1. A Little Life
This book is just stunning. The reason I adore it for its portrayal of romance is that it is quite unassuming to begin with, and so unflinchingly honest, it’s painful. A Little Life concerns the lives of four people: Malcolm, JB, Willem, and Jude. An architect, artist, actor, and lawyer respectively, we learn about their lives from college all the way through to late adulthood. Very early on in the novel it becomes clear that Jude is the man who ties them all together. He is their anchor, and their magnet, and yet the other three men know nearly nothing about him. He is an enigma to them. Traumatised and left broken by his childhood, Jude made a promise to himself never to trust anyone, and therefore never tell anyone about the horrors of his past. But as his relationships with the other men evolve, and as he still struggles to control the demons in his head, Jude realises that the only way to continue may mean sacrificing the privacy and secrets he’s been holding onto for most of his life. This book will leave you heart-broken, but also, with the most overwhelming faith in the power of human love.
2. Me Before You
This is one of the most compelling and thought-provoking books I have read. This story is mainly narrated by Louisa Clark, a twenty-six-year-old who finds herself out of a job; in trying to find a new one, she meets Will Traynor, an adventure lover who was involved in an accident two years earlier and as a result is now a quadriplegic. Their personalities and upbringings could not be more different, but as they are forced to spend time together, they discover they have a lot more in common than they initially thought. What I love is the honesty in Moyes’ writing and consequently in Lou’s narrative. She doesn’t make it picture perfect or pretend that Will’s injury is not a deafening blow on his life. What she does do is give a voice, and thus some control, to a man who felt he had lost control. Most of all she gives Will dignity in a time where he feels he has none, and for that alone, she has triumphed. The story of Will and Lou’s relationship is not a straight-forward one, but it will reinforce the idea of unrelenting, and all-encompassing love.
3. Every Day
This book is a heart-warming and original take on young love. It has one of the most creative, thought-provoking and utterly unique premises of a novel that I have ever encountered. Imagine waking up in a different body every day of your life, being completely unable to control or stop the switching and having no real anchor to a normal life at all. Levithan’s idea alone had me hooked. Immediately I was drawn to the fast pace of the book; while it is no adventure story, with each new chapter brings a new character with a new story to tell, and that alone was enough to keep me reading. But Levithan manages to entice with more than this, he creates a protagonist who doesn’t want wealth or fame or beauty, A (the victim of the constant body swapping) just wants what most take for granted – the same life to live every day. The story of A’s life, and the pain of how switching bodies means that they can’t stay connected to the same person is utterly heart-breaking. A’s relationship with Rhiannon is one that makes you hope with all your heart that there will be happy ending. Plus, the film adaptation of this book is great, so if you haven’t got yourself a copy, then watch the film instead!
4. + 5. The Best of Me & A Walk to Remember
I am a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks books, and I have selected two for this list; while his stories may be somewhat cliche and predictable, they are just what I love to devour, especially if I am in the mood for a lot of love and romance.
The Best of Me is about two high-school sweethearts who have grown up and grown apart. Now leading very different lives, when they both have to go back to their hometown after the death of a shared mentor, how much of the past will resurface? And can they reconnect even though their lives are polar opposites? If I’m being honest, I would only recommend this book (and author) if you love romantic cliches and sloppy, slushy, romance. But this book also has a great film adaptation, so watch that if you don’t want to read it!
As for A Walk to Remember, I read this book while I was at school, and it was one of the first books which made me fall in love with reading. I am a SUCKER for slushy romance, and this is the epitome of that, but with a heart-breaking twist as well. Jamie Sullivan is a quiet girl, the daughter of a Baptist minister, and would never consider dating someone like Landon Carter. He, on the other hand, is far too proud to be seen with a girl who carries a Bible everywhere she goes. But as they slowly fall in love, will it ever work? The book will make you cry, the film will make you cry, and your heart will be broken and warmed at the very same time!
6. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
I read this a while ago, while I was still at school, and in all honesty, it started my love for short stories. This collection of short stories is a rollercoaster of unique and insightful portrayals of love in the most ordinary and human way. I’ve read another collection from Raymond Carver, and what he’s just spectacular at doing, is showing human emotion in its rawest and most compelling form. With story titles as Why Don’t You Dance and Everything Stuck to Him, this book will show you in love in a way you’ve not seen it before, and hopefully, you will find at least one that resonates with you.