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Taylor Jenkins Reid on Nora Ephron, Chrissy Teigen’s ‘Cravings’, and the Greatest Ending Ever Told

Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.

Two of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s hobbies—celebrity real estate and reality television—collided recently when, while watching an episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, she realized two of the housewives live in her neighborhood and that she drives past one of their houses whenever she picks up a pizza.

Next month, she releases her seventh novel, Malibu Rising, about an epic end-of-summer party in the ‘80s in the Cali beach town—Reid’s favorite place in the world. (Yes, she listened to a lot of “Surfin’ U.S.A.” by the Beach Boys during writing.)

It comes after her New York Times-bestselling fictional oral history of a ‘70s rock band, 2019’s Daisy Jones & the Six, which was Book of the Month Club’s Book of the Year and will be an Amazon Prime limited series—starring Riley Keough and Sam Claflin and executive produced by Reese Witherspoon—out next year.

The Mass.-raised Reid has a dog named Rabbit; never travels without cold brew tea bags; likes cape gooseberries, caftans, and Charlotte Tilbury facial masks; and is Team Sussex all the way. As a kid, she disliked wearing dresses and reading (CliffsNotes were her friend), but while dresses have become somewhat tolerable, she’s completely converted to a diehard bibliophile.

The book that:

…helped me through a loss:

I felt deeply adrift when my grandmother died. But The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry helped me see a way through. Such wisdom and beauty expressed so simply.

…kept me up way too late:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I stayed up until four in the morning one night because I simply could not put it down.

…made me cry:

Circe by Madeline Miller. I finished it while waiting for someone at a Starbucks and ended up bawling my eyes out in public.

…I recommend over and over again:

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. A complex, moving, page-turner that absolutely everyone should read.

…shaped my worldview:

The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr. It’s about people and how we think. It was recommended to me by author Katherine Center, and it blew my mind just as she said it would.

…changed my mind about something:

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. I thought I didn’t like sci-fi but Blake proved me wrong.

…made me laugh out loud:

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Queenie as a character is so funny and so vulnerable. The book is a riot but also filled with such heart.

…I’d like turned into a Netflix show:

Anna K by Jenny Lee. Anna Karenina as teenagers in Manhattan. I need that show. Luckily, it’s already in development for HBO Max.

…I last bought:

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton. I am loving it.

…has the best title:

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite does a spectacular job of grabbing you right at that title and then delivering on the premise.

…has the greatest ending:

Atonement by Ian McEwan. A truly stunning, aching ending for a beautiful story.

…made me want to be a writer:

The World According to Garp by John Irving. I read it as a sophomore in college, and it was the first time a narrator’s voice gripped me so hard I could hear it when I wasn’t reading.

…I brought on my last book tour:

Talia Hibbert’s hilarious rom-com, Get a Life, Chloe Brown got me through a couple of crazy flights and some brutal jet lag.

…I’ve re-read the most:

The Most of Nora Ephron by Nora Ephron. It’s a big, juicy book that you can turn to any page and just start reading. Her articles, essays, a screenplay, and a novel are in it.

…features the most beautiful book jacket:

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia. The cover is so beautiful, it pulled me right in. I had to buy it.

…that holds the recipe to a favorite dish:

Chrissy Teigen’s Sweet and Salty Coconut Rice from Cravings has become a staple in my house.

…taught me this Jeopardy!-worthy bit of trivia:

The Castle on Sunset by Shawn Levy, a history of the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, is fascinating for all its stories of Hollywood lore. One of my favorites being the rumor that Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball once got into a fight there, and it ended with one of them throwing a briefcase of cash out the window.

Bonus question:

If I could live in any library or bookstore in the world, it would be: Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida. It’s beautiful, with a full restaurant and a tea bar. Every time I go there, I want to stay all day and buy every single book.

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