Happy Valentine’s Day!
Whether that sentiment gave you a cuddly, warm fuzzy feeling or you grimaced and got a bit nauseous, this post is perfect for you! Our esteemed editors of XOXO AD all came together to share their book suggestions with you during these most romantic times. Some are pro-Valentine’s Day, some are anti, and some are just imploring you to read a really good book. Read on to find one that piques your interest! Be sure to sound off in the comments and tell us what your Valentine’s Day read is to enter for your chance to win all of the titles mentioned in today’s post!
If you’re of this persuasion:
My Valentine’s Day pick is an oldie but a goodie: Pride and Prejudice. (And yes, I also recommend the BBC version with Colin Firth, made even more famous through its medicinal use in Bridget Jones’s Diary!) I love Austen’s keen eye for human foibles and frailty, but her appreciation of a quick wit and a good heart above all. But I think my favorite part of the book isn’t a love scene between Lizzie and Darcy (not that I don’t enjoy them), but the battle of wills between Lizzie and Darcy’s aunt, the pompous Lady Catherine, at the end of the book. It’s verbal fencing! And frankly, a reminder that in real life, even the most romantic love story comes with in-laws.
I’m a die-hard romantic, and my favorite recommendation for a Valentine’s read is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116:
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark…”
This deep, steadfast acceptance is also found in one of my favorite movies, The Crying Game, when Lyle Lovett sings “Stand By Your Man.” The unlikely lovers give a “ha!” twist to Tammy Wynette’s song, but the message is still the same: we all screw up, we don’t always understand each other, but love forgives, comforts, and accepts. And with passion in the mix, that’s my definition of romantic love!
For Valentine’s Day, I’d maybe go with Italo Calvino’s Difficult Loves. It’s not a particularly uplifting set of stories necessarily, though his “The Adventure of a Clerk” (about a one night stand—oo la la!) does a great job at getting at that first rush of excitement over meeting someone new and feeling like you’ve had a unique experience in the world. (Which is what love feels like, right?) And while “The Adventure of a Bather” is about an unfortunate woman losing her bathing suit while swimming in the surf, and her attempts to avoid embarrassment over such, it’s so beautifully written that I instantly understood why it was one of my wife’s favorite stories. I made a hand-made edition of that story one year for her for Valentine’s Day even. So there, Italo brought the two of us together—which is what great writing, like love, can do so well.
If you’re of this persuasion:
I’m a notorious Valentine’s Day Grinch. Regardless of whether or not I’m in a relationship, this holiday ALWAYS makes me cringe—I hate chocolate (weird, I know), PDA grosses me out, and romantic gestures that are swoon-worthy in rom-coms tend to be super embarrassing in person. So, this Valentine’s Day, I recommend celebrating the ultimate couple-gone-wrong by diving into Gillian Flynn’s deeply unromantic smash hit GONE GIRL. The film adaptation is coming out this year, so this is the perfect time to pick up this polarizing novel of suspense. It centers on a woman who goes missing on her five-year wedding anniversary, forcing the reader to question whether her husband could be a murderer. Don’t you dare Google any spoilers—just enjoy the dark and twisted thrill ride (and join me in my anti-Valentine’s Day campaign!).
Ah, Valentine’s Day.
For a long time, it was my most hated day of the year. I had a tradition that consisted of me holed up in my dorm(college)/apartment (20’s), listening to The Police’s SO LONELY on repeat and reading a fantastic romance novel. I found some of my very favorite books on my least favorite day. I no longer keep this tradition alive (I do confess to some Police marathons on occasion, thankfully it’s not one song anymore) but want to recommend a favorite author of mine for the perfect read on a day cozied up at home by yourself – Meredith Duran. Honestly, you could read any of her books and be completely transported somewhere else with two people that are totally fascinating. But my personal favorite by Meredith is WRITTEN ON YOUR SKIN. I don’t want to mislead you – its dark – but that’s how I like ‘em. Mina Masters is unlike any heroine I have ever read and Phin Granville is so deliciously tortured that watching them fall in love is such an original and fantastic journey. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book and think the depth of emotion and level of writing are beyond compare. Only one other author has touched me in the same way and that is the great Laura Kinsale whose books got me through many a Valentine’s Day. Do yourself a favor and take Meredith Duran home with you this Valentine’s Day.
My Valentine’s Day pick this year is THE BOOKSTORE by Deborah Meyler. It isn’t quite pro-Valentine’s Day, but it’s not anti, either. Instead, this novel perfectly captures the complicated landscape of an intense but impractical romance, the kind that will leave you at the curb as quickly as it will sweep you off your feet. (We’ve all been there.) With warmth and humor, Meyler illustrates how love often appears where you least expect it, and that sometimes a friend, a favorite neighborhood store, or even a book can provide just the right amount of comfort and companionship.
My senior spring in high school, I was lucky enough to enroll in one of the more popular English electives, “Spring in Love.” We explored how literary lovers broke the rules so often set by family or society or religion in texts like Nabokov’s Lolita, Hwang’s M. Butterfly, Ondaatje’s The English Patient, and Virginia Woolf’s letters (all of which I highly recommend). But my favorite, by far, was Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. It’s definitely not your traditional love story. In fact, the two central characters take an actual lifetime to end up together. But Marquez masterfully depicts the sheer delusion of love without trivializing its centrality to the human experience. And who can resist this first line? “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” Whether you’re feeling love-struck, hopeful, apathetic, or lonely this Valentine’s Day, Love in the Time of Cholera will give you one of the most honest portraits of love out there.
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If you could be reading anything during Valentine’s Day, what book would it be? Answer in a comment below by 9 a.m. February 17th for your chance to win. Click here for complete contest rules.