15 Books For Your Valentine's Day Present, Because There's Nothing More Romantic Than Literature
We have once again begun the long, cold, emotionally confused descent towards Valentine's Day. Now is the time of the year to decide exactly how you truly feel about that person you're "talking to," "seeing," or possibly even "dating," and then quantify your feelings with a material gift. You could get them flowers, which are useless and will soon shrivel up and die before their eyes. You could get them those little candy hearts, which are essentially the same as saying, "I didn't try, eat this chalk." Or you could get them a book, and win Valentine's Day this year and for all future years. Here are a few great books to give your Valentine instead of flowers, candy chalk, or heart-shaped balloons.
Books are, after all, very versatile gifts. On the one hand, they clearly communicate "I think you are intelligent and capable of reading." And on the other hand, you can be as romantic or as unromantic as you like with a book gift. You can pick out a sappy book for your long-term S.O., a sexy read for your new hook up, an emotionally fraught novel for your "friends with benefits but now it's turned weird somehow," or a fun, friendly work of nonfiction for your platonic Galentine:
'Soppy' by Philippa Rice
If you're happily partnered up in a long-term relationship, then you and your Valentine can get all sappy over Philippa Rice's Soppy. It's an adorable collection of comics about those little, mundane moments spent in the company of the person you love.
'Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe' by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
If your Valentine had a rough time in high school, or if they're still coming to terms with their identity, or even if they just like a great book about love and friendship, give them Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. It's a breathtaking story about two teenage boys, the angry Aristotle and the know-it-all Dante, and the unique relationship they forge together as they struggle with finding their place in the world.
'Blankets' by Craig Thompson
If you're dealing with the heady experience of first love this Valentine's Day, then you and your Valentine both need to read Blankets. It's a gorgeous, honest depiction of falling in and out of love for the very first time, set against the stunning backdrop of a Wisconsin winter.
'The Thing Around Your Neck' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Who says that a Valentine's Day gift has to be romantic? If you're not ready to exchange lovey-dovey gifts with your someone this February, just give them a really excellent short story collection. Adichie's The Thing Around Your Neck bounces back and forth between America and Nigeria in twelve dazzling stories about survival, identity, loneliness, and (just a little bit) love.
'Tipping the Velvet' by Sarah Waters
If you want a steamy read that you and your sweetie can enjoy together, but also a romantic Victorian novel to discuss over tea, then you need Sarah Waters' Tipping the Velvet. It's the beautifully crafted story of Nan, an oyster girl, who becomes the personal dresser for the captivating Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire.
'Tash Hearts Tolstoy' by Kathryn Ormsbee
If you want a book that's romantic without being too sexually charged, then you're looking for Tash Hearts Tolstoy. Tash, you see, has created a popular web-series based on Anna Karenina, and her internet fame has led to some online flirtation... but Tash doesn't know how to tell her newfound crush that she's romantic asexual. It's the perfect read for anyone in a literature loving, non-conventional relationship.
'Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History—without the Fairy-Tale Endings' by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie
If you and your Galentines are extremely OVER traditional depictions of cutesy, Disney-princess-style romance, then check out Princesses Behaving Badly. It's chock full of cheeky, true stories about princesses who were not down to just sit around and wait for their Prince Charmings.
'Saga' by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples
If you don't want to get too cutesy on Valentine's Day, but you do want to send your Valentine on a terrific space adventure through far-off galaxies, then gift them volume one of Saga. It's love story, sure, but that love is buried under several layers of space battles, thrilling escapes, clever plot twists, and the most imaginative aliens this side of the Star Wars Cantina scene.
'How Lovely the Ruins: Inspirational Poems and Words for Difficult Times' edited by Annie Chagnot and Emi Ikkanda
If your Valentine is going through a rough time right now, or if you want to gift a person poetry without explicitly gifting them love poetry, How Lovely the Ruins is a must-read collection of poetry for the modern political climate. It collects the classic works of poets like Langston Hughes and Elizabeth Barrett Browning alongside contemporary poets responding to this past year of emotional upheaval.
'Romeo and/or Juliet' by Ryan North
If you're trying to walk that fine line between romantic and silly, then give your Valentine a few options with Romeo and/or Juliet. It's a choose-your-own-adventure version of Shakespeare's ultimate love story, with plenty of romance, hilarity, and at least one version of a body-builder Juliet.
'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen
Why mess with the classics? If your S.O. is a good old fashioned romantic, gift them the ultimate smart-girl-and-grumpy-man romance novel. Pride and Prejudice still holds up as a rom-com and comedy of manners, and it's a romantic-yet-restrained gift for a classy Valentine.
'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy
If your sweetheart enjoys unconventional story structures and inventive prose, give them The God of Small Things. It's the story of two young twins, and the series of events that tore their family apart. It's also one part forbidden romance, one part inter-generational family drama, with a whole lot of social commentary and comedy thrown in.
'The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us' by Sheril Kirshenbaum
Most of us accept kissing as a normal part of romance, but... why do people kiss? When did it start? Why do some cultures think it's normal, and other cultures find it weird? The Science of Kissing dives into the nitty-grittty of kissing science and how we developed the modern kiss. Perfect for a science-obsessed, fact-based Valentine.
'Modern Love: 50 True and Extraordinary Tales of Desire, Deceit, and Devotion' edited by Daniel Jones
For any fans of the "Modern Love" column in The New York Times, this books collects 50 of the very best essays. From dating over text to unhappy marriages, unconventional "sharing" relationships to love in the midst of war, these true stories run the gamut of love in all of its many, many forms.
'The Lover's Dictionary' by David Levithan
If you have trouble putting love into words, you might want to read The Lover's Dictionary. It's a novel, cleverly constructed out of dictionary entries that piece together an entire love story. Halfway between poetry and contemporary romance, it's a book that explores all the different emotions that come with a passionate relationship.