Top Ten Tuesday: With Love, From Me to You

For today’s Top Ten, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, we’re asked to list our favorite top ten romances (or top ten literary crushes, or something similarly Valentine’s Day themed). I don’t read romance or chick lit, and I don’t get crushes on characters in books (although I do get crushes on books themselves, for whatever that’s worth). I also realize that for many people Valentine’s Day is just another commercial joke, and for other people it’s just another reason to feel shut out of a culture that’s obsessed with couples. Instead of worrying about all that, I offer you ten books I love that are about love of all kinds.

Our Souls at NightOur Souls at Night, Kent Haruf. Addie Moore and Louis Waters are neighbors. They are also both widowed, with grown children who live elsewhere. They live in a small town in Colorado with people who are prone to judge and talk, but despite that they form a touching relationship. Heartfelt and heartbreaking, like all of Haruf’s work.

Just KidsJust Kids, Patti Smith. This book isn’t just about Smith’s relationship with her love and best friend Robert Mapplethorpe—it’s a love letter to a culturally revolutionary place and time, and to self discovery.

The Art of FieldingThe Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach. Several years ago, I had this to say about The Art of Fielding: “It tells a timeless story of love, the ways we’re interconnected, whether through love or friendship or what we sometimes even think of as destiny.” This is most definitely a book about how love—not just romantic love, but that too, shapes our lives. One of my favorite books ever.

You Are One of ThemYou Are One of Them, Elliott Holt. Sometimes we hang on to romantic ideas, because they infuse everyone and everything with interest, including ourselves. Sarah Zuckerman believes her fascinating childhood best friend Jenny is dead, but a mysterious letter makes her think otherwise. As I said in my short review in 2013, “it also considers the mysteries of friendship, why we are drawn to certain people, why we often rely so much on others to define who we are.”

The Secret HistoryThe Secret History, Donna Tartt. Narrator Richard Papen looks back to tell a tale of murder, and of the people and place he loved that changed him irrevocably. This is one of my favorite books of all time. I never reviewed it here, but I did create a soundtrack that speaks to all that love and loss.

We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler. Rosemary Cooke is heartbroken. Her beloved sister Fern is missing. Her beloved brother Kevin is wanted by the FBI. To mend her heart she must confront an awful truth. This book is one of a kind.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailWild, Cheryl Strayed. To recover from her mother’s death (and all her own subsequent personal little deaths of the heart), Cheryl Strayed hiked most of the Pacific Coast Trail. Some people called this book (and Strayed) self-indulgent, but I thought it was a beautiful account of love and grief and imperfection all together.

My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels, #1)My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante. Friendships, especially those from childhood, are probably some of the most intense relationships we have, because we are in the process of discovering who we are and who we are not. Elena and Lila are sometimes friends, sometimes almost enemies, but no doubt their lives are entwined and their feelings for each other are strong.

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, Lorrie Moore. In this wistful and slim novella, Berie recalls her best teenage friend Sils and the summer they were both fifteen.

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11 comments

  1. I really liked your list because it focuses on the strong relationships that don’t have a romantic focus. I have many of these books on my list, but I keep hearing The Art of Fielding is especially good and different.

  2. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is on my reading shortlist right now. I’ll probably start it in the next week or so. I keep hearing something about a twistiness or some heartbreak that’s going to happen or something. I’m trying NOT to know more and I’m kinda nervous about reading it!

  3. Jenny, me too. I might not have said that about We Are all Completely Beside Ourselves when I first read it (even though I loved it), but it has stuck with me over time in a way I didn’t expect.

  4. ebookclassics, The Art of Fielding covers all the bases of love (please pardon the pun)–love of place, sports, friends, and romantic partners. I found it absolutely engrossing and wonderful. I hope to read it again soon!

  5. Andi, the heartbreak builds over time, so when you get some of the revelations, you’re expecting them. In that way it’s easier than a book that just blindsides you. I never felt emotionally manipulated by it, and given the subject matter I think it could have been a very easy thing for Fowler to do. That’s just one of the things that makes it so special. It’s another book I hope to pick up again soon.

  6. Marisa, both of the Patti Smith books are so wonderful, even though they are very different from each other. You don’t have to read them in order, but I do think it helps to read Just Kids first because knowing her younger self makes M Train all the more poignant. And My Brilliant Friend is so good…I need to read the next one soon!

  7. Almost all of these are on my to-read list, except for Wild because I’ve already read it. It looks like we have similar taste in books. I’m especially looking forward to reading Our Souls At Night, The Art of Fielding, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and The Secret History. Good list!

  8. Naomi, thanks for visiting! I found your blog this morning through 52 Books or Bust and immediately followed it. I’m almost jealous that you have all those books on your to-read list, because I wish I could read them all again for the first time. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

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