One of the best parts of working in the book world is you tend to become a catch-all for book requests. Your friends and family are regularly pinging you for another personalized book recommendation that caters to their particular tastes and interests.
Usually you know which quirky sci-fi will appeal to whom, or the buzzy bestseller someone will fall in love with, or the thought-provoking family saga that fits right into a book club’s repertoire. But sometimes there’s a book you find yourself recommending to just about everyone. LILY AND THE OCTOPUS is one of those special novels.
Like other perennial top picks on bookstore displays, such as THE ROSIE PROJECT, WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE, and A MAN CALLED OVE, this little novel with the whimsical jacket packs an emotional punch for which you might not be prepared. These books tick all the boxes for an unforgettable and recommendable read: fresh narrative voices, moments of hilarity in ordinary absurdity, and the kinds of relationships that make you want to reread discussions and heartfelt declarations between the characters again and again.
This is especially true of the aging dachshund at the heart of LILY AND THE OCTOPUS and her best-friend-slash-owner Ted. The two have a comfortable life together spent chatting about boys, playing board games, and ordering pizza just so Lily can bark at the delivery boy. But then the Octopus arrives and their simple little world begins to change.
Before you place LILY AND THE OCTOPUS in the sentimental animal book category, take a moment to think about the last time a novel made you smile to yourself, made you think hard about the loved ones in your life, and wowed you with literary flair and notes of magical realism. Because this lovely little book does all this and more. It is easily the novel I’ve handed out the most: to a stressed-out friend needing distraction, to another looking for new writing styles, to dog owners who would relate to Ted and Lily’s bond, and especially to readers looking for words to understand their own complicated emotional lives.
I love gifting books knowing the same pages that will tug at your heartstrings will also have you grinning, and which introduce characters whose uniqueness and perspectives on the world slowly warm your heart. As their triumphs become yours, your sorrows are reflected in their griefs, and the novel’s soul becomes a part of your own life.
Perhaps I’m sounding hyperbolic and you won’t have the same experience reading LILY AND THE OCTOPUS. One thing is certain—after finishing it, you’ll want to put it in someone else’s hands, too.
Elizabeth Breeden works in the marketing department at Simon & Schuster. Follow her on Twitter @eliz_breeden