Book Club

4 Books Easing Me Out of My Reading Hiatus.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image above of James Cook’s dreamy library in Paris. Swoon.

I have read nothing since June. The old me would have felt guilty about this, but the current me shrugs and says: “We’ll get back there again.” I love reading for many reasons – escape, provocation, intellectual stimulation, instruction of various kinds – and I feel a nearly vocational commitment to maintaining its habit in my life, but I have finally come to the view that there are heavy seasons where my engagement with some of my favorite pastimes will need to temporarily wane. Moving put everything on hold, but in the weeks since the dust has settled, I have been prioritizing time with my husband in the evening and exercise (when I can) in the morning and I have not been finding enough give in my week to accommodate reading, too. Now that mini is off to school and we seem to be falling into a more regular routine, I have had occasion to pick up a book and it feels delightful. (Hello, old friend!). There is nothing better than getting into bed early with wet hair and a good book. Four books that have lured me back into the saddle, all of which are on the “best-seller, great-for-cocktail-party-convo” side of the spectrum:

1 // Sally Rooney, Beautiful World Where Are You. I loved her earlier novels so much I trekked out to Brooklyn to hear her speak while I was 234 months pregnant and mildly to aggressively worried I might go into labor while on the D train. She is exceptional at building chemistry between characters in small details, like describing the positioning of two bodies, the movement of hands in hair, the casual conversations. I am again wowed by her technique in this regard though I will say the book is not as gripping as her earlier ones were. That said, a few Magpies chimed in to say the novel becomes “stickier” as it unfolds. Description: “Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young―but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart.” More on her earlier novels here.

2 // Liane Moriarty, Apples Never Fall. The magic-touch author of Big Little Lies, Nine Perfect Strangers, and — my personal favorite, What Alice Forgot (seriously love that book and wish it had been made into a show; if you are looking for a fail-proof “get me hooked on a book I can’t put down,” start there!) is back again. I always enjoy Moriarty’s cinematic, family-oriented drama and rich character design. Description: “If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father? This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings. The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after 50 years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?…”

3 // Shari La Pena, Not A Happy Family. If you are a thriller-lover, here’s our next joy ride. I absolutely love thrillers both because they represent a total escape and I find them interesting as a genre in contemporary society, especially from a gender lens. (Like, why is it that so many modern thrillers involve unhappy family relationships, where the evil one is “from inside” — a wanton husband, an evil mother-in-law, a cruel child, etc?). La Pena has some fantastic recent thrillers under her belt (my favorite was The Couple Next Door), and the latest sounds winning: “Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there, and Fred and Sheila Merton certainly are rich. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered after a fraught Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated. Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions.”

4 // Janet Hadlow, The Other Bennet Sister. First, let me thank a Magpie for prompting me to tune into an interesting podcast interview by a UVA faculty member who specializes in 19th century literature in the comments on this post. I enjoyed listening and specifically snagged the Hadlow book rec from her! In The Other Bennet Sister, “Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.” Perfect fan lit for those of us in love with P&P. Cannot wait to read this.

Wheeee — I am so excited to read all four of these romps. A few other books on my radar that have been getting quite a bit of buzz once I make my way through this easy-lift list…

fall 2021 book picks

THE OTHER BLACK GIRL, Zakiya Dalila Harris

CRYING IN H MART, Michelle Zauner

WHEREABOUTS, Jhumpa Lahiri (one of my long-time favorite authors)


This one is older but it’s been on my list for a long time and is speaking to me at the moment: The Little Virtues, Natalia Ginzburg.

Some other suggestions, if you’re also attempting to climb out of a reading rut or ease out of a busy-season hiatus:







Shopping Break.

+OK, I misread the fine print — the Clarins sale is still ongoing! Snag my favorite serum on the planet at a discount.

+I keep coming back to this denim cocoon coat…and I never knew I always needed a Liberty puffer vest.

+Pretty sure this cute little puffer tote is going to be my everyday fall bag. (Gives me Khaite vibes for less.). I’ll be sharing a post on this later today, but Tuckernuck is currently running a promotion of up to 30% off (spend more, save more), so you could snag it on sale here if you buy with something else.

+Just treated myself to my favorite lip product in a new color — punch.

+On my radar for fall beauty: these W.A. eye pods.

+And speaking of beauty: Sephora is currently offering 20% off all foundation PLUS free ship with code SAVE20, which means you can snag Westman Atelier’s superb foundation stick at a rare discount. I wear either this or Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer (also 20% off!) every single day. In years past, I have used and liked Giorgio Armani’s famous formula as well as Bare Faced’s formula, though I do feel those offer a heavier/more full-coverage look. (W.A. is like buttah — it just blends into skin, provided you’re well-hydrated. Amazing product.)

+Are you a bath person? We have a soaking tub in my new home and I think I could become one. Maybe slather on a face mask and read for 15 minutes at the end of the day? I think I’m going to splurge on a bottle of Suzanne Kaufman’s bath oil (essentially has a cult following), though I’ve recently heard a couple of different beauty bloggers rave about a classic epsom soak and want to give that a whirl, too.

+Love this fall accessory. Throw on with anything in your closet and instantly feel on-trend and seasonally appropriate.

+A few other Halloween jammie options, most of them fully stocked in all sizes: Hannah Andersson (mini had the cats two years ago; I like the black ones with moons/bats this year), 1212, and Carter.

+I’d like to start cooking for my husband again — he does all (100%) of the cooking for the two of us, though I do cook for the children daily. (We are in a phase where, between early bedtimes and picky eaters, we usually eat after the children are down, but would one day like to synchronize.). Anyhow, my pledge to Mr. Magpie was that I would like to buy a new cookbook or two and make my way through them by cooking recipes from them once a month. A few celebrated cookbooks I’m eyeing for this project:




+Or maybe I’ll just go through our existing (and enormous) cookbook library. Some of my favorite cookbooks here.

+This baking cookbook is also in my cart. I was really (!) impressed by a cake of hers I made using a recipe I found online.

+Speaking of, lessons in baking.

+These melamine plates would be so chic on an autumnal table! Imagine with tortoise cutlery against a taupe gingham tablecloth with some red or orange mums.

+And for the kids’ table: this taupe gingham wipeable tablecloth!

+Just the chicest fall bag.

+This Etsy shop offers well-priced, “above-the-knee-length” gingham shorts for tiny boys if you still need some shorts to tide you over til cold weather arrives.

+Such a fabulous everyday dress for fall. Would work in basically any setting with the appropriate accessories — casual work outfit, playdate/playground, coffee, cocktails!

+Great slouchy sweater to wear with your favorite jeans or leggings.

+This taupe blazer is super chic. Love the tie — makes it more feminine.

+I remain in a committed relationship with my Revlon One-Step (on sale for around $30 in the aqua color ATM) but there are random occasions where I let my hair air-dry because of schedule, rush, etc. I’m intrigued by this leave-in product for air-drying your hair — gets good reviews.

+A full review on the One-Step here.

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22 thoughts on “4 Books Easing Me Out of My Reading Hiatus.

  1. I always appreciate your book posts for yours as well as your readers recommendations! Adding Crying in H Mart to my library book holds now 🙂

    Also on my TBR list is Arsenic and Adobo by Mia Manansala — hooray for Filipino representation!

    Lately I’ve been reading Jasmine Guillory — I read 3 of her books so far. I’m still trying to get into the mindset of reading Hamnet based on your review and the thousands of glowing reviews of it online. But to be honest I’ve stayed away from “heavy topics” for the past year and a half — with the exception of “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller, which IMHO should be required reading for all.

    As for cookbooks — I recently bought Ripe Figs by Yasmin Khan after listening to an interview of hers on The Splendid Table podcast. It’s part personal memoir/travel writing in addition to the delicious-looking recipes from Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey. She wrote about the refugee crisis in the region as well. I’ve only made one recipe but I’ve bookmarked so many I want to try immediately, particularly the eggplant recipes for this time of year.

  2. I loved the first half of The Other Black girl; the second half/last third felt like a completely different book. But I enjoyed the first half so much that it almost didn’t matter because I was still entranced by it? Being intentionally vague because I think the less you know going into the story, the better!

    I’m waiting to read the new Sally Rooney until after it makes it’s way through all the critiques/opinions/takes on it. I read her first two books in a bit of a vacuum and THEN engaged in the discussion surrounding each novel. I think it made for a better reading experience for me – sometimes with buzzy, new, “high brow” literary releases I have too much of others’ opinions in my head to form my own and I usually end ip with a more negative reading experience because of it. Regardless, very much looking forward to it!

    1. What great tips, Molly! Thank you for speaking up because I think this will inform the way I read both of these books. I appreciated reading your thoughts 🙂

    2. Hi Molly – Totally agree with this strategy. So much better to read in a vacuum and form my own opinions of things! xx

  3. This post!! Where to start?! 🙂 OK, first things first: you must read Crying in H Mart. It’s so evocative and emotional and it would likely resonate with anyone who appreciates their relationship with their mother (even if it’s difficult!) I loved it. I am part-way through The Other Black Girl (have literally been reading it for 2 months, I think, even though it’s not a difficult read — I, too, have found it tough to stick to reading lately!) I am enjoying it, though, especially because I work in publishing. It’s very clever and tackles nuances of the industry in a way I haven’t seen before.

    The Rooney & Lahiri books are on my list, as I’ve read their other books and have so enjoyed them all! I’m bookmarking some of the others you mentioned, too. Nothing like a good reading pile! (Or “getting into bed early with wet hair and a good book”, as you say! Heaven!)

    I have been in a similar boat lately, in which I have not made time to read (though, to be fair, I’ve been juggling a lot of other stuff). I just started Pattern Recognition by William Gibson, on the recommendation of an old friend. It’s enlightening so far and I cannot believe it was written in 2003! Still seems so relevant. For nonfiction, I’m reading In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Also very enlightening and enjoyable.

    Last weekend I had the great fortune of reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, while spending time at the beach. It is truly gorgeous and stands the test of time (she wrote it in 1955, I think!) I may use an excerpt for a wedding reading!

    Happy reading to you!


    1. Thank you for all of these suggestions! A lot of new names/titles for me. Can’t wait for Crying in H Mart – thank you!


    1. Hi! What didn’t speak to you? Eager to hear. I’ve also heard mixed reviews from a few of my friends but curious what all the buzz is about!


  4. Another wonderful foundation for full coverage is FOREVER UNDERCOVER by DIOR I apply it with my Artis brush, and the result is beautiful smooth skin! Try it now that it is 20% off at Sephora!!

  5. I can’t wait to read Apples Never Fall! I’m waiting on the audiobook though – can’t resist the Aussie accents. Also excited for the new Louise Penny on audio. Just got The Other Bennet Sister from the library but haven’t started yet, and I’m on the holds list for The Other Black Girl. Looking forward to Magpie book discussions on all these titles! I just recently finished The Stranger Diaries, which would be an appropriately spooky book to read next month 🙂

      1. This blew my mind, Stephanie – I did not. I am a little scared to imagine it; I found the book gutting. But of course intrigued!!! Thanks for letting me know!


    1. Oh fun, hadn’t thought about listening to the Moriarty on tape. I’m SO excited for it. Please share thoughts! I’ll share mine as well in upcoming posts. xx

  6. I watched the tv adaptation of Normal People and was absolutely bowled over by it, but I’ve never actually read any of Sally Rooney’s books. They’re definitely on my list, including her new one.

    I get 90% of my books from the library, so that often means some long wait times, and especially in the summer (and then they all seem to come in at once). While waiting for the holds to come in, I’ve been revisiting my favorite David Mitchell books (The Bone Clocks, Utopia Avenue, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet). Because all his books exist in a “metaverse” and are interconnected in ways both very minor and very major, I’ve been reading them like some people read the Bible- revisiting certain characters and certain sections, and jumping around and following the threads from book to book.

    1. Oo yes, I think you’ll love the books if you were into the show. Both were excellent though. I’m having a bit of trouble imagining the characters in this new book NOT as the characters from the show, though — I can’t help it! I loved (!) the principal actors in that series.


  7. the shari lapena is, sadly, not nearly as good as her previous books! i’d highly recommend “the paper palace”, i bet you will devour it!

    1. Oh no!! I had a hunch. I felt her last was also not great. Adding Paper Palace to my list too. Thanks for weighing in!


  8. Love the book recommendations. I also am fond of Sally Rooney books. Normal People Conversations with Friends were well-written. I just finished Malibu Rising, the latest from Taylor Reid Jenkins. I will go back to reading The Secret Keeper of Jaipur and Hour of the Witch. Crying jn H-Mart is on my stack of tbr. So many !!

    1. Yay! Keep me posted on what you like. I’d not heard of some of the ones you’re currently working your way through. Merci for sharing!


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