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5 books to put on your “guilty pleasures” reading list

Voyeuristic, drama-filled and — let’s face it — not too taxing on the brain, these books are totally worth sneaking between the covers with.

We’ll admit it — while we love evocative literary works by the likes of Haruki Murakami and Margaret Atwood, we can’t resist a regular hit of the literary equivalent of tasty yet guilt-inducing junk food — as evidenced by the popularity of Kevin Kwan’s novel-turned-movie Crazy Rich Asians.

Looking for more of such light and thoroughly entertaining reads to add to your reading list? We sift out five that you should put on your reading list. 

1.     Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarty

The #1 New York Times best-selling author of Big Little Lies, which was turned into an acclaimed TV series starring Renee Zellweger, Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard, returns with a novel set in the perfect slice of heaven we all wish we could escape to — a super-luxurious health resort in a far-flung locale.

The story unfolds with the main protagonist — former best-selling novelist Frances Welty — checking herself into Tranquillum House to sort out a bad back and a broken heart. There, she gets to know her fellow guests, each of whom has unique personal reasons for wanting to recalibrate and rediscover themselves — by escaping from their daily lives, and immersing themselves in healthy eating, mindfulness, meditation and spa treatments.

But the most intriguing character of all? Tranquillum House’s charismatic owner/director. Could changing your life be as easy as going on a 10-day getaway, or is it a lot more difficult than it seems?

2.     The Wangs Vs The World, by Jade Chang

Chinese immigrant-turned-businessman Charles Wang thought he had it all — a thriving cosmetics empire, a successful second marriage, three children and a home in the glamorous Los Angeles neighbourhood of Bel-Air. That is, until his business and fortunes get decimated by the financial crisis — a state of affairs which causes not just him, but also his spoiled and entitled family members, much distress.

In an attempt to salvage his financial standing and his wounded pride, he decides he must start anew —by heading back to China, without his family. But first, he needs to transplant his uncooperative wife, son and daughter from Bel-Air to upstate New York where his eldest daughter lives, by way of a cross-country road trip. As with most road trip stories, metaphorical speed bumps and flat tyres are encountered along the way, and valuable life lessons about what love and family mean are learned.

3.     My (Not So) Perfect Life, by Sophie Kinsella

Of course… how could we leave out the hilarious Ms. Sophie Kinsella of the famed chick-lit staple, the Shopaholic series?

In this (non-Shopaholic-related) novel, Katie Brenner is suffering from a serious case of quarter-life crisis that any millennial can relate to: Dealing with a serf-level job in an ad agency, tricky office politics, a tiny cramped rental apartment in London she shares with weird flatmates, and dating (or rather, an unrequited crush), while putting her best (but not quite real) face forward by way of creatively curated picture-perfect Instagram posts.

Her life is miles apart from that of her #ladyboss, Demeter, who pretty much has it all — career success, a handsome husband, cute kids and a swanky townhouse… Of course, Demeter also happens to be “kind of crazy” and extremely mean to her.

After getting unceremoniously fired, Katie gives up her big-city dreams and heads back to her family’s farm to help her family set up a glamping retreat — at which Demeter soon shows up at, for her family vacay…

4.     Food Whore, by Jessica Tom

Now, which of us wouldn’t give an arm and a leg to get a job as a food writer? Imagine — all the top restaurateurs falling over themselves to invite you over for fancy meals you not only get to savour for free, but even get paid to write about. 

Fresh grad Tia Monroe thinks she’s gotten a huge career leg-up in her dream profession when renowned New York Times restaurant critic Michael Saltz reveals to her in confidence that he’s lost his sense of taste, and co-opts her to help him write food reviews.

She soon finds herself dressed to the nines (thanks to Saltz providing her with an expense account at upscale department store Bergdorf Goodman), rubbing shoulders with celebrity chefs, dining at the poshest tables and writing her heart out. Unfortunately, what she hadn’t expected was for Saltz to pass off her words as his — which undoubtedly leaves a bad taste in her mouth. How far, and how long, can this pretence go on?

5.     Ghosted, by Rose Walsh

If you’re single and have entered the scary world of online dating, you’ve probably experienced being ghosted at least once. Yep… when someone whom you were in rather frequent and regular (and perhaps even passionate) contact with suddenly disappears without warning, never to be heard of/from again, it can be quite unnerving, to say the least.

Walsh riffs off this all-too-common occurrence: After Sarah splits up from her husband, she returns to England and meets Eddie, whom she proceeds to have an intense, passionate week with.

Sarah’s convinced she’s in love, and she’s sure that her feelings are being reciprocated. But Eddie has to leave town for a vacation that he had planned sometime ago. He promises to call her from the airport, but doesn’t, leaving Sarah frantic with worry as she tries (and fails) to reconnect with him, all the while wondering if he’s hurt, dead, or has heartlessly ghosted her.

Apparently, there’s a deeper reason behind Eddie’s disappearance, and something painful from the past that connects the two star-crossed lovers.