You Want to Start the New Year off With a Laugh
You're considering therapy or are looking for a new series to binge read
Hi book lovers,
Happy New Year! May it be better than 2020. (Someone recently pointed out that 2021 sounds like “2020 won,” and now I’m even more suspicious.)
The one thing I know about 2021 is that there are a ton of new books coming out that I’m very excited about. Some of my most anticipated titles over the next few months include my friend Eman Quotah’s Bride of the Sea (January 26), Annie and the Wolves by Andromeda Romano-Lax (February 2), Nalini Singh’s Quiet in Her Bones and Love at First by Kate Clayborn (February 26).
I’m also looking forward to introducing a new feature for this newsletter. Starting this month, I’ll share Q&As with authors, readers, writers and other people who work in the book world about what they’re reading and why. I’m shooting to share these Q&As twice a month, in addition to the weekly recommendations.
One other note: My friend Aya is hosting author Emily Danforth and illustrator Sara Lautman in conversation about their book, Plain Bad Heroines, on January 11 at 7 PM EST. Plain Bad Heroines is a cross between a gothic novel and a soapy Hollywood read about a cursed New England boarding school. The event will be live-streamed here.
And now, what to read if …
You Want to Start the New Year Off Right
Here for It: Or How To Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thomas
While lying on my parent’s couch the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I kept bursting out laughing while reading R. Eric Thomas’s debut book. Since 2016, Thomas has written Elle’s “Eric Reads The News” column, which he describes as having “the tone of a late-night comedy monologue screamed through a bullhorn by a very excited gay black person.” If that sort of voice appeals to you, this book is perfect.
Here For It is both hilarious and poignant. The essays explore Thomas’s attempt to reconcile his Baptist faith with his sexuality, his experience as one of the few Black students at his high school and then at Columbia University and starting out after moving to a new city. My favorite essay gives the book its title, Here for It: Or How to Save Your Soul In America. It’s about finding moments of joy, even while feeling disappointed in the world around you. It’s a message I’m sure I’ll be reflecting on a lot over the next few months.
You’re Thinking 2021 Will be the Year You Try Therapy
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, And Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
Lori Gottlieb, a therapist, writes about her work with her patients and her work with her therapist in this candid memoir. Gottlieb, a single mom, writer and therapist, feels content with her life until her boyfriend breaks up with her instead of proposing. Gottlieb begins talking with a therapist to process her grief, only to realize her distress is caused by something much deeper. She alternates chapters about her therapy with chapters about her patients, who are similarly grappling with life’s big questions. (In an author’s note, Gottlieb explains she received written permission from her patients to write about them and worked to disguise their identities.)
I cried multiple times listening to Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (the audiobook is fantastic). It’s moving without being overly sappy and gives readers tools and encouragement to examine their own emotions. If you’re considering talking to a therapist but are nervous or unsure it will help you, reading this book is a good place to start.
You’re Ready to Dive into a New Series
Dublin Murder Squad Series by Tana French
It’s January. The holidays are over. The days are short. And we’re still living through a pandemic. The time is right to get lost in a moody, atmospheric mystery series. Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is perfect for this moment.
Each book in the Dublin Murder Squad series follows a different detective investigating a case related to their personal history. In my favorite of the series, Faithful Place, detective Frank Mackey examines the long-ago murder of his high school girlfriend when her body is discovered in his estranged parents’ working-class Dublin neighborhood. He’s forced to reunite with his family and reconsider his past while working to solve a murder. French is regularly praised as the best mystery writer of our time, combining dense plots with rich character backstories.
I love her books so much that I now judge books against what I call “The Tana Test.” Books pass The Tana Test if they’re so compelling, I get them on audio and in-print so that I can jump back-and-forth between the two editions without ever having to take a break.
While each of the books technically stand alone, I think they’re best read in order, in particular make sure to read In the Woods before The Likeness.
That’s all for this week, folks. If you read something great lately or are searching for your next read, please let me know!