The act of (sweaty) bodies combined, and the attempt to share a life with someone you love, are among the most all-consuming elements of our existence. In homage to this compulsion, over the years artists have penned countless songs, and committed reams of ink to paper, trying to capture the PERFECT love story.
But if you’re still wondering where to start your lovelorn literary forays, I’m on hand this Valentine’s Day to help you sift though the many passion-filled tomes and find the perfect tale to make your heart flutter, as opposed to sink.
Without further ado, let’s get straight down to bodily action. Physical by Andrew McMillan is an award-winning poetry collection that investigates the idea of masculinity and celebrates the male form in all its glory. It’s a modern-day ode to men, and all that being a man entails, good and bad, in 2016.
Less contemporary, but no less gripping, Hungarian author Stephen Vizinczey’s In Praise of Older Women (written in 1965) is a fictional manual for younger men to help them explore the passions of a variety of thirty-plus women around the globe. So that includes most of us…
When it comes to forbidden love, Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo explodes cultural myths of gay love in London’s Hackney. We meet Shakespeare-quoting, retro-suit-wearing Barrington Jedidiah Walker, a Caribbean-born 74-year-old who is having an affair with his male best friend Morris. Barrington’s struggles reveal to us what it really means to not live life as your true self. True, he’s far from the archetypal love interest, but that just makes it all the more readable.
Taboos of another kind are found in The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. A remarkable story told in three parts over two generations, it captures the innocence of youthful, yet unlawful, love destroyed by the impact of World War II. Read the book, watch the film and buy the t-shirt.
You’ll need a free afternoon and a box of tissues when reading The Versions of Us by Laura Bartlett. Cambridge students Eva and Jim met aged nineteen and we follow three versions of their emotional story – past, present and future – delicately woven from 1958 until the present day. Think a more sophisticated One Day.
In The Happy Marriage by Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun, we encounter a husband’s first-person account of the breakdown of his marriage. Just as we get comfy we’re thrown into his wife’s unabashed assessment of their shared life. Mills & Boon this is not.
Generation Y has apparently now been around long enough to offer advice on matters of the heart. In Modern Romance, actor and comedian Aziz Ansari and sociologist Eric Klinenberg have come together to traverse the modern culture of dating from Tokyo to Buenos Aires and everywhere in between. Using data and analysis, as well as some memorable anecdotes, the pair uncovers what we really want from our romantic encounters and how we go about getting it.
Another comedian taking the bull by the horns is Isy Suttie with her book The Actual One. Like many of us, Isy woke up to realise she was no longer in her twenties and love had eluded her. After a bet with her mum, Isy takes us on a journey from kissing frogs to finding her prince. Essential reading for anyone who’s ever swiped left on Tinder.
Sharmaine Lovegrove is a fourth-generation Londoner. Her life has been dedicated to books and stories and now she runs page to screen consultancy Dialogue Scouting – finding books for film and TV adaptation. After six wonderful years in Berlin where she owned a boutique English-language bookshop, Sharmaine recently moved back to London with her journalist husband and their animal-loving 4 year-old son Jackson.