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A post-Valentine’s Day booklist

Posted on February 26, 2020 at 6:00 am

By Rachel Underwood

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Like me, you’ve probably been inundated with images of fresh, happy, young couples and the candy they gleefully devour together.

Maybe you were single this Valentine’s Day and had a fun night with friends; maybe your cat decided that a mid-dinner-date hairball expulsion was a great idea; maybe you were up all night arguing with your partner and wondering, Why is this not like the movies?; or maybe you had a fabulous time, but now you’re ready to cash in on those post-Valentine’s Day candy deals and get a hoard of new books to read from the library.

If you are ready to move on from classic love stories, here are books that expand on the concepts of love and candy, and even sexy vampires.

Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure, by Samira Kawash

Once, when I was a small lass, my dad bought me a 3-lb chocolate bar. I ate the entire thing in one day, so he bought me another one and I ate that one, too. Giving your child six pounds of chocolate in one day is resoundingly a bad idea; however, is candy itself really that horrible? With candy making up only 6% of the added sugar in an average American’s diet, Samira Kawash thoughtfully explores what candy is, how far it extends into our everyday diet, and what its impact has been across the globe.

Advanced Love, by Ari Seth Cohen

Similar to Humans of New York, Advanced Love features interviews with eclectic senior couples and explores the experience of human love. I adored the eccentric fashion, and the interviews are rich with both history of the couples and the wonderful individuals involved. This book shows that love is complicated and multifaceted, and it just may help revolutionize the faces and stories associated with Valentine’s Day.

Modern Love: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption, edited by Daniel Jones

After your heart has grown three sizes (and you’ve perhaps cried) reading Advanced Love, move to Modern Love (and cry some more). The authors of the New York Times column “Modern Love” believe that love is an ever-changing and ever-growing concept. They have collected some of the most touching stories of love: A woman with cancer writes a dating profile for her husband in light of her terminal diagnosis; a young man comes to terms with manic-pixie-dream-girling the women he’s interested in; a woman with bipolar disorder chronicles her overwhelming experiences with dating; and a mother details her inability to continue loving The Beatles after losing her daughter.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl, by Stacey O’Brien

My sister was cuddling my gangly little dog, Borys, when she turned to me and said, “Rachel, if you ever have a child, I will never love it as much as I love this dog.” Stacey O’Brien doesn’t exactly second this opinion, but she does love Wesley the Barn Owl with a fierceness to be admired. They meet on Valentine’s Day in 1985 when Wesley is only 4 days old, and they remain devoted to each other for 19 years. While Wesley ruins Stacey’s dating chances, preys on her sheet-tucked feet in the night, and eats more mice than you would think is possible, you may just fall entirely in love with this precious and precocious owl and maybe even grow a new love and respect for nature through him.

Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

If you, like me, went through most of your life thinking that Bram Stoker invented vampires with Dracula, I have a surprise for you. Vampires were a terrifying folkloric invention of Eastern Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, well before Stoker’s life in the late 19th, early 20th century. So Stoker didn’t invent vampires. He also lifted huge plot points from an already published lesbian vampire story. Carmilla is a sexy and short classic novel involving an ancient vampire and the young girl she seduces and feeds off of—definitely not your run-of-the-mill classic vampire story, but it is the original!

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong is widely renowned for his beautiful and biting poetry. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a devastating glimpse of familial trauma as it influences a young boy’s life and first love. Vuong touches on the ways in which family love each other and in which two boys from a conservative town can love each other and in which a person can grow to love themselves as they love the world around them. Vuong writes: “I wait until my grandpa’s voice, this retired tutor, vegan, and marijuana grower, this lover of maps and Camus, finishes his last words to his first love, then close the laptop.”

Rachel Underwood

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