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Monday, January 24, 2022

Review: Must Love Books

Title: Must Love Books
Author: Shauna Robinson

Publisher: 18th January 2022 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Pages: 336 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, mental health

My Rating: 4 crowns


Meet Nora Hughes―the overworked, underpaid, last bookish assistant standing. At least for now. When Nora landed an editorial assistant position at Parsons Press, it was her first step towards The Dream Job. Because, honestly, is there anything dreamier than making books for a living? But after five years of lunch orders, finicky authors, and per my last emails, Nora has come to one grand conclusion: Dream Jobs do not exist.

With her life spiraling and the Parsons staff sinking, Nora gets hit with even worse news. Parsons is cutting her already unlivable salary. Unable to afford her rent and without even the novels she once loved as a comfort, Nora decides to moonlight for a rival publisher to make ends meet...and maybe poach some Parsons authors along the way.

But when Andrew Santos, a bestselling Parsons author no one can afford to lose is thrown into the mix, Nora has to decide where her loyalties lie. Her new Dream Job, ever-optimistic Andrew, or...herself and her future.

My Thoughts

‘And the final line under the desired skills and qualifications section sealed her fate, three little words that curled around Nora’s heart and told her she belonged in publishing: Must love books.’

This was not the book I was expecting but proved to be a really interesting read. It most definitely is not a romcom - yes there is romance, however, it is very much a side plot and thankfully, sensitive to the overall direction of the book. The couple have laughs, however, I far more appreciated their discussions surrounding happiness and mental health - this being the surprise package of this read. 

‘… the only person left standing was Nora, alone. Working on books she didn’t understand or give a damn about, with authors who rearranged the same words on different pages year after year to make another royalty check.’

This book is very much about the lead character, Nora and her quest for a meaningful life with happiness. After several years in the same job, she is finding herself lost and literally staring at the ceiling fan. It’s not just about the meaningless job but also the issue of making ends meet on a poor wage especially given the extra tasks assigned to her. The author herself states that, ‘By unpacking the myth of the “dream job,” this story explores happiness as a fluid, ever-changing thing.’

‘Whenever Nora mentioned anything to do with publishing - manuscripts, books, working with authors - there was a faraway look in Kelly’s eyes, like she was on the verge of swooning.’

One of the reasons I selected to read this book was a chance insight into the life of a publishing company - and it provided this in bucketloads! It gave a detailed (and rather depressing) look at a career in publishing (a bibliophile’s purported dream job) and that it may not be a path for many. The surprises in this book were the themes surrounding mental health: (trigger warning) self harm and suicide thoughts. This was really quite powerful and overall well handled I felt. It also touches on racial issues (Nora mentions her ethnicity on occasions) and this, whilst minor, is still worth mentioning. 

‘She could be the person she’d always imagined being, working on books - novels - that could actually help someone. Not help them leverage synergy to maximize productivity, but help them the way books had helped Nora. Help someone feel connected to something. Help someone feel less alone.’

Given the clear focus on one person’s journey to find meaning and purpose in life, I was both relieved and grateful for the ending which remained true to what I felt to be the author’s goal. My only issues are that, firstly, it was a trifle repetitive and slow on occasions. Secondly, Nora’s resolve to call a meeting to discuss her possible futures appeared somewhat out of character given her personal struggles throughout the book. 

‘Nora ducked into a bookstore across the street to be among books and forget, for a minute, how they were made.’

So if an insight into life in a publishing house as a ‘dream job’ appeals to you, look no further. There are excellent Discussion questions at the conclusion along with an Author interview. Not the book I had thought to be reading, I did however, walk away much richer for my understanding of publishing career paths and, more importantly, when your dream job turns out not to be your dream job - what do you do? Nora’s journey of reevaluating and making tough decisions to alter her life path was something I very much appreciated. 

‘learn(ed) how to find a new dream. And another, and another, until he found something that worked out for him.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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