What Elena Nicolaou of Refinery29 reads

Since becoming the primary books writer at Refinery29, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to read cutting-edge fiction and non-fiction. When I’m not working, my reading taste is eclectic. If I had time, I would read it all, from long biographies to romances. Here are five books from a variety of genres that got me very excited over the past year.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Prediction: An American Marriage is going to become the book club book of the year. A year into their marriage, Celestial and Roy’s happiness is disrupted when Roy is falsely accused of rape and imprisoned for 12 years. Both of them are devastated. But while Roy’s behind bars and his life is on hold, Celestial’s personal life goes on — and so does her heart. The book is narrated by three characters, each of whom is right, and wrong, and hurting. Jones never takes sides or judges her characters’ choices. But you, the reader, might feel the urge to. Debate freely at book club.

Stealing the Show: How Women are Revolutionizing Television by Joy Press

Stealing the Show: How Women are Revolutionizing Television by Joy Press

TV is a thermometer for the cultural moment. And, as Joy Press reveals in this incredibly well-researched and well-written book, the advent of women-led shows since the ‘80s has tied into women’s empowerment. Press interviews creators like Amy Sherman-Palladino, Jenji Kohan, Roseanne Barr, and Shonda Rimes, and vividly conjures up how these women worked as leaders. This book is a must for any TV and pop culture lover.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

For the three weeks I was reading Annihilation (it’s a short book but a slow burn), I was the most annoying person in my loved ones’ lives. All I could do was talk about the book, because it was unlike any other sci-fi novel I’d ever read. The story centers on five women, chosen for expertise in their respective fields, who venture into a mysterious landscape called Area X, which may or may not have a mind and will of its own. Whereas most sci-fi books gradually explain away all the mysteries in their world, VanderMeer lets the unknownness of Area X linger; he doesn’t answer all your questions. An Annihilation movie adaptation drops on February 23.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Kundera’s book knocked me out. The classics are classics for a reason, I guess. At the heart of this story, set in the 1970s in Prague, are Tomas and Tereza, a couple who spends most of their time loving and torturing each other. Kundera abandons all the rules of conventional storytelling. He tells, not shows. He turns characters into puppets that demonstrate his larger points. But by doing so, he achieves some very powerful truths on love, and relationships, and the patterns that become our lives. It’s a beautiful read.

The Lone Pilgrim by Laurie Colwin

The Lone Pilgrim by Laurie Colwin

The writer and chef Laurie Colwin has a cult-like following, and I’m here to initiate more people into it. The characters in The Lone Pilgrim are women in various relationships and stages of the heart. Colwin writes of love and intimacy with such intelligence and accuracy, but still makes room for kindness and lightness. These are not dark stories, but they are true ones. Like a good rom-com, you will come to this book again, and again, and again — I have.

Elena Nicolaou

Elena is an entertainment writer at Refinery29, where she writes about books, movies, TV, and whatever else she's obsessed with at the moment. Find her book picks on Instagram, too.

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