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Summer 2020: The Bright Side of Disaster

Monday, September 14, 2020

At the end of Summer 2016, I wrote a post dedicated to some of the books I'd read that summer, sharing some of my favorite quotations from each. I did the same thing in 2017. And, after not being able to do so in 2018 and 2019, I decided at the beginning of this summer I'd start again this year. This is that post!

If Summer 2016 was "The Summer We Read Austen" and Summer 2017 was "More Alive and Less Lonely" (and Summer 2018 was "The Summer I Got Married and Changed States and Jobs" and Summer 2019 was "The Summer I had a Baby"), then I think Summer 2020 can best be called "The Bright Side of Disaster," for that's what reading was this summer: the bright side of the disaster that has largely been 2020. 

Here are some of the books I read between Memorial Day and Labor Day that had pieces and parts that spoke to me. Instead of sharing summaries, I'll share some of my favorite quotations from each book, and if those speak to you, maybe you'll want to read the whole book!

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman (BookshopAmazon
*Don't read this until you read its prequel Beartown


"The truth always has to stick to what actually happened, whereas the lie just has to be easy to believe."

"It is divided in the way that all worlds are divided between people" between those who are listened to and those that aren't."

"Everyone is a hundred different things, but in other people's eyes we usually get the chance to be only one of them."

"It's hard to care about people. Exhausting, in fact, because empathy is a complicated thing. It requests us to accept that everyone else's lives are also going on the whole time. We have no pause button for when everything gets too much for us to deal with, but then neither does anyone else." 

"Being a mother can be like drying out the foundations of a house or mending a roof: it takes time, sweat, and money, and once it's done everything looks the same as it did before. It's not the sort of thing anyone gives you praise for." 

"We rarely take our anger out on those who deserve it; we just take it out on whoever is standing closest."

"My dad used to hit me if I so much as spilled a  bit of milk. That didn't reach me not to spill milk, it just made me afraid of milk."

"Our spontaneous reaction is often our most stupid."

"It's always so easy to say what everyone should have done when you know that what they did didn't work."

"We will say, 'Things like this are no one's fault,' but of course they are. deep down we will know the truth. It's plenty of people's fault. Ours."

"An ordinary life is long if you live it together with someone else."

"Sometimes good people do bad things out of good intentions, and sometimes the reverse happens." 

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell (BookshopAmazon

"The weren't bad books. They were books you didn't enjoy. It's not the same thing at all. The only bad books are books that are so badly written that no one will publish them. Any book that has been published is going to be a 'good book' for someone."

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel (BookshopAmazon


"Happiness is not a zero-sum game. It's the only case in which the resources are limitless, and in which the rich can get richer at no expense to anyone else."

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser (BookshopAmazon

"She still hadn't worked out how 1950s housewives had done it, but she suspected it involved far more ignoring of the children and far less guilt in doing so."

"How much nicer the world would be if people who didn't know what they were talking about would keep their mouths shut."

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus (BookshopAmazon

"All of Fright Farm's success is based on how much people love to be scared in a controlled environment. There's something deeply, fundamentally satisfying about confronting a monster and escaping unscathed. Real monsters aren't anything like that. They don't let go."

The Longest Day of the Year by Kim Wright (Amazon


"... a woman's first and truest calling is to live her own life."

"It's occurred to me that whatever age you happen to be at the moment, you're all the other ages you've ever been too."

"Our minds are kind. They rewrite our lives even as we are living them, editing out the parts that are too painful to accept."

"If you live your life right, all the best stuff comes at the very end." 

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron (BookshopAmazon

"Had ever a great family been so determined in bastardy?"

When Life Gives You LuLuLemons by Lauren Weisberger (BookshopAmazon


"Emily led her by the arm to the kitchen table and poured her a glass of cold white wine. 'Shouldn't you be making me chamomile tea or something?' 'Oh, yes. Tea really helps everything.'"

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (BookshopAmazon


"If this isn't hell, the devil is surely taking notes."

"This old lady's much too herself to be anybody else underneath."

How It All Began by Penelope Lively (BookshopAmazon


"This is how children learn to read, why they do so. You reach them through stories, you lure them with story."

"But who knows their own child? You know bits -- certain predictable reactions, a handful of familiar qualities. The rest is unpenetrable. And quite right too. You give birth to them. You do not design them."

"She read to discover how not to be Charlotte, how to escape the prison of her own mind, how to expand, and experience."

"This happens to me all the time. Things seem like a good idea until suddenly they're not."

"Stories are like the ... currency of connection."

"We push back and forth till the sky goes fully dark. Till it turns the color of goodbye."

"My mother once told me the most disconcerting part of being a parent is that you never get to settle into it, that your child is constantly being replaced with another version you don't recognize."

Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum (BookshopAmazon

"Even back in my fairy-tale days, I never liked those inevitable opening words -- once upon a time. Their bookend -- happily ever after -- at least made sense to me. The main character ended up happy forever. That was a no-brainer and nonnegotiable, the absolute bare minimum we could expect from a good story." 

"I'm hardwired to try to make other people feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations -- which is both my favorite and my least favorite thing about myself."

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith (BookshopAmazon

"No matter how long it's been or how far you've drifted, no matter how unknowable you might be, there were at least two people in the world whose job it was to see you, to find you, to recognize you and reel you  back in. No matter what."

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck (BookshopAmazon

"A familiar peace hit him. Happened every time he was with books."

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (BookshopAmazon


"All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around in our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stole and passed around before its season." 

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum (BookshopAmazon

"... language seems inherently and irrationally optimistic; we just assume people understand what we are talking about. That we are, as the idiom goes, on the same wavelength. In my experience, we are not." 

The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center (BookshopAmazon

"I ate, drank, and slept motherhood. That was the thing about it. It was so unbelievably hard, and the learning curve was so steep that there was no way to do anything but figure out how to do it."

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (BookshopAmazon)

"I suppose we all carry around different versions of ourselves."

I hope you find something on this list you will enjoy! If you are somewhat overwhelmed and don't know where to start, may I recommend the following:

A happy read -- The Fifth Avenue Story Society (BookshopAmazon

A book that you won't want to put down -- The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (BookshopAmazon

A great young adult book -- What to Say Next (BookshopAmazon)

A quick read -- The Longest Day of the Year (Amazon

And remember, you can find an ongoing list of my book recommendations here.  

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