It’s been about one year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything, and we’re reflecting on the books that carried us through the past turbulent year. Whether it was an uplifting read that reaffirmed our faith in humanity or a dystopian novel that squashed our fears of murder hornets, these wonderful reads served as both our lighthouses and our lifeboats through the storm and we’re forever grateful for them.
Books as Lifeboats: 6 Novels That Carried Us through the Last Year
Emily’s Pick #1: During the past year, I found myself drawn to books that asked “what if,” probably as my own way of coping with and embracing the absurdity of reality. The one I was most intrigued by, IN FIVE YEARS, asks: What if you woke up five years in the future to find that you’re in bed next to a man who is definitely not your fiancé? That’s what happens to NYC lawyer Dannie Kohan. When she returns to her present day and ends up crossing paths with that same man, she tries to avoid him, but fate—or something like it—keeps pulling them together. Echoing the craziness of pandemic life, this book takes some sharp turns into unexpected territories that’ll remind you to cherish the simple moments in life. It gave me a much-need cathartic cry right when I needed it.
An Atria Book. Atria Books has a great book for every reader.
Allie’s Pick: I go one of two ways in my reading when confronted with hard times: complete obsession (see my previous post about reading a pandemic novel during a pandemic) or complete escapism. Angie Hockman's SHIPPED was the perfect novel to get away with. This rom-com follows two work rivals who are forced on a trip together in order to compete for the same promotion. The catch? Their work trip means traveling on a cruise ship to the Galápagos Islands. It is a completely fun romp that will take you away from all of your problems.
The Unhoneymooners meets The Hating Game in this witty, clever, and swoonworthy novel following a workaholic marketing manager who is forced to go on a cruise with her arch-nemesis when they’re up for the same promotion.
Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.
The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.
Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands...together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.
With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?
Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne, Shipped is a fresh and engaging rom-com that celebrates the power of second chances and the magic of new beginnings.
Heather's Pick: After a year of living as close to home as possible, you wouldn’t think a book called THE FLATSHARE would hold any appeal. And yet this sweet, romantic, and very British story about two strangers sharing an apartment (but not at the same time) was exactly what I needed to escape the confines of my all-too-familiar surroundings for a little while. In Beth O’Leary’s THE FLATSHARE, down-on-her-luck assistant book editor Tiffy Moore gratefully accepts a somewhat unusual living arrangement. She moves into a fully furnished apartment that’s hers alone on weekdays between the hours of 5pm and 8am, plus weekends. The catch is that the apartment’s first tenant, a night nurse named Leon Twomey, gets the apartment the rest of the time. Sharing each other’s space, albeit at different times, creates a sense of intimacy between the pair that only grows—especially when they start leaving adorable notes and warm meals for each other. The result is a slow-burn romance guaranteed to melt your heart.
Emily’s Pick #2: Last year around April, just as the initial shock of the pandemic wore off, I began consuming as much information about COVID-19 and past pandemics as I could find. I figured my mind was already fixated on the subject, so I’d just keep diving deeper into disease territory—even in fiction. That was how I discovered AS BRIGHT AS HEAVEN by Susan Meissner. Set during the Spanish Flu of 1918, this novel tells the story of a family of five who live in a funeral parlor in Philadelphia—one of the hardest hit cities in the US—as they encounter devastating grief, the power of familial love, and the bright spots of joy that appear when all seems lost. This is one poignant, timely read for anyone looking for an intimate historical fiction that may offer a source of solace and hope amidst current events.
Emily’s Pick #3: Whenever I wanted to take my mind off the present last year, I read a lot about future worlds, and one of my favorite science fiction books I read explored it via time travel in the most unique, endearing, and heartbreaking way possible. Two agents on rival sides of a “time war” plant seeds and schemes throughout history that’ll best ensure a bright future for their own factions. However, during their cruel battle, the agents begin leaving witty notes for each other, and a love story develops that’ll change the future for everyone. This book was the perfect epistolary love story and had so many twists and turns that it even made me forget about the pandemic (and murder hornets!) for a minute.
“[An] exquisitely crafted tale...Part epistolary romance, part mind-blowing science fiction adventure, this dazzling story unfolds bit by bit, revealing layers of meaning as it plays with cause and effect, wildly imaginative technologies, and increasingly intricate wordplay...This short novel warrants multiple readings to fully unlock its complexities.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review).
From award-winning authors Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone comes an enthralling, romantic novel spanning time and space about two time-traveling rivals who fall in love and must change the past to ensure their future.
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandment finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.
Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, becomes something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean the death of each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win. That’s how war works, right?
Cowritten by two beloved and award-winning sci-fi writers, This Is How You Lose the Time War is an epic love story spanning time and space.
Anne’s Pick: This writing duo knows how to write up a happy place like no other! When your pandemic partnerships are feeling the strain of seeing no one else for a year (I'm fine—why do you ask?), Christina Lauren is here to reignite your romantic feels. Though SOULMATE EQUATION doesn't come out until May, I got my hands on an early copy last year, and this book gave me everything I needed in 2020: a romance that takes place in actual restaurants and coffee shop dates with a best friend! I finished THE SOULMATE EQUATION and moved right onto IN A HOLIDAZE for another hit of seratonin from Christina Lauren.
The New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners returns with a witty and effervescent novel about what happens when two people with everything on the line are thrown together by science—or is it fate? Perfect for fans of The Rosie Project and One Plus One.
Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard...and lonely.
But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands.
At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.
Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.
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