A Book About Love (Not Just the Romantic Kind): Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2021

September 27, 2021 | Myrna

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Love comes in many forms, so it makes sense that there are many ways to complete TPL Reading Challenge's "a book about love (not just the romantic kind)" category. Library staff and Reading Challenge participants have shared their favourite books which explore romantic love, self-love, platonic love and more.

Universal Love by Alexander Weinstein

Universal Love by Alexander Weinstein

Many forms of love are explored in Alexander Weinstein's collection of speculative fiction short stories. Set in a near (often dystopian) future, the stories show families, lovers, friends and communities struggling with relationships and the effects of new technology. Many of the stories are depressing, but they definitely make you consider how technology and capitalism are already influencing our relationships. 

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book set in the future

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

The Charm Offensive is my favourite romance novel of 2021! Reality tv producer Dev is a hopeless romantic, but his reluctant star Charlie doesn't believe in love. As dating show Ever After films, Dev and Charlie grow closer and put the show's fairy tale ending at risk. Dev and Charlie's love story is at the book's core, their individual self-love and mental health journeys are also an important aspect of the plot. 

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book published this year
  • A debut book
  • A book in a genre you've never read before (give romance a chance!)

Staff Recommendations

Find "a book about love (not just the romantic kind)" among these recommendations from our staff.

The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley

The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley

Whiteley is a science fiction author with a very, very strange imagination. I read The Beauty back in 2018, and I couldn't stop thinking about how strange her brain must be. The Loosening Skin is just as bizarre. In this novel, humans all shed their skins like snakes, roughly every 5-7 years. It's a normal process that begins during puberty, and has happened throughout all of recorded history. The strange part is that when it happens, people undergo a personality shift. Their likes become dislikes, and strong emotions such as love are left behind. So in their world, love is only "skin deep". And what happens if one person in a couple sheds, but the other doesn't? The main character in the book has a condition called EMS - Extreme Molting Syndrome - and so for her it's even worse. Whatever she used to love, she is repulsed by once she sheds. So every few years she reinvents herself entirely. In the book, a man she used to love needs her help - someone has stolen his old skins, and he hires her to get them back. While this is definitely a science fiction novel, it reads more like a mystery and it's DEFINITELY a book about love, when love goes horribly wrong and turns to obsession or tragedy.

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book about growing older (it follows the character through different ages)
  • A book about someone unlike yourself (unless you, too, shed your skin like a snake!)
  • A book about fame (the stolen skins belong to someone very famous)
  • A book in a genre you've never read before (if you don't read science fiction)
  • A book published this year

— Ames, Librarian

Indians on Vacation by Thomas King

Indians on Vacation by Thomas King

This book is about a lot of things - the paradoxes of tourism, what to do about the suffering of others, how to deal with billionaires - but it's definitely also a book about love. Old married couple Mimi and Bird go on vacation in Prague. It's the last stop on a quest that's structured their travel for years: the search for Mimi's long-lost family bundle - a collection of objects that encapsulate her family history. We see flashbacks to earlier trips, snippets of their relationship as it's evolved over time. We learn that love can look like passion, but also like anxiety, like irascibility, like letting your partner sleep in, like bringing them crackers when they've been up all night with food poisoning. Like eating dumplings with someone else and feeling weird about it; like warning someone else not to marry anyone like your partner. Like keeping some thoughts to yourself. Like ambivalence. Like endurance.

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book about growing older
  • A book by or about someone you'd like to meet

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

A love story written by Toronto author set in Niagara Falls, between the higher class Loretto College student Bess Heath and riverman Tom Cole, which of course, the romance was not encouraged. Tom Cole knows the ins and outs of The Falls. he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls.

The novel explores the issues around the Niagara Power Company, the actions of Sir Adam Beck, the ups and downs of the Tom and Bess relationship, WWI, the stunts, suicides and accidents at The Falls.

It's more than a love story, it's the history of the Falls and the community.

— Despina, Branch Head

Precious Cargo - My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077 by Craig Davidson

Precious Cargo : My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077 by Craig Davidson

Before Mr. Davidson became the writing success he is today, he had to take a job as a bus driver for special needs kids. As the book progresses you can see the love that builds between the students and their bus driver. Several times I had to reach for the tissues as this funny, heartwarming book reaches deep inside. Definitely not romantic love but that caring back and forth between very different people physically but not emotionally. Not sappy or sentimental but a good true story.

Satellite Love by Genki Ferguson

Satellite Love by Genki Ferguson

A sentient satellite, an awkward outcast girl, and a new boy in town are all seeking a sense of connection. This book is difficult to describe, but it was one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time. Also, maybe one of the saddest. The author managed to convey the most profound sense of loneliness, yet maintained a glimmer of hope that carried all the way through the story.

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book published this year

— Sephora, Department Head

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This book focuses on Eleanor, an awkward individual who tends to struggle with appropriate social skills, misunderstandings and mental illness. After meeting Raymond, a colleague at work, she slowly gets a better understanding of her traumatic past and gains self-love by opening her heart to others.

I love this book because it is about human connection and the importance of friendship. Reading it gave me all kinds of different feelings at the same time!

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book that made you feel comforted or hopeful

— Pia, Branch Head

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

This book is such a delight! Hana is an aspiring radio broadcaster, secret podcaster and a waitress at her family's halal restaurant in Toronto. When a rival fusion-based restaurant plans to put Hana's family out of business, will she be able to handle the drama? Or the romance?!

This fresh, smart take on The Shop Around the Corner and You've Got Mail made the longlist for the 2021 Toronto Book Awards and has been optioned for a film to be produced by Mindy Kaling. Don't miss this one!

Everybody's Son by Thrity Umrigar

Everybody's Son by Thrity Umrigar

Anton, a 10-year-old child, is placed in foster care after he is locked in his apartment while his mother goes to a crack house. His foster dad, a scion of privilege and power, does everything possible to keep Anton, even if it means breaking some rules. Anton eventually grows up to follow in his foster family's footsteps, but realizes the moral grey zone of what parents do in the name of love for their children. I read a lot of books about family dynamics, and this one is a very complex family!

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • Book about growing older
  • Book about someone unlike yourself

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett tells the story of her intense friendship with Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face. Lucy, whose face is badly disfigured by multiple surgeries to eradicate cancer of the jaw, is brilliant but extremely troubled and not always easy to love. Anne supports her as best she can over a span of twenty years but cannot save her from herself. Sad but lovely.

After Iris by Natasha Farrant

After Iris by Natasha Farrant

Bluebell used to have a twin, but Iris has been gone for three years and her once tight-knit family is slowly coming apart. Her siblings are constantly arguing and her parents are never around. When the new au pair, Zoran, shows up things start to change. I love this book for its depictions of family with realistic imperfections, but also how all the characters show how much they love one another not just in big, grand ways, but also in smaller ways. Love can also exist even after a person passes, which this book also represents.

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book that is the first in a series
  • A book that made you feel comforted or hopeful

— Kara, Services Specialist

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Two brothers struggle with an unstable father who keeps moving them to escape his own arrest. Sam has always looked after his younger brother Riddle, who does not speak. A chance encounter with a family in one of their moves provides a look at what "normal" could be like for them. But how to escape from their father, who will never let them go? I love this book for the writing, the characters that you immediately fall in love with, and the harrowing journey you go on as a reader to find out if there is even a glimpse of hope at the end.

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book about someone unlike yourself
  • A debut book

— Kara, Services Specialist

The Heiress by Molly Greeley

The Heiress by Molly Greeley

As a Pride and Prejudice fan, I knew I had to pick up The Heiress - a new title which gives Darcy's cousin (and former betrothed), Anne de Bourgh, a beautiful love story of her own. This novel not only explores the depths of friendship and romantic love possible between two women, but it also follows Anne's journey as she learns to love herself - in spite of her mother's domineering disposition. I would recommend this book to anyone hoping to see more queer representation in historical fiction, as well as anyone who would appreciate a rare, later in life, coming-of-age story.

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book about someone unlike yourself
  • A book published this year

— Danielle, Librarian

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies- And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life  from Someone Who's Been There by Tara Schuster

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who's Been There by Tara Schuster

Become a "ninja of self-love" with these simple and daily rituals. Tara is an honest voice that people will connect with immediately. Darkly funny and practical, this book makes an ideal gift for others, but more importantly, invest in it for yourself and start "creating a life you truly, totally f*cking LOVE."

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A debut book
  • A book about fame
  • A book about growing older
  • A book by or about someone you'd like to meet
  • A book that made you feel comforted or hopeful

— Reagan, Librarian

Don't Hug Doug- He Doesn't Like It by Carrie Finison and Daniel Wiseman

Don't Hug Doug: He Doesn't Like It by Carrie Finison and Daniel Wiseman

This book has earned a special place on my bookshelf since the pandemic, though I think it's an amazing reminder for folks in and of itself. Some people, myself included, are not a fan of hugs and that's okay! This picture book does a great job teaching this lesson and shows kids how to be kind and show love in other ways while also reinforcing that we all have likes and dislikes and that it's important to ask before doing.

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book by two or more people
  • A book that is someone else's favourite (mine!)
  • A book about someone unlike yourself (for all you huggers out there)

— Reagan, Librarian

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

I’m reading a horror book for this category, but it makes sense! It fits into the category because, at its core, this book is about a mother’s love for her child. The book follows Amanda, as she tries to piece together what happened to herself and her daughter, in a dream-like state. Samanta Schweblin expertly unravels the events of the novella, never revealing anything too soon, so I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that it is a haunting read and I could not stop thinking about it for weeks after finishing it.

Other Reading Challenge categories: 

  • A book that is someone else's favourite

— Marta, Librarian

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

A rare example of YA where romance is not a major part of the book, Code Name Verity is centered around female friendship instead. When the British spy plane she’s on crashes in Nazi-occupied France, a young agent known as Verity is arrested by the Gestapo. Her interrogators give her a choice: divulge her mission or face execution. Verity’s written confession reveals just enough intel to keep her alive, but her story is overwhelmingly about her friendship with Maddie, the British pilot who flew her to France. As Verity observes at one point, “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.” This is a book about bravery in extraordinary circumstances and about a pair of friends who would do anything for each other and, in fact, are forced to. I read Code Name Verity six years ago and it has stayed with me all this time.

The Light In Me Sees the Light In You by Lori Nichols

The Light In Me Sees the Light In You by Lori Nichols

A truly touching Picture Book about love and loss as it chronicles the enduring friendship between two kindred spirits, a once lonely little girl and a sweet little bird. This simple book tells the story of many different kinds of love--the one between friends, a love of nature, and embracing and loving the light within ourselves and within those that shine just as brightly.

— Katherine, Library Assistant

I Sang You Down from the Stars by Tasha Spilliett-Sumner

I Sang You Down from the Stars by Tasha Spilliett-Sumner

An Indigenous story about the love between a parent and a child with ethereal illustrations and lyrical insight, including notes from both the author and illustrator about the Inniniwak and other Indigenous Nation's traditional understanding that babies choose their parents (author's notes) and the magic of energy that flows through everything (artist's notes).

— Katherine, Library Assistant

Saturday by Oge Mora

Saturday by Oge Mora

It's about a mother and daughter who spend every Saturday doing special activities together like going to the library, getting their hair done, and going to a puppet show. But this particular Saturday doesn't go as planned, so they choose to adapt and make it fun even though there are some disappointments. The collage-style illustrations are also charming.

— Kate, Librarian

Loveless by Alice Oseman

Loveless by Alice Oseman

Though she’s obsessed with romantic movies and fan fiction, Georgia has never been in a relationship and fears that she never will. With the help of her new roommate Rooney, she decides that university will be where her love story begins. So what if she’s never felt romantic or sexual feelings towards anyone? She just needs to try harder and eventually she’ll find "the one". But when she’s introduced to the label "aromantic asexual," Georgia realizes that there may be another explanation for the romantic reticence, and another path to happily ever after. Georgia’s life is overflowing with love for her friends and family, showing that being aromantic asexual does not make you loveless.

— Victoria, Librarian

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Tom Sherbourne returns from war to take the job of lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. On this remote island, he and his wife Isabel find an abandoned baby that they claim as their own. This story is about the love between a husband and wife, love for a child, and a child for the people who raise her. Many sacrifices are made, all in the name of love.

— Debra, Librarian

Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the recommendations from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2021 discussion group. You can read the entire thread, even if you don't have a Facebook account.


We discussed this category, "a book about love (not just the romantic kind)," along with "a book in a genre you've never read before" at our March 2021 Reading Challenge Online Book Discussion. If you missed the live event, you can watch the replay on CrowdCast or on Facebook. We'll be having more online Reading Challenge discussions throughout the year.

 

What is your favourite book about love? Share in the comments below!

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