Zibby Owens is the host of the award-winning daily podcast " Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books." Founder of Zibby Books, Zibby Mag, Zibby Classes and more, she also owns an independent bookstore in Santa Monica, California, called Zibby's Bookshop. Author of " Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature," Zibby is a regular contributor to "GMA." Follow her on Instagram at @zibbyowens.
There are just so many great books coming out in April that selecting 15 is close to impossible. But this list reflects a mix of new hits by bestselling, beloved authors, debut novels and memoirs, new voices, different perspectives and a wide range of settings. From a cabin in Maine to Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles, from a Parisian club to a home in Norway, these stories will move, transport and delight the most discerning reader.
"Romantic Comedy" by Curtis Sittenfeld
If you ever wanted a backstage pass to "Saturday Night Live," this is the book for you. It's like "Nora Goes Off Script" by Annabel Monaghan meets "Yes, Please" by Amy Poehler and "Bossypants" by Tina Fey. Plus it's written by the Curtis Sittenfeld, beloved, bestselling author of "Prep," "American Daughter," "Rodham" and others. (And yes, Hillary Clinton references do abound in "Romantic Comedy.") There's COVID-19, parent-loss, career ambition, divorce, love, celebrity and comedy all mixed in this voice-driven, immersive narrative about a sketch writer for a weekly late-night show and the musician who comes to guest host.
"Happy Place" by Emily Henry
Mega-bestselling author du jour Emily Henry ("Beach Read," "People We Meet on Vacation," "Book Lovers") returns with a Maine-based love story about a golden couple that seems picture-perfect. But is any relationship as good as it seems? Truthfully, Harriet and Wyn have broken up but they don't want to ruin their annual trip with their group of friends by telling anyone, so they suffer(?) through the trip sharing a room. What will happen when they're thrust together? Read and find out.
"Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World" by Gretchen Rubin
Yes, there are five senses. We all learn this in pre-school. But we don't necessarily learn how to use them. I became acutely aware of two senses -- taste and smell -- when I lost them, like many of us, to COVID-19. (I don't think my sense of smell has fully returned, but whatever.) Gretchen Rubin, the bestselling author who shows us how to live happier lives ("The Happiness Project") and get to know ourselves better, illustrates the power of each sense and which ones we should each pay more attention to -- and why. By sharing her own experiences, she invites us to try our own. You'll be scratching your chin (and feeling it!) with interest.
"Burst" by Mary Otis
Mary Otis is, quite simply, a beautiful, beautiful writer whose sentences dance on the page. (If I were her, I would have made that sentence better.) Author of the short story collection "Yes, Yes, Cherries" and a writing teacher herself, Otis welcomes us into the dark, troubled relationship between Viva and her alcoholic mother Charlotte. Viva turns to dance to escape until that no longer proves to be a viable outlet. And yet, even as Viva grows up and enters her own relationships, she is enmeshed with her mother. An insanely powerful mother-daughter story, "Burst" will have you rooting for everyone involved.
"Symphony of Secrets" by Brendan Slocumb
Brendan Slocumb's novel "The Violin Conspiracy" is one of my favorites, so I couldn't wait to read "Symphony of Secrets." Like his last book, this one delivers a mystery to be solved, an underdog fighting for the truth, music, and collaboration that leads to a rewriting of history. Bern, a music professor, and his sidekick Eboni are tasked with validating a new work by a famous composer, Fred Delaney, at the request of the Delaney Foundation. But when they start digging, they uncover some huge surprises that not everyone wants unearthed. The narrative alternately unfolds directly for the reader.
"The Dead are Gods: A Memoir" by Eirinie Carson
Oh boy. This is raw, heartfelt, beautiful, soul-opening and real. When Carson loses her best friend Larissa due to an unknown bathtub accident, she is gutted. The two of them had grown up together since high school, lived together in London, modeled together and partied. They understood each other intimately, knowing when each needed space and time alone, trading emails/texts constantly, which end each chapter. But when Carson, based in LA with her husband and toddler, finds out about Larissa's death in Paris, she starts her own journey, physically and emotionally, to understanding and living with such a massive loss. The prose feels like a diary, a love letter to a Black friendship, the grief unprocessed, unpackaged, just out there, in all its pain. I couldn't put it down.
"Blue Hour" by Tiffany Clarke Harrison
This novel reads like an intimate, literary memoir about a photography teacher whose young student gets involved in a race-related act of police brutality. The narrator secretly visits Noah in the hospital, drawn to his healing and suffering, as she simultaneously wrestles with whether she still wants to bring a child into the world after her infertility struggles. Black and Japanese with a white, Jewish husband, can she bring a Black boy into this kind of world? Full of musings, debate, anger, distress and yet, ultimately, hope, "Blue Hour" is incredibly powerful.
"The Soulmate" by Sally Hepworth
What would you do if you lived in a home with a fabulous view including a cliff… but the cliff is where many people take their own lives? In this novel by bestselling author Sally Hepworth, Pippa and Gabe, the couple in the cottage, must deal with a particular jumper who, it turns out, the husband knew personally. But was the victim even a victim!? Was she pushed or did she jump? Could Pippa's soulmate be lying to her? Find out in this fast-paced thrilling read which will surely make a massive splash.
"Perfectly Queer: Facing Big Fears, Living Hard Truths, and Loving Myself Fully Out of the Closet" by Jillian Abby
Coming out can happen at any age. Jillian Abby was living an objectively great life with a husband, two kids, a cat, a home and a thriving business. But she was hiding something to herself and everyone else -- she was actually a lesbian. When, on the cusp of turning 40, she decided to live her life fully and listen to her heart, she had to handle the fallout. Inspiring and page-turning, "Perfectly Queer" is really about owning who you are -- and it's never too late for that.
"Life and Other Love Songs" by Anissa Gray
Trinity's dad just disappears. He went out to lunch with his brother, waved goodbye, and somehow never made it back to his office. His entire family is shocked and confused. Oz hadn't shown signs of depression and there were no clues as to why he didn't return to work or show up to his birthday party that night. As Trinity and her mother Deborah look back and try to find clues, the reader goes along with them from the 1970s on in this beautifully written ode to family, fatherhood and fate.
"Little Earthquakes: A Memoir" by Sarah Mandel
Sarah Mandel, a mom and psychologist, gets diagnosed with cancer when pregnant with her second child. Going into labor knowing she had stage 4 cancer was horrific… but then suddenly, three months of treatment later, the cancer completely disappeared. A trauma therapist, Mandel must now process the biggest trauma of all: her own.
"Mott Street: A Chinese American Family's Story of Exclusion and Homecoming" by Ava Chin
Ava Chin, the only child of a single mother in Queens, decided to embark on a quest to learn her family history, which necessitated wading through the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned Chinese laborers from immigrating to the U.S. for six decades. Chin's in-depth research and family detective work led her to a building on Mott Street -- and a new understanding of herself and her family.
"It. Goes. So. Fast.: The Year of No Do-Overs" by Mary Louise Kelly
Mary Louise Kelly has been on air with NPR's "All Things Considered" throughout her two sons' childhoods, making it quite a challenge to get to things like afternoon sports games. But her work was important! And the kids would be fine! Well, during her older son's last year before leaving for college and after the death of her beloved dad, Kelly decides the time is now to show up, to do the mom stuff, and to enjoy it all before it's too late. This voice-driven, relatable, heartfelt and emotional story will make any parent tear up.
"Things I Wish I Told My Mother" by Susan Patterson, Susan DiLallo and James Patterson
When Laurie's mom has a heart attack, she impulsively offers to take her mom ("Dr. Liz," an accomplished hot-shot OB-GYN) to Paris when she gets out of the hospital. So, off they go on a romp through Paris and Norway with family visits, sleepovers, a love(?) affair, ER visits, and more. Readers will feel like they're going on their own mother-daughter trip as Laurie, an ad exec, takes stock of her life and gets to know her mother in a whole new way. The ending, though, is unexpected.
"I Could Live Here Forever" by Hanna Halperin
This novel is so good and follows closely on the heels of Hanna Halperin's prior novel (which I also loved), "Something Wild." There's just something about Halperin's writing style and how she captures difficult, troubled characters -- and how their closest relationships are most affected by their personality deficiencies. In this tale, Leah falls in love with recovering heroin addict Charlie, only to be drawn into his inconsistencies and self-destruction, which she is almost too enmeshed to identify.
"You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir" by Maggie Smith
This is the most poetic, beautiful depiction of a marriage unraveling that I've ever read. Maggie Smith takes us through her divorce in a way so intimate, so original and so immersive that we feel like we're literally going through it with her. Author of "Keep Moving," which became a blockbuster bestseller during the pandemic, Smith is leading the way for women to reinvent themselves, to reclaim their identity and to forge through the toughest times. I was so obsessed with this book that after I finished reading it, I Googled Smith see what else I could find. It's as sensational as the cover. Instead of calling this a coming-of-age tale, let's call it a coming-to-the-end-of-an-age tale. The sense of loss is often as profound as what we enjoyed in the first place.