Vacation Reading Roundup

Last month I had to leave my apartment for a week so the contractor could finish working. I escaped to a beach where I spent the vast majority of my time reading: bliss. I wanted to share some of the books I really enjoyed on this trip for two reasons--first, reading recommendations, of course, and second, Manuscript Wish List. Each of these books provides some insight for what I'd like to see in my query inbox.

Suspense

GIRLS ON FIRE by Robin Wasserman 

I’ve been saying for a while now that I really want a dark thriller, and I have yet to find my dream project. My taste in the thriller/suspense genre is broad, but GIRLS ON FIRE is a fantastic example of a dark, literary suspense novel that really worked for me. While I’m definitely in for a great serial killer book (Caroline Kepnes’ YOU, all day), what I love about Wasserman’s work is that it’s rooted in realistic situations and emotions that she then amplifies. I find that sort of darkness so compelling. And there were lines in it that I had to tweet out immediately—that’s the sign of some really great writing. This was far and away my favorite thing I read on the trip, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

Women’s Fiction

FIRST COMES LOVE by Emily Giffin

I adore Emily Giffin; she’s my go-to example for what I’m seeking in commercial women’s fiction. This isn’t my favorite of her works (that crown belongs to THE ONE AND ONLY, which makes me weep at the end and has the delightful FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS bonus factor), but the thing I like about all of Giffin’s works is that her protagonists make just slightly different choices than you’d expect. She takes the classic setups of women’s fiction—marriage, babies, love—and skews them slightly. I like my women’s fiction with a tinge of subversiveness.

THE HOPEFULS by Jennifer Close

I thoroughly enjoyed this work for its deep dive into a marriage that’s more happy than not and the Washington backdrop—politics and political campaigns have always been of particular interest to me. My favorite Close novel is GIRLS IN WHITE DRESSES with its portrayal of different women, but this is a solid second. And it hits a spot in the market that I love, upmarket in its writing but still possessing a commercial edge.

Young Adult

YOU KNOW ME WELL by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

This book earned a permanent spot on my shelves because it’s just brimming over with emotion. I’m a longtime fan of both LaCour and Levithan, so I had high hopes for the novel, and it didn’t disappoint. Set against the backdrop of San Francisco Pride, it has strong characters, a specific and memorable setting, and an amazing sense of mood. I finished the book with overwhelming feelings of love and hope. And I’m always looking for diversity, including LGBTQIA+ characters.

LOVE AND GELATO by Jenna Evans Welch

I was surprised by this book; I thought it would be a cute, fun read, but it started with an emotional punch. I did ultimately really enjoy the balance of escapism and romance with serious issues. The romance didn’t quite work for me—the resolution there felt a little abrupt. But I had a lot of fun with the main character’s experiences in a new country. The YA I currently represent tends towards the serious; I’d love to find something a bit sweeter—Italy provides the perfect hook in this work.

Nonfiction

SELFISH, SHALLOW, AND SELF-ABSORBED edited by Meghan Daum

I found myself underlining the crap out of this essay collection from writers who have chosen not to have children. This kind of beautifully written thoughtfulness is exactly what I want out of nonfiction. Additionally, as someone who is also choosing not to have kids, I’m fascinated by books on the subject, in both nonfiction and fiction. 

PAIN, PARTIES, WORK by Elizabeth Winder

I loved how focused this biography is, zeroing in on the summer Sylvia Plath spent working at Mademoiselle in 1953. I’m a Plath fanatic (which probably tells you a lot about my personality), and there are so many facets to this work that match my particular interests: New York and how it affects people; a woman’s place in the world; writing, magazines, and fashion; female friendship; dating; mental illness—Winder explores so many fascinating avenues, all of which could be (and are) books unto themselves in different contexts.