Still reeling from the success of her BookTok boom, Colleen Hoover’s books have been featured on many a recommendations list. But let’s turn the tables here: what are some books that she has recommended over the years?
This list has been curated from blogs, articles she has written with publishers, and lists Colleen has created for Goodreads. I’ve also grabbed some of the books she’s recommended on her personal Instagram. There’s naturally a majority of romance titles here, but I tried to include ones that also have a touch of other genres to give a more diverse range of titles.
To be honest, throughout these lists there weren’t many surprises. The majority of these books were ones that I would fully expect to be favorites or books she enjoyed — no shade meant in that, but just knowing the books Colleen writes, it makes sense that books she enjoys would feel similar or have same vibes.
Before we dive in here, I do want to add a disclaimer. While these are books that Hoover has listed as favorites or recommendations, there are a few that I personally would not recommend due to problematic content. As we should all be saying before recommending any CoHo books as well, please do your own research before starting any of these.
You by Caroline Kepnes
In a piece for Off the Shelf, Hoover described this book as “The type of book I wish I’d written.” Now a hit Netflix show, You is the unsettling inner monologue of Joe, an outwardly charismatic guy who becomes obsessed with the unsuspecting Beck. Even as their relationship changes (and Joe’s actions become more unhinged), he continues to believe that what he is doing is “love” and that Beck deserves a guy like him and vice versa. It’s a book that walks the line between what is considered romance and what others may define as manipulative, as seen in CoHo faves such as Hopeless.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
It does not surprise me in the slightest that this is one of Colleen Hoover’s favorite books. The characters and the heartwrenching narrative feel very similar. Needing work, Lou finds a job assisting Will Traynor. Once the “It Boy” of England, Traynor has essentially disappeared from public life after an accident leaves him a quadriplegic. I’ll stop here in case you’ve been spared the “plot twist,” but Will is also keeping a secret that Lou desperately is trying to change. If you are someone who is frequently reduced to a puddle of tears by CoHo’s books, this one will do the trick. Think It Ends With Us, November 9 or Too Late. (Note: it’s worth also checking out this roundup of criticism of ableism in Me Before You.)
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
Seeing this book in Colleen’s list of favorite books was such a pleasant surprise to me, since CoHo doesn’t write historical fiction. Allende’s works have such beautiful prose and her stories are rich and multilayered. This book takes place in San Fran during World War II. Alma is sent there from her native Poland after the Nazis take control of their country. It is there that she meets Ichimei, the son of their Japanese gardener. And as their relationship deepens, Ichimei is forced into an internment camp. Similarly, Hoover’s Without Merit feels more like a family narrative than a romance and includes a “forbidden lovers” arc.
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Last year, CoHo created a list of “Sweet-to-Scorching Must-Read Romances” for Goodreads in honor of Valentine’s Day. This was listed as one of her “sweet” romances. Kristen is busy planning her best friend’s wedding when she is faced with the reality of needing a procedure that would prevent her from having children in the future. Things get even more complicated when she meets best man, Josh, who she immediately hits it off with. The catch? He is set on having a big family and she can’t bear to tell him her secret. This is perfect for those who enjoyed the “you can find happiness again” narrative of Ugly Love — just a little less ugly.
Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan
Described by Hoover as “beautiful and angsty,” Before I Let Go follows Yasmen and Josiah, and how their marriage fell apart. The two have discovered how to coexist for the sake of their children and running a business together, but there is still something that the two cannot shake. As they begin to get closer again, Yasmen and Josiah begin to work through some of the issues that tore them apart the first time, but there are also some wounds that are too deep to mend. This second-chance romance has the heart and tear-jerk factor of All Your Perfects with a little extra spice.
Roman + Jewel by Dana L. Davis
“That first sentence, though 😍, ” Hoover wrote on her Instagram, “Can’t wait to get this one in the mail. Comment if you want a copy! I just ordered extra.” Described as “Romeo and Juliet meets Hamilton,” this book follows Jerzie, who is set on playing the lead role in Broadway’s newest show. Her dreams are dashed when she discovers she has been named understudy to the legendary performer Cinny. Things get even more complicated when Jerzie forms a connection with the male lead, and a leaked practice video has the public clamoring for her to take the lead role. This is perfect for those who enjoy forbidden love arcs like Maybe Someday or Slammed.
The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher
Also listed in her list of “Sweet-to-Scorching Must-Read Romances,” Hoover’s bestie, Tarryn Fisher, got a shout out for her 2011 release, The Opportunist. We meet Olivia, who has just discovered that her ex, Caleb, has lost his memory. And Olivia sees this as an opportunity to get him back without bringing up their past demons. Unluckily for Olivia, Caleb’s current girlfriend, Leah, is just as conniving as she is, and the two find themselves fighting tooth and nail over a man who doesn’t remember either of them. If you enjoyed the plot of struggling to keep a dark past a la Confess with a touch of the thriller vibes of Verity, this one will be up your alley.
Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino
CoHo has the cover blurb, writing, “Raw, real, and gripping; I read it in one sitting.” When Emiline hears the buzz surrounding the biggest novel of the year, she reluctantly decides to take a spin. But the story soon becomes uncannily similar — that’s because the author, “J.Colby,” is actually Jase, her childhood best friend. Hurt over having her life’s story broadcast to the world, Emiline tracks down Jase and confronts him. But she’s even more let down when he insists that she finishes the novel to understand his intention for writing it. If childhood friends-to-lovers is your weakness like the Never Never series, this book will equally tug on your heartstrings.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Easily her most recommended title from the past year, Colleen is not quiet about her love for Book Lovers. Nora is a literary agent who is amazing at getting others their due and landing important deals, but she’s not so great at doing the same for herself. She finds herself on a small town getaway with her little sister, Libby, which is where she runs into Charlie, an editor she has met previously, and yup, the interactions were not great. I’m sure you can guess where the story goes from here. This is a great fit for fans who enjoy the enemies-to-lovers trope, similar to Maybe Not.
The Air He Breathes by Brittainy C. Cherry
Another book shouted out in her list of “Sweet-to-Scorching Must-Read Romances,” this book follows the POVs of both Elizabeth and Tristan, two equally damaged and grieving individuals who find comfort in each other. The Air He Breathes has arcs of redemption, forgiveness, and finding hope in someone new — think of Reminders of Him.
The Idea of You by Robbine Lee
Also listed as a favorite romance, this book is every fan girl’s dream come true. Solène has been eager to reconnect with her daughter, so when she’s given a chance to take Isabelle to meet her favorite boyband, the positives outweigh the negatives. It’s there that she forms an immediate connection with Hayes, one of the members of the group. And thus begins their May-December relationship. This book is for fans of Regretting You, where there is focus on both a romantic relationship and the relationship between mothers and daughters.