I'm the first to admit that love and relationships are tricky things. In all honesty, most of what I know about relationships comes from books. While IRL I haven't had the best of romantic luck, I feel like the love lessons I've gained from reading have had an enormous effect on how I navigate my own love life.
Some of these books I read while I was growing up, and others I read in the past couple years. Each one had a unique impact on how I look at relationships and make my own personal decisions. I actually think about many of these books daily, whether I'm simply chatting with someone on OkCupid, preparing for a first date, or getting over a heartbreak.
As I built this list, it occurred to me that while many of these books are about love and relationships, a good deal of them are also about independence and finding your own confidence, which says a lot to me about what I value in a relationship. For me, feeling confident in yourself and feeling secure in a relationship go hand-in-hand — and that's a prevalent theme in many of these books.
So here are seven books that taught me about relationships. But of course, these books speak the most to my own experiences, preferences, and identity. What books would be on your list?
1. 'Someone Like You' by Sarah Dessen
I think everybody has a Sarah Dessen book that really touched them as a teen, and Someone Like You was mine. Halley's best friend, Scarlett, finds out she's pregnant with her deceased boyfriend's child; meanwhile, she finds herself drawn in to the exciting world of the school's bad boy. It's as much a love story as the story of a young woman learning how to make decisions about her own life.
2. 'The Time Traveler's Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger
I read this book in high school, and it completely floored me. The Time Traveler's Wife is a love story between Henry, a punk librarian who time travels uncontrollably, and Claire, the woman who will one day become his wife. This book uses a fantastical element to create a beautiful portrait of how a relationship grows over time.
3. 'Modern Romance' by Aziz Ansari
I've turned to Aziz Ansari's advice so many times over the course of my life. In this book, the Masters of None star teamed up with a sociologist to explore the inner-workings of dating. Using a combination of anecdotes and scientific research, Ansari tries to answer the questions we all have about modern dating.
4. 'Totally Joe' by James Howe
5. 'The Woman Who Rides Like a Man' by Tamora Pierce
Reading the love triangle in Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet was certainly a formative experience for me. Stubborn and independent, Alanna has to balance her romantic desires with her sky-high aspirations, and ultimately, she has to make some tough choices about how she builds her life and with whom.
6. 'Trumpet' by Jackie Kay
I read this book as part of a black queer literature class in college—the reason why we read it was because it gives a keen perspective on the transgender experience and particularly how trans people are treated upon their death. But for me personally, this book and the sacrifices made by the focal couple brought forth a lot of thought about the true meaning of devotion and the role of gender/identity in a relationship.