Passionate pages: Celebrate Valentine’s Day with these books about love

Feb 12, 2017
Love is a universal theme in literature, whether you’re reading the classics or a modern best-seller. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We’ve been feeling the love as readers shared some of their favorite books with us via email and social media. There were many fans of such romantic classics as “Pride and Prejudice” and “Jane Eyre.” But in reading your responses, we also found some new books to add to our reading lists. We hope you’ll find something to love here, too.

Karey Bresenhan: “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell covers so many kinds of love. Scarlett’s “love” of Ashley — the love of a spoiled girl for what she cannot have; Rhett’s love for Scarlett; Ashley’s and Melanie’s true love; the Southerners’ love for a vanished lifestyle; Scarlett’s abiding love for the land itself, for Tara; the strong, loving friendship between Scarlett and Melanie that Scarlett takes for granted and never even realizes is important until she loses Melanie and her brave support; and, throughout the book, the love of true family and chosen family (friends). I read it first when I was 11 at our grandmother’s in San Antonio. My cousin read it right after me — she was only in the fourth grade! She swears she didn’t do anything but read for two solid days and finished the book. I still read “Gone With the Wind” once a year.

Darden Deviney: A wonderful love story — my favorite — is “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. This is a multi-generational book about the circle of life and parental love. Very short and a good read for everyone. Wonderful illustrations by Sheila McGraw that young children will enjoy. The story is about the enduring nature of parents’ love and how it crosses generations. A joy to read over and over again, and it will make you cry. And then there’s always “Gone With the Wind.”

Bobby Blanchard: A queer young adult novel published in 2003, “Boy Meets Boy” by David Levithan follows the traditional tropes of “boy meets girl” but from a gay perspective. Paul meets and falls for Noah, Paul loses Noah and then Paul does his best to get Noah back. David Levithan first wrote it as a gift for friends on Valentine’s Day, and it evolved to a novel. I love it because it has relentless optimism — not just about romantic love but the other kinds too. Published in 2003, the book imagines what at the time might have been unimaginable: a gay-friendly high school. The GSA “was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance,” the local PFLAG chapter (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is as big as the PTA and the star quarterback is both transgender and the homecoming queen. When I need to smile, this is the book I turn to.

Kristi Chapman: My favorite book about love may sound maudlin, but it is what it is. “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis is not only the best grief book I read when my husband died when we were both 30; it was the only one that really captured the depth and breadth of the particular kind of grief that accompanies a loss of a spouse in a really, really, really good marriage.

Nora Sheppard Estlund: In “Jane Eyre,” Charlotte Bronte spins a tale about a girl in an orphanage who becomes the governess of Thornfield and meets the brooding owner, Edward Rochester. Love ensues. Heartache, fires, wife in attic, and blindness also follow, but the story has a happy ending. What’s not to love?

Chris Schraff: Many people are confused about what love is … and is not. “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck nails it. Love is not a feeling; it is an action. Specifically, true love always acts to promote the spiritual growth of the other person — be they a friend, spouse, child, stranger or enemy. This powerful yet simple truth explains so much about life and love. And, perhaps as important, what is definitely not love.

Amyna Dosani: “Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?” by Kathleen Collins is not only about love; it combines love and sexuality with politics, race, gender. … It’s good!

Mike Clifford: “Lonesome Dove by” Larry McMurtry … several complex love stories within a story. Gus, Clara, Jake, Lorena, etc.

Joy Durrant: Although the title doesn’t suggest it, “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo is all about love. The love of Jean Valjean for his sister’s family leads him to steal a loaf of bread, resulting in his imprisonment for 20 years. The love shown to Valjean after his release when an individual not only exonerates Valjean of a theft he indeed committed but gives him additional valuables with which Valjean starts a new life. The love of Valjean for his daughter, whom he adopted out of compassion for her mother. And most strikingly, the love Valjean exhibits in the form of mercy to an individual who persecuted him for 40 years. “Les Misérables” is all about love!

Jan Heaton: One of my favorite Brian Andreas books is “Traveling Light: Stories & Drawings for a Quiet Mind.” A book about memory, love and imagining the future. Trust love. That’s pretty much it.

Jeanie Petrie: In “Beloved Prophet,” I love the way Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell share their day with a longing to let the other one know what they have experienced.

Robin Aguirre: I discovered Jane Austen late in life, starting with “Sense and Sensibility” (the movie). Since then I have read all her books and seen most every movie and TV show regarding the books. But my favorite book on love is definitely “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. It has everything a romantic could ask for: drama, humor, acerbic wit, adventure and, eventually, love. I recently discovered the 1940 movie of “Pride and Prejudice” with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. It is now one of my fave movies, as well as the PBS series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. When it comes to love, you can’t go wrong with Jane Austen. She packs a wallop!

Judy Madden: My favorite book is “The Japanese Lover” by Isabel Allende. To me, the book represents how much the American view has changed about mixed relationships. I know there is still a long way to go in this area; however, attitudes are much improved since the time frame in which the book was written. It shows how much a true love can endure.

Nina Phillips: “Love, Life and Elephants” by Dame Daphne Sheldrick documents this wonderful woman’s inspiring life story; full of adventure (her parents bushwhacked in Africa), peril (she was almost killed by an elephant) and love; she married David Sheldrick, famed wildlife expert and conservationist. This book continually inspires me to be true to myself and love to the fullest.

Tena Haywood: “Little Women” shows money is not an answer to love and happiness; this family was not rich in money but a billionaire in love.

Nicole Mills: Toni Morrison’s “The Song of Solomon” has several love stories that are warped in different ways. It’s a study in how we become vulnerable and can lose objectivity when we are in love. Toni Morrison would probably disagree with me on that, though. Milkman’s relationship with his mother could be a book on its own.

Lisa Quinn: One of my favorite books is “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss. It tells several interweaving stories of enduring love, innocent love, parent-child love, heartbreaking love and friendship. It’s absolutely fascinating that so many different layers can be contained in one fairly short novel.

Jennifer Larson: I suggest “When Breath Becomes Air” by the late Paul Kalanithi. The entire book is a labor of love, in fact, especially when you read the epilogue by his wife.

Amy Meeks: “Wuthering Heights” (of course — who can resist wild Heathcliff?!) and “Jane Eyre” (because Mr. Rochester) and “Pride and Prejudice” (because Darcy). I also cry every time I read “The Giving Tree” — such a beautiful love story.

Bharathi “Bri” Rajendran: “The Great Gatsby” is not one of those books with a happy ending, but I remember sitting in advanced English class my junior year swooning over Jay Gatsby. He hosted elaborate parties just in a hope that Daisy would come even though she’s married to Tom. Jay Gatsby loved her until the very end. I guess I’m a softie for unrequited love stories.

Jen Mrla-Gray: I have to go old-school and say “Pride and Prejudice” is my favorite book about love. For years, I keep coming back to how the book points out the time’s socially acceptable notions and then challenges the main characters to be more than that, to be their true selves (even with their pride and prejudice) and to still find love.

Gail Galloway Adams: Since Valentine’s Day celebrates the notion of love never-ending, I’ve settled on three titles (I think). One of my husband’s favorite writers was Reynolds Price, who wrote “A Long and Happy Life.” Could there ever be a more wonderful woman to love than Rosacoke Mustian? (Just her name alone!) We agreed on most things, including how much we loved Eudora Welty’s “Delta Wedding” and all the excited fuss over making the coconut wedding cake, and again it is a beautiful novel about love and marriage and family. The book that I return to when reaffirmation of love is needed is “Back” by Henry Green (also one of Welty’s favorite writers). This is a wonderful novel about a young British soldier held as a prisoner of war who is released after the war and comes back home only to find that his beautiful Rose has been killed in the Blitz. In luminous language, Green explores what it means to have love sustain you and help you survive, and how much the strength of love helps you reconcile its loss, but its most important theme is how the memory of deep, abiding love helps provide you a path to a future.