15 Anti-Valentine's Day Books For Readers Who Can't Get Into Happily Ever After
I wouldn't say that I hate Valentine's Day. It's not that I think we shouldn't buy our loved ones candy hearts made out of chalk. But I think we can all be completely honest with ourselves, and admit that Valentine's Day usually makes us feel like unlovable garbage. It reminds unhappily single people how lonely they are. It makes happily single people feel like they're doing it wrong. It puts pressure on people in relationships to sum up all their intangible feelings with a stuffed bear. It probably causes more house fires, too, what with all the candles. So if you're just not feeling the love this year, skip the awkward dinner dates and stay home with one of these excellent Anti-Valentine books.
To be perfectly clear, some of these books still have a whiff of romance to them. But for the most part, they stay focused on friendships. Or they deconstruct romantic tropes. Or they just lean hard into the whole "Screw Cupid" vibe. Either way, these books are a big departure from cutesy rom-coms and fairy tale endings. They'll remind you that not everything in life is about romantic love or rings hidden in pastry. And beyond that, they're just really great reads for a no-pressure February the 14th:
'Bad Behavior' by Mary Gaitskill
If you're feeling especially angsty this V-day, stay home with the dark, cathartic writings of Mary Gaitskill. Bad Behavior is a sometimes beautiful, often chilling short story collection about love and sex gone bad.
'Flaming Iguanas: An Illustrated All-Girl Road Novel Thing' by Erika Lopez
There is some romance in Flaming Iguanas, but the main focus of the story is Tomato Rodriguez and her all-girl motorcycle journey across America to find the perfect post office. It's wild, hysterical, and bursting with positivity, for when you just want to hop on your motorcycle and skip town.
'Beauty Queens' by Libba Bray
A sudden plane crash leaves a group of teen beauty queens stranded on a strange island. They're going to have to find a way to get along in order to survive, not to mention keeping up their talent show skills in this darkly humorous adventure.
'Why Not Me?' by Mindy Kaling
Why Not Me? follows Mindy Kaling through her career in Hollywood, her fling with a member of Obama's secret service, and numerous other anecdotes that'll leave you weak with laughter. Kaling is also here to remind you that there's nothing wrong being single and happy and fabulously dressed.
'Mr. Fox' by Helen Oyeyemi
St John Fox is celebrated novelist, but he's not always the greatest when it comes to writing women. At least, that's the opinion of Mary Foxe, one of his fictional characters. She's frustrated with all his murdered heroines, and she's determined to change his sexist writing ways — or else.
'Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History—without the Fairy-Tale Endings' by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie
Forget those Disney princesses and their adorably bland princes. Here's what was really going on. Princesses Behaving Badly upends all those romantic fairy tales tropes with some weird and wonderful true stories from the history of royal ladies.
'Difficult Women' by Roxane Gay
The inimitable Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, brings us haunting stories of difficult women from all across America. Here you'll find hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and everything in between. It's not an anit-love book, per say, but one which adds a whole lot of nuance to the idea of living happily ever after.
'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath
Esther Greenwood is supposed to be having the time of her life. She's young and clever and at a prestigious editing internship in New York City. And yet it all feels like agony. Sylvia Plath's classic novel is still one of the most nuanced, honest depictions of mental illness ever written, and romance takes a back seat to Esther's fight for survival.
'This Is How You Lose Her' by Junot Díaz
If you're nursing a broken heart this Valentine's Day, sometimes you want to just lean into it. This Is How You Lose Her is the most hilarious, stunningly brilliant depiction of break ups and cheating and every other flavor of romantic betrayal. Pairs well with chucking candy hearts at the wall.
'The Portable Dorothy Parker' by Dorothy Parker
When all else fails, there's always Dorothy Parker and her acerbic wit. Parker's short stories and poems eviscerate every trope of romance. She's the patron saint of bitter women, and her biting rhyming couplets still hold up to modern dating complaints.
'All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation' by Rebecca Traister
Looking for some non-fiction about how dating is garbage and being single is not so bad? Pick up All the Single Lades. It's a fascinating look at unmarried women in modern America, and why it seems that there are so many more single ladies these days.
'Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows' by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Law school drop out Nikki has always shied away from her traditional Sikh upbringing. But somehow, she finds herself teaching a "creative writing" course to a class full of conservative Punjabi widows. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is a lovely, funny, raunchy tale of female friendships (and erotica) across generations and cultural differences.
'The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter' by Theodora Goss
If you're looking for a wonderfully weird story about lady monsters being friends, look no further. Mary Jekyll is all alone in the world, until she discovers a strange girl called Diana Hyde. As she continues to search for the secrets of her father's past, Mary will uncover an entire world of odd experimentation and ferocious female friendships.
'Woman on the Edge of Time' by Marge Piercy
Consuela Ramos has been declared insane. Her child has been taken away, and she's been institutionalized against her will. The only problem is that Connie is not insane: she's just able to communicate with the year 2137. And the people of the future need her help if the human race is going to survive...
'This Love Story Will Self-Destruct' by Leslie Cohen
Yes, this does have "love story" in the title, and yes, it does deal with two characters in a romantic relationship. But it also upends all the rom-com tropes we've come to expect, and delivers something wholly new in the story of Eve and Ben navigating the highs and lows of their twenties.