Roses, chocolate, and champagne are staples of Valentine’s Day, but books should become the fourth essential on the list. They add depth and interest, reminding us that there’s much more to the occasion than shiny hearts and fancy dinners. Here are titles both new and old, conventional romances and not, that solidify that point.
- Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me by Bill Hayes (Bloomsbury USA).
Hayes is an author (The Anatomist), photographer, and former partner of neurologist the late Oliver Sacks (1933–2015). His memoir—liberally illustrated with his own artwork—is an ode to love: of Sacks, of New York City, and of the varied gifts devotion can bring.
- Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas (Avon).
This third book in the “Ravenels” series arrives just after Valentine’s Day, making it the perfect pick-me-up for anyone who found February 14 to be a bit of a fizzle. Lady Pandora has long planned not to marry but rather to live an interesting, entrepreneurial life of her own desires. Then she gets caught up in a scandal—thankfully, with the most wonderful of rakes.
- Forever Is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagán (Lake Union: Amazon).
James Hernandez has big plans until he meets poet Lou Bell, a woman who marries his best friend and with whom he falls head over heels. That free fall seems to be his only movement, as his desire for Lou halts much of his own forward momentum. Eventually, life circles around, and James learns that love is made up of many objects and objectives.
- A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (Minotaur: St. Martin’s).
The 12th Chief Insp. Armand Gamache mystery celebrates all manner of adoration—those between husbands and wives, parents and children, neighbors and colleagues, and the lifelong bonds of childhood. Keen and immersive, Penny’s mystery is a slow boil that packs a punch, but it is her afterword that will have readers gasping at the intensity of her take on love.
- The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (S. & S.).
The awkward, strong, self-defining, and disorienting affection of young passion provides the downbeat for this addictive debut novel. Three boys are on a quest to get their hands on an issue of Playboy magazine, while a girl coder teaches one of them that there are much more important things to be found in a given relationship than in the pages of airbrushed sex.