What I've Been Reading in May

May is a pretty big month for me, personally.

You see, way back in the olden days of yore (circa 1990) I married my man. We were mere babes. In fact, my man was barely out of his teens, turning twenty just two months prior to our I do's. 

We were knee deep in coursework, both of us pursuing our B.A.s when we tied the knot. Eighteen months later, the babies started coming.

And then we blinked and it is today and we find ourselves newly minted empty nesters.

Now, you may be asking, Why are you sharing this with me in a blog titled What I've Been Reading in May?

The reason is simple: My man and I celebrated on the road this month. 

A lot.

And since road trips are prime times to enjoy awesome audiobooks, we've been indulging.

A lot.

In fact, What I've Been Reading in May contains a healthy dose of listens.

A lot of them.

So if you've got a road trip in your future, make yourself comfortable as I share a handful of the must-listens I think you might enjoy, too.

1. Timeline by Michael Crichton

I began seeing trailers for the new Jurassic Park movie earlier this month. It seemed like all of a sudden these trailers began stalking me all over social media - not that I minded.


Seeing all of those trailers made me crave some really well-written escapism. I thought, Where better to start than with the thing that's been stalking me all over the internet?

Except, in the end I wasn't feeling it. But it led me to the thing that I was feeling, which ended up being another of the same author's works, a little gem titled Timeline.

Now, I must confess that I was not traveling when I hit download for Timeline. I was in sore need of an eye exam because (as it turned out) it had been almost 4 years since I had updated my reading glasses and my eyes were sore. 

All day.

Every day.

So, I was browsing this first audiobook in May as a way to give my eyes a much-needed break.

What did not get a break was my imagination while I listened to this time traveling, historical fiction adventure of an audiobook set in France that included knights, castles, a little history in warfare, some bad guy drama, and a whole lot of engaging intrigue wrapped up in {SPOILERS} a happy, unexpected ending.

If you're Jonesing for a little popcorn audiobook action, I highly recommend Michael Crichton's Timeline.

2. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Remember when I shared in April 2022 The Mother Lode of Funny Fiction: Crowd-Sourced Book Recs That Will Tickle Your Funny Bone? This was one of the titles that came recommended on social media as a must-read, laugh-out-loud book. I must say, the title alone is intriguingly weird, don't you think?

With my eyes still begging for relief, I downloaded The 100 Year Old May Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared from my local library to listen to periodically when I was doing housekeeping.

The quick of it - it was as weird to listen to as the title would suggest.

I am still scratching my head in indecision: Did I like it? Did I not like it? I think my answer is YES to both!

In some regards it reminded me of my beloved Ove (from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman), even though that 100-year-old is nothing like Ove. His life is, in fact, so very unbelievable that I am reminded of the movie Forrest Gump.

{My Synopsis by Way of a Few SPOILERS}

An old man decided to leave his pension home on his 100th birthday, so he climbed out the window and the entire book toggles back and forth between what soon becomes a crime spree in his current time as a 100-year-old runaway and the story of his past up till the point he decides to climb out of the window and disappear. He falls in with disreputable people, but we are left wondering who is negatively influencing whom since he (apparently) is quite disreputable himself.

If you liked Ove's curmudgeonly self and you're partial to unbelievable luck like in Forrest Gump, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared may be a terribly enjoyable adventure for you on your next road trip.

3. Chasing Me to My Grave by Winfred Rembert

You know how there are some things so associated with memories that you cannot think of one without the other? Chasing Me to My Grave is one of those things that will forever be associated in my memory with my 32nd wedding anniversary.

My husband I enjoyed the 2022 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Biography on our anniversary road trip this year - one of my May picks for the 22 in '22 Reading Challenge - and listening to this biography together (which sounded more like Fiction than Biography) made the miles effortlessly glide past.

Chasing Me to My Grave is one of those "walk a mile in my shoes"-type books (sometimes cringey, sometimes sympathetic, always honest) that leave you feeling like you've gained insight into someone else's experience that you would never have had the opportunity to obtain walking a hundred miles in your own.

My husband and I both appreciated the truthful narrative shared, one that did not shy away from or gloss over the less-than-savory aspects of Mr. Rembert's life or the mistakes that he made that hurt not only himself, but his wife and family. It is a story of forgiveness, redemption, and the role others play in helping us find our way on the path of life. It is an artists' tale, told through a unique medium

If you love books set during the Depression...

If you are a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird or The Help...

If you are interested in books about the history of the south...

...you might love Chasing Me to My Grave by the late Winfred Rembert.

4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This is a book that's been on my radar for a while now. It's kind of like the Jurassic Park trailers this month, popping up all over my social feeds for what seems like forever. That's why I was excited to learn that it was a Pulitzer Prize Winner (2015) and qualified for my second selection for May's 22 in '22 Reading Challenge (a book published in my lifetime).

Full disclosure, I did not listen to All the Light We Cannot See exclusively via audiobook. I found a used copy on Facebook's Marketplace and I have to say, I am so glad to have bought a physical copy. While I enjoyed listening to the audiobook over the weekend (mostly as I worked a puzzle), I found myself time and again reaching for the book, settling in comfortably on the couch, and following along in my paperback to the audiobook narration.

All the Light We Cannot See is a World War II novel. It follows the lives of two teens during that terrible war - one in France, the other in Germany - until their lives cross briefly, but significantly. It is an excellent story highlighting that, even if we do not see how, each of us has something to contribute to make the world a better place, to bless the lives of those with whom we come in contact (even if it is for just a brief moment in time).

It is a book that encourages the thought that we are all created uniquely and individually and our lives have purpose. Our lives matter, even if all we can see are our shortcoming (or things we feel would disqualify us from achieving our purpose.) All of us have purpose and both our glories and our brokenness can be instruments through which that purpose can be achieved.

We are, each of us, more than the sum of what has happened to us.

We can move forward.

We can move past our pasts.

We can have an impact.

If you're interested in a WW2 novel that does not gloss over the atrocities, but also does not sink the reader into the mire of them; if your curiosity is piqued by Hitler's Youth; if you're into breaking-the-code and clever puzzles; if you are a strong believer in the importance of adults in forming children (and the lasting influence those adults have during the formative years)...you might just love All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. 

5. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Did you know that Harper Lee's famous novel (and 1961 Pulitzer Prize Winner) To Kill a Mockingbird had a sequel that was actually written before she wrote the beloved classic? I didn't either - til this month.

You see, To Kill a Mockingbird was the featured novel inside Pretty Literate's Monthly Book Box for May (see below), so when I happened across it's sequel Go Set a Watchman on clearance at my local used bookstore, I grabbed its hardbound, dust-jacketed goodness for a mere $3 and delighted in my good fortune.

I was super excited when it was time to start my non-audiobook sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird (which I had finished earlier this month). Imagine my surprise when the library sent an email letting me know that very book just became available on audiobook and I was next in line. 🤗

Having listened my way through most of my May books, I thought, Why not? and gave it a quick download. By the end of the day, I had not only finished Go Set a Watchman, I felt a sense of completion for To Kill a Mockingbird that I didn't realize I wanted.

Set 15-20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird's ending, the listener is not only treated to Reese Witherspoon's amazing southern accent reading Harper Lee's words, but to a sense of well-roundedness (mixed with a bit of closure) surrounding the characters we grew to love while reading TKaM. 

Go Set a Watchman is a trip back to Harper Lee's Maycomb, Alabama, this time during the Civil Rights Movement.  Experience the slow change beginning to brew in the South. Feel the steadfastness of parental love as kids mature into men and women with their own thoughts and perspectives. Wrestle alongside Scout and discover if childhood beliefs stand the test of adult experience.

When your faith is tested in the fires of life, will your beliefs burn up, or will they be refined?

If you loved the nostalgia in To Kill a Mockingbird...

If you want insight into the southern mind during the 1950s...

If you have wondered what became of Scout, Jem, Calpurnia, Atticus...

If you puzzle over why people behave the way they do...

...you should check out Go Set a Watchman. 

Bonus Book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Like I said earlier, To Kill a Mockingbird was our featured book in May's Monthly Book Box (check it out here). I felt like it deserved to be featured under a different heading because it is the one book that I read without added audiobook enhancements. Just me and my book and The Classics Community with whom I shared the experience.

I steadied myself as I began reading against what I thought would be an onslaught of racial slurs and offending behavior from the onset, but from the very first pages I was lured instead into the innocence of childhood in small town U.S.A. during yesteryear. I was pleasantly surprised by the familiarity, by the feelings of nostalgia, that were stoked by reading TKaM - a time when kids lived feral on the streets during summertime, slept on the screened-in back porch more than in their own beds, provided their own entertainment, and everyone on the street looked out for everyone else's kids. A time when girls twirled batons and boys got starter guns for target practice. 

I enjoyed the childhood perspective Lee gave the reader and the fact that the reader (along with the children in the novel) does not piece together the heaviness of the very heavy and serious situation the adults are dealing with until it becomes an inescapable reality.

I loved Atticus and the glimpses we get of who he was, what he stood for, how he became the admirable man we met and needed during the pages of Lee's book.

So much of TKaM reminded me of my grandmother, who was a young woman during this same time period.

If you're looking for a book that reads like a time capsule of yesteryear, To Kill a Mockingbird should be your go-to novel.

What do you think?

What have you been reading in May (in any form)?

Have you read (or listened to) any of the books I shared? What are your thoughts?

Share them in the comments below.

Like to Listen?

Listen in as my husband and I share three Pulitzer Prize Winners we enjoyed this month on a recent Pretty Literate Live.

1 comment

  • I’ve not done audio books. My son and my daughter have and do, but I haven’t been very interested in that format to date. I have seen/heard many people who have not enjoyed a story they may have otherwise loved because of the shortcomings of the voice actor so that is probably why I have not yet “dipped my toe in that pool”. I love TKAM and thoroughly enjoyed reading it this month. I read two other Pulitzer Prize winners during May- The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (a fictionalization based on the author’s Indigenous grandfather and the government’s attempt to assimilate/erase various tribes and their culture) and The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen (fiction about real characters and the author’s chance acquaintance with them). TNW I loved, as it combined tribal customs, spirituality and lore with everyday life and the responses to unfair governmental attempts to “take care of the Indian question once and for all”. TN I did not care for as much- the author is a wordsmith and uses that mastery to create long run-on sentences which in this case tended to make the subject matter rather boring. The only times the story came to life is when the author wrote conversations and interactions between the characters.

    I read two more installments of the Cork O’Connor series by William Kent Krueger and this brings me up to volume 10 of nineteen. I just started number 11 last night as I was too late at the library to check out All the Light We Cannot See, not knowing that the library closed early on Thursdays. Hoping to get to that one today. Thanks for sharing your reads!

    Lynda A.

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