Must Love Books by Shauna Robinson
Published by Sourcebooks
Publication date: January 18, 2022
Given how much I love anything having to do with books, today’s review won’t come as much of a surprise: Must Love Books a debut by Shauna Robinson. That title! How could I not read it, especially because it’s about Nora, a young Black woman working in the publishing industry. After five years as an editorial assistant at Parsons Press, a business publisher things are looking bleak for Nora. The company has just done a massive round of layoffs and while she didn’t lose her job it’s only so she can keep what’s left of her department afloat. There’s no promotion and no additional money so in order to pay her rent and keep her dream from dying Nora adds to her full-time job at Parsons a freelance job at another publisher.
I was pulled into Must Love Books for a number of reasons. One, it brought back memories of being in my 20s and realizing that for the majority of us there’s no such thing as a dream job. Or, at the very least, learning that the trajectory will take 5 times longer than you thought it would. Then, there’s that stage in life where even dreams fold to practicalities like paying the rent and eating. All of this is heightened by Nora’s race with Robinson perfectly conveying the impossible task of wanting to stand out and blend in at the same time.
Where Must Love Books stumbles is a bit more sensitive. As Nora is navigating these very real conundrums—and walking an increasingly fine ethical line at work—her behavior becomes desperate and feels out of sync with the reality of the situation. Aspects of her life are worrying, but Nora’s reaction is extreme. I realize that being removed from that time of life and never having to know racial discrimination means I lack understanding, but she has options. She’s making smart moves, but is in a head space of all or nothing. If the character had been set up differently it might have felt more realistic but as written, I was confused.
This aspect of Nora was not enough to destroy my enjoyment of the novel. It just tempered it a bit. Robinson hits the mark with sharp humor, the behind-the-scenes details of the publishing world, and Nora’s friend circle. It comes together to make Must Love Books easy reading, with a hint of romance, about a time of life that is fun and frustrating, scary, and exhilarating.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.*