Zibby Owens is the host of the award-winning podcast Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books and an author. She founded Zibby Books, Zibby Mag, and Zibby Audio. Listen to many of these authors on her podcast throughout November. She is a monthly contributor to "Good Morning America."
Thanksgiving is coming and that means it's time to pack a stack of books and head home, whatever that means to you. What to bring? Here are 15 novels and memoirs that are perfect for the holidays.
Family dramas, stories about loss and love, and using humor to get us through dark times are hallmarks of these titles. Whether you're eager for time with long-lost relatives or happily ensconced alone doing remote work, you'll need some books to keep you company this season. Here you go. You're welcome.
"Someday, Maybe" by Onyi Nwabineli
A debut novel by Onyi Nwabineli, the founder of Black Pens, a writing retreat for Black women, "Someday, Maybe" is what happens when the worst day ever really occurs. Written in the first person, this novel depicts a woman who finds her seemingly happy husband dead on New Year's by suicide. It's about the aftermath of horrific loss and the power of family and friends to get you through just about anything. Written in accessible, clever prose, this novel will have you falling in love with the main character -- and calling your girlfriends after finishing the book.
"Someday, Maybe" is also the "Good Morning America" Book Club pick for November. Read an excerpt here.
"Meredith, Alone" by Claire Alexander
Meredith works at home, remotely, with only her cat to keep her company. And she's fine with that. All she needs is her online support group and visits from her best friend. Yet memories of her traumatic childhood keep popping up -- which come to the fore when her sister comes to visit. A novel that examines our most private spaces and what it means to be alone versus lonely, this charming, thought-provoking debut novel will be a big hit.
"The Personal Assistant" by Kimberly Belle
This is why every potential employee should have a background check. Kimberly Belle paints a troubling picture of what a personal assistant is capable of. Influencer Alex needed to hire AC to manage her bonanza of a career. But when a post of hers goes viral -- badly -- AC, the assistant, disappears. And then there's a murder. Could her assistant be part of it? And is Alex next? This thriller by USA Today bestselling author Kimberly Belle will have you on the edge of your seat -- and calling a staffing firm next time.
"Fatty Fatty Boom Boom: A Memoir of Food, Fat & Family" by Rabia Chaudry
Chaudry's experience at Weight Watchers was just one moment of relatability in her deeply personal memoir about her body, her insecurities, her family, and even her skin. Chaudry weaves in her native Pakistani cuisine, including recipes at the end, and stories of her Muslim immigrant family in the U.S. and Lahore. As it turns out, cultural norms about what beauty means and what the ideal body is traverse oceans and continents; the pressure from family to be a certain shape and size have never felt more universal than in this heartfelt memoir.
"A Coastline is an Immeasurable Thing: A Memoir Across Three Continents" by Mary-Alice Daniel
Mary-Alice Daniel writes beautifully about the state of "restlessness, rootlessness" that plagues so many immigrants. Living at 32 addresses across multiple continents from Nigeria to the U.S., Daniel shares details about her childhood, from her dad coming to pick her up barefoot from school to having an AK-47 pointed at her one trip back from London. She makes her journey through lands and landmines poignant and instructive. As she writes so eloquently, she is "a poet of place."
"A Heart That Works" by Rob Delaney
Prepare to cry. Actor Rob Delaney shares minute-by-minute his experience of grappling with the illness of and then losing his son Henry, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 1. Delaney writes in an incredibly raw, open, gutted way about his thoughts, feelings and reactions to all of it, occasionally finding the humor, but usually still reverberating from the shock. Through his words, the reader can watch Delaney literally process this trauma. Why? Delaney says that he wants everyone to be shaken by it, to know it could happen, that it did happen. This is one of the most powerful stories of loss ever. I can't stop thinking about it.
"The Lindbergh Nanny" by Mariah Fredericks
Based on the popular true crime of the Charles Lindbergh Jr. kidnapping case of 1932, this historical novel centers on the nanny embroiled in the scandal. The actual case captivated the nation for years. How could the son of the aviator who crossed the Atlantic have been stolen from their New Jersey home? The nanny, Betty Gow, immediately became a suspect, as did her boyfriend. While Gow was exonerated, author Mariah Fredericks casts doubt on her innocence in this propulsive read.
"I Wouldn't Do That If I Were Me: Modern Blunders and Modest Triumphs (but Mostly Blunders)" by Jason Gay
Jason Gay is one of my (and my husband's) favorite writers. We read his column in the Wall Street Journal religiously; he makes any sport relatable and hilarious. His second book made us both laugh so hard, I literally cried. (Mascara down my face crying laughing.) But while some stories that Gay recounts, like a misfired text that caused a panic, are light-hearted, others, like his mother's loneliness and life with Gay's cat, strike a true emotional chord. Gay is the Seinfeld of parenthood.
"The Islands: Stories" by Dionne Irving
Immigration and assimilation are potent themes in novelist Dionne Irving's first collection of stories about a group of Jamaican women who have spread all over the world to escape their homeland. From a mother at a posh school tasked with bringing food to International Day to a couple fleeing San Francisco, these tales from the 1950s to today, from Jamaica and Panama to the U.S and beyond, are written in accessible, warm prose that captivates the reader.
"My First Popsicle: An Anthology of Food and Feelings" by Zosia Mamet
I love food. And I feel my feelings intensely. For anyone else who has saved a meaningful recipe, struggled with their relationship with food, remembered a break-up by what they were eating (a meatball in one contributor's case), or treasured a food experience, this wonderful, immersive collection of essays and short reminiscences edited by actor Zosia Mamet from "Girls" with contributions by superstars like Stephanie Danler, is absolutely essential. Pair this book with an apron or potholder with a restaurant gift certificate and you've got yourself a perfect gift.
"Sweet Success: A Simple Recipe to Turn Your Passion into Profit" by Candace Nelson
Business stories fascinate me. Candace Nelson's journey building Sprinkles into a booming cupcake empire is one of the most interesting; she not only built a business but also created a category of indulgence. Before Sprinkles, single-serve cupcake outposts weren't a mainstream phenomenon. Now? Nelson has even hosted a show -- "Cupcake Wars" -- about them. Her personal story of entrepreneurship and overcoming odds is absolutely inspiring and, like her cupcakes, delectable.
"We All Want Impossible Things" by Catherine Newman
A novel about a friend going through her best friend's journey through hospice doesn't sound remotely funny. But it is. Catherine Newman takes all the tiny, day-to-day experiences and indignities around hospice care and makes them humorous and meaningful. Ultimately, this is a story about a woman, not about her loss. It's about how to parent through hard times, how sometimes sex is what the doctor ordered, how to take care of someone when the end is inevitable, and how to laugh through the darkest of times. This is one of my new favorite books -- a smart friendship story that made me laugh and cry. Truly.
"No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful" by Paulina Porizkova
I absolutely loved this heartfelt memoir by former model Paulina Porizkova. Like anyone who was around in the '80s and '90s, I knew who Porizkova was (and her husband, Ric Ocasek, of the Cars). But it turns out I knew absolutely nothing about her. Here is a woman who thinks deeply, who was separated from her parents as a child due to geopolitical issues and then raised in Sweden feeling like an ugly duckling (true!), who lost her husband from whom she was separated but still living with, and who was then publicly cut out of his will -- inexplicably. Here is a woman who has considered aging, life, love, friendship, loss, and everything important. Here is a woman whom I would want to be friends with. Memoirs like "No Filter" that really let the reader in are a true gift.
"Flight" by Lynn Steger Strong
Lynn Steger Strong's previous novel "Want" was fantastic so I had high hopes for "Flight," blurbed by some of my favorite authors: Lily King, J. Courtney Sullivan, Rumaan Alam, and Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. I am delighted to report that it was even better than I hoped. It's about a family of adult siblings who contend with the first holidays after the death of their mother, the matriarch of the family. It's about art, privilege, love, family, jealousy, acceptance -- and what to do about another mother and daughter in their orbit. Taking place over the three days before Christmas, this is the book to pack for any "flight" you take this holiday season.
"Now Is Not The Time to Panic" by Kevin Wilson
Remember boredom before devices? Bestselling author Kevin Wilson's main characters, Frankie and Zeke, do. The summer they met, when they were teenagers, they decided to play around in Frankie's garage with a curious artifact: an old Xerox machine. They took a blood oath of sorts and decorated the photocopy with blood -- and then decided to copy the image and plaster it all over town. Sounds like just the thing to fill an afternoon. But the effect wasn't quite what they envisioned. Fast forward to when Frankie is a grown-up and gets a call asking her to unearth details of that time. The best character -- although it's hard to choose -- is really Frankie's mom as we watch her contend with triplet teenage boys and Frankie through it all. The gold Wilson sought has been found.