While romantic fiction might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is a love story for every kind of reader out there. Each book on this list is an example of a different form of love and the various ways in which love helps us connect with each other – be it through our love for friends, parents, siblings, pets, ourselves, unhealthy relationships or even romances that end on a tragic note. So, here’s a chance for you to cuddle up with these books on every kind of love.
Romantic love has always inspired artists, musicians and writers because of the power it provides individuals to sail through choppy waters for the sake of love. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, in his Indian classic romance novel Parineeta, dwells on how love is not always a smooth sailing fairy-tale. The story follows the orphan Lalita and the rich Shekhar, whose love stands the test of unforeseen circumstances, the arrival of another eligible bachelor, a parting and a reunion. A timeless love story, it continues to mesmerise us even today.
Another example is Dharamvir Bharati’s Chander And Sudha. The story traces the turbulent romance between Chander and his professor’s daughter, Sudha, and how they are restrained by the shackles of caste, social sanction and respect. He convinces her to marry another man, a decision that eventually has crushing consequences. Chander And Sudha outlines the limits of marriage as a social union versus the limitless possibilities of it as an emotional union, and the importance of the union of body and soul when it comes to romantic love.
There is no better therapy during the turbulent times in our lives than that received from a good friend. Thick As Thieves: Tales Of Friendship, an entire collection of short stories and essays on friendship by Ruskin Bond, simultaneously manages to bring tears to your eyes and curl your lips up in a smile. Bond celebrates the importance of a friend on both the good and the not-so-good days, through the bonds formed between three young boys, a tiger and master, and, a mouse and lonely writer. Another book that celebrates friendship is Circle In The Sand by Lia Fairchild. This is the heart-warming story of four inseparable friends who grow into adults and pursue very different paths, and end up strengthening their friendship when each one is faced with a life-changing decision.
Our siblings are our best friends and our worst enemies and will always hold a special place in our hearts. Chitra Divakaruni’s Sister Of My Heart is a tale of two cousins, who have a bond closer than that shared by sisters. As their inseparable bond threatens to turn sour, the novel sheds light on love, loss and family relations. Another inseparable bond is the one shared between a parent and a child. Aptly titled, Letters From A Father To His Daughter by Jawaharlal Nehru is a collection of letters that demonstrate a father’s love for his daughter, Indira, during the time they spend apart.
Love is an intense emotion, selfless and capable of moving mountains, but is it still considered love if it turns toxic, abusive and selfish? Is a person capable of loving their tormenter? Should they? When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy traces the journey of a married couple, who, on the surface, seem to be deeply in love. The situation takes a turn for the worse when the relationship turns abusive and the love turns toxic. This book is phenomenal in its ability to explore the fine lines between healthy and unhealthy love, compromise and sacrifice. Amanda Grace’s But I Love Him is a story about Connor who verbally, emotionally, psychologically and physically abuses Ann, who, in turn, refuses to leave him because she loves him. It raises important questions of whether we would want to be comforted by the very person who causes us pain, wish to have their arms wrapped around us while simultaneously wishing them to leave us alone.
Nothing defines unconditional love better than the love we share with our four-legged friends. All-time classic Black Beauty by Anna Sewell sheds light on the unconditional love our pets have for us, no matter what. Told from the perspective of a horse, Black Beauty touches the hearts of young and old alike and serves as a reminder to treat everyone, including our pets, with love and care. A memoir that was turned into a popular film, Marley And Me by John Grogan traces the life of a mischievous but loving Labrador and his relationship with his owners.
Love, unfortunately, comes with socially prescribed terms and conditions sometimes. For those of you who like their romantic literature to push boundaries and challenge norms, these stories of love that know no bounds will move you. A classic example is Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the story of a scholar named Humbert who falls in love with his landlady’s 12-year-old daughter named Lolita. Humbert marries his landlady to be closer to Lolita, takes her on a misadventure across the country, with both of them eventually suffering greatly in the pursuit of romance. For those interested in polyamorous relationships, do read The Ethical Slut. It is a simple lesson on how to maintain a responsible and successful polyamorous lifestyle and the infinite possibilities it offers.
The longest relationship you’re going to be in is with yourself, which is why loving yourself should be a priority. The popular memoir Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert chronicles her yearlong journey to self-discovery as she learns to love herself after a divorce and failed love. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is another book that demonstrates how being left alone in the face of a challenging journey contributed to the author’s ability to heal and love herself after thinking she had lost it all. Radical Self-Love by Gala Darling lays down the path to self-love with tips on how to be the best version of yourself. These books are a must-read if you want to be your own valentine.
There is an inexplicable reason why tragic love stories like Romeo And Juliet have had, and will continue to have, a special place in people’s hearts. For those of you who yearn for something other than the quintessential happy-ending love stories, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is a must-read. Through the terminally-ill protagonists, Green explores the idea of giving and accepting love in the face of death. If you love being left in a sea of salty tears, read A Walk To Remember by Nicholas Sparks, a story of star-crossed lovers, Jamie and Landon, who have disparate personalities, but along the way, accept each other’s differences and change for the better. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes soon after they tie the knot.
A lover of various kinds of artistic output and practitioner of a few herself, Eleanor Pinto is currently pursuing her Master's degree in English and draws her inspiration from artists ranging from Chopin and Beethoven to Dali and Kahlo. She believes that she lives in a world where the lines between the literary and the real world are blurred. And that, for Eleanor, contains endless possibilities.
You can read her articles here.