Two Dozen Valentines

February 14, 2018 | Wendy B.

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It's Valentine's Day; and whatever that means for you at the moment, you're probably finding yourself forced to think about love.  The good news: whether you're happy or sad or bitter or wistful or just baffled about love, literature's got you covered. 

We've asked library staff for their recommendations on what to read this time of year, and they've delivered. From sweeping epics to anxious ruminations, from heartwarming favourites to books to help you ugly cry after a breakup, here are two dozen books about our most perplexing emotion:

For Adults


The History of Love by Nicole KraussJane Eyre by Charlotte BronteReader  I Married Him  edited by Tracy Chevalier
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  • Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
  • Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier

    I recommend Nicole Krauss’ "The History of Love", a heartbreaking, stylistically brilliant and exquisitely written novel about the lifelong search for love. Told through multiple perspectives and voices (including that of a long-lost novel also called "The History of Love") and sweeping across time and geography, the book reveals the tangled histories of these characters, their memories and their unresolved and long-remembered loves.

    If you are interested in reading the classics, you absolutely can’t go wrong with "Jane Eyre". I would also recommend a recent collection of stories from a fantastic group of female writers – including Tessa Hadley, Elif Shafak, Lionel Shriver and Audrey Niffenegger – called "Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre". 


 So Sad Today by Melissa Broder

  • So Sad Today: Personal Essays, by Melissa Broder

    I love this book because of its modern, unconventional style and the great personal power of Broder's writing. She is willing to lay it all bare  – to be completely honest – and she manages to do so while being very funny, insightful and astute at the same time. (Check out her short story, "Help Me Not Be A Human Being", to see what I mean). I'd say her work is ushering in a new era for the personal essay, a format I have always adored. I found her first through her poetry and her Twitter which is so brilliant: @sosadtoday


My Brother's Husband by Genhgoroh Tagame
  • My Brother's Husband, by Gengoroh Tagame

    I really like "My Brother's Husband", a recently published graphic novel by Gengoroh Tagame that looks at love and loss from a different and unique perspective. 


When Calls the Heart  by Janette Oke    When Calls the Heart directed by Michael Landon  Jr.

  • When Calls the Heart, by Janette Oke
  • When Calls the Heart, directed by Michael Landon, Jr.

    This western romance about a teacher from Hamilton who falls in love with a Mountie is now a popular TV series. It's heartwarming, moving and about as Canadian as it gets.



Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

  • Love Warrior: A Memoir, by Glennon Doyle Melton

    Struggling with body image issues and bulimia as a teen, Glennon falls into a dark well of alcoholism for years. After "hitting rock bottom", she falls in love, marries, gets sober and has three children. Glennon recounts her path to self-discovery and recovery after the dissolution of her marriage when she finds that her husband has been cheating on her with multiple partners for years. A beautiful, deeply/darkly honest journey to self-love, Glennon writes clearly, generously and completely fearlessly. There is so much truth in this book. I recommend it to absolutely everyone.



High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

  • High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby

    I've read "High Fidelity" probably five times – it's a great book about relationships from a male perspective (and particularly a male music fan's perspective). Here's a blog post with a playlist of love songs inspired by the book.


It Ended Badly by Jennifer Wright


 The Rosie Project  by Graeme Simsion

  • Who Do You Love, by Jennifer Weiner
  • First Comes Love, by Emily Giffin

    In "Who Do You Love", Rachel and Andy meet as children and then, through the course of their lives, meet over and over again. It's honest, witty – and not your typical love story ending.

    "First Comes Love", by Emily Giffin, is a story about family, tragedy, sisters, forgiveness and the courage to follow your own heart.


Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (trans. Lydia Davis)

  • Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Lydia Davis

    Too many books about love take feelings at face value. Not "Madame Bovary", though! Flaubert sees the social and psychological forces that shape our most intimate decisions; and he manages to be both merciless and sympathetic in his dissection of an adulterous French housewife's descent, via love, into (spoiler alert!) despair and death.

    (Sorry to be a downer.)


For Teens

Anatomy of a Boyfriend  by Daria Snadowsky    Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan   

  • Anatomy of a Boyfriend, by Daria Snadowsky
  • Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

    "Anatomy of a Boyfriend" breaks down in a really realistic way how a relationship develops, peaks and fades in the late teen years. It's not high drama, the sexual aspect of it unfolds as they get more ready, she is neither in a rush nor reluctant, neither painted as a slut nor a prude... It seemed so average, non-dramatized and healthy, which we don't see enough of.

    "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist" is still my favourite for the way the two characters come together bonding over painful moments and shared experiences and love of music, in one whirlwind night that leaves them sure they want to see more of each other, to feel more of what they shared. It avoids melodrama and plot lines that stretch credulity past breaking, but bursts with the excitement of those fun, ridiculous nights that happen sometimes with good friends, and it is steeped in the atmosphere of downtown Manhattan. More recently, "Kiss Me In New York", by Catherine Rider, tries to capture the same thing, and doesn't fall far short.


Angus  Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging  by Louise Rennison    Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me by Louise Rennison 
  • The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, by Louise Rennison

    I simply loved this ten-part series of teen books by Louise Rennison. It starts with "Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging" and completes with "Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?" Over the course of the journey, we laugh, we cry and we cringe along with our heroine as she navigates the murky waters of teenage life and love. Who will she ultimately end up with? Robbie the sex god or Dave the Laugh or Massimo the Luuurve God? Read and find out!
 Say I Love You by Kanae HazukiSoulless by Gail CarrigerSoulless the Manga by Gail Carriger


 Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein


For kids

Rotten Ralph's Rotten Romance  by Jack Gantos
  • Rotten Ralph's Rotten Romance, by Jack Gantos 

    Ralph the cat hates drippy Valentine's Day parties, and tries to ruin them by rolling in garbage and putting stink bugs in greeting cards. So, pretty relatable.