Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.
Emily Henry can turn romance tropes—enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract, friends-to-lovers—into bestselling gold. Her latest, Happy Place (Berkley), takes on exes who fakedate their way through an annual friend reunion in Maine. (Henry’s real life happy place: Lake Michigan.) Her novels People We Meet on Vacation and Book Lovers are both being adapted for film. Before writing hit romance novels, Henry wrote young adult fiction.
Raised in Kentucky and Ohio and based in Cincinnati, Henry studied creative writing and dance (she was on dance team in high school) at Hope College in Michigan, took a job as a technical writer to help pay off student loans instead of going to grad school, has a periwinkle-colored kitchen and a dog named Dottie, writes a newsletter called Emily’s Grocery List, bought a green velvet sofa when she sold Beach Read, and deleted TikTok twice until she figured it out.
Likes: Tim Horton’s honey dip Timbits and Home Goods; whimsical prints; the drive through Muir Woods and Muir Beach; banter from the Thin Man movies and the romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail (among many). Dislikes: Being bad at things.
The book that…
…kept me up way too late:
The Family Game by Catherine Steadman. It’s creepy, it’s mysterious, it’s bloody, it’s fun. I needed to know what happened next.
…made me weep uncontrollably:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. The beauty of Ishiguro’s writing alone could make me tear up, but this near-future grounded sci-fi about what makes us human broke me.
…I recommend over and over again:
Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan. Ryan is one of my favorite romance writers publishing today, and this book is a gorgeous, nuanced take on a second-chance love story, between two people who’ve already been through hell together.
…I read in one sitting, it was that good:
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. This one’s just so warm and fun; I wanted to bask in it as long as possible, but I couldn’t put it down.
…currently sits on my nightstand:
The Enchanted Hacienda by J.C. Cervantes. This is a contemporary coming-of-age story, with a sprinkling of magic, that’s one of my most anticipated reads of the year.
…I’d pass on to my kid:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I think L’Engle is that rare adult who gets kids—this book made me into a reader.
…made me laugh out loud:
Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane. I could’ve chosen any McFarlane book for this one—she always makes me cry and laugh aloud.
…I’d like turned into a TV show:
The Change by Kirsten Miller. This was pitched to me as The Witches of Eastwick meets Big Little Lies, and that’s incredibly accurate. It’s an inherently cinematic read with a ton of rich settings and loads of atmosphere.
…broke my heart:
This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub. Sure, there’s time-traveling back to New York in the 90s, but really, this book is a love story between a woman and her aging father.
…has a sex scene that will make you blush:
The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas. This might not make the more seasoned romance readers blush, but it was actually the first historical romance I ever read, and I’ve since re-read it no fewer than five times.
…features a character I love to hate:
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. I love all Grady Hendrix’s books, partly because, while there’s always some horrifying monster, the real villain is usually human. The husbands in this book are categorically The Worst.
…is a master class on dialogue:
Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan. Whelan’s an actor and award-winning audiobook narrator so it’s no surprise she’s got such an ear for dialogue, but still, the banter in this made me feel like I should consider retiring.
…describes a house I’d want to live in:
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna. This is one of my coziest reads of the last year, and I find myself thinking about its enchanted setting all the time.
Bonus question: If I could live in any library or bookstore in the world, it would be:
Probably a 90s-era Media Play, honestly. I have intense feelings of nostalgia for Media Play. (RIP)
The literary organization I support:
Riza Cruz is an editor and writer based in New York.