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

Our staff picks for the funniest, swoon-worthiest and most thrilling books of the summer

Welcome, fellow readers, to the very first FIRST for Women monthly book club!

Here at FIRST, we’re all about a good story. And 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 July 2023 — from uplifting romance to energizing thriller to soothing self-help. We’d also love to hear from you what books you’re reading this month and how they made you feel!

Overwhelmed? Rx: The True Love Experiment

A romance by Christina Lauren

“These days, it feels like life is an endless list of to-do’s, with no good surprises in store,” admits Alexandra Pollock, FIRST Deputy Editor. “So I took a day to settle in with this novel in hopes that it would infuse me with excitement—and it did!”

When romance novelist Felicity Chen runs into documentary filmmaker Connor Prince, they’re both at a crossroads: Felicity, despite her success, has never been in love, and Connor is looking for a romantic lead for a new reality TV show. But when Felicity signs on to be Connor’s girl—on the show, that is—the pair begin to wonder if maybe the love that’s been evading them is suddenly right before their eyes.

“Smart, funny and steamy, this read was perfect from the start,” says Alexandra. “It gave me the boost I was looking for.” (Gallery, 2023)

Feeling blue? Rx: The Secret Book of Flora Lea

Historical Fiction by Patti Callahan Henry

“Feeling down after a small tiff with a dear friend recently, I needed a mental break,” says Kristina Mastrocola FIRST Senior Editor. “So I picked up this beautiful story, and it lifted my mood!”

In 1960s London, Hazel is working in a bookstore, when she receives a children’s novel in the mail. It’s the manuscript of the fairy tale she invented as a 14-year-old to soothe her 5-year-old sister, Flora, during the Blitz. Evacuated to the countryside, Hazel and Flora were living with Bridie Aberdeen and her teenage son, Harry. Then Flora went missing. The arrival of this book sends Hazel to find answers about her sister and other people she thought she’d never see again.

“I was swept away by the enduring relationships,” says Kristina, “from the unbreakable bond between sisters to the ‘lost’ love we never really leave behind.” (Atria, 2023)

Frustrated? Rx: Murder on Mustang Beach

A Cozy Mystery by Alicia Bessette

“I was feeling frustrated that none of my summer plans were panning out like I’d hoped,” confesses Lauren Blum, FIRST Associate Editor. “So I decided to take matters into my own hands, and slip off to an ocean paradise right from my grassy backyard for the perfect escape!”

A quiet Outer Banks island beloved by honeymooners gets flipped upside down when a newlywed vacationing on the island is murdered. Fueled by a mysterious and interesting piece of information from a customer, bookshop owner Callie Padget sets out on her own investigation. But as Callie continues sleuthing, more and more suspicion is cast upon her soon-to-be boyfriend, Toby.

“With gorgeous beachy scenery, a little romance and exciting twists and turns, I couldn’t put it down,” says Lauren. “It was like taking a day trip without having to leave my yard, and made me feel better about my other canceled plans!” (Berkley, 2023)

Emotionally depleted? Rx: A Court of Honey and Ash

Fantasy by Shannon Mayer and Kelly St. Clare

“I recently visited my parents to help care for my ailing father, and when I’d start to feel overwhelmed, I’d take a short break to dive into this book,” shares Carey Ostergard, FIRST Executive Editor.

When Underhill—the ancestral home of the fae—shatters, Alli a half-human half-fae girl has to find the solution before both worlds are destroyed.

Raves Carey, “It had a rich, unique world and lots of action that helped me really manage my stress and sadness.” (Hijinks Ink, 2021)

Need a vacation? Rx: A Little Ray of Sunshine

Chick lit by Kristan Higgins

“I was drawn to this book by its breezy, pretty cover, but the story about love and what it means to be a family is what kept me engaged,” says Patty Bontekoe, FIRST Executive Editor.

Unbeknownst to her family, Monica had a baby when she was 18, and put him up for adoption. So 18 years later, when he walks into the family bookstore she runs, her entire life (and that of his adoptive mother) is turned upside down.

“I loved this emotional story, which had me laughing, crying and feeling for both moms,” says Patty. “I really didn’t want it to end!” (Berkley, 2023)

Lonely? Rx: A Table for Two

Women’s Fiction by Sheryl Lister

“I found myself missing loved ones I haven’t seen in a while and a friend suggested this book,” says Melissa D’Agnese, FIRST Senior Editor. “It’s about ‘found family’ and it made me smile!”

Serenity Wheeler loves hosting supper club with her best friends. But when she invites her friend’s handsome brother, Gabriel Cunningham, they butt heads. Is there something more—like a true connection—sizzling beneath the surface?

Says Melissa, “Full of small-town charm and heart, this book was sweet company!” (Forever, 2023)

Tired of tech? Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity

Self-Help by Gloria Mark, Ph.D.

“After spending my week glued to a screen, I enjoy having a digital detox on Saturdays,” says Maggie Dillard, FIRST Associate Editor. “And I knew this book would inspire me to put my devices down more often!”

Psychologist Gloria Mark offers tips to minimize the damage that screens do on our brain, based on her research into how technology affects our attention span.

“This was an engrossing, timely read,” says Maggie. “I now feel confident in my ability to unplug more and restore focus.” (Hanover Square, 2023)

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

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