25 books to read when you're falling in love
So. You’ve plunged into the dreamy, confusing, wonderful-but-melancholic realm of love. You’re so head over heels, you find yourself staying up until 2AM baking sugar cookies in the shape of lumpy hearts, and rehearsing exactly what you’re going to say to your new love. The thought of seeing them again makes your insides turn to mush —they’re the only thing you can possibly think about.
Well, you happen to be in good company. When you find yourself falling in love, find a book that gets you on a spiritual, deep level —a story or book of poems that’s all about that love life and understands your struggles, as well as your triumphs. Here are 25 suggestions:
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The smart and lovely governess, Jane Eyre, falls in love with Mr. Rochester —her boss. Who’s uh, married. The love story highlights female empowerment in the Victorian age and how love can transcend even the most dire of situations.
2. Every Kiss a War by Leese Cross-Smith
Every Kiss a War encompasses every love story, every story about kissing strange men, every story about wanting too much, and every story about not wanting enough. Comprised of 27 short stories, Every Kiss a War is funny, bizarrely relatable, and gorgeous. Literally every single sentence is poetry —it sucks you in and doesn’t allow you to leave until your heart is devastated (in a good way).
3. Love, an Index by Rebecca Lindenberg
Published by McSweeney’s, Love, an Index is a collection of poems that explore the real relationship Lindenberg had with Craig Arnold, a poet who disappeared while hiking in Japan. Harrowing, beautiful, and intensely sorrowful, every single poem will not fail to slay every bone in your body.
4. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
A book I always seem to come back to (probably because I wish I wrote it), The History of Love is a story that intertwines the lives of Leo Gursky (a Holocaust survivor), Alma, Alma’s mother, and the people they love. Much like her husband (Jonathan Safran Foer), Nicole Krauss’ playful language allows her to focus on a million things all at once: love, loss, Jewish culture, lists, childhood, translations, writing, and how angels sleep.
5. Dancing in Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky
Winner of practically every award there is (and I’m sure some were even invented just for this book), Ilya Kaminsky’s collection of poems are endlessly tender and so beautiful, you’ll swear you’re being haunted by a phantom waltz.
6. Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
In this memoir told through the rhetoric of mix tapes, Rob Sheffield writes about the first lady love of his life, Renee. You’ll probably cry a lot, so get that roll of tissue paper ready.
7. Love in a Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Oh, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. No one’s romantic gusto can match yours, that’s for sure. Love in the Time of Cholera is about Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, a pair that fall into a bottomless kind of love. Alas, Fermina marries a rich doctor instead of Florentino because that’s just what happens sometimes. Florentino is no quitter, though. He holds on to this love for 50 years before he gives it another shot.
8. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Sometimes we find love in all the strangest of places —including our childhood. Literally. Clare meets Henry when she’s six, and the two go from there. Kind of —time travel is tricky. The couple try to live as normal of a life as possible, but it proves more and more difficult, since Henry has no control over which year he travels to or where.
9. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Maybe you ate each one of these books up like Reese Pieces when you were a tween. Maybe you just watched the Anne Hathaway movie. But chances are, the story of Mia and Michael probably made you feel things (and wish that you were the princess of a made up country, right?).
10. Earth’s Horses and Boys by Jenny Minniti-Shippey
Earth’s Horses and Boy‘s is a chapbook filled to the brim with sultry poems about love, seducing a semi-famous poet in a hotel room, and discovering that “space between your collarbones.” Did I just send chills running through your spine? You’re welcome.
11. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
A half-fairy who is deeply in love, Tristan Thorn sets off on an odyssey to find a fallen star. This story involves witches, unicorns, and elf-lords, and yes it is everything you always wanted in a fairy tale.
12. Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell
Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels is the self-aware book about love we’ve been waiting for. This book will resonate with you on every single level. If someone understands your love issues, it’s Sarah Wendell.
13. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
The Jessica Darling series, which chronicles the life and times of Jessica Darling and Marcus Flutie, taught 7th grade Gina about how complex, hard, and woeful love can be. And how it’s absolutely worth it, even if it makes us feel like garbage sometimes.
14. Atonement by Ian McEwan
Atonement is the tragic love story to end all tragic love stories. Angsty tween Briony Tallis catches her sister Cecilia and cutie Robbie Turner get it on. And then something else happens, and it’s terrible, and Briony essentially ruins everyone’s lives. Prepare to feel a lot of feelings.
15. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Jacob Jankowski decides to join the circus because he’s got nothing else. And guess what happens? Guy falls in love with a very taken lady. Spectacularly stunning, Water for Elephants captures a desperate, timeless love affair.
16. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
The Unbearable Lightness of Being is about love. And our love’s love. And our love’s love’s love. It’s about betrayal, and choices, and loneliness. Clearly, love can never easily be defined.
17. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
A wonderfully dramatic and addictive story, We Were Liars is about a family, a complex girl and a determined boy, lies (naturally), and love.
18. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Lara Jean writes every single one of her crushes a love letter, but instead of sending any of them, she hides the pieces of paper under her bed. But the box disappears, as secret boxes filled with yearnings and desires often do, and Lara Jean discovers every letter has been mailed out.
19. Tulips & Chimneys by E.E. Cummings
A batch of poems which are sexually charged and perfect in every way, Tulips & Chimneys celebrates love and sexuality and the self.
20. Love is Power, or Something Like That: Stories by A. Igoni Barrett
As we all know, love isn’t exactly what we want it to be sometimes. And it doesn’t always arrive in the form we had imagined. In this amazing collection of short stories, boys pose as women on online chatrooms, maids possibly sleep with their bosses, and love introduces itself as an entity more powerful than ever.
21. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
Everything Leads to You is about Emi, who is a film-fanatic and bona-fide romantic. Jumping around from one disastrous relationship to another, Emi finally meets Ava, who is different from anyone she has ever met (in weird, wonderful ways).
22. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Leila goes through high school practically unscathed by love, which makes her life less complicated, since a) she likes girls, and b) her Persian family doesn’t know she’s a lesbian. But when Leila meets Saskia, Leila realizes she’ll need to let her guard down in order to experience true love.
23. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
This romantically-fueled story is organized by dictionary-style entries, giving us sweet, unique little snippets into a larger, more profound story about two people in love with each other.
24. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
Girls in White Dresses is the realistic Sex and the City we never had, a story about friendship that is slightly sweeter and more optimistic than GIRLS. This book brilliantly and accurately captures what love in our 20s is really like (terrifying).
25. A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins
Neill meets Rachel in the middle of a really dark period —his father just committed suicide, and Neill wants to know why. While his fling with Rachel was supposed to just be a one-time thing, Neill realizes that it’s probably something more. A Working Theory of Love shows us how complicated and inconvenient love can be sometimes.
(Images: Flickr, Barnes & Noble, Finishing Line Press)