallllly looking forward to the TV series!
I just finished The Overstory and it was the best book I’ve read in a very long time. It’s quite long, main characters abound, and the plot will have you flipping back through the book to try and catch details you glossed over…but my god if it wasn’t some of the best, most lyrical writing I’ve come across in recent years! I actually want to re-read the entire first section already.
Ooooh I am going to order that now! I take your reading recs v v seriously – thanks friend!!!
Per usual, I have a few to add to my list. 😉 Because we both enjoy a little mind popcorn, I was going to recommend “Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes.” Such a fun, light read that I could see becoming a romcom movie at some point.
Oooh I love a good rom com – thank you for the suggestion!
So, I listened to Becoming on Audible – she narrates it herself – and WOW. Best decision ever. Even if you read it, I recommend the audio version to reread or pair with the book.
I love a good thriller, so thank you for the rec of The Woman Inside. An excellent thriller that I read this month is No Exit. I may have already mentioned it. It is really good. Highly recommend.
I also read: Pet Sematary (meh), and The Au Pair (which is another very twisty thriller).
Do you like Fantasy? I read two very good fantasy/fairy tale retelling/Russian Folklore type books and I would rate them both 5 stars: Spinning Silver and The Bear and The Nightingale.
I love these posts and look forward to them every month.
So I never listen to audio books but this is the one book I really wish I did the audiobook for – so many of my friends listened and just loved it so much.
Thanks so much for the suggestions. I do like fantasy!!! xx
If you’re interested in translations, the Auntie Poldi books are super cute! They’re murder mysteries translated from Italian, so you get great descriptives of Sicily but a juicy plot with it. I’ve also been trying to read more books outside of my comfort zone, and am almost done with The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. It’s so sad and kind of written like a letter, but I’m glad I read it.
Can’t wait to read Becoming (and next month’s list!) 🙂
oooooh thank you! I am going to have to take a look at those.
Thanks for the recos!! I can’t wait to read Becoming — I just got it too. Also, speaking of recos, I started using Glossier Body Hero after reading about it here. I’m totally obsessed with the scent and use it basically as my signature scent. I was just reading about the new Madewell perfumes that are coming out. The Sedona scent has some of the same notes. Could you please write a review, if you can get your hands on the scents! Thank you!
Ahhhh I hope you love it as much as I do!
And sooo happy you love Body Hero as much as I do! I am going to have to keep an eye out on the Madewell perfumes. The good thing is they’ll have testers in store so will be easy to test. If you love Orange Blossom I can’t recommend Coqui Coqui’s orange blossom scent enough – I bought it on vacation but Net-a-Porter also sells it. It smells a lot like Body Hero, which is one of the reasons I love body hero so much. https://shopstyle.it/l/ZdbW
Thanks for all the additions to my TBR list! I started My Brilliant Friend a few years ago but never got more than ~20 pages into it. I need to pick it up again.
My mom did the same thing and I’m trying to get her to start it again!
I just discovered your blog through Ashley Spivey and love seeing the book lists! I feel the same way you do about thrillers…so many of them run together these days…and I haven’t heard of The Woman Inside, so I’ll check that out for sure!
I just finished The Age of Light be Whitney Scharer – debut historical fiction about the real-life love affair b/w Vogue model Lee Miller and artist Man Ray – set in 1930’s Paris – and loved it! I think it just came out yesterday…
I’m so glad you found me!!! Thanks for the recommendation – that book sounds amazing.
I love crime-fiction story! The last one I read and couldn’t put it down is Dark Places from Gillian Flynn. I’ll get The Woman Inside next. I’ve been wanting to read Michelle Obama’s Becoming as well.
Loooved Dark Places!!! Gillian Flynn is amazing, I hope she comes out with something new soon.
Grace! Can you give me any recommendations for books that will help me become a better writer at work?
It’s hard to give a precise recommendation without knowing exactly what you do for a living!
I loved Nobody wants to read your sh*t – there’s a review of it in last month’s reading list!! It has advice across all different areas of writing.
Great recommendations! I’ve been on a real novel kick lately, and am absolutely loving “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris. I’m listening to the audio book version and it feels like I am actually IN the camp! Beautifully written, and a real quick read, I highly recommend it!
I just ordered that! Thank you for the rec; I am excited to read it.
Just downloaded A Sky Pianted Gold for a vacation under an umbrella in eighty degree heat. Thank you!!
Oh it sounds like you have the perfect day ahead of you! Let me know what you think!
Always love your reading lists! I think you’ve linked them before, but I searched the site and couldn’t find them – from where did you get your wine glasses? I love the look of them!
They are from West Elm!