I, Amanda Whitbeck, am a book nerd. That should come as no surprise, given that I decided to start a whole website dedicated to book reviews and blog posts about reading. And as an admitted book nerd, I get pretty excited when I find novels that are, in some way, about books and a love of reading. I found this joy with novels like The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Paris By the Book by Liam Callanan. My latest find goes one step deeper: In Abbi Waxman‘s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, I may have found a character just like me!
To be fair, I’m not *exactly* like the titular Nina Hill. Sure, I’m an introvert in her late 20s who loves reading, has a TBR bookshelf (not a pile; an entire bookcase), and enjoys the company of my furry, feline companion. And she lives by her daily planner, just like I do. Based on the summary indicating some of these characteristics, I thought, “Is this book about me??” Upon showing my husband, he agreed it sounded oddly biographical. But upon further inspection, Nina and I do have some slight differences.
I’m not nerdy enough to be on a trivia team (though it does sound fun…). I don’t drink wine at all. Sadly, I don’t work in a bookstore… though I wish I did! And I certainly don’t have an aversion to travel – I LOVE to travel. I don’t suffer from anxiety, though I am rather shy… sometimes annoyingly so. Finally, and I don’t have a long-lost father who left me with a huge, rich family and potentially tons of my money. My late father was an active part of my life, and not rich at all.
Enough about me. What is The Bookish Life of Nina Hill all about, you ask? Nina has lived a fairly solitary life, organized thoroughly in her planner. She works at a struggling bookstore in Los Angeles, and her extra-curricular activities amount to a book club, a trivia team, and weekly visits to the movie theater on her own. She’s single and loving it. Then one day, she finds out who her dad was, and that she a) has a TON of family members and b) may inherit a significant amount of money. And, on an unrelated note, she and a trivia team rival named Tom may be developing a romance.
All of this could sound wonderful and exciting, but Nina is an introvert and she has anxiety. Needing to get to know people – family and potential boyfriends alike – is more stressful than anything else. And yet Nina has a lot of growing to do. At nearly 30 years old, she’ll learn how to let people in and have positive relationships, but on terms that work for her.
I loved a lot about The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, from its relatable characters and subject matter to its light and breezy style. The writing style is quirky and silly from the very first page, the humorous narrator blatantly acknowledging the reader on occasion, for example, calling out “the book you’re holding in your lovely hand.”
Between chapters, we get bonus content in the form of Nina’s daily planner entries. We see her to-do lists and grocery lists, and in their own small way, they help paint a fuller picture of Nina and her state of mind throughout the story.
In many ways, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill reminds me of another novel I read last year, The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce. That one was about a socially awkward man who loves music and owns a record store – pretty similar to Nina, actually! Both novels are quirky with a narrator whose voice is obvious, present, and funny. Both follow unsociable characters as they learn to connect with people, and not just their media of choice (books vs. music). And both books are excellent and among my favorite reads this decade.
If you love books about books, if you like to see people with social anxiety represented in stories, and if you like to see a light novel with some important things to say, then you’ll love The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. It’s a sweet and memorable book that every reader can love.