You’re Hoping the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Takes Gold

Are celebrating MTV’s anniversary or managing complex feelings about work

Hi Book Lovers,

First off, apologies. Due to a Substack snafu, some of you may have received this email yesterday as well as this morning. Sorry about that!

Last week, I went to the library and browsed for books. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to do that, compared to getting books “curbside” or downloading them from Overdrive. It was a simple, delightful pleasure. 

I celebrated by borrowing a bunch of graphic novels and a cozy mystery I’ve been looking forward to for months. I don’t typically read graphic novels and am working to change that. So, I grabbed a handful of them, both YA and adult, and have been enjoying a different reading experience. I’m looking forward to sharing my favorites with you over the next few months.

Thanks to everyone who reached out about my new dog Ellie. She’s a cutie, and we’ve become fast friends. 

And now, what to read if….

You’re Rooting for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team in Tokyo

The National Team by Caitlin Murray

By the time you read this, the U.S. women’s national soccer team will have either beaten Canada and advanced to the Olympic finals or lost their game and their chance for a record-setting gold medal. No matter the outcome, Caitlin Murray’s The National Team is a celebration and recognition of everything the USWNT has done for women’s sports here in the U.S. and globally.

Murray chronicles the team’s entire history, from its formation in the 1980s to the 2019 World Cup victory. Through hundreds of interviews with players and team officials, including Brandi Chastain and Hope Solo, Murray brings readers onto the pitch for historic achievements and into the board room for tense negotiations between the team and the U.S. Soccer Federation over everything from pay to field conditions.

The National Team is particularly relevant now as an equal pay lawsuit the women’s team brought against U.S. soccer enters its next phase. Although the women’s team has had a much better record in recent years — and brings in more ticket revenue — its players earn less than the men. Murray explains step-by-step how this inequality came to be and the team’s fight to end the disparity. (Or, if you’re interested and have HBO Max, I keep hearing great things about “LFG,” a new documentary about the team’s fight for equal pay.)

Bingo boxes this book checks: Nonfiction, debut

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You’re Wondering If Video Did Kill the Radio Star

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Forty years ago this week, MTV launched with a space-themed montage that ended with the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” The station then broadcast the now-classic song “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. 

While Malibu Rising doesn’t mention MTV, it captures the ethos of the network’s early days — bright, chaotic and a lot of fun. The book takes place over a single night in late August 1986, when the Riva siblings throw their famous annual end-of-summer bash. Their party is the It Party of the year, drawing actors, athletes, models and musicians annually. The novel alternates between chapters about the party and chapters about Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit Riva’s childhoods as the kids of a world-famous singer, Mick Riva. (Eagle-eyed readers might remember playboy Mick Riva from Reid’s Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six.)

My love for Reid is well established, and Malibu Rising did not disappoint. While I didn’t love it quite as much as Daisy Jones and the SixI’m not sure I’ll love any book as much as that one. The party chapters feel like an eighties high school movie in the best sort of way, and I found the relationships between the four siblings compelling and realistic. It’s a fun, fast read, perfect for the summer and beyond.

Bingo boxes this book checks: Summer that changed everything, book set in the decade you were born (if you, like me, are an ‘80s baby)

You Have a Lot Feelings About Work

No Hard Feelings by Mollie West Duffy and Liz Fosslien

It feels simplistic to write, but it’s true: The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our relationship with work. Americans across all industries are resigning in record numbers, businesses are struggling to hire staff and offices are debating how — and if — to bring their employees back in. It seems like everyone I talk to these days, whether they work in an essential in-person industry or a work-from-home environment, is dealing with many complex emotions towards work.

I know I am — I spent a few hours earlier this week trying to figure out what my new daily routine will look like when I go back to the office this fall. To help manage the emotions, I turned to No Hard Feelings, an illustrated guide to harnessing and expressing emotions at work. The authors argue that ignoring and repressing our feelings at work is counterproductive for employees and employers, limiting creativity and productivity. They write, “Effectively processing what you feel gives you the power to do more than bring your whole self to work: it enables you to bring your best self to work.” 

The cartoons incorporated into the book and its light tone make it a surprisingly easy read, given the subject matter. Duffy and Fosslien avoid the traps of other self-help books, steering clear of preachy or arrogant suggestions. Instead, No Hard Feelings offers a way for us to grow into happier, more authentic people.

Bingo boxes this book checks: Nonfiction, debut


That’s it for me today. I’ll be back in your inbox on Thursday with a Q&A featuring Laura Hankin, author of the recent Special Place for WomenIn the meantime, you can catch up on last week’s recs here.

As always, feel free to leave a comment or email me if you’re hunting for a book. 


What to Read If is a free weekly book recommendation newsletter. Need a rec? Want to gush about a book? Reply to this email, leave a comment or find me on Twitter @elizabethheld.

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