I have a filthy confession for you, internet: I kind of like the Hallmark holidays. I like stuffed bears. I like jewelry that's been hidden in pastry. I even like those heart-shaped candies made out of chalk. I always thought that, yes, it's a cheesy holiday, but isn't it really just an excuse to do nice things for the people you love? But, for this particular Valentine's Day, I'm coming straight out of a shiny new break up, and... yeah, I get it now. Valentine's Day is garbage. Here are a few books to read if you're so not into Valentine's Day this year.
I mean, maybe it's my recent break up, or the Orwellian political landscape, but it's hard to get hyped about romance right now. It's like, great, thanks for the flowers... now I get to watch something slowly wither and die. Can't we celebrate February 14th as the day that Pope Gregory VII excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV in 1076 instead?
Luckily, a good book is the perfect antidote to all strains of apathy and heartbreak. So, whether you're planning to spend V-day with friends, an equally cynical loved one, or alone with your books, here is some reading material for all Valentine's Day haters:
'This Is How You Lose Her' by Junot Díaz
If you would like to spend February the 14th stewing in your own anger about that lying bastard who broke your heart, Junot Díaz would like to help. This Is How You Lose Her is a beautiful, hilarious, infuriating collection of stories about a serial cheater, and how he loves and loses so many extraordinary women. (Like, I'm not recommending that you mail this book to your ex with no explanation, but I'm also not recommending that you don't do that).
'I Love Dick' by Chris Kraus
In I Love Dick, a failed filmmaker falls madly in love with a man named Dick and, (with her husband's help) decides to seduce him. But I Love Dick is so much more than that. It's part novel, part memoir, part feminist manifesto. It's unapologetic in its portrayal of female sexual desire. It'll make you want to spit on all those books about middle aged male professors "seducing" their young, "nubile" female students. Just read it.
'Why We Broke Up' by Daniel Handler
Daniel Handler is perhaps better known by his pen name, Lemony Snicket—so you know this is going to be one dark and witty book. Handler catalogs every item of significance collected over the course of a relationship (including bottle caps, combs, and a protractor). He paints an all too real portrait of a break up, but with his own, off-kilter humor about life, love, and heartbreak.
'Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth' by Warsan Shire
Looking for poetry that is less "cute" and more "disturbingly brilliant"? Pick up Warsan Shire. Her poetry is masterful, eloquent, and brutally honest. She touches on love, yes, but she also explores the trauma women suffer at the hands of men. Instead of crying over your own broken heart, cry over the striking language of Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth.
'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn
But of course. If you're in less of a pensive, heartbroken mood, and more of a "I wish I could frame my husband for my own murder" mood, read Gone Girl. It's a tense, clever, slightly ridiculous thriller, and it's about as anti-romantic as you can get.
'The Portable Dorothy Parker' by Dorothy Parker
I wish Dorothy Parker could write all of my texts. Her short stories and poems are almost all about intelligent women wasting time on useless men. Her attitude towards love is somewhere between "hopeless romantic" and "just totally over it." Her quips are bitter, acerbic, and deeply funny, for all your anti-Valentine needs.
'All About Love: New Visions' by bell hooks
Whatever the problem is, radical philosophy from bell hooks can probably fix it. All About Love suggests that everything we're taught to believe about love is garbage (I'm paraphrasing), and that self-love and genuine, compassionate connection is the cure. If the whole romance thing is starting to feel rigged, All About Love will make you re-think what "love" even means.
'Mr. Fox' by Helen Oyeyemi
Celebrated novelist St John Fox is deeply infatuated with Mary. There's just one problem—he made her up. Mr. Fox is the story of a man and his muse, who challenges him to stop killing off his heroines. Can he do it? You'll have to read this wonderfully weird novel on love and lack thereof to find out.
'Modern Romance' by Aziz Ansari
Are you over Tinder? And OkCupid? And Bumble and Hinge and JDate and however else people are meeting each other these days? Read Modern Romance for a hilarious (yet very well-researched) look at how we ended up like this, and what it means to look for love in a technological world.
'I Don't Care About Your Band' by Julie Klausner
Just want to laugh about how all of your exes have been stupid idiots and how romance is dead? Julie Klausner can take care of that. Her hysterical memoir, I Don't Care About Your Band, is all about the jerks she's dated, and the lessons we can learn from romantic disappointments. Check it out, and then buy up all that discounted candy at the drugstore on February 15th.