I have a lot to share with you, starting with this big news: Our friends over on the print side of Real Simple are looking for readers to review books for them.
Here’s how it will work: If you get picked, Real Simple will send you a copy of a soon-to-be-released book to read and then write about. Your short review would cover not just the book’s pluses and minuses but also how you connected with it (or—it’s bound to happen—how you didn’t connect). The book is yours to keep, and your submitted review could appear in an issue about three months later. Interested? Read more about it here.
And while we’re talking about reviews, I want to kick off what I hope will be an occasional but ongoing enterprise: quick reviews from RS.com staffers of books we’ve read lately, for better or for worse.
On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan
One of the few books that I have immediately wanted to reread as soon as I finished it. On Chesil Beach is a perfect little gem of a novel (a novella, really—it’s short and sweet) about two blissfully in love, innocent newlyweds on their wedding night. What happens—and what doesn’t happen—that night sets off a chain of events that drastically alters their marriage and exposes the fragility and falseness of relationships. I’m a huge fan of McEwan’s work, and this book epitomizes what he does so well: pinpoint a seemingly insignificant conversation, sentence, or gesture—either spoken or unspoken, acted upon or denied—and explore how that single moment irreparably changes lives. Not a sentence goes to waste in this masterfully sparse book, which manages to convey tensions and moods with a quiet, well-placed word or phrase. You’ll find yourself rereading passages to hunt down every last nuance in this deceptively simple story. —Maggie Shi
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E L James
It would be nearly impossible to read Fifty Shades of Grey without blushing—whether from the graphic BDSM sex scenes or from embarrassment that you can’t put down such a poorly written book. It’s most likely both. One of the most talked about books right now in feminist, erotic, and mommy circles, E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey follows the unexpected, tumultuous relationship between naive coed Anastasia Steele and the powerful Christian Grey, a man with a penchant for kinky, torturous sex. It would be considered a typical boy-meets-girl story, if it weren’t for the dangerous undercurrent of control and abuse. Even so, it will spark conversation—and maybe even something else in your life. —Kathleen Harris
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
I’ve been a fan of Cheryl Strayed’s writing for years but didn’t know it. The Rumpus only recently announced that she is the voice behind the site’s “Dear Sugar” column. Wild is the memoir of Cheryl’s journey as an inexperienced hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) after losing her mother to cancer. I know what you’re thinking—It’s going to be sappy—but let me assure you that sappy is the one thing it is not. Instead, it’s honest, relatable, and incredibly inspiring. It has also confirmed my feeling that I never need to hike the PCT. —Kristin Appenbrink
In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
Did you know that the United States had an ambassador to Nazi Germany? Well, somewhat shockingly, I guess, I didn’t. But in 1933, Professor William E. Dodd, an American history scholar from the University of Chicago, arrived in Berlin, unprepared for either the duplicitous, brutal realities of Hitler’s government or the old-boy network of the American diplomatic service. As his daughter, Martha, becomes enthralled by the “New Germany”—throwing herself into glamorous salon society and one careless, dangerous affair after another—Dodd grows increasingly horrified by the murderous regime. A fascinating book that proves—just as Laura Hillenbrand did with Unbroken—that sometimes the best stories are the true ones. —Maura Fritz
Now it’s your turn! Chime in below with your own mini-review of a book you’ve enjoyed recently, or click here to apply for a chance to review books in an upcoming issue of Real Simple.