Books We Love: Love And Romance : Pop Culture Happy Hour NPR's Books We Love is a roundup of favorite books of the year, sorted and tagged to help you find exactly what you're looking for. From the meet cutes to the happy endings and through all the ups and downs in between, we're recommending great books for people who love love and romance.

Books We Love: Love And Romance

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Love stories are themselves a genre many of us love. From the meet-cutes to the happy endings and through all the ups and downs in between, they scratch and itch like nothing else. I'm Linda Holmes, and today, we're recommending great books for people who love love and romance on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR.


HOLMES: Joining me today is Lauren Migaki. She's an NPR senior producer. And back in an earlier, much earlier time, she was a producer for this very podcast. Welcome back to the show, Lauren.


HOLMES: So we probably don't need to explain what a love story is, but you should note that NPR's Books We Love Project is chock full of personal and deeply felt book recommendations in lots of genres. That's where we're looking for these particular titles. Lauren, what's up first?

MIGAKI: OK, well, Linda, I'm going to take you on a journey today.

HOLMES: I love a journey.

MIGAKI: We're going to stop at two deeply unromantic destinations and one that's supposed to be romantic but turns out to kind of not be at all.

HOLMES: Perfect.

MIGAKI: So my first pick is "Love And Other Flight Delays" by Denise Williams. This is unromantic destination number one. You can probably guess it. It's at an airport. It's actually three novellas that all take place at the airport. And I love this because if a person is their best, most ideal self on vacation, then obviously, the opposite is true for your airport self, right? It is...


MIGAKI: ...Sweaty. You're schlepping. You're snapping at the people who are leaving their coats in the overhead compartment, which is absolutely not where they go.

HOLMES: Can confirm.

MIGAKI: It's just a deeply unsexy place. But it's also this kind of amazing place where we meet strangers from all walks of life, people we wouldn't meet otherwise. And we're all kind of brought together by the shared triumph and humiliation of air travel. So that's just the airport. And never mind the fact that, like, an airplane - like, being in the middle seat, is the definition of forced proximity. And I've definitely never been seated next to a handsome stranger on an airplane, but the dream is alive in this book.

HOLMES: I was going to say, it always seems possible.

MIGAKI: It does, right? The possibilities are endless. And so that's kind of what Denise Williams is doing here - is kind of dreaming up what could happen with the handsome stranger that you sidle up to a bar stool while you're waiting at your delay. There's dates on the moving walkway and at the soft pretzel place.

HOLMES: Oh, I love this. I've got to read this.

MIGAKI: Right? And don't get me wrong. Like, a whirlwind romance in Paris is lovely, but, you know, if you find someone that loves you at baggage claim, that's a keeper.

HOLMES: That is true. I have to ask you, you know, I know that you do a lot of traveling for NPR. You've been overseas a number of times.


HOLMES: Do you think that, like, your affection for love stories has anything to do with kind of the escapism of something that's not quite as stressful as overseas travel?

MIGAKI: Yeah. I mean, I spent 2022 and 2023 in and out of Ukraine. I went to Israel. Like, I'm in and out of a lot of airports for work. There is something so beautiful about knowing that there's going to be a happy ending when so much of our life isn't happy endings. And I also think, like, journalism kind of has a lot of, like, potential for whirlwind romance, as well. Not that this has ever happened, and it rarely happens on the job, but, like, it's a starter story for a romance.

HOLMES: Absolutely. I love it. All right, so that is "Love And Other Flight Delays" by Denise Williams. Lauren, what is your second pick?

MIGAKI: OK, so the next pick is another unromantic place. The book is "Much Ado About Nada," and it's by Uzma Jalaluddin. It takes place at a convention hall...

HOLMES: Oh, yeah.

MIGAKI: ...Which, like, there's nothing romantic about some fluorescent overhead lights. The AC's turned up so high that your lips turn blue. But I think any of us who've ever been to a conference for school or work know, like, there's a lot more that happens than just networking.


MIGAKI: It's a great place to meet people. And so that's where the backdrop is for this book. It's at this big Muslim conference in Toronto where Nada, our main character, sees Baz, her ex, who she hasn't talked to in years. And basically, their secret messy past kind of threatens to spill out. They've known each other throughout their lives, which is kind of interesting. And the book goes back and forth between childhood and teen years and college and present as we kind of slowly learn the history of why they haven't spoken in so long.

Nada is nearing 30. She's had a business flop. She's totally plateaued. She's, like, living at home, kind of a shell of her former self. Meanwhile, Baz now is, like, this successful guy. He's managing his brother's band. And so over the course of the book, they kind of wrestle with who they once were to each other and who they could still be.

And even though it's a romance, there's this, like, beautiful ensemble cast that Jalaluddin creates of family and friends who surround Baz and Nada. And, like, they're so chaotic, but they also are just so deeply loving at their core. And they're people who - you know, it's like people who have known you at every awkward stage in your life and seen all your highs and lows and still love you. There's just something really special about that.

HOLMES: The friends and family in a love story are so important, I think.

MIGAKI: We do not exist in vacuums.

HOLMES: Exactly. You never kind of want both of the people to seem like they never talk to anyone except each other. Or, like, they don't have any, like, lives outside of this...

MIGAKI: Right.

HOLMES: ...This meet up and this potential romance. I think that's usually the way that they kind of explain who a character really is - is that, you see...


HOLMES: ...You know, their family, their friends. That's how you kind of get to know them, just as it is in real life. Like, when you meet someone's family, you're like, oh, now I get it.

MIGAKI: I had that exact experience with my partner where he, like, met my parents. And he was like, oh, it makes sense now.


HOLMES: Everything makes sense now. So it makes sense that it exists there, too. So that's "Much Ado About Nada" by Uzma Jalaluddin. Thank you for that pick. Let's do a third one.

MIGAKI: So my third pick is "The True Love Experiment." It's by Christina Lauren, which is a co-author duo of Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. It is set on the set of a reality TV show where the main character is looking for love. You know, should be so deeply romantic. But as it turns out, when you are trying to fit eight dudes into, like, a tight TV show, it's just, like, not actually that sexy, so...


MIGAKI: For anyone who's ever watched "The Bachelor" or any show like that, you know, we know it's more for the cameras. But this one is - it features a prolific romance author Felicity "Fizzy" Chen. She's dealing with this epic bout of writer's block. She's having kind of some stumbling in her personal life, as well. And so she gets this offer to be the star of a TV reality show where she finds love. And all of the characters, all of the love interests are tropes from romance novels. You've got, like, the cinnamon bun dude, the hot, muscly guy who knits, the nerd, the silver fox. But surprise, surprise - she falls in love with someone behind the camera.

HOLMES: Amazing.

MIGAKI: It is just so filled with joy and, like, just sparkles of delight. But the characters are all, like, flawed enough that it's not, like, overly shiny. You know, it still feels real and true to themselves. And I just want to mention one thing which is so interesting. And I'm not sure I've seen this done very well before, but they wrote an Asian main character. Neither of the authors are Asian. They clearly put in a lot of work with, you know, Asian friends and sensitivity writers and whatnot to get this right. And the thing that's so beautiful is that Fizzy gets to be a real person. She's not this trope. She's not a stereotype. She doesn't have, like, this ambiguous dark skin with none of the cultural things that go along with it.

HOLMES: Right. Sure.

MIGAKI: She's vivacious and nuanced, and she has immigrant parents who aren't really sure what to make of her career. And she's not a side character. And so I just really appreciated seeing that.

HOLMES: That sounds wonderful. These are all books that I would read, Lauren Migaki. You always do me a favor with this segment. So that is "The True Love Experiment" by Christina Lauren. If you want to discover even more books NPR loved, visit And that brings us to the end of our show. Thank you so much for being here again, Lauren.

MIGAKI: Thank you.

HOLMES: This episode was produced by Rommel Wood and Hafsa Fathima and edited by Jessica Reedy and Mike Katzif. Hello Come In provides our theme music. The Books We Love Project is produced and edited by Rose Friedman, Beth Novey and Meghan Collins Sullivan. Thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Linda Holmes, and we'll see you all tomorrow.


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