Valentine’s Day 2018: 10 books on love that will make for excellent gifts

Poetry, tear-jerker, teenage romance, queer love, joys of marriage and singledom or a good old classic – we’ve covered it all.

books Updated: Mar 21, 2018 13:47 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Pablo Neruda,Valentine’s Day 2018,Romance novels
Here are 10 books we recommend that’d make for perfect Valentine’s Day gifts. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If you’ve been book hunting to find that perfect read for your bibliophilic other on Valentine’s Day, or are looking for a good book for a quiet evening in, look no further. Here’s what we recommend:

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

In these nine interlinked stories, Junot Diaz takes a long, hard look at the infidelities and complexities of being in love through his protagonist Yunior. In an interview, Diaz described the book as being “a tale about a young man’s struggle to overcome his cultural training and inner habits in order to create lasting relationships...” A perfect gift for the Yunior/s you might know.

Opening lines: I’m not a bad guy. I know how that sounds—defensive, unscrupulous—but it’s true. I’m like everybody else: weak, full of mistakes, but basically good. Magdalena disagrees though. She considers me a typical Dominican man: a sucio, an asshole. See, many months ago, when Magda was still my girl, when I didn’t have to be careful about almost anything, I cheated on her with this chick who had tons of eighties freestyle hair. Didn’t tell Magda about it, either. You know how it is. A smelly bone like that, better off buried in the backyard of your life. Magda only found out because homegirl wrote her a fucking letter. And the letter had details. Shit you wouldn’t even tell your boys drunk.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

High school outcast, Theodore Finch, meets popular girl Violet Markey. But the story is not that simple – and what brings them close is more than just teenage angst. Violet is grieving for her dead sister and Theodore battling an illness that is hard to understand and even harder to live with.

Opening lines:

Is today a good day to die?

This is something I ask myself in the morning when I wake up. In the third period when I’m trying to keep my eyes open while Mr Schroeder drones on and on. At the supper table as I’m passing the green beans. At night when I’m lying awake because my brain won’t shut off due to all there is to think about.

Is today the day?
And if not today—when?

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

The 2017 movie, directed by Italian director Luca Guadagnino, and based on André Aciman’s coming-of-age novel was nominated for four Oscars last year. The movie was acclaimed as a masterpiece and the book, set in the 1980s, is just as brilliant. It is the story of a queer love affair between a teenage Italian boy and an American doctoral student.

Opening lines:

“Later!” The word, the voice, the attitude.

I’d never heard anyone use “later” to say goodbye before. It sounded harsh, curt, dismissive, spoken with the veiled indifference of people who may not care to see or hear from you again.

How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

Can love be taught? Is there a wrong or right way of loving someone? How do you build trust? Can you love another without loving yourself first? Buddhist teacher and human rights activist Thich Nhat Hanh explores different kinds of love and the habits that make it stronger in this pocket-sized guide, part of a how-to series where he explains how to practice mindfulness in everyday life. An ideal gift if your date is a cynic or emotionally constipated. Just ask him/her to approach it with an open mind.

Opening lines:

Heart Like a River

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform. So the big question is: how do we help our hearts to grow?

Committed: A Sceptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert

When marriage seems like a quick fix to end her Brazil-born partner’s visa troubles, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the bestselling memoir Eat Pray, Love, in which she wrote about healing after her divorce, begins a deep dive into the history and evolution of the institution she has grown wary of.

Opening lines: Late one afternoon in the summer of 2006, I found myself in a small village in northern Vietnam, sitting around a sooty kitchen fire with a number of local women whose language I did not speak, trying to ask them questions about marriage.

Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating by Moira Weigel

Courtship may be as old as time but the institution of dating is a rather recent invention. A romantic disappointment forces scholar Moira Weigel to think hard about what she wants from a relationship and how it can be different from what popular culture has conditioned her to expect. And so begins her research into the history and evolution of dating from the 1900s to the present-day Tinder version.

Opening lines: The con was up. Or about to be. That was what it felt like in my midtwenties. I was not sure who I had been fooling, or why, or how exactly I was going to slip up and get caught. The self-help books and my Irish Catholic mother said it was the drumbeat of imminent spinsterhood I heard approaching. I did not want a lonesome, loveless future; who does? But the dread I felt was not about that.

I was starting to realize I did not know how to want.

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

Is being alone forever such a bad thing? Maybe not, says writer Kate Bolick as she sets out to document the joys of never settling down. She intersperses her experiences with those of five women who have inspired her through their agency and independence.

Opening lines: For several summers when I was a child my family vacationed on a tiny island off the coast of Maine. Barely a fleck on the map, it’s a mile at the longest point, a scruffy bramble of fir trees and rocky beaches, no hotels or stores or restaurants, not even cars, only a scattering of forty or so once-grand summer homes sagging on their foundations.

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Sarah Water’s 1998 debut is a lesbian romance and a coming-of-age drama set in Victorian England. Young Nancy Astley falls in love with entertainer Kitty Butler who works at the local theatre. Nancy follows her to London, first as her dresser and then her performing partner and eventually becomes her secret lover.

Opening lines: Have you ever tasted a Whitstable oyster? If you have, you will remember it. Some quirk of the Kentish coastline makes Whitstable natives – as they are properly called – the largest and the juiciest, the savouriest yet the subtlest, oysters in the whole of England. Whitstable oysters are, quite rightly, famous. The French, who are known for their sensitive palates, regularly cross the Chanel for them; they are shipped, in barrels of ice, to the dining-tables of Hamburg and Berlin.

Andal: The Autobiography of a Goddess by Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Ravi Shankar

This new translation of 9th century teenage mystic poet-saint Andal incorporates her entire body of work. In her erotic bhakti poetry, Andal writes explicitly about female desire and of her deep love and yearning for Vishnu Narayana.


Wine-dark clouds, massed ready for monsoon,

Batter the name of my beloved on Vengadam,

for valiant in battle, he is finally ready to put

down his arms and come home to be with me.

Tell him like the scrolls of leaves that fall unread

after prolonged rain has stripped the branches,

I too waste away, unread, waiting for the day

he might translate the secret letters of my limbs.

From Dark Clouds Be My Messenger, translated by Ravi Shankar

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

A list of books about love cannot be complete without the mention of the most popular novel ever written about love and marriage. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy must overcome a series of misunderstandings, matchmaking mothers and aunts, handsome rakes and their own biases and pig-headedness to realise they are perfect for each other. An excellent book to re-read or read for the first time (if you’ve been living under a rock) on the day designated for love.

Opening lines: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

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First Published: Feb 13, 2018 11:30 IST