(Originally published in July 2017 and updated in November 2020.)
Emily Giffin is a major source of ebullience for me. She loves college football and the British royals, has a killer Instagram, and plays mom to one of the cutest Golden Retrievers to ever exist (who also, it’s worth noting, has her own killer Instagram).
Emily and I have been together since I was 16 years old. I don’t exactly know why I randomly picked up her first novel, Something Borrowed, at Barnes and Noble one day before volleyball practice, but I’m sure glad I did. Her books have brought me more laughter than most people in my life (and I know some funny people), and she’s the only author to make me cry. Her characters feel like friends, in both relatable and unfamiliar ways, and she paints a badass female lead like nobody else. Her books are topics of conversation among my closest literary ladies, and I truly idolize her work. With 10 published novels (yes, TEN), it’s time to rank the baddest biblio babe around.
10.) Baby Proof
Emily is the queen of focusing her books on relevant topics in females’ lives. And man does Baby Proof illustrate a very familiar theme among 21st century women: to have or to not have children. Now I did read Emily’s third novel when I was a teenager, far from the throes of adulthood or a serious relationship (which validates the argument that where you are in your personal life dictates how lit a book can be), but the storyline didn’t rivet me like her others. And as I’m writing this, I realized that nothing about it was that memorable. Maybe I should give it another shot, but for now, Baby Proof falls in last place.
Emily’s first book characters, Rachel, Darcy, and Dex, will forever hold a special place in my heart. So when they made cameo appearances in Emily’s fifth book, I nearly jumped through the ceiling. I wanted more of them even if they didn’t play central roles in the plot, which probably means something was missing. I’m all about stories that demonstrate good people not always making the best or most moral choices (hello, we’re all human), but “two separate lives converging” is a bit overdone for me. HOTM, you land at number 7.
8.) The One and Only
Everything about college football gets me going: the plays, the crowds, the pure excitement and adrenaline. So naturally I was drawn to Emily’s seventh publication, which takes place in the heart of America’s gridiron: Texas. While I loved the football scenes and the complexities to all of the characters, I wasn’t feeling the love connection. It seemed random, not completely drawn out, and just a little too convenient. Plus, the main character, Shea, is a writer, and as a fellow writer and former journalist, I didn’t agree with all of the choices she made. But then again, book characters aren’t meant to lead a reader’s perfect life.
The thing I love most about Emily’s stories is that they take place in the quintessential gray area. Right and wrong aren’t always clear, moral dilemmas run amok, and that grass on either side is never the perfect shade. The fourth novel from Emily is the epitome of reality’s grayness, and that’s what I like best about it. The main character, Ellen, isn’t perfect, and she tries to deal with that. She has depth, which even the best chick lit can sometimes lack. But still “the one who got away” storyline was a bit cliché, putting Love the One You’re With in the back half of this list.
6.) Something Blue
Because its prequel is one of the best books to have ever been written, you’d expect to find Something Blue right behind it. But Emily’s second novel can’t compete with the top five. Even though Something Blue doesn’t quite have the same spark or pack quite the punch that Something Borrowed does, it’s still a solid and lovely read. And to compare the two isn’t completely fair. As the prequel tells its story from Rachel’s point of view, Blue tells it from Darcy’s. And two characters have never been more different. Darcy proves how a significant event can truly change a person while keeping some of that same pizazz that made us love and hate her in the first place.
5.) First Comes Love
Having a sister (one who also loves Emily) brought out a certain familiarity while reading First Comes Love. Although Erin and I don’t share the emotional distance that the book’s main characters, Josie and Meredith, do, we’re still very different, and I could relate to the writing. At the time this novel was published, Emily hadn’t written a book in two years, and it didn’t let me down. There were moments of elation and laughter and definite moments of sadness; to put it simply, I didn’t want to put it down. Plus, Meredith provides an excellent grammar lesson that made my heart swell. All of the grammatically challenged should pick it up.
I bought All We Ever Wanted at a book signing with Giffin in 2018, so, yes, maybe my fandom was intensified while reading this one. I mean, because of this book, I actually got to meet the queen herself! In spite of being totally starstruck, I fully believe that this novel, which had a slightly different tone and themes than her previous work, proved that Giffin’s writing had matured since her stellar debut 14 years earlier. Don’t get wrong; I loved her seven previous novels, but this book, which explored the dangers of social media and the #metoo movement, was a welcome change. And it was a change that suited Giffin, whose writing surpassed the high standard to which I had always held it.
I know most of you were expecting the novel that introduced us to the queen of chick lit and modern literature to take home first place, but it’s note quite there. Oh Something Borrowed. Where do I even begin. Maybe it’s because I see myself in Rachel — a little mousy, definitely Type A, and never saw herself getting the stud (side note: I finally got the stud). Maybe it’s because it takes place in the city where my dreams literally came true, so I love reading of all the places and quirks that I know all too well. Maybe it’s because the writing is literally some of the funniest I have ever seen. But most likely it’s a culmination of all these things, and so much more, and how well they all work together that makes Something Borrowed magical every time I read it, which has to be nearing double digits by now.
Giffin’s latest novel was darn close to taking the top spot. The Lies That Bind had everything that I love about Giffin’s writing: incredible characterization with imperfect characters, that gray area where she dominates, and flawless writing that hooks you from beginning to end. I loved it so much that my cousin Kaitlyn and I totally obsessed over the book and fangirled over Giffin in an episode of The Biblio Files. It also takes place in New York during 9/11, and you can feel the intense and raw emotions of an entire city through just a few characters. To take you back to that terrible day and feel it from a New Yorker’s perspective was an incredibly powerful statement. It’s just Giffin once again proving why she’s the best.
1.) Where We Belong
When word got around to me about Emily’s sixth book, I immediately preordered it, and the day it came in, I ran home and read it in less than 36 hours. There’s so much I could say about this novel. I’ve told many people, and written many times on this blog, that only one book has made me cry: Where We Belong. The storyline is so powerful and different than anything I had read that it probably didn’t need exceptional characters. But it had that too. They had such complexity, and their interactions with one another were both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. Plus, half of it takes place near my hometown (what up, STL??), and the little tidbits that characterized St. Louis, though so small most people probably missed them, were so on point that I found myself craving home. And I found myself missing my family, loving New York, feeling grateful for the people in my life, and laughing out loud. Actually, this book made me feel so many emotions that I firmly believed I was part of it. Where We Belong isn’t just at the top of this list; it’s also makes my top-five books of all time. Now that is a feat.