Top 15 Reese’s Book Club Picks According to a Book Reviewer and Reading Nerd

Top 15 Reese’s Book Club Picks According to a Book Reviewer and Reading Nerd

Even though I’ve been reviewing books for almost ten years, I still sometimes struggle to figure out what to read next. (So many fabulous options, so little time.) Whenever I can’t decide what to add to my Kindle queue, I turn to a few trusted sources for literary inspiration—one of which is Reese’s Book Club. The mission statement of Reese’s Book Club reads, “Each month, Reese [Witherspoon], our founder (and book-lover-in-chief) chooses a book with a woman at the center of the story. There’s not a formula to the books we spotlight, and we like it that way. We make our choices thoughtfully and look for ways to deepen our connection to books, authors, and ourselves.” And y’all, there are lots of great picks across a variety of genres, which is why I’ve narrowed down my top 15 books—in no particular order—out of the nearly 100 titles Reese and her team have selected.

1. Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (April ’23 Pick)
In this modern, compulsively readable take on a rom-com, Sally is a 30-something who’s a writer at a weekly sketch comedy show a la Saturday Night Live. She’s working on a sketch based on her officemate, a funny and smart but aesthetically average guy who’s somehow gotten engaged to a gorgeous actress. Her argument is that the reverse would never happen. Enter Noah, an ultra-popular—and handsome—musician who’s serving as host and musical guest on the show and quickly proves himself to be smart, sensitive, and suspiciously interested in spending one-on-one time with Sally. For fans of Nora Ephron and 30 Rock, Romantic Comedy is deliciously charming and whip-smart.

2. Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng (October ’22 Pick)
Set in a dystopian near future, Celeste Ng’s (Little Fires Everywhere) October 2022 novel centers on 12-year-old Bird, who lives with his father, a former college linguistics professor. His mother, a Chinese American poet, vanished without a trace three years earlier, around the time her work became considered controversial amidst the passing of an act opposing foreign cultural influences. Out of the blue, Bird receives a mysterious letter that he knows is from his mother and sets off to find her. It’s a dangerous mission, but Bird’s resolve is unflappable. Traveling to New York City, where the letter was postmarked, he connects with an underground network of librarians dedicated to rescuing disappeared books that went against the xenophobic act. Our Missing Hearts is a departure from Ng’s previous novels, but her talent is as apparent as ever. The novel shines when narrated by its innocent, precocious protagonist. Bird is wise beyond his years, holding little to no resentment toward his mother for leaving and maintaining a modicum of hope that they’ll be a regular family again someday.

3. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (May ’17 Pick)
The inaugural pick in Reese’s Book Club, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine centers on the titular Eleanor, almost 30 and living alone in Glasgow. She is, for lack of a better term, quirky. Over the course of the book, author Gail Honeyman slowly rolls out details of Eleanor’s traumatic past, including stints in multiple foster homes, a substantial scar on her cheek, and weekly phone conversations with her “Mummy,” who’s currently incarcerated. Basically, she’s spent her entire life stuck in a rut, until she meets Raymond, a gentle, easygoing colleague who becomes her first real friend. At first, she considers him slovenly and unkempt, but he’s pretty much the only person in the office—or in her life in general—who treats her like a normal person. It’s funny, sad, and satisfying to see Eleanor begin to creep out of her shell, and, without giving too much away, I will say that while her entrée to the modern world is bumpy and at times tragic, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

4. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (December ’19 Pick)
This bestseller tells the story of Emira Tucker, a young Black woman, and Alix Chamberlain, a white woman whose children Emira babysits. One evening, Emira gets racially profiled at a grocery store while watching Alix’s 3-year-old. As the story unfolds, questions around race, white privilege, and tokenism emerge as the two women grapple with their identities and their relationship to one another. Though it was published a few months before the global reckoning with anti-Black racism and violence in early 2020, Such a Fun Age is as relevant today as it was four years ago.

5. Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo (October ’21 Pick)
Imagine growing up knowing nothing about your father except his name. Maybe he’s a doctor or a banker or even a prolific artist. Perhaps, as in the case of Sankofa, he’s…a dictator in a faraway country. This novel from Chibundu Onuzo (Welcome to Lagos) follows Anna, a 48-year-old mixed-race British woman who feels totally alone after her mother dies and her cheating husband moves out of the house. Unsure of who she is, Anna decides to dig into her father’s life and learns about a man who came from West Africa to London to study in the ’70s. Falling in with a crowd of political revolutionaries, he became radicalized, eventually returning to Africa and reinventing himself as a firebrand who founded a liberation group that promptly became labeled as a terrorist organization. The bi-continental novel explores issues of power, corruption, racism, colorism, colonialism, and more. Perhaps most compelling, though, is the way it explores Anna’s mixed-race identity; She is seen in England as Black and in Africa as white. With echoes of Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage and Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, Sankofa is a vivid exploration of finding one’s place in the world while confronting the demons brought on by our parentage.

6. The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (May ’21 Pick)
This page-turner begins with a woman named Hannah, who is madly in love with Owen, her husband of one year, and determined to build a relationship with his teenager, Bailey. Despite the tension, the blended family is a fairly happy, low-drama one. That is, until Hannah receives a note from Owen saying “Protect her,” before he vanishes into thin air. Then, Bailey finds a bag full of cash in her locker—the same day the FBI raids her dad’s software startup on suspicion of fraud. The twists and turns, suspenseful as they are, take a back seat to the budding relationship between stepmother and stepdaughter. Hannah and Bailey’s path to defining their roles in relation to one another comes at an unfortunate time, but it’s a solid reminder that mother-daughter bonds (or stepmother-stepdaughter, as it were) don’t always fit into the cookie-cutter Gilmore Girls fantasy.

7. Yellowface by R.F. Kuang (July ’23 Pick)
In this wry critique of diversity in the publishing industry, June Hayward and Athena Liu are authors with disparate levels of success; Athena is a literary darling while June’s career is flailing. So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she steals Athena’s just-finished experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I and passes it off as her own under the name Juniper Song. But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s unearned success down around her. In telling the story of the lengths June will go to protect her secret, Kuang explores questions of diversity, racism, cultural appropriation, and the problems of social media.

8. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (March ’18 Pick)
Nikki is the black sheep in a strict British Sikh family. After dropping out of law school, she begins teaching a writing class for Punjabi widows that quickly evolves into an erotic storytelling workshop…which is as kooky as it sounds. Part mystery, part romance, Jaswal’s terrific third novel celebrates how women of different generations can find common ground in the erotic fantasies both real and imagined.

9. Seven Days in June by Tia Williams (June ’21 Pick)
Speaking of erotica, Tia Williams’s (The Perfect Find) Seven Days in June follows Eva, a single mom and bestselling erotica writer, and Shane, a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning novelist, who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York, where Eva lives. When the two meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising the eyebrows of the Black literati. What no one knows is that 15 years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. Over the next seven days, amidst a steamy summer, Eva and Shane reconnect, but will it be forever this time?

10. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory (January ’19 Pick)
Though Reese’s Book Club didn’t choose my favorite of Jasmine Guillory’s smart, sweet, and feminist romances (The Wedding Date), The Proposal is similarly charming and absolutely worth a read. When freelance writer Nik goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, whom she’s only been dating for five months, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. But saying no isn’t the hard part—it’s having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans. Luckily, Carlos, a handsome doctor who’s also at the game, comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. The two then embark on a whirlwind rebound, but when their situationship starts to get messier, will one of them be smart enough to know when enough is enough?

11. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (May ’20 Pick)
Suspense lovers will hang on every word of Lucy Foley’s (The Paris Apartment) atmospheric thriller about a wedding gone wrong. On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate the marriage of a handsome and charming television star and a smart and ambitious magazine publisher. Everything is lovely, until the Champagne is popped and resentments and jealousies bubble to the surface. Then, someone turns up dead, and perhaps unsurprisingly, everyone in attendance is hiding a secret.

12. The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell (December ’22 Pick)
Despite not being a big historical fiction person, I tore through Maggie O’Farrell’s 2020 novel Hamnet, a fictional account of William Shakespeare’s son. Her 2022 New York Times bestseller, The Marriage Portrait, is similarly gripping. In 1550s Florence, Italy, Lucrezia, the third daughter of the grand duke, is free to live life on her own terms. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to a powerful duke, Lucrezia is thrust into the limelight as the duke asks for her hand in marriage and her father accepts on her behalf. As she tries to make sense of her new situation—and her new husband—it becomes clear that Lucrezia has one duty: to provide an heir. This somewhat true story is about a resilient young woman’s battle for survival.

13. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (July ’23 Pick)
In true Ann Patchett fashion, Tom Lake is a subtle yet poignant meditation on love (and how it changes over decades), family, and getting older. During the pandemic, Lara’s three daughters return to the family’s orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg Lara—who had a short-lived career as an actress—to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara talks about her youth, her daughters examine their own lives and their relationships with their mother. Hopeful and nostalgic, Tom Lake explores what it means to be happy when it feels like the world is falling apart.

14. Untamed by Glennon Doyle (March ’20 Pick)
This non-cheesy motivational book from bestselling author and speaker Glennon Doyle is equal parts intimate memoir and wake-up call. It’s the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. Doyle writes about navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and learning to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries and unleash our truest, wildest selves. Basically, it’s a self-help book for folks who bristle at the idea of a self-help book.

15. Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen (June ’22 Pick)
When Chinese American lawyer Ava reconnects with her college roommate, Winnie, a woman from mainland China, Ava finds her nothing like she used to be. Previously shy and awkward, Winnie is now supremely confident and dripping in luxury goods (impossible-to-get orange Birkin included). The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit luxury handbag scheme and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business—someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes, Ava is left to face the consequences.

Source: Penguin Books, Random House, G.P. Putnam’s Sons

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