In this post, you’ll find a book review of People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry, plus all of the fiction and non-fiction books I read during July 2021.
If I may be so bold as to make such a statement in August: People We Meet on Vacation is my favorite book of the year.
On the surface, it’s your typical friends-to-lovers type of story. And that part was great. But like a good tiramisu, this book contained layer after layer of richness, that left you satisfied and wanting more at the same time.
People We Meet on Vacation follows blogger-turned-magazine-writer Poppy as she makes a last-ditch effort to make amends with her long-time friend, Alex, by inviting him to join her on a trip to Palm Springs. The two had been vacationing together annually for years, until something went wrong, obliterating their friendship, and what might have been.
Book Review of People We Meet on Vacation
While I always adore a good love story, the part I most connected with was Poppy’s struggle to find her way as an individual. Success can feel like a letdown if you’re not enjoying the journey to get there. This book reminded me to slow down, identify the people and things that make me happiest, and focus on the little moments.
My adoration for this book was further amplified after catching an interview with author Emily Henry, on the podcast, Bad on Paper. I enjoyed her candid thoughts on being a romance writer, namely standing up to a commenter who asked if she was going to stop using tropes such as “there was only one bed” (Henry’s answer was no). Tropes exist for a reason. People love them!
A lesson for writers and creators
As creatives, we often feel like we have to craft something that is completely new. But readers love what is familiar, and oftentimes the best creative solutions come when we are able to do old things in new ways. It’s exactly what Emily Henry accomplished with People We Meet on Vacation.
She started with an existing concept of friends-to-lovers (she credits When Harry Met Sally as a major influence), and added her creative magic, to produce a piece that was fresh and fueled with passion.
I found this book inspiring as both a reader and a writer. If you enjoy a good love story and would be excited to experience tried and true concepts in a new way, move People We Meet on Vacation to the top of your book pile!
Old concept, new approach
Is there a book that follows a familiar trope and executes in a fresh way? Come and say hi on Instagram to tell me about it.
Here’s the list of everything else I read in July 2021 (listed in the order I read them):
Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport (Non-Fiction)
After greatly enjoying Cal Newport’s Deep Work, I was excited to pick up Digital Minimalism. However, I almost didn’t make it past the first few pages.
Unlike Deep Work, this book comes with a challenge: to participate in a 30-day detox from social media. I made some intentional changes around my social media habits earlier this year and feel I have a fairly healthy relationship with online platforms. I didn’t feel like a detox would be beneficial at the moment, but may be worth revisiting in the future.
With that aside, I’m glad that I continued reading because the challenge is a very small part of the book, and I found the rest of it quite valuable.
Like many of the books I’ve felt drawn to this year, Digital Minimalism is about building a life around the things and people that are most important to you, rather than what’s presented to you. Through mindfulness, quiet, and time to recharge, this book offers practical ways to help you filter out the unnecessary noise in your life.
A definite recommendation for anyone who feels overburdened by the digital landscape—and even more so for anyone in need of a detox.
Beach Read, by Emily Henry (Fiction)
The title and cover suggest a light, fun, summer romance story. This book was actually quite deep.
Beach Read is a tale of two writers, recovering from respective personal tragedies, and helping one another to heal. There is romance and humor and it does take place in the summer, but it’s not fluffy and I feel that categorizing it as a romcom sells it short.
Emily Henry’s writing is fantastic, her characters are thoughtfully crafted and the story keeps you engaged from beginning to end.
Would recommend reading…but maybe not on the beach?
The Practicing Mind, by Thomas M. Sterner (Non-Fiction)
A short book that packs a big (but gentle) punch. The Practicing Mind offers its readers a great alternative to the hectic, busy life that most of us feel we can’t avoid.
Author Thomas M. Sterner shows us another way by encouraging us to slow down, give our full attention to each task and focus on the journey rather than the finish line.
In practicing some of the tactics offered in this book, I experienced a near-immediate sense of peace and a wonderful sense of clarity.
I recommend this book to anyone who yearns to quiet their mind and find much-needed focus.
Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman (Fiction)
I have complicated feelings about this book.
I loved this beautiful story about a group of strangers who are interconnected in more ways than they realize. The humor was exactly my type in that it was subtle and ridiculous, without demanding any fanfare. The lesson that author Fredrik Backman eloquently shares in the final chapter is beyond poetic.
However, this book took me a long time to read. It has nice short chapters, and a dynamic format, but I found it challenging to stay engaged. It’s such a fantastic novel, and I wanted it to be a page-turner, but it’s just not. At least it wasn’t for me.
Anxious People is unique, and the story is a bit winding but has a strong payoff. I hope you’ll pick it up and stay the course.
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