And just because Valentine’s Day is almost over doesn’t mean you have to stop reading books about love, and couples, and couples falling in (and out) (and in) (and out) of love. Here’s a few of my picks for the best novels about love:
I just finished this book last week and it has already become on the best novels I’ve ever read. Blisteringly intelligent, funny, insightful, and culturally-relevant, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the best writers writing today.
The story follows Ifemelu and Obinze, young lovers from Nigeria, who torn apart by war and circumstance and the post-9/11 world. Ifemelu finds academic success in America and Obinze finds himself living as an undocumented worker in London, but neither finds happiness. The novel follows their attempt to navigate back to themselves, to their homeland, and to each other.
To simply call this book a love story would be the gravest of literary injustices. It is a cultural critique and a love story and a book about race, and it is all of these things in the most wonderfully unapologetic way. All of these things along with the beautiful prose will leave you breathless.
2. Blankets by Craig Thompson
A graphic novel about the beauty and brokenness of first love. A partial meditation on childhood, religion, the beauty and power of winter, and falling in love with the idea of someone instead of the real. It is an honest portrayal of one of the most devastating moments of growing up–falling in love with someone who cannot love you with the sameness in which you love them.
Thompson’s illustrations and writing are equally beautifuly–able to evoke feeling from his chiaroscuro drawings and from his poetic musings. It’s a book worth reading especially during a sleepy snowstorm.
I listened to this audiobook (fitting for the theme of the book) in December and I really enjoyed it. The premise: Georgie and Neal have been married for 14 years, a marriage that had been in trouble for far longer than Georgie is willing to admit. When she chooses her career (her big break) over Christmas with her family, it seems as if Georgie has leveled everything they had built together. Enter in a magic yellow landline phone, a phone that allows 37-year-old Georgie to talk to 22-year-old Neal–back when their relationship was shiny and sparkling and new.
While the pacing isn’t perfect, the story of Neal and Georgie’s second chance feels imperfectly perfect. The magic phone plot device doesn’t feel as importance as the ruminations on the strange, awkwardness of young love and the familiarity and friction of aging love. It was a quick, but satisfying read about love and marriage and the ways to mend the splintering of long-term relationships. Landline definitely kept me on the hook.
4. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
I read this book almost two years ago while on a post-graduation vacation with my family and best friend–just a month after beginning a new relationship with my current boyfriend. David Levithan’s experimental prose-poem novel gutted me. The simplicity of the language; the premise; the wavy-timeline of love–it all left me reeling.
Each word in the dictionary is accompanied by a definition aka an anecdote from the “Lover’s” relationship. It follows the highs and lows of being deeply in love, of being one half of a whole, of something coming to an end, of trying to put that end into words. The vignettes are beautiful and heart-wrenching and easily devoured. A perfect book to break your heart, put it back to together, and shatter it again just in time for Valentine’s Day.