Welcome, book-loving babes, to the fourth 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 October 2023 — from a cozy whodunit to a feel-good romance to a captivating historical fiction.
We’d also love to hear from you what books you’re reading this month and how they made you feel!
Missing loved ones? Rx: Murder at the Pumpkin Pageant
Cozy Mystery by Darci Hannah
“I love the fall season, and I always feel a pull to be with family as soon as that first chill blows in the air,” says Maggie Dillard, FIRST Associate Editor. “So I picked up this kooky whodunit to take my mind off homesickness, and it did just the trick.” When bakeshop owner Lindsey Bakewell agrees to let her friend Kennedy host a ghost-hunting investigation in her lighthouse home, they soon stumble upon a corpse. Says Maggie, “Spooky and hilarious, this saga was just what I needed.” (Kensington, 2023)
Stressed out? Rx: The Brightest Star
Historical Fiction by Gail Tsukiyama
“After a long workweek packed with emails and video calls, I wanted to dive into another time,” says Melissa D’Agnese, FIRST Senior Editor. “And this was a majestic adventure!” At the dawn of the new century, America is falling in love with silent movies—including Wong Liu, who is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She dreams of being an actress and has chosen a stage name, Anna May Wong. At 16, Anna May leaves to pursue her Hollywood dreams. Says Melissa, “This rich, stirring novel based on a true story dazzles.” (HarperVia, 2023)
Need a vacation? Rx: Once More With Feeling
Romantic Comedy by Elissa Sussman
“I’m not ready to let go of summer just yet,” shares Kate Arcell, FIRST Associate Editor. “So I was excited when a friend passed me her favorite beach read, and I dove in to escape reality.” After a series of mishaps causes Katee Rose’s career as a pop star and her relationship to end, she returns to her normal life as Kathleen Rosenberg. But when the former boy-band member that caused it all to fall apart comes back into her life—this time, as a star in a Broadway show—Katee agrees to join the musical, even though her crush on him threatens to ruin it all again. “I love a second-chance romance,” says Kate. “And this one was such a joy!” (Dell, 2023)
Feeling blue? Rx: My Murder
Suspense by Katie Williams
“I just had a birthday in September, and this year it has me feeling a bit melancholy and thinking back on all the things I wish I had done,” admits Carey Ostergard, FIRST Executive Editor. “So when I picked up this beautifully written suspense peppered with elements of sci-fi, I immediately connected.” Lou is a happily married mother. She’s also the victim of a serial killer. Recently brought back to life and returned to her grieving family by a government project, she is grateful for this second chance. But as the new Lou readapts to her old routines, and as she bonds with other female victims, she realizes that disturbing questions remain about her death and how much she can trust those around her. “The twists, turns and surprise ending had me hooked,” says Carey. “Lou’s story helped me realize it’s never too late to live our dreams.” (Riverhead, 2023)
Craving an escape? Rx: On Fire Island
Family Saga by Jane L. Rosen
“I’ve been obsessed with watching reruns of The Ghost Whisperer, so I jumped at the chance to read a novel about a spirit and her desire to stay among the living,” shares Rebecca Haynes, FIRST Health Director. Julia wasn’t expecting her life to end at 37 at the hands of cancer. So she just can’t bring herself to cross over, and instead, decides to spend one last summer on Fire Island, where she can only observe her loved ones. Says Rebecca, “This book — about love and loss — proves that the ties with those we love really last forever.” (Berkley, 2023)
Lonely? Rx: The Right Wrong Match
Romance by Sara Jane Woodley
“A few weeks ago a friend of mine canceled our plans, and I was feeling a little down about it,” admits Lauren Blum, FIRST Associate Editor. “To fill my night, I got lost in this fun, lighthearted read.” Though Daisy has had a crush on Luke Brooks, her best friend’s unavailable and grumpy brother, since high school, she always pushed her true feelings aside. That is, until a dating app mishap lands her a new job planning matchmaking events for the town right alongside Luke…who was just dumped. As Daisy and Luke spend more time together, she learns there’s more beneath his grouchy personality, and it makes getting over her crush on him even more complicated. Says Lauren, “Daisy is so outgoing, funny and relatable, and I couldn’t wait to see how her and Luke’s romantic story would play out!” (Eleventh Avenue, 2023)
Overthinking? The Five-Star Weekend
Women’s fiction by Elin Hilderbrand
“As I prepare for yet another high school reunion, I can’t help but overthink as I reflect on old friendships,” says Patty Bontekoe, FIRST Executive Editor. “So when I heard the premise of Elin Hilderbrand’s latest novel, I knew it would be my next read.” After her husband dies unexpectedly, blogger Hollis Shaw, Nantucket’s version of Martha Stewart, gathers a friend from each decade of her life to spend a fun weekend on the island. As the women band together, their secrets — from a health scare to infidelity to a career crisis — are revealed. Meanwhile, they’re also trying to figure out why Gigi, a stranger who none of them, including Hollis, has ever met, is there. “Hilderbrand never disappoints, but this book was one of my favorites,” says Patty. “It had me wondering who I’d invite to my own five-star weekend, and it reminded me not to worry because there is power in old friendships. Now, I’m looking forward to my reunion more!” (Little, Brown and Company, 2023)
If you missed last month’s FIRST Book Club picks, find it here:
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.