For many of us, reading is a self-care ritual: a chance to escape the stress of everyday life by losing ourselves in the pages of a good book. When the world around us feels heavy or when our hearts are weary, sometimes we crave books that are light and comforting. Given the incredibly challenging times we’ve been living through lately, here are some books that I hope will feel like a hug from a friend.
I devoured Curtis Sittenfeld’s Romantic Comedy in a few sittings. A feminist romantic comedy that is as sharp and intelligent as it is funny and swoony. Sally Milz is a successful writer for a late-night comedy show (based on Saturday Night Live) who creates a comedy sketch about how gorgeous female celebs date average-looking men but the reverse never seems to be true. Enter Noah Brewster, a ‘smoking hot’ pop star, who comes on her show and shows interest in Sally. But she finds his overtures to be too-good-to-be-true and walks away from him.
If you’re looking for a ‘fun, fizzy, happy’ read, then definitely go for this.
I recently read Tahereh Mafi’s This Woven Kingdom and what a fun read it was! Alizeh is a Jinn princess in hiding and Kamran is the heir to the throne of a mighty empire. They can never be together and yet fate keeps throwing them in each other’s paths. There are ancient myths and legends, magic, prophecies, political intrigues and forbidden romance. I loved the world-building, with references to myths and legends, in this novel and its sequel These Infinite Threads. I look forward to reading the third book in the trilogy, All this Twisted Glory, which comes out in February 2024.
It Won’t Always be Like This is a heartwarming graphic memoir by Malaka Gharib. In this book, she recounts her summers visiting her father in Egypt and his ‘other’ family, her stepmother and her half siblings. She first meets her stepmother when she’s nine and through the course of the memoir we see a young Malaka coming to terms with what this family means to her, her own Egyptian identity and her relationship with her dad. Her relationship with her stepmother is bittersweet, and, in fact, the memoir is mostly about exploring what this pivotal relationship meant to her growing up.
I’m a big fan of ‘quiet’ writing where it is the writer’s power of observation and astute commentary on life, love and relationships that carry the narrative rather than surprises in plot. Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout is a beautiful tender example of such quiet writing.
Lucy Barton, a writer in her 60s grieving the death of her second husband Daniel, agrees to go on a trip with her first husband William to uncover some family history. Through this trip, we come to learn about Lucy’s own past and her relationship with William, their daughters, and also her late mother-in-law Catherine. Lucy “comes from nothing”, as her mother-in-law used to put it, and even when she is a successful writer, this sense of deprivation and an abusive childhood make her feel as if she is invisible.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” As far as opening lines go, nothing quite beats this iconic and oft-quoted sentence from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
There aren’t many books I have re-read in my life, but I do turn back to some classics and Pride and Prejudice is on top of that list. It is simply brilliant: for its humour, its sharp observations of middle- and upper-class English life in the nineteenth century, its strong female protagonist, and for the kind of romance that never gets old. If you’ve never read it, go get a copy.
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