Despite being exhausted since it’s nearing the end of the school year, May was a great reading month. I ended up reading a lot of nonfiction. I didn’t plan that, but nonfiction is always welcome. Some readers seem hesitant to read nonfiction, but there’s so much good stuff out there, especially now. Nonfiction recommendations will be an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned.
Here’s what I read and loved in May!
What I Read
Maybe an Artist: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Montague
Maybe an Artist is a cute YA graphic memoir about a Black woman whose cartoons get published in the New Yorker when she’s just 22. I enjoyed this quick read, but I wanted more depth. Even though this book is meant for a young adult audience, I thought the author could have filled in a bit more backstory.
Happy Place by Emily Henry
One of the things I appreciate about Emily Henry’s books is that I know exactly what I’ll get: well-rounded characters, witty dialogue, and a slow-burn love story. In Happy Place, the characters are a group of college friends who have gathered at a cottage in Maine for their annual vacation. Harriet and Wyn are the novel’s protagonists, and the two broke up several months before the trip. However, they haven’t told their friends, so they try to hide their breakup until they make it through the vacation, the last they’ll have in the cottage they’ve come to love that will soon be for sale.
My favorite part of Happy Place isn’t the romance but the relationship between the six friends at the story’s heart. It was nice to see the challenges and complexities of adult friendships realistically explored. I also liked the book’s structure, which includes flashbacks throughout Harriet and Wyn’s relationship. That’s not a technique I always enjoy, but it worked well here.
Though I was eager to read this novel, I wish I had read it in the summer because it’s the perfect summer read. If you’re looking for something light but thoughtful for your summer reading, give this one a try.
The Eden Test by Adam Sternbergh
When her marriage is in crisis, Daisy arranges a surprise getaway for herself and her husband, Craig. They’ll be out of the city at a remote cabin where they’ll participate in a program called the Eden Test to save their relationship. Craig doesn’t want to be there at first, but the two settle into a rhythm and start making progress. But Daisy is an actress who has a lot of baggage. And Craig has some secrets, too.
Despite some heavy-handed imagery, The Eden Test is a total page-turner from beginning to end. The twists and reveals made this thriller unputdownable. This book is the perfect choice if you need some fun and escapism.
I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki
by Baek Sehee; translated from the Korean by Anton Hur
I was researching mental health books to purchase for one of the libraries where I work and came across this title about a Korean woman struggling with depression. She visits a psychiatrist and starts recording their sessions, the transcripts of which make up this book. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at therapy, but something about this book didn’t work for me. Even though some of the therapy sessions were quite vulnerable, I never felt fully invested in this story. Of course, that could be my issue instead of the book’s, but either way, I’m glad I read this, even if I didn’t love it.
Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell
In Cultish, Amanda Montell explores the vocabulary used in religion, midlevel marketing, fitness, and other high-control spaces. The parts about fitness were the most interesting to me. It was fascinating to hear how the language used in SoulCycle and Crossfit worked to convince people to pledge their loyalty. Other sections of this book were a bit slow, but it’s a worthwhile read if you’re interested in language.
How to Keep House While Drowning:
A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing by KC Davis
I follow KC Davis on TikTok, where I learned about her book. She answers questions her viewers have about keeping up with household tasks and lets us into her own messiness. I appreciate the subtitle of her book because a gentle approach is exactly what Davis brings to the table. Davis’s vulnerability when discussing her mental health struggles and how she continuously advocates for those who have a hard time doing routine tasks that come easily to others makes this book such a gem. (I also mentioned this book in a recent post about messiness.)
Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer
In Monsters, Claire Dederer raises a question: what are we to do with the art of monstrous men? She discusses Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Michael Jackson, Ernest Hemingway, and other famous artists. Dederer also brings several women into the conversation, such as J. K. Rowling and Doris Lessing. I found this book to be thoughtful, well-written, and engaging from beginning to end. I highlighted many passages along the way, a sign that a book will stay with me. I highly recommend this title if you’ve ever wondered how to approach art when the artist has broken your trust.
What I Loved
I’ve followed several writers on Substack for a long time now, but it wasn’t until recently that I started exploring the site. My friend Mary writes a wonderful newsletter, and I also love reading Anne Helen Peterson, Katelyn Beaty, and Sara Hildreth a.k.a. FictionMatters.
I wanted a place to share original poetry and discuss other poems I like, so I started my own newsletter called Andrea Is Writing. I’d love it if you subscribed.
What did you read in May? What things brought you joy?