The other day I decided to treat myself to a night out to the cinema all by my lonesome. Let me tell you, it is one of the best decisions I have made, and I think the movie I went to watch had a huge role to play in it.
If you have somehow missed the buzz on The Lost City, it is a tale of a romance author (Sandra Bullock) struggling with her grief and grappling with what she thought her career would be and what it is. She spends her timing writing romances about the archaeological adventures of a couple while she longs for more for herself. When her book’s cover model (Channing Tatum) steals the show at one of her book releases, she storms right out — only to be abducted by someone who wants to use her knowledge to uncover lost treasure from a lost city. It is a story of the power of romance, of history, and what it truly means to own treasure.
It goes without saying that while watching the movie, my brain was working overtime about what all books the movie reminded me of. It had budding romance, but it also went into the process of writing and the research that goes into writing a historically accurate story. But then there is also the adventure and treasure hunt element of the story: a city on the brink of ruin, a treasure to uncover before all is lost. So, I decided to divide my list of books into two, depending on which element appeals to you more.
Hunt for Hidden Treasure
If your heart desires history, curses and excavations for hidden treasures, then these are the books for you.
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Amelia Peabody is a spinster living in England in the late 1800s. She inherits a rather large sum of money when her father passes away and decides to use her new funds to travel the world. Eventually, she ends up on the site of an archaeological expedition in Egypt, where she meets the Emerson brothers and starts being haunted by a reanimated mummy. This is a book full of Egyptology and archaeological references, and it will definitely fulfill that craving of standing at the center of something bigger than you.
Euphoria by Lily King
This tells the story of Nell Stone, her husband Fen, and Andrew Bankson. They are studying Native tribes in 1933 New Guinea. Then, they all come together, and one ill-fated decision sets in motion an unforeseen chain of events. In the story, Nell really dives into her work, writing books about her research that eventually make her famous.
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
This one is definitely a lot darker and heavier than The Lost City. What you get in this is an unreliable narrator, Norton Perina, an immunologist who travels to a Micronesian island called Ivu’ivu where word of an exceptional discovery awaits: the culture contains humans who have been alive for hundreds of years, far exceeding the natural lifespan. The import of this discovery — dubbed Selene syndrome — has vast implications for Perina’s career and reputation, and so he makes the trek to find out the secret. But events take a dark turn as Perina’s ideas go to his head, and all sense of right and wrong becomes blurred.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
In the Lost City, ancient stories and folklore play a huge part in moving the story forward, and so is the case in this one. This story is a delightful journey into the history of Mexico in 1920s and into Mayan mythology. It’s a new take on the old idea — and it’s fresh and fascinating in Moreno-Garcia’s hands. It tells of Casiopea Tun, who is treated by her family like a servant, but counts on them for survival for both her and her mom after losing her father. Until one day, she opens a forbidden trunk in her grandfather’s room and accidentally unleashes the Aztec God of Death. As she accompanies the god in his mission to reclaim his throne, Casiopea goes on an adventure of a lifetime herself.
If, like me, you are enraptured by romance authors and the immense about of research that goes into their work, then these are the picks for you.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
One of the things I adored about The Lost City is that it is all about second chances: at life, at love, you name it. This gorgeous romance is more of the same. Fifteen years ago in high school, Eva and Shane had a week together that left them forever changed. Since then, they’ve each gone on to become best-selling romance authors, who have been writing messages to each other in their works. When a chance encounter gives them another seven days together, they know they must decide if they are ready to take this second chance before it is too late.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
January Andrews and Augustus Everett met in college when they were both taking a creative writing course. As adults in their 30s, both have achieved literary success. When the two find themselves spending the summer in neighboring beach houses in Michigan, and both struggling with writer’s block, they make a deal: January will attempt to write a serious novel without a happy ending, and Augustus will write a romance novel. On weekends, they’ll take each other on “field trips” to get into the proper mindset for writing outside their respective genres. Hijinks, family secrets, and sexual tension follow.
A big theme in The Lost City was the author, Loretta, struggling with the idea of who she has become versus who she wanted to be. She thinks writing romances is beneath her and Alan, the charming book cover model, very rightly puts her in her place. This book is a lot of that. But it is also about a writer who is trying to write through her grief, and it is wonderful.
Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood
This is one of my absolute favorite books that has the recurring theme of romances, escapism, and the people who write about it. It tells of Joan, who dreams of disappearing, of starting over, and boy has she done it — she faked her death and re-emerged in a small Italian village. She writes gothic romances and lives under two identities; the person she presents on the outside is only one reflection of the whole. Her interior world is secretive, hidden, claustrophobic. Soon, the secrets start to collide, in a most inconvenient fashion.
By the Book by Jasmine Guillory (May 3, 2022)
This book is a bit of a cheat because it is not out yet, but there is time to preorder it and longingly check your mail till May. Feeling lost in what you have been doing for so long is definitely something that comes across in The Lost City, and this one is a perfect rendition of that. It tells of Isabelle, an aspiring editorial assistant doing everything in her power to get the promotion she truly deserves. When her boss Marta shares her problem about a very popular author who gives the company a hard time by not turning his memoir manuscript on time, she accepts the challenge, going to the mansion of the author located in California to negotiate with him face to face. What she finds is a lot more than an author unwilling to comply with deadlines.
I think a lot about what the content I consume means to me. What I often conclude is that it is a means of inviting introspection, empathy, and most of the time joy into my life. My favorite element of The Lost City was just that. There are always possibilities of gratitude and happiness around you — you just have to find the right door to let them in.