Who wrote the book of love? It turns out to be a multi-verse series, comprising numerous genres, composed by a panoply of perceptive authors. As we approach Valentine’s Day, that celebration of all things amor, we asked our enlightened partners at the University Book Store, led by Brad Craft, to compile a list of favorite literary expressions and explorations of love—in all its many splendid forms. Here’s what they came up with.
by Bonnie Garmus
This hugely popular debut novel, already adapted into a streaming limited series on Apple TV+, is still well worth reading for the love story at its heart. Garmus has woven together a wonderfully unlikely meeting of scientific minds in the last mid-century — a period when inequality still very much defined marriage. Combine this with chemistry, food and feminism for an empowering read.
Doubleday, ISBN: 9780385547345
by Jonathan Raban
The late, great Pacific Northwest author wrote this, his final book, after suffering a massive hemorrhagic stroke in 2011. The result of his time learning to live in his new body is both a biographical tribute to his very British father, who fought during World War II, and a meditation on mortality and love surviving even death.
Knopf, ISBN: 9780375422454
by Ilyon Woo
American history is the story of race in America and here that troubled and troubling history finds perfect expression in the true story of a faithful marriage and a perilous escape from slavery. Woo’s stirring account follows the daring flight to freedom of Ellen and William Craft, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled white man and William posing as “his” slave.
Simon & Schuster, ISBN: 9781501191060
by Chloe Gong
Picture the famous Shakespearean love story of Antony and Cleopatra set within a full fantasy hellscape in Gong’s very popular foray into adult Science Fiction (she’s heretofore been known as a highly regarded writer of Young Adult fiction).
Saga Press, ISBN: 9781668000229
by Mark Helprin
The bestselling author of “Winter’s Tale” and “A Soldier of the Great War” offers a love story steeped in history and the particulars of the era of the great modern ships. Here is a great storyteller at the peak of his talent.
Overlook Press, ISBN: 9781419769085
by Emily Habeck
Habeck’s debut novel of marriage, motherhood, metamorphosis and letting go is an unorthodox inter-generational love story. An effervescently strange and deeply felt tale grappling with the inevitability of change and loss while reminding us that life is lived best with an open heart despite it all. And, yeah — shark.
Simon & Schuster, ISBN: 9781668006498
by Pablo Neruda
It is almost a cliche of the season, at this point, to recommend Neruda’s love poems (this version is translated by Donald D. Walsh). But few poets — modern or classic — have ever made love this well, this good, this hermosamente.
New Directions, ISBN: 8790811217293
by Hua Hsu
The gripping, Pulitzer Prize-winning coming-of-age memoir tells the story of a very unlikely friendship between two outsiders that survives for years… until an accident and its aftermath sends the author in pursuit of what it means to love our friends.
Vintage, ISBN: 9780593315200
by Thomas Mallon
Recently adapted into an acclaimed limited series on Showtime, Mallon’s novel presents a powerful gay love story set within the draconian persecution of the McCarthy era in Washington, DC, and what it meant to survive vile times and poisonous lies.
Vintage, ISBN: 9780593315200
by James Kennedy
Our weirdest suggestion, this genre-defying fever dream of a novel reveals the myth-bound madness at the heart of American life. A Twin Peaks-esque tale of first love, sinister adults and strange cults that will leave you wondering: what did I just read?! Unsettling, funny, electric. And just a little sweet.
Quirk, ISBN: 9781683693277
by Dwight Garner
In this memoir, the celebrated New York Times book critic has produced a book about books and food and family and memory and love and food and deli and books and food. Did we mention the food? And the books? Delicious.
FSG, ISBN: 9780374603427
by Hannah Emerson
In this remarkable debut, Emerson, a nonspeaking autistic poet, generously invites you, the reader, to meet yourself anew, again, “to bring your beautiful nothing” into the light. Contemplative, rhythmic, joyful — this collection dives straight into the heart. Read it and rejoice in love!
Special thanks to Brad Craft of the University Book Store for sharing his voluminous book smarts and exceptional insights.