8 Books to Read if You Love Reality TV

If you need a break from reality TV but still want some juicy drama, I’ve got you covered with today’s list! All the books below either feature a reality TV show or could be one. I hope you find a new favorite here.

8 Books to Read if You Love Reality TV

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

I almost skipped this one because I wasn’t a huge fan of the author’s first novel. I’m glad I gave this a go on audio book because it was a delicious treat! The three female narrators do an excellent job of portraying the characters of Brett, Stephanie, and Kelly to give us a well rounded view of the women featured on the Gold Diggers reality show. I didn’t exactly love all the women on women cattiness, betrayed, and lies. However it made for a compelling story that’s wound tight with tons of tiny twists. The writing struck me as considerably more skilled than the author’s prior novel as well. This would make for a great beach read or audio book for a road trip. It’s longer than it needs to be, but the story goes quickly and it’s worth it.

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

I’ve never watched The Bachelorette, but I have seen all seasons of UnReal so I have pretty low perception of what goes on behind the scenes at such shows! I was drawn to this book by the blurb and the idea of a plus-sized heroine. This was a 3 star read for me until about 80% in, then it went even better than I could have imagined. It’s an extremely entertaining read. Bea’s story is given to us through a combo of straight forward narrative, emails, texts, blog posts, and podcast transcripts. In a nutshell, she’s a plus-sized fashion blogger who goes on a reality dating show, but there’s a lot more to it than that! There were definitely times when I was uncomfortable by the backlash Bea faces in her life simply for her size. While this is obviously a romantic novel, it’s ultimately a story about learning to love yourself and learning you are deserving of love and kindness. The story is engaging and I couldn’t put it down because I couldn’t figure out how it was going to end, which is unique for a romance novel.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The writing here isn’t particularly exceptional. However, the strength is in the storytelling, setting, and character development. This is a multi-generational family drama that follows the Riva family in Malibu, California. The ocean is as much of a character as the humans are. The descriptions of Malibu and the coast are vivd and I could almost hear and smell the ocean. We get alternating timelines between one day in 1983 and the history of the family starting with the Riva children’s grandparents. I enjoyed seeing how the family changed over the years, how the women in particular adapted and took charge when they needed to. I was thoroughly engaged and invested in the characters. It’s a compelling story about family and what people are willing to do for those they love. 

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

This book has the perfect title because it’s absolutely charming. I don’t watch reality dating shows but somehow I’ve managed to read a few romance novels about them and this is the best by far. There is so much representation in this book, it’s truly heartwarming. Of course there is LGBTQ+ representation but also a lot to do with mental health, specifically OCD, depression, and anxiety disorders. I can say the scenes dealing with these issues were realistic, which means they were heavy at times. I appreciated how the characters talked openly about their mental health and their sexuality. Dev and Charlie are both wonderful characters. I was rooting for them both from the start. Their “issues” make them relatable. Overall the writing is strong and Cochrun did a great job weaving in humor and silliness with serious, heavy topics. 

The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir

I had no expectations going into this novel, except thinking the blurb sounded interesting. I was pleasantly surprised by the intense beauty in the story and absolutely fell in love with Essie and Roarke. Essie Hicks is the 17 year old daughter of an evangelical pastor whose entire family is a reality show. When Essie becomes pregnant, her mother and the show’s production team scramble for a solution that will hide the truth and reel in viewers. As the Hicks’ family works to keep their secrets hidden, Essie works to uncover them. With the support of a few trusted outsiders, her plan proceeds. This is a novel about many things. Some of them are horrible. Hypocrisy, homophobia, racism, abuse, and lying are rampant in the Hicks family. However, ultimately I found the novel’s main message to be about the power of love – in many forms – compassion, empathy, and helping others. It’s an incredibly unique storyline which could almost be unbelievable, yet I was lost in Essie’s world because I believe people have the ability to be as kind and as vile as the characters prove themselves to be. I was absolutely engrossed in this story from the beginning, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to pan out until the very end. There were a few points near the end where I was holding my breath, willing things to go the way I was hoping. The subject matter is at times difficult, and I promise this will be a gut wrenching read for anyone, but ultimately it is so worth it. The writing is gorgeous and the story is unbelievably compelling.

Love and Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

This is the first romance novel I’ve read with a nonbinary charter and I was really curious about how it would compare to others. I found it had a similar vibe to m/f novels but was much deeper. I learned a lot about what it means to be nonbinary. London is a complex character, who despite being so different from me, was still relatable. They just want to be accepted for who they are. I loved Delilah and was rooting for her from the start. She’s a messy human, and she’s just doing her best. Also a relatable character! There were some great humorous moments, and I liked getting the feel for what it’s like to be on a cooking competition show. But despite its lightness, the book also is heavy at times and tackles serious subjects. 

Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman

This isn’t a straight forward romance novel. It’s part romance, part social commentary on gender and celebrity. It was a quick, enjoyable read, with humor. Can is a journalist whose career has been defined by an in depth profile she did on famous actor Gabe. Now it’s ten years later and she’s returned to LA recovering from a brutal divorce. Her new essay collection is coming out soon when Gabe’s PR people reach out about another potential piece. The structure is a bit choppy with going back and forth between “then” and “now,” which is ten years later, plus all the articles that are in between chapters. Otherwise it’s an interesting look into both life as a celebrity and as someone who gets romantically involved with one.

The Honey Don’t List by Christina Lauren

This is a sweet, charming romance with a unique premise. It kept my attention from start to finish, and I enjoyed rooting for the love interests to get together. Carey and James are assistants to power couple Rusty and Melissa Tripp, who are famous home remodeling gurus. The problem is, the couple’s on screen image of their marriage is a fraud. Now they’re going on tour to promote a new book and their assistants are tasked with holding everything together. The romance portion of this book is about fighting to be with the person you choose, no matter what others think. That’s nice, but what I appreciated most is the personal development of Carey and James. Their stories are about learning you are more than the circumstances life dealt you. 


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