Monday, February 14, 2011

Literary Valentines!

I know, I know, people who think of Valentine’s Day as a fake, Hallmark-created holiday are in good company. I, however, stand solidly in the camp of those who jump at any excuse to celebrate, and while any day should be a good day to tell someone you love that you love them, it’s nice to have an excuse to spoil your nearest and dearest. For those of you still not convinced, why not add some depth to this cheese-fest by giving your lovies a book? Below are a few suggestions. Most of them don’t even have cartoon candy hearts on the jacket, I swear!

Love is a Mixed Tape by Rob Sheffield

While this one is as much about death, music, and the process of grieving a spouse as it is a love story, Sheffield does the nearly impossible in the anecdotes that fill the book—he brings his deceased wife back to life. She lives and breathes on nearly every page as Sheffield pays tribute to her short life, and I can’t think of anything more romantic than that. Their partners-in-crime approach to the world and their quirky, fun loving dispositions won’t soon be forgotten, nor will Sheffield’s prose. It’s a tearjerker worth the cost of the tissues.

Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara

This wordsmith makes even the simple delight of “Having a Coke With You” feel like the loveliest activity on the planet.

The Gift of The Magi by O Henry

This may be a Christmas tale, but I think Valentine’s Day needs to get in on the action. Has there ever been a more heartwarming look at the self-sacrifices we make in love?

Dumped edited by B. Delores Max

For all those groups of single girlfriends who get together to suffer through the couplefest aspect of the holiday in solidarity. (I know you’re out there because I used to do this every year with one of my nearest and dearest friends, Meghan Luby. Eating fried rice and a flame lit punch bowl of vodka while taking in drag queen karaoke with her in ’07 is still one of my all time favorite Valentine’s Days.) Dumped is a delightful anthology interested in the dark side of love—the moment when it ends. With stories from contemporary greats like Lorrie Moore and classic narrative weavers like Dorothy Parker, this collection will prove that sometimes having a beau isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

For the truly selfless people in your life! I love this one because it’s appropriate not only for romantic love, but parents, siblings, and friends as well.

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

Admittedly, I haven’t read this one from start to finish yet, but when I went to read the opening at Barnes and Noble to decide if it was worth buying in hardcover I spent an hour engrossed in its first half. Through alphabetical (as opposed to chronological) dictionary entries defining what various concepts mean to the couple in question (breathtaking, ineffable, etc.), the author spins a picture of a couple as unique and noteworthy as this unusual format. On his Amazon page, the author says that the idea for the book came from a 23 year tradition of writing a Valentine’s Day story for friends every year, so this one feels particularly appropriate!

Moonface by Angela Balcita

I know I just did a book bite on this one, but it’s too appropriate for a holiday based on love to not mention it here. While they’re both singular memoirs, this one is kind of like Love is a Mixed tape with a happy ending. Both are about couples whose whole is worth more than the sum of their parts.

A Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev

As epic and heavy as Romeo and Juliet but set in our time, this unforgettable literary tale is another one sure to elicit water works. In prose that practically sings, it proves in strictly un-cliché fashion that time and even war are no match for true love.

Valentines by Rob McKuen

I know, it’s a little obvious, but beyond its title, this book of poetry finds new and unforgettable ways to say “I love you.” Plus, my mom gave me her copy from when she was in college for my 21st birthday and it was one of the most memorable gifts I’ve received, so it seems in keeping with the spirit of giving books as gifts!

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