Welcome, literature lovers, to the fifth installment of the new-and-improved FIRST for Women monthly book club!
Here at FIRST for Women, when we’re not hard at work bringing you stories about health, nutrition, beauty and lifestyle (that we hope you’ll love), we like to kick back with a good book.
We know first-hand that reading provides relief from stress, improves brain health and ushers in more joy. So we created a new kind of book club that doesn’t just classify our picks by genre, but also lets you know how we used that book to self-medicate whatever emotional challenge we were facing.
We see books as a kind of medicine for the psyche and the soul — and we’re thinking you do too. And so we want to let you know exactly what emotional state we “prescribe” our book picks for. Here are our seven top picks for November 2023 — from a cozy whodunit to a feel-good romance to a captivating historical fiction to a swoon-worthy rom-com.
We’d also love to hear what books you’re reading this month and how they made you feel!
Longing for the past? Rx: Vinyl Resting Place
Cozy Mystery by Olivia Blacke
“During September and October, I get so nostalgic reflecting on dear childhood memories of pumpkin picking and spending time with my sister,” shares Lauren Blum, FIRST Associate Editor. “Missing these simpler times with family, I was looking for a heartwarming read, and this charming story that follows an adventure between three sisters was just what I needed!” Sisters Juni, Tansy and Maggie are in search of a fresh start and decide to open Sip and Spin Records, a coffee and record shop in their Texas hometown. But during opening night, Juni is stunned when she finds someone murdered in their supply closet. To make matters worse, their uncle becomes the prime suspect. Will Juni and her sisters solve the case and save their uncle and business? Says Lauren, “Full of heart and unexpected twists, this read had me on my toes from start to finish and made me cherish the bond I have with my own sister even more.” (St. Martin’s, 2022)
Nothing going right? Rx: A Thanksgiving Full of Gratitude
Women’s Fiction by Katie Winters
“After a year full of tough breaks, I wanted to dive into the spirit of the season and fill my heart with gratitude for the good things that have happened — and this book put me in the perfect frame of mind!” says Alexandra Pollock, FIRST Deputy Editor. After Janine Grimson learns that her best friend had an affair with her husband, she is forced to move to Martha’s Vineyard to reinvent her life — and her idea of happiness. But when some bad news about her ex-husband pulls her back into the fray, leaving her with a hole in her heart and struggling to cope with her ex-best friend’s reentry into her life, will Janine have what it takes to forgive — and find hope for a brighter tomorrow? Says Alexandra, “Bursting with heart and sisterly love, this book was the ideal entry into the cozy holiday season!” (Self-published, 2021)
Need to nix boredom? Rx: Siege and Storm
Fantasy by Leigh Bardugo
“Looking for a story to keep me hooked during a long flight, I downloaded this fantastical, epic adventure,” says Melissa D’Agnese, FIRST Senior Editor. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner and now the Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. “Magic, action, adventure…this saga had it all,” says Melissa. “It’s the second tale in this series, and I now can’t wait to read the third!” (Square Fish, 2014)
Stressed out? Rx: Moving Forward
Romance by Shelley Shepard Gray
“Last month, I was dealing with a lot of stress, but I’ve always had a hard time asking for help,” admits Rachel Cosma, FIRST Health Director. “Instead, I dove into this book as a weekend escape.” After retiring from the army, Greg joined Woodland Park’s fire department. While responding to a call, he finds himself helping Kristen, who is running the local garden center. After being jilted by her fiancé, she swore off love. Sparks fly, but can Kristen open her heart again? “Seeing these two overcome hardships encouraged me to reach out for support,” says Rachel. “Life is better with people you care about by your side!” (Berkley, 2023)
Disappointed? Rx: The Love Script
Romantic Comedy by Toni Shiloh
“I was supposed to go visit a friend up north for a weekend, but a big storm ended up canceling our plans,” shares Maggie Dillard, FIRST Associate Editor. “So I stayed home with this feel-good rom-com and heated up a mug of apple cider to ease my disappointment.” Hollywood hairstylist Nevaeh Richards likes the anonymity of staying behind her stylist chair. But when a photo of her and A-lister Lamont Booker goes viral, her ordinary, quiet life is interrupted. Lamont Booker’s faith in God has gained him a platform, but his agent wants Lamont to have a fake relationship—with Nevaeh — to stir up publicity. Now, with their careers on the line, Nevaeh and Lamont have to convince the world that their scripted romance is more than just an act. “It was an exciting and swoon-worthy read,” says Maggie. “I actually forgot all about my real-life frustrations as I read.” (Bethany House, 2023)
Searching for an energy boost? Rx: In a Quiet Town
Thriller by Amber Garza
“After a tiring day babysitting my goddaughter, I knew a heart-pounding thriller would boost my energy,” says Kristina Mastrocola, FIRST Senior Editor. After her controlling husband caused an estrangement from her daughter Adrienne, Tatum is finally able to reconnect with her. But their reunion is shattered when Adrienne goes missing. Tatum is shocked when no one, not even the police, believe her. Then, a stranger claiming to be Adrienne’s fiancé arrives to lend Tatum help. Even as she questions this man’s identity, she searches with him. “Told from multiple perspectives during different time lines, this thriller had me guessing the whole way—I was engrossed until the satisfying conclusion!” (Mira, 2023)
Craving an escape? Rx: Mrs. Porter Calling
Historical Fiction by AJ Pearce
“The coming of fall and cold weather brings with it a great longing to be somewhere else,” says Alexandra Pollock, FIRST Deputy Editor. “So I decided to pick up this book to transport myself to London during World War II in the hopes it would distract me!” As the writer of a popular advice column, “Yours Cheerfully,” Emmy Lake is helping scores of magazine readers face the unsettling, unprecedented challenges of war. But when a new publisher comes to the magazine bent on change—and the end of the beloved column—it’s up to Emmy and her friends to save it. Says Alexandra, “This book has everything: humor, heart and, most important, the reminder that true friendship can help us move whatever mountains get in our way!” (Scribner, 2023)
For more FIRST Book Club picks:
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.