Valentine's Reading List

This post is mostly for my sweet friend Tonya, whom I met when I worked at the library in L****. She would come in and ask for book recommendations, and then it turned out that we had pretty much the exact same taste in books. Soon I was smuggling her all the best stuff and we were having lunch and braiding each other's hair on a regular basis. (Note: this is why you make friends with your librarian. She might be an excellent hair braider.)

But now I'm not in L**** anymore and she's mad at me for leaving her recommendation-less. Also I keep refusing to sign up for Goodreads. Because yeah, I need to be spending more time on the Internet. Tonya says she'll let me off the hook for at least the next couple of weeks if I do a post about what books to read for the Valentine's season, much like I did at the start of Christmas.

Not all (read: any) of these are about Valentine's Day, but they are some of my favorite books about romance and/or love.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. As if that wouldn't be on here. Best when followed immediately by Colin Firth. Also brie and Cadbury Whole Nut Bars.

Bridget Jones' Diary, even the mother of all Brit Chick Lit. Please don't blame me for the swearing. Or if you fall off your couch laughing and hurt yourself.

Confessions of a Shopaholic. Yes, by the end of the 2nd one in the series I wanted to strangle Becky for having learned absolutely nothing. But this first one is frothy fun, I tell you. Also, the movie looks like it's going to be beyond stupid. She liked to shop in the book, she wasn't a clown in training.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I just read this a couple of weeks ago and really loved it. There's a bit of romance in it, but mostly it's about this amazing community and the people in it and by the end you just love them all and want to go live there.

The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel. Sweet, cozy story about finding love in unexpected circumstances (like, when you're an unwed pregnant girl in 1940s Colorado and your minister dad ships you off into an arranged marriage with a stranger).

I Like You by Sandol Stoddard and Jacqueline Chwast. Yes, this was one of those books your RA read to your entire floor your freshman year at BYU during bonding time. And???

Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell. I just read this picture book for the first time and possibly ovulated at how cute an' sweet it was.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos. Not romantic at all, but great if you're in the mood for something snarky.

The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot. You may think (rightly) that this series has gone on about 8 books too long, but nobody does hilarious & clueless teen romantic angst like Mia Thermopolis. Plus she gets it about Ioan Gruffudd. Enough said.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Because Jane is awesome and stands by her principles and totally gets everything in the end. Then go watch the movie and sob your face off during that part where she and Mr. Rochester are on the bed (!!!!!!) and he's begging her not to leave him. Sob, puppets, Sob!!

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy. I'm sure if I were to read this for the first time today I would have issues with it. After all, there are lines in it that read, "she was weak; she was a woman." Issues. But I saw the movie version with Jane Seymour when I was 7 years old, I read the book when I was 12, I've seen the musical like 4 times, so yeah. There's really nothing to be done for it. It's totally swoony. I am weak, I am a woman.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim. Four depressed women leave rainy 1920s London to share a castle in Italy for a month. While there, they have hijinks with pasta and rediscover their capacity for love and happiness. The movie is great too.

Possession by A.S. Byatt. For when you like your lovers star-crossed and poetic.

Last but not least, the epic tome that brought Desmama and I together, her absolute favorite, Apache Lover.
What are some of your favorites? And if you don't care for my list, The Independent published its 50 Best Romantic Reads in 2002 with the tagline, "Alone again?"

Nice one, Independent.


abby said... [reply]

I'm reading Guernsey right now and I have a major desire to visit the Channel Islands and adopt an orphan.

When I was 12, I would have recommended Gone With the Wind but luckily my tastes have changed.

Jenny said... [reply]

Nemesis would have recommended Cone with the Wind as well at 12. Haha.

I just read the Scarlet Pimpernel this winter for the first time and I enjoyed it. I have to say, the movie is my all time favorite.

Shopaholic may be impossible to get at the library right now because of movie.

brinestone said... [reply]

May I also recommend Austenland by Shannon Hale? Hilarious, fun, and very romantic.

Scully said... [reply]

I second Brinestone's recommendation for Austenland - it is great fun and an quick read. And I am impressed that you got through book 2 of the Shopaholic series. I was sick of Becky by the end of book 1. Oh, and if you are looking for some sort of non-traditional Valentine's read, I would suggest Sunshine. It is about vampires, but very much not in the vein of Twilight. Just be warned, it is a definite PG13, like The Dark Knight and Titanic were PG13.

Cafe Johnsonia said... [reply]

I noticed you left off those vampire books...hee, hee.

Love your choices. Jane Eyre is one of my absolute faves. I also have the movie and watch it about once a month.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Lovely list. Please add "Mrs. Mike." The best love story ever. Even Mr. Darcy looks like a Pansy compared to Mike Flannigan. Really.

Elise said... [reply]

I must confess...I've been an adamant blog stalker of yours for a while (and addicted MY sister Jenny! Wooo!). This list looks fabulous but alas, I'm in the middle of my winter-semester-college-meltdown and therefore I can read nothing but art history texts and %$@#*(! physical science junk. I have wanted to watch Jane Eyre for the last few years and my husband and I just got Netflix but he looked like he would rather die when I mentioned watching said movie. I think I'll have to have some sisterly girl time in the near future.

Thanks again for the great reading material. :)

Audrey said... [reply]

I second Scully's recommendation of Sunshine by Robin McKinley. It's one of my all-time favorite comfort reads.

Jenny said... [reply]

Just curious to know what you have to say about "The Underneath?" I am considering gifting it to my 10 year old for V's Day...
Love your suggestions! I have an amazon credit that I'm going to put to good use! Thanks.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Jenny, I liked The Underneath, but it would depend on your 10 year old. It's a longer read with touches of fantasy and deals with some heavy issues regarding family, love, loneliness, hatred, etc. Also, if your child cannot take the thought of a mother cat being drowned in a sack, this one will not be a winner.

Tonya said... [reply]

THANK YOU! I know that you think that this will get you off the hook for a few weeks, BUT, I think that this should be a regular part of your blog...maybe monthly or along with different holidays...or just when I need a book, I will hound you till you add some more:)
Thanks again

Tonya said... [reply]

A great literary brain like yours should not be kept to oneself!
Don't be selfish!

Sean said... [reply]

On reviewing my Goodreads account--and yes you should totally get on that--I've discovered that while many of the books I read deal in some way with relationships, most of them aren't exactly romantic. That said, when I want a romance, I usually pick up Georgette Heyer. She's awesome and funny and pulpy all at the same time.


Another vote for Sunshine--I re-read it at least a couple times a year, and it never fails to cheer me up. I have to add Robin McKinley's Beauty, as well, which is a marvelous retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Stardust by Neil Gaiman, is also very good. And I suppose you could call Crocodile on the Sandback (by Elizabeth Peters) romantic-ish.

MT said... [reply]

Never judge a book by its movie. ;)

Anonymous said... [reply]

Just thought you'd like to know, today is the 196th anniversary of the publication of Pride & Prejudice. I personally think it ought to be a holiday of some sort.

Kelly said... [reply]

Excellent recommendations. Now I just want to curl up on this rainy day and not work from home (like I'm supposed to be doing), but, in fact, watch lots of British dramas. Billable hours be d***ed!

Also, love love LOVE both the book and the movie of The Enchanted April.

Desmama said... [reply]

You are a pig from hell. That is all.

April said... [reply]

"I Capture the Castle," by Dodie Smith!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(None of those exclamation marks were redundant. How dare you ask if that was really necessary?)

(But seriously, FANTASTIC book.)

Nemesis said... [reply]

Abby, yeah. That was what I wanted to do too. And my sister's right--I would have recommended GWTW too.

Jenny, that's because the movie is awesome. Especially the bit where Ian McKellan has to pretend to be attracted to Jane Seymour.

Brinestone and Scully, I read Austenland but didn't love it like I expected to. Maybe I need to give it another go . . .

After everyone's Sunshine endorsement, have now requested it from the library!

Cafe Johnsonia, yeah. I figure people will be reading those without me.

STM, I read "Mrs. Mike" when I was 14 and moving to Alaska. Will have to revisit that one.

JustMe said... [reply]

How could you miss "Gone With The Wind"? I read it first when I was 11, I probably have read it 10 times. I read it last when I was expecting my youngest child. I think it is still a great read. So shoot me.

Also, "Our Hearts Were Young & Gay"
This is so old it might not be in print anymore, but I LOL when I read it.

"Prince of Tides" - one of the best books ever.

I've been stalking you for a long time. I really enjoy your blog.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Elise, you really, REALLY need to make the time for Jane Eyre as soon as you possibly can. I promise it'll be worth it.

Wow, Tonya. So all that work only bought me about 10 hours? Sheesh . . . :-)

Sean, your taste is impeccable. Which Georgette Heyer do you recommend for someone starting out with her? And Crocodile on the Sandback is awesome. I love me some of that Peabody/Emerson UST (unresolved sexual tension).

MT, so true. The book will almost always be better. Can anyone think of a case where the movie is better? Anyone?

Anon, I did NOT know! What lovely news.

Kelly, I hear you. I want to go home and read. And knit. Not sure how I would manage both, but that's what I want, dangit!

HEE! Love you, Desmama.

April, I Capture the Castle was on the list but then it was late and I slashed a few. Thanks for getting it back on there.

Carly said... [reply]

I actually discovered Georgette Heyer because of your blog and now I'm totally addicted (I think I've read about 15 in the last year). My favorite has got to be "Frederica" and I recommend it to anyone starting out with her. But most of them are good (they get a little redundant when you've read as many as I have... the novelty wears off a bit)!

Also, I too love Austenland... maybe you should give it another try, Shannon Hale is just great.

Can't wait to read a few of these, thanks for the great suggestions!

cooldad said... [reply]

No Kathleen E. Woodiwiss for a Valentines Day recommendation? Lame...

Elsha said... [reply]

I have to come out of my blog-stalker-style hiding to say: what about Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier? If you haven't read it you MUST.

P.S. Aren't I nice to read your blog for weeks without ever saying anything just to make my first comment a demand? Love the blog, just so you know.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Carly, I've only read ONE Georgette Heyer so far (I know. Shame.) Am excited to try out Frederica. In fact, I think I read somewhere else as well that Frederica is the best one to start with!

Dad, A Rose in Winter is part of my SECRET reading list.

Elsha, I considered Rebecca but just wasn't in the mood for all the insecurities that our poor nameless narrator has to deal with. Have you seen the 1997 film version with Diana Rigg as crazy-trash Mrs. Danvers? It was pretty good.

Elsha said... [reply]

Oohhhh. I didn't even know there was a 1997 version of the movie. I'll have to watch it sometime.

In fact, maybe I need to have my husband take the baby for the day while I watch that and Jane Eyre and the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice.

The Divine Miss A said... [reply]

Thanks for all of the recommendations. My To-Read List keeps getting longer and longer.

Right now I mostly would just have to second those who have come before.

I love Shannon Hale and Georgette Heyer, so I have to second Austenland and although I can't second Frederica (only because I've never read it) I would add The Black Moth or The Masqueraders (also by Georgette Heyer).

Pie said... [reply]

I love you for having the Scarlet Pimpernel on the list. I thought it was awesome in the movie when Jane Seymour had to pretend to be attracted to Ian McKellan. ;) Our library system has every lame SP movie ever made, but it doesn't have the great one. AARRRGGG!

The movie Ella Enchanted is actually what prevented me from reading the book for a while, but never again will I judge a book by its movie.

abby said... [reply]

I just remembered Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging. I laughed really hard reading this book and learned what snogging is.

Scully said... [reply]

First, I wouldn't say I loved Austenland, but I did find it amusing. Amusing enough to pass a couple hours on a dark Valentine-ish night when you really should be reading textbooks.
Random story: I created a monologue from Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging for my Teacher as Performer class and people found it quite funny, although not as funny as the real comments someone found on the Jonas Brother's myspace page. Has anyone read the 7 sequels? Do they hold up?

Eva said... [reply]

The Little Prince! <3

Probably a weird addition to the list but I CRY EVERY TIME because it's so fantastic and sweet and loving and sad and lovingsweetawesome.

Edgy said... [reply]

I'd like to recommend an actual Valentine's Day book, because I didn't get my copy in time last year to recommend in . . .

Marly's Ghost by David Levithan. Basically, it's a YA retelling of A Christmas Carol. And it's good stuff.

Gretchen said... [reply]

Fantastic list! My favorite book with romantic themes is I Capture The Castle.
(P.S. I'm a new readerlove your blog!)

Polly said... [reply]

I second Mrs. Mike, but didn't like Austenland. I love Shannon Hale and this one disappointed me.
I also love I Capture the Castle. I have read most of the list, and sadly our library dosen't have any of the ones I haven't read. Grrrr.

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