Quality is the most subjective characteristic when it comes to literature. Sure, every reader loves great symbolism, those masterpieces that speak to cultural moments, thorough and exact research about a time or place, those books that really hit home and move you. Sometimes, though, you need a break from the real world. You need something that will make you laugh or cry irrationally and believe that fairy tale love actually exists.
As someone who reads about overcollateralization, subordination, and tranching all day, while trying to parse legalese that makes you want to stab out your eyes, I know firsthand the importance of a feel-good and easy read. So it’s with great honor that I present to you my case for the novels that give you the best of feels (despite some of the harshest criticisms): chick lit.
Let’s be honest: Life in 2018 kiiiinda sucks. Natural disasters, political catastrophes, constant subway delays. Name something bad, and it’s consuming the news. So why would readers want to continually envelope themselves in more hardship and realism when they actually have a choice in the stories they read? Yes, it’s important to embrace the real world in our literature, but I firmly believe it’s also important to believe in something better, funnier, and happier in the world.
“Regular women carry pictures of their babies, their husbands, their summer houses. Fat ladies carry pictures of themselves at their skinniest.” — Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
That’s not to say all chick lit is sunshine and daisies. Most books in this genre deal with their fair share of heartbreak (my word, Where We Belong brought me to tears), and the books are constantly at the precipice of some huge drama (Me Before You has you questioning life or death for more than 300 pages). These protagonists usually just come out ahead. C’mon, don’t we all root for the good guy or gal? So what if chick lit characters usually get their cake and eat it too.
Common chick lit might not have the nuances and stamina of classic literature, but these writers are the wittiest in the game. They know how to turn a phrase and give sharp quips that have you laughing while saying “Amen.” It’s these remarks that illustrate the characters perfectly.
Take Something Borrowed for example. The antagonist, Darcy, is full up sass and spunk to coincide with her take-no-prisoners independence. While author, Emily Giffin, is describing Darcy, from the viewpoint of best friend/archnemesis, Rachel, she writes seven words that give an accurate depiction to last the entire book:
“I don’t break up. I trade up.” — Something Borrowed
Talk about a one-liner not to mention some writing prowess.
Relatability and Wisdom
As someone who gags at the thought of self-help or motivational books (see my review of The Last Lecture for the one that doesn’t), I’m not one for inspiring quotes. I was the kid in school who always remarked that there is in fact a “me” in team when someone told me there was no “I.” However, when it’s a fictional world, I can appreciate these tidbits for the wisdom they possess, and let’s be honest: Chick lit has more than enough life lessons and mantras to get you through even the shittiest of times.
Bond Girl, one of the funniest reads to come across my path, has the perfect mix of relatability and wisdom. Our heroine, Alex, is fresh out of college and working in the cutthroat world of finance. Any female can relate to the sexual harassment and vulgarities she faces at work, as well as the temptations and moral questions that come with being young, dumb, and new to the working world. Her thoughts at the end of the book speak to us all.
“I’d given up a lot for this life, some of it willingly. But there were still some things I wouldn’t give up … I refused to give up me. And screw this guy for expecting me to.” — Bond Girl
Yasss, preach, Alex, preach.
I read that sentence thinking, “That’s how I’m going to live my life.” That’s an impact.
No one ever said every book you read has to be critically acclaimed, to be something you read in your literature classes and parse through to gain a better understanding of this world. Sometimes you need a break and something or someone to cheer for even if it’s not the most realistic.
We don’t constantly need the heavy shit, and that’s where chick lit fills the gap.
Still not convinced? Check out my top choices for chick lit reading, along with some suggestions from my literary lady friends:
- Anything Emily Giffin, but especially Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, and her new book coming out in June, All We Ever Wanted
- Bond Girl by Erin Duffy
- Good in Bed and Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner
- The Futures by Anna Pitoniak
- Chasing Harry Winston and The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
- American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
- Me Before You and The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
- Big Little Lies and Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
- The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Remember Me?, the Shopaholic series, and My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
- It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
- Anything by Sarah Dessen
- Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell
- Philippa Gregory, especially The Other Boleyn Girl
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott