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These are some of NPR's favorite romance books of 2021

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Who doesn't love a good love story? The meet cutes, the crossed stars, the passion - the more sap, the better. Books We Love, NPR's list of best reads from 2021, has hundreds of recommendations, and there are so many good picks that it can be hard to know exactly where to start. So today, here are four suggestions from our colleagues for what to read if you want something just a little bit romantic.

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ANJULI SASTRY KRBECHEK, BYLINE: My name is Anjuli Sastry Krbechek. I'm a producer on It's Been A Minute With Sam Sanders, and I reviewed the book "While We Were Dating" by Jasmine Guillory. I really love all of Jasmine Guillory's books and this new one in particular. You've got Ava (ph), and you've got Ben. Ava is this superstar actress, and Ben is this hotshot ad executive. And they both kind of fall into this friends-with-benefits relationship, and they promise that feelings won't get in the way, but as they do, it heats up between them. And rather than just being another predictable novel, I think Jasmine Guillory really aptly tackles these kind of heavy themes about, you know, mental health and privilege and racism. And it's not in-your-face, but it's just these undercurrents that are really powerful throughout the book, and I just love reading her stuff.

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TAYLA BURNEY, BYLINE: I'm Tayla Burney, senior manager for programming and production here at NPR. A book I really loved this year is "Dial A For Aunties" by Jesse Q. Sutanto. Since the start of the pandemic, I've read a lot more romance than I did before, but my longest running literary love is mysteries. This novel actually combines the two in a way that's really engaging, hilarious and heartwarming. The story centers around Meddy Chan, who works as a photographer in her family's wedding business alongside her mom and aunts. The family is super close-knit and, in a way that maybe only aunties and a mother can be, deeply invested in Meddy's love life, so much so that her mom actually poses as Meddy on a dating app and sets her up for a blind date, which is bad enough, right? But it turns out to be much, much worse, and Meddy accidentally kills the guy on their date. Turns out he is both a real creep and not who he claimed to be. Sounds completely ridiculous, right? Well, this plot walks a really fine line that could veer toward the absurd but keeps things on the side of hilarious and even endearing. The best part amid all the high jinks is the relationship between Meddy and her family, who will quite literally help her hide a body.

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CANDICE LIM, BYLINE: I'm Candice Lim. I'm a producer for Pop Culture Happy Hour, and the book I am recommending today is "The Heart Principle" by Helen Hoang. So this book is about Anna Sun. She is a talented violinist in the Bay Area whose lackluster boyfriend springs a proposal on her to open up their relationship. While she's processing her boyfriend's request and battling a creative block in the orchestra she plays in, Anna meets Quan, who is a character that we have seen in Helen Hoang's other books. I love this book because it deals with incredibly modern issues like creative burnout, disappointing boyfriends, neurodivergence, caretaking. This is Helen Hoang's third book. She does such a good job of expanding this world she's created and continually filling it with deeply rich, heartfelt and relatable characters.

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LAUREN MIGAKI, BYLINE: Hi, my name is Lauren Migaki. I'm a senior producer at NPR's Education Desk. And I read the book "A Lot Like Adios" by Alexis Daria.

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MIGAKI: Childhood besties Michelle and Gabriel hook up one night after their high school graduation, and for just a moment, it looks like the two might finally get together, until Michelle discovers that Gabe is planning on leaving for college across the country - total betrayal. After a blowout fight, the two don't speak again for years, until the gym that Gabriel owns hires Michelle to work on a rebranding marketing campaign. Once they reconnect, well, let's just say that they collaborate on more than marketing. The characters are lovable and nuanced as they tackle issues of sexuality, identity, family and workplace burnout. The two have excellent chemistry. It's hot, it's fun, and it's a great chance to brush up on that Spanish vocab.

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RASCOE: That was Lauren Migaki who recommended "A Lot Like Adios," Tayla Burney with "Dial A For Aunties," Candice Lim who suggested "The Heart Principle" and Anjuli Sastry Krbechek recommending "While We Were Dating." For more ideas on what to read, you can find the full list of Books We Love at npr.org/bestbooks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Migaki is a senior producer with NPR's education desk. She helps tell stories about teacher strikes, college access and a new high school for young men in Washington D.C. She also produces and hosts NPR's podcast about the Student Podcast Challenge.
Anjuli Sastry (she/her) is a producer on It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders and a 2021 Nieman Journalism Foundation Visiting Fellow. During her Nieman fellowship in spring 2021, Sastry created, hosted and produced the audio and video series Where We Come From. The series tells the stories of immigrant communities of color through a personal and historical lens.
Candice Lim
Candice Lim is a production assistant at Pop Culture Happy Hour. Prior to joining NPR in 2019, she interned at several publications, including The Hollywood Reporter, WBUR and the Orange County Register. She graduated from Boston University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and is proudly from Fullerton, California.
Tayla Burney