January guest editor Radhika Sanghani’s 30 Things I Love About Myself (Jan 4, 2022) was inspired after she herself spent a night in jail — she used the time to meditate and reflect, turning a negative situation into something positive for herself. It’s a funny, relatable, feel-good read to kickstart your new year, all about learning to honestly embrace yourself, flaws and all.

In 30 Things I Love About Myself, Nina Mistry is so not thirty and thriving: she has hit rock bottom. It’s her thirtieth birthday, and she’s locked in a jail cell in her pajamas. There’s no distraction of social media, wine, friends or carbs—just the time to reflect on how she’s screwed up her life. Ex-fiance? Check. Moving back into her childhood home with her depressed older brother and uptight, traditional Indian mother? Check. Stalled career as a freelance journalist, and friends too busy with their own careers to check in? Check.

Suddenly, destiny calls when a book lands in her cell: How to Fix Your Shitty Life by Loving Yourself. So Nina makes a life-changing decision to embark on a self-love journey: by her next birthday, she’s going to find thirty things she loves about herself. Soon, Nina is making new friendships, embarking on daring romances, and finding her passion. With an open conversation about beauty ideals, mental health and racism, this novel is part inspirational self-help, part entertaining escape.

Radhika Sanghani has a lot in common with Nina, being an influential body-positivity campaigner and a British-Indian journalist who writes about race, social issues, and current events. Her first two YA novels Virgin and Not That Easy were called by Joan Rivers “one of the funniest things I’ve read in years.” And Radhika’s new book is sure to be the perfect pick to cure winter blues, stir up some laughs, and inspire self love.

Read on for our exclusive interview with Radhika Sanghani about her “30 things” favorites, writing about beauty ideals and mental health, and being a body-positivity campaigner. 

You were inspired to write this novel after you yourself spent a night in jail. Did a certain book fall into your hands, just like character Nina’s, that made you want to turn things around? Or was it more “loosely” inspired?

My night in a jail cell inspired me because, like Nina, I’d also just gone through a break-up and I was desperate not to feel the pain of the loneliness. But sitting in that cell forced me to accept just how lonely I was – and it started a self-love journey for me. But in terms of a book helping me – that also did happen!! I can’t remember if it was before being arrested or after, but it happened when I met my ex to swap our stuff back. He gave me a book he thought was mine. I’d never seen it before, and he said it must be one of his old flatmates’, and I may as well keep it. The crazy thing is that it was a self-help book all about the importance of loving yourself. It felt like a sign from the universe, and it’s partly what inspired me to have Nina find a self-help book of her own to help her on her journey.

What are a few of your favorites out of the “30 things”?

I love that Nina learns to love how her life is a rollercoaster and appreciate the downs as well as the ups. And also that Nina loves how she lives her life on her own terms (‘I love that my life is my own.’)

This book tackles topics like racism, mental health, beauty ideals, online trolls, and more. For you, what was the most complicated part of writing the story?

The hardest part for me was writing about mental health – in terms of her brother suffering from depression, but also when Nina herself is experiencing loneliness and other issues. They’re very dark, painful topics and I wanted to write about them in a realistic way, but also with a lot of humor because that’s something I bring into everything – even dark, difficult topics. I had to be really careful to get the balance right.

What do you find most difficult about being a body-positivity campaigner?

I love being a body-positivity campaigner, but I find there’s an expectation that I should always be happy with myself and because I’m human, sometimes I’m not. Like everyone, I have days where I am stronger than others. And sometimes it’s hard to always feel positive about every aspect of my body! But I’m learning that’s okay too and it’s important for me to be as honest about that as I am about my self-love.

What are 3 of your favorite books that inspire self-love?

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

What are you currently working on?

My fourth novel which is all about three sisters who hate each other but are forced to come together for two weeks when their dad dies – a dad they thought had died decades ago. It’s a bit of a family mystery, but also a comedy and an inspirational read about self-growth!

Don’t miss Radhika Sanghani’s Ten Book Challenge: Book-It List!