A trio of family stories

Plus more about my summer reading guide and why to try thrillers on audio

Hi, readers!

I’m currently spending a couple of weeks with family in D.C. which has been so nice (in spite of the heat and the emergence of the Brood X cicadas). In addition to lots of quality family time, I’ve gotten to do quite a bit of poolside reading and even enjoyed a masked visit to one of my favorite bookstores, Kramers in Dupont Circle.

I’ve also been enjoying exploring some new-to-me books for my upcoming summer reading guide. Because my guide will be exclusively paperbacks, it will mostly consist of books I’ve read previously, but it’s been fun to pick up some books I think might be a good fit. Having a good reason to read books I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages is pretty great!

This week in books.

This week I read…

  • This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell. My favorite book of last year was Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, and I’ve been wanting to read more of her fiction. I was thrilled when the FictionMatters Book Club reading mood vote was practically tied between a family saga and a backlist book by the author of a favorite 2020 release. I immediately knew This Must Be the Place must be the book for us. I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a complicated family and the web-like structure O’Farrell used to tell it. I’m still processing my thoughts on the book overall, though, and am looking forward to discussing with the FM Book Club group to sort out my thoughts. Amazon | Bookshop

  • The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. I read this modern epic for the first time last year and rereading it in preparation for upcoming episodes of Novel Pairings was utterly delightful. I think I appreciated Allende’s craft all the more on this read, even if I didn’t quite enjoy the sweeping feel of it as much. There’s still plenty of time to pick this one up if you want to read along with Chelsey and me. The episode on Chapters 1-6 will drop June 8th, and we’ll discuss the remainder of the novel and offer pairings in our June 22nd episode. Amazon | Bookshop

  • Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller. Unsettled Ground follows Julius and Jeanie, middle-aged twins still living with their mother in a tiny English village. When their mother dies, the twins’ lives are upended as they face losing their home and each other. It’s a quiet story that manages to feel simultaneously timeless and urgent. It explores poverty and isolation in the way it depicts our human need for stability and connection. I also just adored Julius and Jeanie. While I don’t necessarily need lovable characters in my books, in this novel, I was delighted to find two of the more heartbreakingly lovable characters I’ve encountered in quite some time. If you like subtle family stories with gorgeous writing, this is one to pick up. Amazon | Bookshop

Now I’m reading…

  • The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia. I’m still slowly making my way through this and really loving it. Amazon | Bookshop

  • Some books I’ve been meaning to get to forever while vetting them for my paperback summer reading guide. Most of the guide will be books I’ve read in previous years, but I’m spending the next couple of weeks reading a few additional titles that I think might be good fits to round out my list.

Links I love.

This month for Libro.fm, I wrote about why I love listening to mysteries and thrillers on audio.

This ode to summer reading is delightful.

And the New York Times’ summer reading guide is fantastic.

There are some excellent books on this list of novels you may have missed due to the pandemic.

I’m not sure I agreed with everything in this article about millennial workplace fiction, but I enjoyed reading it.

9 great audiobooks to listen to this month.

And 10 audiobooks you can get for free with your Amazon Prime subscription.

Ever wonder why we all develop weird personal speech patterns at home? This article is such a fun and informative read.

Vox has another great article about the ethics of publishing authors and politicians who’ve caused harm.

This week I bookmarked Jess Keys’ blog post about how to go longer between hair washes. I can’t vouch for her advice yet, but it’s very thorough and I’m going to give it a go.

End notes.

Watching: Not much. I’m still watching Top Chef and Mare of Easttown every week, but I need a new show to binge.

Listening: I picked Under the Influence back up after listening to Chelsey talk about it in a Novel Pairings Patreon bonus episode.

Making: I’m looking forward to making my favorite snickerdoodle recipe with my niece this week.

Loving: These Madewell sandals are perfect for every day. And I’ve been living in these shorts and these loose pants (neither are maternity, I just sized up!) because it is HOT in D.C. I’m also back to wearing Supergoop Glow Screen most days. I love the tinge of shimmer it gives me and the way it evens out my skin.


Readers, I hope you’re staying cool and enjoying building your summer TBR. For questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing fictionmattersbooks@gmail.com or responding directly to this newsletter. I love hearing from you!

If you’re looking for more book recommendations and delightful bookish community, consider supporting FictionMatters on Patreon.

And if you enjoyed today’s newsletter, please forward it to a book-loving friend. That’s a great way to spread bookish cheer and support the newsletter!

Happy reading!

Sara