What I've Been Reading in July

Last week, I shared 10 Classics to Read While the Temps are Torturous - a list of classic, water-based books spanning over 100 years that might help you deal with the climbing mercury this smokin' hot summer - in spirit, at least. This week, I'm sharing which of those 10 classics I read myself alongside a few other novels that gave me respite from the sun's rays this month.

But first...

I know we complain about it every single year, but DANG! is it ever hot!

With massive heat waves across the globe this month, there hasn't been a better summer than this one in recent history in which to turn on the fan, close all the curtains, and hunker indoors with an engaging adventure to escape the hot weather.

Or to immerse yourself poolside in the pages of an exciting exploit.

Or to enjoy a beach read beside a beautiful body of water. (See if your current book qualifies as a beach read here.)

If you're looking for a good book to attract your attention away from the escalating electric bill, I gotchu. Check out What I've Been Reading in July.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

Also Known As the book that piqued my long-overdue Nathaniel Hawthorne curiosity. You see, the author of Orphan Train (2013) wrote another bestselling novel, this time based on Andrew Wyeth's painting "Christina's World" (see below) and in it, the family was distantly related to the Hawthorne family (hence, kindling my fire for the author which was summarily quenched in high school by reading The Scarlet Letter - don't get me started).

A Piece of the World had the feel of listening to stories your grandparents shared about your family's history before you were born. And like the stories your grandparents told (Anyone up for a brisk 5-mile walk to school in the snow? I hear it is uphill. Both ways.), A Piece of the World is a story about the sacrifices we make for our loved ones.

It's also a story about the effects of isolation and loneliness - especially poignant today when the older generations are less and less a part of the younger generation's everyday life (most especially felt among that segment of the older generation that has decreased mobility, as several in this story had).

A Piece of the World is not a light read at all, but don't let that deter you from reading it. If you're looking for a book that

  • is a tale of overcoming
  • highlights the importance of education
  • shows the seasonality of friendships
  • encourages you to get back up when life knocks you down
  • shines a spotlight on resilience

...A Piece of the World might serve you the slice of life you didn't know you were craving. 

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Also Known As the book that read like a road trip through the Texas Hill Country. First of all, The Last Thing He Told Me was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and after reading it, I can understand why. It is an engaging modern mystery that begins with the disappearance of the main character's husband and it ends with a pretty satisfying conclusion - the makings for a good summer popcorn novel. 


  • Good, light summertime book.
  • Feels like a road trip!
  • Fun to test your theories against the characters' theories.
  • Descriptive writing that reminded me of my anniversary in the same area.


  • The two main characters are smarter than all of the government agencies combined. (Which I found to be funny!)
  • Impossibly understanding & patient step-mom.
  • Annoying teen full of angst, which was spot-on (That's why it's in the Cons.) 😂
  • Reads like a first-time author, at times.

The bottom line is that if you'd enjoy a good popcorn, summertime, road-trippy mystery, The Last Thing He Told Me is the perfect book for you. 

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Also Known As the book that sparked my month-long obsession with Cuba. And I mean that seriously. I've visited a Mojito Bar with my husband. We enjoyed a random Tuesday night dinner date at a local Cuban restaurant (three cheers for big city restaurant options!). I've ground my own Annatto (which took forever) in order to prepare an authentic-tasting Cuban rice dish. I've slow-simmered Cuban Black Beans. I made homemade plantains. And I've enjoyed a lot of scrumptious leftovers.


Seems my Cuban obsession took the form of food.

Am I okay with that?

Yes. I'm very much okay with tasting my way through Hemingway's Cuba.

All because I read Hemingway's classic The Old Man and the Sea.

If you're looking for a quick read with a ton of feels, a dose of perspective, intergenerational relationships that give you the warm fuzzies, and is full of tenacity, The Old Man and the Sea gives you all of that PLUS the added bonus of being set on the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

This one is a WINNER. 

*Check out The Old Man and the Sea Book Box - complete with an incredible novel treasure perfect for summer - here.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Also Known As the book that broke me. Like, ugly crying kind of broke. And y'all, I'd read it again. Because it was THAT good.

Firefly Lane was one of my two books for the 22 in '22 Reading Challenge (a book that takes place in summer), chosen because Netflix kept telling me I'd like the series and I like to read the book before I watch a screen adaptation. 

Plus, Kristin Hannah. (Seriously, I have absolutely LOVED every single book I've read - nay, devoured - by Kristin Hannah. Tell me I'm not alone.)

Firefly Lane hooked me from the very first page and if you're a fellow Kristin Hannah fan, you know exactly what I mean. This book has ALL the feels, not just the weepy, ugly-crying ones. 

In a nutshell, Firefly Lane is a chronological tale of female friendship. The two main characters first met as teenagers and throughout the pages of the novel, they mature into middle adulthood. It wasn't always a clean transition and at times the subject matter was extremely heavy, but it was worth it to me as a feely kind of reader to experience not just the good, but also the bad with these characters that I grew to love. 

Firefly Lane is heavy on relationships - with your family of origin; your "chosen" family; marriage; mother/daughter; friends - and the impact they leave in our lives.

I loved that the book demonstrated the importance of humility in relationships because I think it is an oft-neglected, but very important ingredient in the success of connecting with others.

For those that have experienced first-hand some of the hard themes covered in Firefly Lane, I wanted to give a heads-up. This book may be triggering to those that have experienced:

  • drug/alcohol abuse
  • sexual assault
  • toxic relationships
  • abandonment

That said...

If you are in the mood for a book to take you emotionally captive, Firefly Lane is exactly what you didn't know you needed to read.

If you loved the movie Beaches (or the song "Wind Beneath My Wings"), Firefly Lane should be your next novel.

(And y'all, in the case of Firefly Lane, the novel is definitely better than Netflix.) 

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham 

Also Known As the book that was like a flashback. Talking As Fast As I Can was another of my 22 in '22 Reading Challenge picks (a book by/about a contemporary public figure). It took me a bit of searching to figure out who I wanted to learn about but when I was checking out my local library's selection of available audiobooks and saw Lauren Graham's listed, I knew I'd found just the right one.

I was a HUGE Gilmore Girls fan "back in the day." My husband and I had a standing weekly date after we tucked the kids in bed to watch our favorite fast-talking mother/daughter duo, fully appreciating all of the pop culture references and vicariously experiencing the flirty banter that they served up on the show each week.

Talking As Fast As I Can (narrated by none other than Lauren Graham herself - bonus treat!) was a clever memoir of life lessons counched in humor and reminiscences like -

  • Don't fast-forward your life.
  • Don't live your life stuck in a course. If it's not working, it's okay to pivot.
  • Don't give up. There are a lot of failures in life before success comes.
  • "There's a lid for every pot." (My personal favorite.)

If watching episodes of Gilmore Girls brought a smile to your face, Talking As Fast As I Can will, too. 

If you've ever wished you could live in Stars Hollow, Talking As Fast As I Can will feel like going back home.

If you love sneak peeks, behind-the-scenes type stuff, Talking As Fast As I Can delivers.

If you are a fellow Gen-X'er, Talking As Fast As I Can will hit all the sweet spots.

What about you?

What have you been reading in July? 

Have you read any of the titles I shared?

Share your titles and thoughts in the comments.


  • Reread the Hemingway. Finished The Winds of War by Wouk and found disturbing parallels between the rise of the fascist Nazis and Hitler’s dreams of world domination and what Russia and Putin are doing or trying to do in the Ukraine today. Started Verity by Hoover but put it down to finish TWoW. Going to start State of Terror by Penny/Clinton as part of the 22 in ‘22 challenge (book about or written by a contemporary figure) sent me as a Jolabokaflod selection. It’s very hot but we finally had some rain last night- first measurable rain in around 2 months and temps solidly in triple digits for at least that long. We will have a cold front (😅) for two days that puts in the mid nineties and then back to the triple digits. Thanks for the recs.

    Lynda A.
  • Yes, it’s hot and I’ll join you complaining! I read a mixture of books this month. A couple celebrity biographies – “Home” by Julie Andrews and “This Time Together – Laughter and Reflections” by Carol Burnett. I admire both of these ladies. Then there was “Old Man and the Sea” – your recommendation, Ericka. Left me exhausted. “Once Upon a Wardrobe” by Patti Callahan which I highly recommend if you’re a C.S. Lewis fan. Right now, I’m reading “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey” by the present Countess of Carnarvon. Winding up the Mitford Book club selection of “Light From Heaven” by Jan Karon

    Melanie Cook

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