Shelf Life: Tia Williams

Welcome to Shelf Life,’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.

To be in Elle for her latest book and fourth novel A Love Song for Ricki Wilde (Grand Central Publishing) is a homecoming of sorts for author Tia Williams, an editor at this magazine in the 90s. The Netflix adaptation of her The Perfect Find starring Gabrielle Union premiered last year and won the audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival despite challenges finding a publisher, and she’ll soon executive produce the TV adaptation of her Seven Days in June. After a magazine career at other titles and as a pioneering beauty blogger (“Shake Your Beauty”), she was Bumble and Bumble’s copy director and an executive editorial director at Estée Lauder Companies. She also wrote a couple of young adult books.

The Virginia-raised, Brooklyn-based NYT bestselling Leo can’t write without Reese’s Pieces, was featured in the NYT for chick lit and a modestly budgeted 2020 wedding where there were pies from Patsy’s Pizzeria, didn’t go to prom, considers writing sex scenes as self-care/meditation, was on her high school pom pom squad and an Olay Total Effects commercial (residuals spent on brunches at Pastis), once lived on an army base in Germany during middle school and taught English to kids in Seville, has one teen daughter and two Prince tattoos.

Likes: Greenlight Bookstore and Doughnuttery doughnuts, listening to podcasts while cleaning (“Scam Goddess” is a favorite), QC NY spa on Governors Island, The Ripped Bodice bookstore, 20s/Jazz Age, Natchitoches meat pies, the movie Rye Lane. Fan of: designer Ann Lowe, Jayne Kennedy, Capital B News, Grace Eleyae silk pillowcases, Imaan Hammam, Judith Krantz novels, jambalaya, Harry Styles, Michael B. Jordan, hair masks. Not a fan of: running (as an activity not a spectator sport). Recs: Camino’s Bakery in Winston Salem, Pat McGrath Mothership V: Bronze Seduction Palette, Whipped Urban Dessert Lab in NYC, Glerups Danish wool slippers, C.O. Bigelow Lemon Body Lotion.

At work on her third YA novel, Williams kicked her pandemic nail-biting habit with Woo Me Nail Biter Pen and supports sneaking in snacks at movie theaters. Screen her book picks below.

The book that:

…helped me through a breakup:

Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Ephron’s autobiographical novel about her divorce from Carl Bernstein is so funny and sharp, it’s like literary therapy.

…made me cry:

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. A horror masterpiece featuring four haunted friends who grew up on a Blackfeet reservation. The ending is exquisite.

…shaped my worldview:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Sadly, Heathcliff and Cathy’s twisted love had me crushing on far too many tormented anti-heroes in my teens.

…I read in one sitting, it was that good:

The Guest by Emma Cline. Nothing’s more delicious than a messy main character with grifter/con artist energy.

…currently sits on my nightstand:

I Finally Bought Some Jordans by Michael Arceneaux. A hilarious, March 2024 essay collection from a true pop culture savant.

…has the best opening line:

Beloved by Toni Morrison. “124 was spiteful.” So ominous!

…has a sex scene that will make you blush:

Bared to You by Sylvia Day. An absolute plethora of perfectly-dirty, must-not-read-in-public scenes.

…helped me become a better writer:

It by Stephen King. Taught me everything I ever needed to know about propulsive pacing, and using inner monologue as a narrative device.

…describes a house I’d want to live in:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Who wouldn’t want to own a gothic seaside estate like Manderley? (Minus the sinister psycho-sexual vibes.)

…should be on every college syllabus:

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. This dive into America’s hierarchy of human rankings is so important, especially as our history’s being erased in schools.

…I brought before I studied abroad:

Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton. Depressed college kid is activated by the People’s Princess’ gutsy biography; decides she must live in London for a semester.

…I’ve re-read the most:

Scruples by Judith Krantz. Sparkly, smutty, bitchy, fashiony—this ‘80s classic is my fiction touchstone!

…makes me feel seen:

Manhattan When I Was Young by Mary Cantwell. When I was a twenty-something Elle editor in the late-90s, I couldn’t get enough of this memoir…about a twenty-something Mademoiselle editor in the late-50s.

…everyone should read:

The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop by Jonathan Abrams. A fascinating insider’s take on the most influential music genre of our time.

…I’d want signed by the author:

Disco Bloodbath by James St. James. This ultra-witty account of the Michael Alig club-kid murder is so outrageous, you almost forget it actually happened.

Read Williams’ Picks

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