7.9.22 2

On My Nightstand: Spring 2022

I, for one, cannot believe it is already Q3! This year started out somewhat slow for me, but from April on have just flown by. The first quarter of this year, I read 21 books. Then, during this past quarter, I ended up reading 28 books—and I am excited to share them with you today! My reading goal for the year is 75 books, and I am more than on track to meet that. Throughout the spring, I had a lot of travel, which meant I had a lot of transit time which I could use to read.

Before I recap all the books I read this spring, I wanted to remind you of my book rating system:

  • Five Stars: an amazing book I could not put down and/or stop thinking about once I finished it; would highly recommend reading it!
  • Four Stars: a great book that stands out above your average read that I would highly recommend reading.
  • Three Stars: an average book that I generally enjoyed, but if you asked me for a book recommendation, I’d probably recommend another title first.
  • Two Stars: a terrible book that was hard to finish; I would not recommend reading it.
  • One Star: a book that was among the worst I’ve ever read. You probably won’t see too many of these because I usually DNF (do not finish) these books and don’t count them towards my yearly reading goal.

I keep track of everything I read in real-time over on Goodreads and via my Instagram Stories if you don’t want to wait for these quarterly book roundups.

As is custom on these posts, I wanted to call out that I’m part of a program where Random House will send me some of their new titles each month. I’m under no obligation to post about any titles I receive, so I really can tell you my own opinion (good or bad!) about them. I’ve starred the books Random House sent me for free below. I’m so lucky to be sent books and am really grateful for the opportunity to partner with Random House in this way. And, as always, you can follow along with what I am reading in real time over on Goodreads.

Happy reading—and please let me know if there’s been anything good on your nightstand lately.

FIVE-STAR READS

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

If I convince you to read one book this summer, make it this one—I could not put this book down! It might be the best book I’ve read so far this year. The story is told over two timelines, alternating chapters between the summers of Percy’s and Sam’s youth that they spent falling in love at a small lakeside town in Canada and one weekend in the present day that brings them back together as adults. The storylines eventually converge and it is just so good.

Meant to Be by Emily Giffin *

Emily Giffin has long been one of my favorite authors ever since I picked up Something Borrowed while in high school. If you love the myth of Camelot like me, you’ll love it as it’s loosely based on the romance of JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. Following the whirlwind romance of fictional characters Joe Kingsley and Cate Cooper as they navigate life in the public eye, I could not put this one down and was sad when it was over.

The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers

If you are looking for an amazing read, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s Adele Myers’ debut title and I hope she writes more. I loved all the characters and thought it was such an interesting story. It’s set in the fictional town of Bright Leaf, North Carolina. I was born in Durham and spent a lot of my childhood there—and if you’re familiar with the town, you know about Brightleaf Square, the cute shopping area that’s in converted tobacco warehouses, which I couldn’t help but imagining while reading this one. It also reminded me a lot of my trip to Winston Salem last year!

Maddie’s mother drops her off in Bright Leaf for the summer, where her aunt is a popular seamstress, known for making custom gowns for all the wives of the tobacco company’s executives. After years of war rations, Bright Leaf seems like a prosperous wonderland. When her aunt unexpectedly falls ill, she finds herself in the role of lead dressmaker for the biggest town party of the year. But through this role, she quickly realizes that Bright Leaf isn’t the paradise she once thought it was — and Big Tobacco, the town’s money maker, may also be its downfall.

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

loved this book and am so glad my friend Emma recommended it to me! This is definitely the best title I’ve read by Rebecca Serle and it should be on your list. In the story, Sabrina finds herself attending a dinner for her 30th birthday with the five people, living or dead, she once decided she wanted to have dinner with. So there she is with a professor, her estranged father, her ex boyfriend, and Audrey Hepburn. The story flips between events happening at dinner and events that happened in the past. Fair warning though, definitely have tissues nearby.

If We Break by Kathleen Buhle *

loved this memoir by Kathleen Buhle. Broken into three parts—before, during, and after, she talks about how she and Hunter Biden fell in love, where things started to crumble, and how his addiction and infidelity impacted their marriage and finances. Even though I’ve never dealt with close to half of what she went through, I found her to be so relatable—she talks a lot about imposter syndrome and searching for her identity, which I think we can all relate to on some level. It was also interesting to get a look at the inner workings of the Biden family—she has nothing but wonderful things to say about Joe and Jill.

In a New York Minute by Kate Spencer

Franny is having the worst day ever—she’s laid off from her job and while she’s on the subway home with all her work stuff, her favorite silk dress gets caught in the door and rips. A handsome stranger comes to her rescue and offers her his Gucci jacket. When Frank gets home, she finds out someone caught the whole thing on video and posted it online—and now it’s trending under the hashtag #SubwayQTs. Franny and Gucci jacket man keep running into each other from there—and it turns out, they like each other’s company a lot.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

As long as Emily Henry is writing, I will keep reading—I loved this one! Nora is a successful book agent who is a workaholic. Her sister Libby convinces her to spend the month of August in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. While there, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish editor. It’d be a meet-cute, except they’ve met before and it’s never been cute. This book goes on to use the plot to explore all sorts of romance novel tropes and is just so well done in its self awareness.

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

This book was another one I couldn’t put down. When Katy’s mother dies, she is reeling—her mother was everything to her. To make matters worse, they had planned a two week, mother daughter rip to Positano. Now Katy decides to embark on the adventure alone. As soon as she steps into Italy, she feels her mother’s spirit. And then she appear—in the flesh, sun-tanned, and 30 years old Katy doesn’t understand at all, but over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as her own person.

In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom

I read this one in a single sitting on a flight and thought it was a beautiful memoir. If you loved Allison Pataki’s or Paul Kalanthi’s memoir, you will love this one, too. Amy’s husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and instead of letting the terrible disease ravage his mind and body, he decides to go to Dignitas, an organization based in Switzerland that lets a person end their own life peacefully. It’s heartbreaking, but so well done—highly recommend.

The Palace Papers by Tina Brown

This is 500 pages of well-researched royal tea and I loved every minute of it. Covering everything from the Charles x Camilla x Diana drama, to Kate’s upbringing and her relationship with William, to Megxit, to the Andrew problem—if you’re a royal watcher like me, this should be required reading. This book also provided helpful context about the things that happened in the House of Windsor before I paid attention or was too young to remember—like Fergie and Andrew’s divorce.

FOUR-STAR READS

Pillow Talk by Craig Conover

Y’all, I loved Craig’s memoir! If you’re a fan of Southern Charm, I would highly recommend reading this one, as he talks in-depth about the casting process, what it’s like to film, how the show impacted his relationship with Naomie, and more. He’s super candid about his struggles with an adderall addiction and shares the journey about how he built Sewing Down South. This memoir made me even

Something Wilder by Christina Lauren

Lily grew up the daughter of a notorious treasure hunter out west—and after he died, she had to get inventive on how to make ends meet. So she sets up a tourism company that takes guests out on fake treasure hunts through the Red Rocks in Utah. On one trip, Leo, her ex from ten years ago shows up—and things go horribly and hilariously wrong.

Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman

Chani is 22 years old and struggling to get her writing career off the ground. But then she’s hired to write a profile of Gabe Parker, the movie star chosen to be the next James Bond. The article is a viral sensation—and everyone wants to know if something more happened between her and Gabe. Fast forward ten years, and Chani is back in LA after a recent divorce when Gabe’s PR team reaches out to see if she can do a second profile. Her head tells her to say no, but her heart says yes…

Brazen by Julia Haart *

This one was a ride—if you loved the level of tea that Jessica Simpson provided in her memoir, you will appreciate this one as well because Julia does not hold back. However, given the news that has come out since her Netflix show aired about her mismanagement of Elite and some of the discussion around how truthful the show’s portrayal of her story was or wasn’t, I don’t view her as a fully credible source. So, I was somewhat skeptical when reading her memoir. That being said, I really do admire her courage to leave an extremely insular community, especially when you’re taught from a young age that everything about the outside world will send you straight to hell.

The other thing that bothered me about this one is how much of other people’s stories she tell—if I was her ex or her children, I would feel betrayed or hurt by some of the commentary. Lastly, some of the discussion around sex seemed gratuitous to me, as she goes in-depth about her sex life and that of her children—there’s definitely some insecurity there. All in all though, this was a raw and deep memoir that has me even more excited for season two.

Stepping Back from the Ledge by Laura Trujillo *

This was a beautifully written memoir that Laura penned after her mother jumped to her death from the ledge of the Grand Canyon, something that left Laura totally blindsided. In the aftermath, she confronts family secrets and asks the impossible question—how do you mourn the loss of a loved one as you repair the injuries they inflicted?

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

I read and loved Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers last year, so I knew I wanted to pick up more of his work. This was a really interesting read looking at ‘the tipping point’ or the magic moment when an idea, trend, item, or social behavior crosses a threshold and spreads like wildfire. He talked about Sesame Street and Blues Clues in one chapter, which I found fascinating. I liked this one a lot, but I was still more taken by Outliers.

THREE-STAR READS

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Piper is an LA socialite with a large Instagram following who has never had to work a day in her life. But after an out-of-control rooftop party, her stepdad cuts her off and sends her to Washington state to run her late father’s dive bar so that she learns the true meaning of hard work. She hasn’t been in town for more than five minutes when she meets Brendan, a gruff sea captain who doesn’t think she can last more than a week outside of LA. Piper and Brendan are polar opposites, but as they keep bumping into each other, there’s an undeniable attraction. This was a cute read, but I felt like the sex scenes in this book were a little gratuitous, which got annoying after a while.

Daffodil Hill by Jake Keiser *

My friend Emma and I have a dream of owning a farm in Mississippi, so when I read the summary of this memoir, I was so excited to read it. Jake was living the life in Tampa as a high-powered PR pro with a stacked social calendar. But at 38, after a failed marriage and a series of miscarriages, she decided to uproot her life and buy a farm in rural Mississippi, about an hour outside of Oxford. She suddenly finds herself with 75 animals to care for, and the realization that the farm won’t save her—only she can save herself.

Charming Falls Apart by Angela Terry *

On Allison’s 35th birthday, her world falls apart: she’s unexpectedly fired from her job and her fiancé dumps her—for her maid of honor. As her life is in shambles, she does anything she can to find a fix: she reads self help books, goes on a meditation retreat, and wallows in a ton of self pity. As she tries to escape the condo she shared with her ex, she finds herself spending more time at the local coffee shop, where she finds some guidance — and eye candy — from the attractive owner.

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

I wanted to love this one since so many people do, but I felt meh about it. While I was reading it, it made me think of a book I love, Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot, especially since the protagonist in this story has the same name.

On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t bad, but she’s focused on what she’s lacking and her father’s health is failing. After a night out, she wakes up the next morning to find herself back in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. Now armed with a new perspective on life and her dad’s life, she’s got to figure out—is there anything she would change if she could?

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow

I liked this one, but I didn’t love it—it was a beautiful character study about three generations of women in Memphis, told across various timelines, which I enjoyed. But, I didn’t really like that there wasn’t a ton of plot momentum, which tend to be the stories I gravitate more towards.

Memphis begins in the summer of 1995, when Joan, her mother, and her younger sister seek refuge from her father’s violence at her mother’s ancestral home in Memphis. 50 years prior, Joan’s grandfather built the beautiful house only to be lynched days after becoming the city’s first Black detective. That wasn’t the last time there was violence in the family history, and Joan pours her rage into her art she learns to understand her life does not have to be defined by what’s happened to her.

Happy People are Annoying by Josh Peck

Celeb memoirs are one of my favorite genres, and Josh Peck’s was hilarious and such an enjoyable read. I legitimately laughed out loud throughout parts of this one. He’s super vulnerable about his struggles with his weight, his absent father, and his drug addiction after Drake & Josh ended.

It Had to Be You by Georgia Clark

Liv has been running her wedding planning business for the past 20 years with her husband. But when he dies, she’s shocked to find out that he leaves half of the business to his 20-something mistress, Savannah. The story follows how the pair have to work together to keep the business alive and also follows the love lives of both women and some of their employees. The book definitely had an ensemble cast and it was hard to keep all the stories straight for a while. That being said, this one really grew on me by the end as I became invested in more of the characters.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Liles by Tara Schuster

I bought this self help book after hearing the author on Diet Starts Tomorrow, one of my favorite podcasts. In it, the author shares how she learned to love herself more. Some chapters I found to be more helpful than others, but I thought this book had a lot of great prompts + thought starters for journaling or to explore if you’re trying to improve a certain aspect of your life.

The Power of Fun by Catherine Price *

The paragraph that struck me the most from this book was this: “we have internalized the idea that time is a commodity that can be traded and that the most important thing we can trade it for is money; therefore, any use of time that does not result in financial compensation is not a valuable use of time.” I definitely relate to that sentiment! I thought this was an interesting read and discussion around what makes up true fun and how to have more of it.

Summer Love by Nancy Thayer *

Four friends who were all working on Nantucket have the best summer when they all rent cheap rooms in the basement of an old hotel on Nantucket. Fast forward 26 years, and the four are reuniting at the hotel where they first met—this time with spouses, kids, and emotional baggage in tow. This was a cute read for a pool day, but there are better books out there, so I’d probably recommend skipping this one.

The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams *

Bree is in love with her best friend and NFL legend, Nathan. The only problem? He definitely sees her as just a platonic friend. In any case, she has other things to worry about as her rent is increasing and she could lose the dance studio she owns. But when Nathan comes to the rescue and buys the entire building, Bree isn’t happy about having to be saved yet again. After one too many tequila shots, she shares her deepest secret with a TMZ reporter…which leads to a viral video. After seeing the video, people think Nathan and Bree are the perfect couple—and Nathan’s publicist thinks they should capitalize on the moment and pretend to be in love to milk some brand deals from the situation. But what will happen when Bree gives into the feelings she’s been desperately hiding?

The Orchard by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry *

I found this book interesting given a lot of the conversations happening right now around how Russians and Russian sympathizers view and romanticize the USSR in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That all being said, I found this book to be a slog to get through at times, and just not really my cup of tea—it was dark, unnecessarily so at times, and more literary than what I tend to gravitate towards. It tells the story of four friends who are coming of age in the 80s, towards the end of the USSR and examines each of their own disillusionment with the collapse of their state.

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2 Comments

  1. Maureen wrote:

    So many books! Kudos to reading a ton. I get into phases and I am trying to do more these summer months as life is a lot more slower. I love Christina Lauren but have not heard of Something Wilder. I definitely need to go through your list again as there are so many that caught my interest.

    Maureen | http://www.littlemisscasual.com

    Published 7.10.22
    Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      Thanks so much, Maureen! I think there are seasons for everything in life, reading included — I am just in a season where I have a lot of time to read and am making it a priority. Summer is a great time to get away from a book as well 🙂

      Published 7.18.22
      Reply