8 Books That Are Better Than Valentine’s Day Plans

Valentine’s Day is a sham of a holiday. It makes people in relationships feel unnecessary and weird pressure to put on a show, buy some flowers and trot out the chocolates, lest you be branded a monster who doesn’t care about the person you sleep with every now and again. And, if you’re single, you are relegated to getting pity Valentines or dodging giant displays of snack-sized peanut butter cups while you wait in line at CVS to buy tampons and paper towels. It’s the shitty neighbor of all the holidays, the one that won’t turn its music off, and spends three hours on Sundays vacuuming and moving furniture. So, this year, I don’t care what your status is — you are either in love, or definitely not in love, or thinking about love, or whatever. Don’t even make it a thing. Stay in and read a book instead.

Americanah by Chimamnda Adiche Ngozi

So it’s a love story at its heart, but it’s not all meet-cutes and goopy eyes. The love story is like the B-plot. Focus on the hilarious blog posts written by the main character, and focus on the important meditations on race and what it means to be black in America. You will be much happier that way, trust.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

This is actually a love story. No two ways around it. But, it’s well-written and a good intro to Murakami’s world if you haven’t read any of his stuff before.  Get ready for lots of beer poured into clean glasses, jazz music and protagonists who love making spaghetti for one.

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis

There are about a million tiny, little baby bits of micro fiction in here, and they are all to be treasured, like precious gems. Some of them are about love. Some of them are sad. Most of them are melancholy and deeply-felt nuggets of emotion and wisdom. I suggest you own this book because it’s a nice thing to have around the house.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyemi

It’s a love story, and its also kind of a fairy tale, but it’s dark and fucked up and kinda bleak, which, really, describes love in general, right? Also, it’s beautifully written, compelling, and twisty. Read it once, to get the plot all in your head in one dose, and then read it a second time to savor the gorgeous images.

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

Maggie Shipstead is a capable writer, trafficking in the kind of subject matter that, in lesser hands, would be clunky and overwrought. But, this story of Joan and Arslan, doomed lovers and ballerinas is just really good.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

Nora Eldridge has no family to speak of, and has dedicated her life to her career as an elementary school teacher. She allows herself to fall in love with the family of a child she teaches, and is absorbed into their whole world, with results that are eventually disastrous and emotionally wrenching.

Long Division by Kiese Laymon

There’s love in here, but there’s also a fantastical story about time travel, race and some truly inventive writing from a new legend.

A Brief History Of Seven Killing by Marlon James

This is a sprawling, fictional oral history that uses the assassination attempt on Bob Marley in Jamaica in the 70s as a springboard to talk about race, poverty and politics. It’s written from the point of view of many different characters, and most of it’s in patois. I’m very excited to hole up somewhere and read this without interruption.