Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day alone or with special someone, skip the flowers, resist the chocolate. Look for love under the covers — of a book.
I asked five booksellers — local and online — to recommend the best titles for Feb. 14.
ONE MORE PAGE BOOKS (2200 N. Westmoreland St., #101, Arlington, VA 22213. Ph. 703-300-9746). Booksellers Lelia Nebeker and Danielle Ellison started yelling out titles before I could even pick up a pen:
1. The Lover’s Dictionary, by David Levithan.
2. Somerset, by Leila Meacham.
3. The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss.
4. The Little Book of Heartbreak: Love Gone Wrong Through the Ages, by Meghan Laslocky.
5. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.
KRAMERBOOKS (1517 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036. Ph. 202-387-1400). The staff sent me these recommendations with their own pithy commentary:
1. The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner. Nameless love.
2. Just Kids, by Patti Smith. Art love.
3. Stoner, by John Williams. Quiet love.
4. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. Unrequited love.
5. Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn. See title.
POLITICS & PROSE (5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008. Ph. 202-364-1919). Lena Khidritskaya Little, director of marketing and publicity, says these titles are “either bookseller favorites, currently on display especially for Valentine’s Day, or a combination of both.”
1. The Scent of Pine, by Lara Vapnyar. This sensual novel looks back on a budding romance against the unusual and somewhat claustrophobic backdrop of a Soviet summer camp, while memories of that first encounter are set amid the equally verdant and lush woods of Maine.
2. Love Poems, from Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets. This lovely and perfectly sized collection offers a range from John Donne to Dorothy Parker and Anna Akhmatova, so you’re bound to come across the right words for the moment.
3. Far from the Tree, by Andrew Solomon. This may seem an unlikely Valentine’s Day choice. The book carefully and clinically chronicles the realities of parents with extraordinary children — chapter titles include “Deaf,” “Down Syndrome,” “Prodigies” and so on — but more than scientific facts and breakthroughs, more than any one specific case that Solomon shares, it is the overwhelming sense of love among family that comes across in this work.
4. Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. The story captures the halting, awkward, burning excitement-meets-embarrassment that characterizes the first time you are capsized by love. Caution: Read in small doses as the book conveys the adolescent experience so well that it can bring on the jitters and flutters all over again.
5, Silence Once Begun, by Jesse Ball. This is the P&P all-staff “cover-to-cover” pick for February. It centers around a murder and a confession, followed by complete silence from the accused. He won’t speak in his own defense, to family, at trial, at all. On a larger scale, the story considers what we can know about those we love and the nature of loving what is ultimately impenetrable.
BARNES & NOBLE (555 12th St. NW, Washington, DC 20004. Ph. 202-347-0176). For your book-loving Valentine, the national office recommends:
1. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd.
2. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh.
3. Humans of New York, by Brandon Stanton.
4. Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell.
5. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.
AMAZON.COM. (Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.) Sara Nelson, editorial director of print and Kindle books, recommends these titles for Valentine’s Day:
1. A Ticket to the Circus, by Norris Church Mailer. This memoir by Norman Mailer’s widow (who outlived him by just a few years, despite their 26-year age difference) is touching and funny and so very real about what it’s like to be married to a “difficult” man.
2. To be Sung Underwater, by Tom McNeal. An unapologetically sentimental novel about going in search of the one who got away
3. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. I spent my adolescence searching for Healthcliff. I’m thankful (now) I never found him
4. Days of Abandonment, by Elena Ferrante. A novel about a terrible, crushing breakup of a 15-year marriage and the woman’s slow, very slow, road back to recovery.
5. Endless Love, by Scott Spencer. A classic about adolescent love (the book, not the Brooke Shields movie or the new remake). Some scenes still stick in my head.