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 December 2023 — from science fiction to laugh-out-loud rom-coms and heartfelt historical fiction.
We’d also love to hear what books you’re reading this month and how they made you feel!
Dealing with a hurting heart? Rx: Uncrushed
Christian by Beth Marshall
“During this time of year, I face bittersweet feelings,” says Maggie Dillard, FIRST Associate Editor. “It’s a special holiday time, but I often find myself thinking of family memories gone by, so a friend recommended this book for a dose of hope.” Without any resources to turn to after losing family members, author Beth Marshall went through a dark grief period. But now, with wisdom and encouragement, she helps those who are grieving believe that God can heal your heart again. “Each page was a breath of fresh air,” says Maggie. “Beth’s book is a manual of hope for the crushed in spirit — it’s like a hug!” (End Game, 2023)
Missing the love of a furry friend? Rx: The Purest Bond
Nonfiction by Jen Golbeck and Stacey Colino
“I come from a big extended family of dog lovers,” says Melissa D’Agnese, FIRST Senior Editor. “In fact, I babysit my ‘fur nephew’ — a golden retriever named Banks — often, and as soon as I saw this cover, I snagged it!” In this feel-good guide, readers are taken along for an exploration of the profound bond between humans and our furry friends. With real-life stories and scientific studies, the book examines the deep benefits dogs have on our overall well-being. Says Melissa, “This is a fascinating, warm read for dog lovers.” (Atria, 2023)
Caught in a worry spiral? Rx: The Inn at Holiday Bay
Cozy mystery by Kathi Daley
“As Christmas grows closer, my worries soar,” admits Lauren Blum, FIRST Associate Editor. “In an attempt to take my mind off of all the upcoming events on my calendar, I decided to pick up this cozy read, and it was just the comfort I needed.” After suffering a personal tragedy, Abby Sullivan buys a huge old seaside inn she has never even seen before, packs up her life in San Francisco and moves to Holiday Bay, Maine. Then one holiday season, one of the inn’s guests, Mylie, finds a letter to Santa inside a nutcracker that Abby recently purchased from a local antiques store. Now, Abby must search to figure out who the child is who wrote the list. Says Lauren, “With a pretty setting, intriguing plot and curious clues, this read allowed me to relax and enjoy myself amid the holiday rush.” (Independently published, 2022)
Feeling under the weather? Rx: A Love Catastrophe
Romance by Helena Hunting
“For the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with an ongoing sinus infection,” sighs Lauren Stachiw, FIRST Beauty Director. “To take my mind off my sniffles, I cozied up on my couch with a cup of hot herbal tea and downloaded this charmingly fun rom-com.” Known on the internet as the “Kitty Whisperer,” Kitty Hart has a successful cat-sitting business that keeps her busy, leaving her no time to date. Her latest client, Miles Thorn, is the exact opposite of her type — and he doesn’t even like cats! — but he enlists her help in taking care of his mother’s mischievous cat. As Kitty and Miles spend more time together, they bond over issues they’ve dealt with and soon find themselves drawn to each other. “This tale totally tugged on my heartstrings,” says Lauren. “I felt myself smiling as I read.” (Forever, 2023)
Hate long traveling days? Rx: And They Called It Camelot
Historical fiction by Stephanie Marie Thornton
“I was gearing up for a long travel day, and this novel about Jackie O and JFK looked captivating,” says Melissa D’Agnese, FIRST Senior Editor. “And it really was!” The story follows the First Lady through her romance and marriage to JFK up to his assassination and beyond. Jackie is then forced to pick up the fragments of her life and forge a new identity that is all her own. “Reading this felt like reading a diary,” muses Melissa. “It was emotional, elegant, and fascinating.” (Berkley, 2020)
Saddened by the news? Rx: On Earth as It Is on Television
Science fiction by Emily Jane
“I almost never reach for science-fiction stories, but after reading one too many disheartening news articles, my friend recommended this book — she said it would get my mind off current events,” shares Kate Arcell, FIRST Associate Editor. “And it turned out to be just the retreat from reality that I needed!” The sudden arrival of alien spaceships hovering over Earth sends the entire planet into chaos. When the same ships depart seemingly without doing anything, the fallout leads everyone to wonder what they want and need in life. Blaine begins to question his marriage, Heather realizes her dissatisfaction with her life and Oliver snaps out of a comatose state — and all of their lives will never be the same. “Despite being a book about an alien invasion, this story was incredibly relatable and touching!” cheers Kate. “Plus, the break from reality allowed me to fully recharge.” (Hyperion Avenue, 2023)
Feeling overwhelmed? Rx: Intermission
Women’s fiction by Phyllis R. Dixon
“After weeks of working around the clock, I was craving a glamorous escape,” says Carey Ostergard, FIRST Executive Editor. “And this nostalgic tale about a ’90s pop music group fit my mood to a tee!” The story follows four women, Angel, Carmen, Doreen and Jade — once known as the pop music group The Diamonds. But a betrayal broke up the group years ago. Now, in their midlife, a reunion offers each of them a fresh start, and they must depend on one another more than ever to shine bright. Raves Carey, “What a spectacularly fun ride!” (Dafina, 2023)
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