No disrespect for critics of the literary world, but sometimes you just want a book that makes you smile. Here’s a collection of the best wellness reads of the year so far. They’ll make you laugh, and they might make you cry – but only tears of happiness.
“The Way of the Falcon”, by Sy Montgomery
If you’re a bird lover — or a nature reveler — you’ll enjoy Montgomery’s latest, which is just under 100 pages. In “The Hawk’s Way”, she recalls meeting a 4-year-old raptor named Jazz, who led her on a journey to understand animals. It’s an enlightening read that will make you want to get out and look up to the sky.
If a misanthropic octopus sounds like fun, you’ll enjoy Van Pelt’s debut novel. It’s about Tova, a widow who works night shifts at a Washington state aquarium, keeping her busy after her son disappeared three decades ago. The giant octopus, named Marcellus, may well hold the keys to finding out what happened to Tova’s son. “Remarkably Bright Creatures” is a charming novel with a beautiful setting and the perfect amount of wit and wisdom.
“From Hollywood With Love”, by Scott Meslow
We can’t all live in a romantic comedy, but we can at least appreciate the masters of the genre. Meslow pays them a fitting tribute in this deep dive that spans 30 years of hits, from ‘When Harry Met Sally’ to ‘Crazy Rich Asians’. The book is peppered with amusing anecdotes, photos and interviews with directors and stars. You will be “waiting to expire” until you complete it.
“Book Lovers” by Emily Henry
Nora is a workaholic literary agent with a stellar reputation. Charlie is the brooding book editor who works as hard as she does. After a combative first meeting, the two New Yorkers meet years later in a small town in North Carolina, when they would both prefer to be somewhere else. Despite their steamy chemistry, Nora and Charlie do their best to resist the happily ever after readers will be looking for from page one.
“The Chef’s Kiss” by TJ Alexander
Pick up Alexandre’s first novel for the fall galette or the cookie crust cheesecake. Stick around for the romance that develops between pastry chef Simone and fellow non-binary Ray. “Chef’s Kiss,” set in a Bon Appétit-style test kitchen, is like a comfort food you’ll want to devour.
“Flying Solo”, by Linda Holmes
Holmes’ debut novel, ‘Evvie Drake Starts Over,’ was required summer reading when it was published in 2019. Now she’s back with ‘Flying Solo,’ about a single woman on the cusp of her 40th birthday who returns in Maine to clean his big aunt’s house. There, she finds a mysterious wooden duck that leads her – well, a wild goose chase, which takes a detour to an old love. The novel is a refreshing reminder that there is no one size fits all for a relationship, and that fulfillment can be achieved in many ways.
“An Italian Summer” by Rebecca Serle
Katy is no longer docked when her mother, Carol, dies. So she goes to Italy for the vacation they had planned to take together. Once there, she meets an incarnation of her 30-year-old mother, and the two embark on a magical adventure that helps Katy figure out who Carol was as a young woman, before her identity changed to “mom.” . Serle’s novel is a touching mother-daughter story about the transcendence of parental love. Try the audio version, narrated by actor Lauren Graham.
“Don’t Do That Again” by Grant Ginder
If you yearn for the days of “Veep,” look for the same dysfunctional family dynamics and political misadventures in Ginder’s latest novel. It’s about Senate hopeful Nancy Harrison, whose adult children are adrift problematically – particularly Greta, who is making headlines for her involvement in a Paris riot. It’s not good for the old countryside, so Nancy and her son travel to France to bring Greta home. Ginder – whose previous novels include “The People We Hate at Marriage” – delivers delightful satire that’s a great escape.
“This Time Tomorrow”, by Emma Straub
Straub puts his own spin on “13 Going on 30” in this moving time travel novel. It centers on Alice, who is stuck in many aspects of life as she watches her beloved father slowly die. She wakes up the day before her 40th birthday to find that she is 16 again and her father is young and vibrant. This time around, she asks him questions, soaks up his stories, and gets a second chance to fix old mistakes. Like all of Straub’s books, “This Time Tomorrow” shines with humor and warmth.
“Unlikely Animals”, by Annie Hartnett
In Hartnett’s new novel, protagonist Emma returns home to New Hampshire to care for her father, who suffers from a degenerative brain disease. He hallucinates animals and also reports seeing the ghost of Ernest, a naturalist who has been dead for many years. There’s a lot going on in “Unlikely Animals,” including Emma and her father’s efforts to reunite with an old friend struggling with addiction. It’s a quirky and poignant novel about family, community, and love for our animal friends.
“The Wise Women”, by Gina Sorell
Wendy was a lifelong advice columnist – though you wouldn’t know it from the disorganized lives of her two daughters. They’re riddled with trouble, some of which could be her fault, so she flees her Florida retirement village and shows up in New York to save the day. As the women seek to resolve their dilemmas, it becomes apparent that Wendy has many. “The Wise Women” is joyful and full of heart.
“The Kings of B’more”, by R. Eric Thomas
Comedy writer Thomas’ debut introduces readers to Harrison and Linus-Black, gay best friends about to be separated by a move. They plan a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”-worthy goodbye that involves a mini road trip, their first Pride celebration, and a rooftop dance party, which they enjoy while trying to dodge their parents. “Kings of B’more” is a fun, sweet ode to black joy.
“The Maid” by Nita Prose
Here’s a cozy mystery to take on vacation: it’s about Molly, a socially disadvantaged housekeeper at a fancy hotel who finds a wealthy guest dead in the penthouse. Once the police decide she’s the No. 1 suspect – an easy-to-assemble case based on her slightly odd ways – her organized life is thrown into chaos. Luckily, an unexpected and eccentric group of friends show up to help prove his innocence. “The Maid” is a lighthearted mystery that shines as Molly evolves and learns to connect. It is adapted into a film starring Florence Pugh.