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FIRST Book Club: 7 Feel-Great Reads You’ll Love For August 2023

Energizing mysteries, hilarious rom-coms, anxiety busting fantasies — we've got the book for every emotion

Welcome, bookworms and bibliophiles, to the second installment of the new-and-improved FIRST for Women monthly book club!

Here at FIRST, 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 decided to create a new kind of book club is that doesn’t just classify our picks by genre, but also tells you lets you know how we used that book to self-medicate whatever emotional challenge we were facing.

We see fiction 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 how exactly what emotional state we “prescribe” our book picks for. Here are our seven top picks for August 2023 — from hilarious rom-com to energizing thriller to an escapist fantasy.

We’d also love to hear from you what books you’re reading this month and how they made you feel!

Stressed out? Rx: Sally Brady’s Italian Adventure

Adventure by Christina Lynch

Sally Brady's Italian Adventure First book club

“I’ve been stressed by my crazy to-do list and longing for a getaway to just unwind,” says Danielle Saliman, FIRST Executive Editor. “But stuck at home on a blistering hot, rainy weekend, the title of this book sang to me. If I can’t have an Italian adventure, why not read about someone else’s!”

Sally Brady is an American gossip columnist gallivanting around Europe in the 1940s, when she gets stranded in Rome as war breaks out—and Americans are branded the enemies. Sally’s life quickly changes from fashion, parties and high society to survival.

“This powerful story of wealth, poverty, danger and near-death was not quite the adventure I set out to read about,” says Danielle, “It was so much more!” (St. Martin’s, 2023)

Disappointed? Rx: Unfortunately Yours

Romantic Comedy by Tessa Bailey

Unfortunately yours First book club

“After my friend canceled dinner plans the other night, I was so bummed out,” confesses Maggie Dillard, FIRST Associate Editor. “I always try to cure the blues with humor, so I picked up this rom-com to give me a good laugh!”

After losing her job and her relationship, Napa heiress Natalie Vos returns home. She just needs her trust fund to help finance her new business idea—the only catch is she can only inherit the money once she’s married. Soon, her path crosses with handsome August Cates once again and they devise a plan for a sham wedding that will benefit them both. The only thing that could go wrong is if they both actually start to fall for each other…

“I’m such a fan of the classic enemies-to-lovers trope,” says Maggie. “And this sweet yet steamy saga added the right amount of excitement to spice up my evening!” (Avon, 2023)

Feeling blue? Rx: The First Ladies

Historical Fiction by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

The First Ladies first book club

“I was missing a close loved one who moved far away recently, and I wanted to immerse myself in a story about true connection,” says Rebecca Haynes, FIRST Health Editor. “So I picked up this book because the cover felt so welcoming, and I was inspired by the story.”

Eleanor Roosevelt was an outspoken first lady who fought for civil rights and women’s rights. And when she befriends daughter of formerly enslaved parents Mary McLeod Bethune, also an activist and educator, the pair share their secrets and dreams. Their friendship becomes something they rely on, and they are there for each other through the best and worst of times.

“This was a hopeful story!” raves Rebecca. “It shows the good that can come from the friendship of two passionate women. We can accomplish so much when we put our minds and hopes together.” (Berkley, 2023)

Need an escape? Rx: Homecoming

Mystery by Kate Morton

Homecoming first book club

“Between long workdays and lots of family events, I’ve been missing out on ‘me time,’” says Kate Arcell, FIRST Assistant Editor. “So during a rare free afternoon, I curled up with this eerie, engrossing read.”

When journalist Jess is called home to Australia to care for her grandmother, she comes across a book chronicling a gruesome murder that occurred on Christmas Eve years earlier. Though she remembers the tragedy, Jess is shocked to find a connection between her family and those who were murdered. She makes it her mission to solve the cold case. Says Kate,

“These characters and the chilling mystery were fascinating!” (Mariner, 2023)

Worried? Rx: The Serpent & The Wings of Night

Fantasy by Carissa Broadbent

The serpent and the wings of night

“Sometimes when I spend too much time reading the news online, I walk away so worried about the state of the world,” shares Melissa D’Agnese, FIRST Senior Editor. “For a reprieve, I get lost in otherworldly tales like this one.”

Oraya is the human daughter of the Nightborn vampire king. When she must enter the Kejari, a legendary tournament, she makes an alliance with a mysterious rival named Raihn.

“Fans of the Hunger Games will love this epic story,” says Melissa. “It was unputdownable!” (Carissa Broadbent, 2022)

Missing loved ones? Rx: The Summer of Songbirds

Women’s Fiction by Kristy Woodson Harvey

The summer of songbirds

“My girlfriends mean everything to me—and I can never resist a good book about the power of female friendships,” says Patty Bontekoe, FIRST Executive Editor.

In this saga, four women come together to save the summer camp that changed their lives, and rediscover themselves in the process.

“This was a feel-good read,” says Patty. “Witnessing the love among these women—despite their challenges—encouraged me to call up my own friends for a summer get-together.” (Gallery, 2023)

Anxious? Rx: Zero Days

Thriller by Ruth Ware

Zero days

“As a fan of true-crime shows, I find a suspenseful tale is the antidote to my own mundane anxieties,” says Shay Trotter, FIRST Associate Editor. “And this one drew me in!”

Jack and her husband, Gabe, are hired to test companies’ security systems, and she loves the adrenaline from her job. That is, until she finds herself on the run after becoming a suspect for Gabe’s murder—and the only way out is to track down the real killer.

“This had me on the edge of my seat,” says Shay. “I got caught up in all the fictional suspense!” (Gallery/Scout, 2023)

If you missed last month’s FIRST Book Club picks, find it here:

FIRST Book Club: 7 Feel-Great Reads You’ll Love For July 2023

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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