We’re a week from Thanksgiving and already thinking about all the things we’re thankful for, especially after experiencing the hardships and struggles from the past year and a half. Of course, for us, books are always on the list! Check out these titles we’re so thankful to have discovered in 2021—whether they provided us with an escape or got us out of a reading-rut purgatory.
Sharon’s Pick: THE CHARM OFFENSIVE by Alison Cochrun is the book I am most thankful for this year, as it allowed me to see the potential of what can be done within the romance genre. I normally don’t read a lot of romance novels, as I am not a fan of many tropes (don’t get me started on unnecessary third-act conflicts . . .), but THE CHARM OFFENSIVE is such a refreshing take on the genre, allowing for its memorable and highly relatable characters to take center stage. I loved the ways in which Dev and Charlie’s relationship flourished, and the challenges they faced were very realistic. The mental health and aspec representation in this book are also fantastic, with Dev and Charlie (and the wonderful cast of side characters) also facing their own challenges through the story. I cannot recommend this book enough for someone in need of a heartwarming romance novel, even if they aren’t necessarily a romance reader.
In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.
Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.
Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.
As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.
Holly’s Pick: Gilda has a fascination with death. When will she die? How will she die? Could this slight pain in her chest be the last of her? To say the least, Gilda is a bit panic-stricken. And to make matters worse, she has recently lost her job and has been alienated from her family. This young, anxious, atheist lesbian somehow accidentally stumbles into a job at a Catholic church, replacing the recently deceased receptionist, Grace. Naturally, Gilda becomes obsessed with the demise of her predecessor. This touching story packed with dry humor was one of my favorite books of the year. Gilda learns what it takes to stay afloat in a world where the only thing that’s certain is death. As an overly anxious, ailment-ridden hypochondriac myself, I am thankful that I was able to find great comfort of my own through Gilda’s personal exploration.
This hilarious and profound debut for fans of Mostly Dead Things and Goodbye, Vitamin, follows a morbidly anxious young woman—“the kindhearted heroine we all need right now” (Courtney Maum, New York Times bestselling author)—who stumbles into a job as a receptionist at a Catholic church and becomes obsessed with her predecessor’s mysterious death.
Gilda, a twenty-something, atheist, animal-loving lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist Grace.
In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman, who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.
A delightful blend of warmth, deadpan humor, and pitch-perfect observations about the human condition, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a crackling exploration of what it takes to stay afloat in a world where your expiration—and the expiration of those you love—is the only certainty.
Sabrina’s Pick: Tabitha Brown became a steadfast source of inspiration in my TikTok feed when I was looking for positive, uplifting accounts to follow. When this woman speaks, you feel like you’re receiving a big, warm hug. That’s why I was so excited to find out she had released a book. Before picking it up, I didn’t realize she was also an actress from my home state of North Carolina. In FEEDING THE SOUL, Brown shares her own life lessons and revelations in her trademark down-to-earth style so the reader can forge a path to joy through her lived experiences. She provides some very basic advice for living authentically without apology or regret. As a special treat, she also includes a selection of vegan recipes for those who have come to crave her kitchen wisdom, as well. Brown uses FEEDING THE SOUL to show appreciation for everyday miracles and help us all recognize how truly blessed we are.
Emily’s Pick: Sometimes I love a book because of the content, other times I love a book for the way I acquired it. That’s the case with WINTER by Karl Ove Knausgaard. I was at a bar in NYC—one of my first nights out after being vaccinated—and was feeling a bit claustrophobic, so I went outside to wait for a friend. I started chatting with a stranger and the topic veered toward books—as they do. He told me about this book series about a father’s letters to his future daughter, where he talks about life as if seeing it for the first time, preparing his daughter for what’s to come. I must’ve responded enthusiastically because he pulled the book out of his bag, took out his bookmark, and said, “Here, you can have it.” No numbers or names were exchanged—only one book, and it’s one that makes me thankful every time I look at it for books and their ability to connect people.
Heather’s Pick: Living in uncertain times like we do, it makes sense that we’d find comfort in the idea of destiny. Or, at least, that’s what I told myself earlier this year as I happily devoured Christina Lauren’s THE SOULMATE EQUATION, a romance novel with the appealing premise that a DNA-based algorithm can definitely (maybe) match you with your true love. While the book’s heroine, Jess, is highly skeptical when her GeneticAlly results indicate that her dream man is her nemesis, Dr. River Peña, she’s also a single mom who can’t turn down his company’s lucrative offer to play along for the press. Faking a relationship in front of the cameras turns out to be more enjoyable than either of them expects, however, and real feelings develop between them. Is it fate or free will that’s driving their love story? And does it really matter? All I know for sure is that I’m grateful this book exists to distract us from our real-world problems, if only for a little while.
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.
Photo credit: iStock / GrashAlex