25 Best Books For Hopeless Romantics
When you’re in a long-term relationship, your idea of what constitutes romance may start to get a little skewed. I, for one, feel wooed when my partner takes the trash out, makes me coffee, or remembers to close his sock drawer. While the days of candle-lit dinners and long beach walks may be in the past — they never really existed, to be honest — I’m still a romantic at heart. And if you can relate, these best books for hopeless romantics will fuel you. Yes, I admittedly love a good rom-com movie, but I’m notorious for falling asleep 30 minutes in (I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve paid $9 to take a nap in a theatre.)
Call me old-fashioned, but I think there is something so calming and hopeful about a love story, especially one that unfolds slowly over the pages of a long book. Whether they mirror your life exactly or couldn't be farther from your own reality, the whole experience of getting fully lost in a book, in someone else's story, is simply fun. Without further adieu, read on for the 25 best books for romantics, perfect for curling up with on your favorite chair be it an Adirondack, chaise, or glider.
1. "The Pisces" by Melissa Broder
Fans of The Shape Of Water will flip for this unconventional love story that unfolds slowly between Lucy, a woman fresh out of a break up and desperately trying to finish her dissertation, and a merman she meets swimming in Venice Beach. You'll be amazed at how true-to-life (and sexy) the romance between a mythical creature and a woman can be.
2. "American Wife" by Curtis Sittenfeld
3. "Normal People" by Sally Rooney
Marianne and Connell are (secretly) friends first, as many love stories go. With large jumps in time and conversation unfettered by quotation marks (Rooney uses none, but it's somehow always clear who's speaking), you'll see an arching, true-to-life and sometimes dark picture of what it means to be a 20-something in love.
4. "Eleanor & Park" by Rainbow Rowell
This book may be considered young adult fiction, but it appeals to any age group. Taking place in Omaha, Nebraska from 1986-1987 (nostalgia abounds) Eleanor and Park strike up an unlikely connection after sitting next to each other on the school bus.
5. "The Argonauts" by Maggie Nelson
A researched exploration of sexuality, gender, and parenthood and a deeply personal memoir of pregnancy while loving a person who is fluidly gender, this book is at once heartbreaking, thought-provoking, and joyful.
6. "Call Me By Your Name" by André Aciman
Even if you're already seen the movie, it's never too late to read this book. You'll be transported to an Italian villa in the summer of 1983 (which is reason enough for me to pick up the book). The relationship between Elio and Oliver is impactful and beautifully written.
7. "The Year Of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion
Oh guys, this book is too good. Didion chronicles the year following the death of her husband, John Dunn, which she largely spends caring for her sick daughter and spending time "magically thinking" that John is coming home, that he will need his shoes.
“I did not always think he was right nor did he always think I was right but we were each the person the other trusted,” she writes along with countless other gems that perfectly encapsulate the complexity of loving someone.
8. "Standard Deviation" by Katherine Heiny
Audra is Graham's second wife, and the pair have a 15-year age difference and an even bigger personality difference. Despite their different ways of seeing the world and the challenges they face in caring for an autistic son, the pair stay strong in a laugh-out-loud, NYC-centric story.
9. "Just Kids" by Patti Smith
I'm always drawn to the magic and the mayhem of a late '60s New York City story. This memoir beautifully chronicles the friendship (and ultimately, the romance) between musician and poet, Patti Smith, and photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe.
10. "An American Marriage" by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds, Celeste and Roy, have a bright future ahead until Roy is convicted of a crime he didn't commit. The love story unfolds surprisingly between the alternating perspectives of the couple and the letters they send while Roy is in jail.
11. "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte
Reading this book as an adult was vastly different than reading it in English class freshman year of high school, which is to say, I liked it the second time around. Every page you turn contains a love story (seriously there are at least seven different romances going on) but the story between Catherine and Heathcliff on the moors (remember the moors?) is what keep readers gripped 172 years after its publication.
12. "This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage" by Ann Patchett
This essay collection is a wonderful compilation of Patchett's works, many of which originally appeared in magazines.
"I want to learn to love people like this, the way I love my dog, with pride and enthusiasm and a complete amnesia for faults. In short, to love others the way my dog loves me,” she writes. Love is found in all its forms within the pages of this book, which I return to every year.
13. "Happiness: The Crooked Little Road To Semi-Ever After" by Heather Harpham
I went through a huge memoir phase in 2018, as you may have gathered already from this list. The book begins with a non-traditional courtship between author, Heather Harpham, and her partner, Greg. I won't spoil the details, but when their child is born with an illness, the couple needs to either rise to the occasion or risk falling apart. It's a story about love: the unconditional kind, the romantic kind, and how love and friendship sometimes mean the same thing.
14. "This Is How You Lose Her" by Junot Díaz
A beautiful collection of short stories that follows the same central character, Yunior. The stories deal with grief, young love, and friendship and is filled with short quippy wisdom, like, "the half-life of love is forever."
15. "The Notebook" by Nicholas Sparks
I know you know this one, the Nicholas Sparks classic that turned into the 2004 movie by the same name. Have tissues close by when reading. You know the drill.
16. "Gone With The Wind" by Margaret Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell wrote just one novel, and it was this one. After a broken ankle left her unable to move, Mitchell decided she'd write a book. And I'm so glad she did. If you've seen and loved the 1939, you'll love the book even more.
17. "The Hating Game" by Sally Thorne
There is something so fun about seeing an office romance play out (hey Jim and Pam!) and this story is no exception. Set in the world of publishing, Lucy and Joshua are co-workers, total opposites, and competing for the same promotion, and still this leads to an unforgettable love story
18. "We All Love The Beautiful Girls" by Joanne Proulx
I am currently in the middle of the book, so without giving too much away (to you or to myself), it deftly deals with the ways romantic love must shift and change in the face of tragedy.
19. "Love Warrior" by Glennon Doyle
Love Warrior is a memoir about marriage, trust, and forgiveness, but it also an exploration of loving ourselves without shame or judgment. Everyone should read this book at least once, I think, because it holds wisdom like that, "“Grief is love's souvenir. It's our proof that we once loved. Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world: Look! Love was once mine. I love well. Here is my proof that I paid the price.”
20. "Tell Me Lies" by Carola Lovering
Falling in love doesn't always mean with the right person. This page-turner alternates between the perspective of Lucy, a Long Island transplant who finds herself at a small college in California where she meets sociopath Stephen, the one she just can't quit.
21. "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami
Told from the point of view of Toru Watanabe as he looks back on his college years in Tokyo with a mix of nostalgia, regret, and focus on an ill-fated love triangle.
21. "Love In The Time Of Cholera" by Gabriel García Márquez
A richly-imagined story that begins with the death of Dr. Urbino, the book follows his widow and her first love as he attempts to win her back.
22. "Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell" by Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell
Spanning almost 30 years, these collected letters between poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell offer a keenly observed world, and a love for each other that doesn't seem to veer into the sexual. In one letter, Lowell alludes to a time when he asked Bishop to marry him, and years later, he says, “I seem to spend my life missing you!” There is certainly some sort of love between the two, and plenty of musings on what it means to love.
23. "Looking For Alaska" by John Green
From the author of The Fault In Our Stars (I want to cry just thinking about it) this book is is a unlikely romance story that takes place between to teenagers, Miles and Alaska, at boarding school.
24. "Honesty" by Seth King
This book follows protagonist, Cole, a closeted teenager in the south who loses himself in novels — but that all changes when he meets Nicky. The story is a relatable, heartbreaking and sometimes triumphant story about first love.
25. "Brokeback Mountain" by Annie Proulx
Many people don't realize that the Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal movie is actually based on a 1997 short story by Annie Proulx, which was initially published in The New Yorker. It's as moving as the moving — perhaps even more.