Over the last year and a half, reading has provided a much-needed escape from reality. Even when the pandemic kept us close to home, we were able to travel to California’s prime taco spots in the Wedding Date series, jam out on stage with Daisy Jones and the Six and solve a murder in Verity (well, maybe… we still aren’t totally sure what happened there). These are some of our favorite 2020/2021 reads written by and centering on women and their diverse identities and experiences. So, if you’re looking for a mental vacation, we’ve got you covered.
The Wedding Date Series, by Jasmine Guillory
Stanford law grad turned romance author? We can’t say it’s a path we haven’t pondered once or twice ourselves after a late night at the office! Luckily for us, Jasmine Guillory’s done just that and her romance novels are a breath of fresh air. Guillory’s novels center on Black women and their love stories, meeting an important need in a genre that has been sorely lacking in diversity. They involve interesting and dynamic characters and feature timely cultural topics. Each book in the Wedding Date series can be read as a stand-alone, but many of the characters appear in multiple stories. These have been—and continue to be—a great pandemic escape for us.
When No One Is Watching, by Alyssa Cole
Best to start this one on a Friday night, because you won’t want to put it down! Sydney, the protagonist of this gripping thriller, realizes that her Brooklyn neighborhood is becoming increasingly gentrified as her Black neighbors are moving away and white people are moving in. Even more unsettling than the alarming rate at which the Black residents are leaving is that there’s no hint as to where they’ve gone. As Sydney uncovers the problematic history of the community, along with a present-day conspiracy, things take a more sinister turn. This book is a page-turner, both because of its fast-paced plot and the profound and uncomfortable truths it reveals.
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close, by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
In Big Friendship, real-life best friends and hosts of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman share the story of their own soulmate-level friendship and examine the influence that friendship has in our lives. Sow and Friedman rebut the idea that friendship is supposed to be easy—at least compared to romantic relationships—and chronicle how couples therapy saved their friendship. This book is so spot-on about how complex and life-affirming friendship between women can be that you’ll find yourself reaching for the phone to call your own Big Friends.
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, by Cathy Park Hong
This book of essays by Cathy Park Hong unpacks the realities of racism in America, in particular against Asian Americans. Although written in early 2020 pre-COVID, readers will recognize similarities to the hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans that we’ve witnessed throughout the pandemic. Minor Feelings, which was a 2021 Pulitzer Prize finalist, interweaves Hong’s own memoirs and commentary with the stories of others to examine racial consciousness in America today. Hong, as the daughter of Korean immigrants, brings a unique perspective to this narrative. This book is highly recommended for anyone trying to understand more about anti-Asian hate in America.
Verity, by Colleen Hoover
In this novel, Lowen Ashleigh accepts a mysterious job finishing the remaining books in a series by famous writer Verity Crawford, who was severely injured in an accident. Lowen moves in with the Crawford family, and while sorting through Verity’s office, she uncovers Verity’s shocking and horrific autobiography, which reveals the way that Verity’s daughter died. Written in the voices of these two complex women, the book takes you on a strange journey through their minds as the two lives become more intertwined. We loved this thriller. Not only will you have trouble putting it down, but you’ll be thinking about what the truth actually is long after you finish.
Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid (who wrote The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which we also recommend!) follows a 1970s rock group from their historic rise to their infamous breakup. Daisy Jones is a young singer making a name for herself in Los Angeles when she teams up with the Six, a small town rock band that is also on the rise. When they go on tour together, producers realize that Daisy singing with the Six could bring them all unprecedented fame, and the rest is, well, complicated. Family drama, romance and the hardship of being on the road all make this an incredible story that uncovers problems that many people deal with, not just the rich and famous. The book is written as an oral history, and the documentary format as conveyed by transcript lends itself to a unique intimacy. After you’ve read the book (we stress the word after), you can look forward to the TV adaptation, which is being produced by Reese Witherspoon and is due out sometime in 2022.
One Life, by Megan Rapinoe
Written by the iconic Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion (and one of Malu’s personal heroes), this book explores many of the hurdles Rapinoe has faced throughout her life and her choice to speak out in a world dominated by men. As an LGBTQ woman, Rapinoe has faced many challenges as she has fought for social change in the world of sports. Rapinoe first gained recognition as an advocate for racial justice when she took a knee during the national anthem in solidarity with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. She then became one of the first players on the United States Women’s National Soccer team to publicly come out as gay. Since then, she has negotiated with and sued the United States Soccer Federation over gender discrimination. Through these personal stories, her thesis remains clear: we all have an obligation to speak up against injustice.
Leyla Salman and Malu Malhotra are associates in Debevoise’s New York office.
Comments? Suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.