Quick reads and fantastic audiobooks

Plus why to try fantasy on audio and 10 novels set in small villages

Hey, readers!

I feel like I experienced some sort of time vortex this week. The week itself felt long, and then all of a sudden the weekend snuck up on my and I felt woefully behind. While work has felt a bit hectic, I have been reading quite a bit more as the month is winding down. That’s largely thanks to audiobooks*. I typically listen to audiobooks while I do other things (drive, clean, cook, etc.), but recently I’ve also started listening in the times when I’d typically pick up a physical book. I listen before bed or if I wake up early I’ll put in my headphones and get a little listening in while lingering in bed. It’s been great for my reading life, but also a great way to relax when my brain won’t turn off!

*As always, I have to say a huge thanks to my friends at Libro.fm, who keep me in audiobooks through their ALC program. You can apply for that program here, or sign up for a membership with this link and get two audiobooks for the price of one.

This week in books.

This week I read…

  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. I read this for an upcoming episode of Novel Pairings. It is beautiful and devastating, and I’m amazed by how much Baldwin fits into 160 pages. I’m saving my thoughts for that episode, which will drop April 6th! Amazon | Bookshop

  • Infinite Country by Patricia Engel. I really enjoyed this book, and it was quite different than I expected. The book begins with a fantastic opening sentence, “It was her idea to tie up the nun,” and then we witness teenage Talia escaping from a juvenile detention facility in the mountains of Colombia. As Talia makes her way to the capitol city airport in order to return to the United States, and the mother she hasn’t seen since she was a baby. I thought the book would be more about Talia’s journey, but the story is a tapestry of perspectives, memories, and myths that introduces readers to an entire family and explores how the characters found themselves separated by borders. It’s a quick, beautiful read that I highly recommend. Amazon | Bookshop

Now I’m reading…

  • Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses. I’m still making my way through this book about writing and am still finding it mind-blowing. Amazon | Bookshop

  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. I’d been wanting to read this since reading My Autobiography of Carson McCullers last year, and I finally decided to pick it up. Amazon | Bookshop

3 favorite recent audiobook listens.

I’m all about audiobooks this week, so I wanted to share my three favorite recent listens. These books are fantastic in and of themselves, and the audio made them all the better!

  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. For a fantasy story about found family and breaking the rules for what’s right and a narrator who enhances the wit and charm. Amazon | Bookshop | Libro.fm

  • Jesus and John Wayne by Kristen Kobes du Mez. For an in-depth exploration of white Evangelicalism in the U.S. that feels like the very best investigative podcast. Amazon | Bookshop | Libro.fm

  • The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. For three women determined to prove their worth during WW2 and the narrator who brings to life each character’s complexity. Amazon | Bookshop | Libro.fm

Links I love.

The Ramona books were some of my absolute favorites as a kid. This article from Vox and this one from Vulture are wonderful celebrations of Beverly Cleary’s life and legacy.

Larry McMurtry also passed away this week. This bibliography might help you decide which of his many books is right for you.

I wrote an article for the Libro.fm blog about why you should try listening to fantasy on audio. I love exploring different genres on audio, and I’m loving getting to share that through my work with Libro.fm!

This story about Water for Elephant’s author Sara Gruen’s all-consuming obsession with freeing an incarcerated man is fascinating and tragic.

The wonderful Claire Fuller recommends 10 novels set in villages.

Anne Helen Peterson’s newsletter about teacher demoralization really hit on why I decided not to teach this year. I’m guessing it will resonate with many educators, but I think it’s an important read for everyone.

End notes.

Watching: 10 Things I Hate About You. After reading Vinegar Girl with the FictionMatters Book Club, the Patreon community decided we needed to watch this classic teen comedy version of The Taming of the Shrew.

Listening: I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks recently so my podcast consumption has gone down. But I am excited that Pack Your Knives is back and ready for a new season of Top Chef!

Making: A commitment to clean out my closets. It’s been a year since I wore real clothes regularly and it feels like it’s time to get rid of things that I no longer have any interest in wearing again. I ordered a consignment bag from ThredUp and am looking forward to decluttering for spring.

Loving: Jeni’s Ice Cream. I was gifted a few pints for my birthday, and it is seriously the best ice cream ever!

Readers, I hope you’re feeling renewed during this first weekend of Spring. 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!

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Happy reading!


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