It’s almost Valentine’s Day! For some it’s the day that they have been looking forward to for months, but for others it’s the most dreaded day of the year. It’s the perfect day to declare your love to your significant other, either by giving them flowers or chocolates, or by writing them a love note (here’s how you do it). If you haven’t got a special someone in your life, or if you’ve decided you’ve already given them enough attention, today is also excellent for curling up with a book (actually, that’s always a good idea). Want to know which books you should read on Valentine’s Day? Read on!
Timeless Love Stories
Let’s start with the essentials. There are two love stories that simply have to be mentioned in a list of the most romantic stories of all time. Both were written centuries ago, but remain as popular as ever, and have even inspired other authors two write down their own versions of them.
There’s only one book that this list can start with: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. There’s not a single person alive who hasn’t heard of this pair of star-crossed lovers who take their life. It’s the greatest love story ever told, and it has been for over four hundred years – and I daresay it will still be in four hundred years’ time. Bonus: Also make sure to read Sweet Sorrows by David Nicholls, which is about a boy and a girl who meet and fall in love one summer, while playing in a new adaptation of Romeo & Juliet.
The second book which you must definitely read is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It’s the classic story of Elizabeth Bennett who slowly but surely falls in love with Mr Darcy. While he appears to be arrogant and judgmental at first, he turns out to be the perfect gentleman. Bonus: If you think Austen’s language is too old-fashioned, then try Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. It’s hilarious – and this version’s Mr Darcy might be even more perfect than the original!
Time-Defying Love Stories
The most romantic idea of love is one that can be stopped by nothing, not even time. Imagine being able to travel in time to be with the one youo love, or being in a relationship that’s so perfect that it would literally last for all eternity – if only it were possible. Here are two books that deal with this idea.
Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time is such a romantic novel. It is about a man, Tom, who suffers from a rare condition: he ages excruciatingly slowly. He takes his reader with him through his long life, during which he meets, amongst others, William Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald. There’s only one rule he has to live by: never fall in love. Well, I bet you can guess what happens next.
If you love time traveling and romance, then you should definitely try The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It’s about the love that unfolds between Henry and Clare. While this may sound like nothing special, there is something rather extraordinary about them: Henry can travel in time, and suddenly appears and reappears on his own timeline – and they are never truly in sync. This novel shows how hard relationships really are, even if there’s no time travel involved.
LGBTQ Love Stories
The world is starting to realise more and more that a great love story is not only possble between men and women. Countless novels deal with the love between two people regardless of their gender, and here are two of them.
Firstly, there’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It’s a coming-of-age young-adult novel (well, that’s quite a mouthful) about two lonely boys looking for friendship. Eventually, however, they realise that what they feel for each other is quite a bit more than that. This is such a loving ode to budding romance and finding your identity that it almost made me cry at the end.
Secondly, I would love to recommend the novel The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller. It’s a retelling of the Trojan War (I’ve written extensively about this topic earlier this year, starting with this one), but this version focuses on the alleged love between Achilles, the greatest warrior ever, and Patroclus. It is argued that they must have had a sexual relationship, otherwise Achilles would not have been so devastated by Patroclus’ death, causing him to avenge him, kill Hector, and eventually win the war. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking book, and it’s interesting to see a modern topic being woven into this ancient story.
Finally, for those who hate Valentine’s Day and wish it would be over already, I’ve got some books that deal with love in a profound way, but do not necessarily end very well. Sometimes you just want to read a book that’s not all lovey-dovey, love’s-the-answer-to-everything, right? Here we go.
While it’s not really a romance, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald definitely deals with the idea of love. Often considered as one of the best American novels ever written, this book is about Jay Gatsby, who is so in love with Daisy, a girl he met when he was young but lost touch with, that he decides to win her back by giving the best parties the world has ever seen. It shows just how superficial life, and love, can really be.
If you want to have a good cry, then please read A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood. It’s about a gay man in the 1960s, whose partner has died. He realises that his life has no longer any purpose, and decides to have one more day on Earth before he commits suicide. But then, by observing the world around him, he finds out just what it means to be alive. This novel is not really about love; it’s about so much more than that. This is one of these novels that can change the way you see the world forever.
Finally, if you’re really not in the mood for the perfect, traditional love, then make sure to read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. It’s about Humbert Humbert (not his real name, fortunately), a middle-aged literature professor who is obsessed with Lolita, a twelve-year-old girl. Read this one if you want to have the idea of love come crashing down and torn apart. It’s disgusting and hilarious, and will make you think twice about love. Perfect for a rotten Valentine’s Day, isn’t it?
So, that’s it, my nine (or eleven, if you include the bonus material) books you should give a go on Valentine’s Day! Which one will you be reading? And which one should I definitely add to the list? Please let me know in the comments! Also, make sure to follow me for more book musings. Happy Valentine’s Day!