We love the thrill of diving into a great book that illuminates the complexities of the heart. Whether it’s self-help or fiction, almost every book has something to teach us about relationships. With bookshops overflowing with works that offer unique perspectives, profound insights, and timeless wisdom on love and relationships, it can be hard to know what to read first. Here are five of our all time faves.
“...it’s not the wanting love that’s the problem, it’s believing that you can only be happy in a relationship.”
Conversations on Love is a warm hug for your heart and your brain. Journalist Natasha Lunn was fed up with feeling like love was eluding her, and resolved to decode the mystery of how relationships form and evolve over a lifetime. Lunn speaks to authors and experts including Alain de Botton, Esther Perel and Dolly Alderton about everything from loneliness to the science of sex to lasting love. She doesn’t shy away from tough questions about finding, sustaining, and eventually losing love, and the result is a heartwarming collection of interviews that is as instructive as it is reassuring.
“The moment of queer pride is a refusal to be shamed by witnessing the other as being ashamed of you”
The Argonauts chronicles a time in Nelson’s life when her partner, Harry, is taking testosterone and having a double mastectomy, while Nelson is pregnant with their child. Understandably, this leaves Nelson asking a few questions. What does it mean to be a lover, or a parent when you don’t feel heteronormative? And who decides what’s “normative” anyway? A work of autofiction, the Argonauts combines Nelson’s memoir with a philosophical exploration of sexuality, gender, and family. An academic, poet and literary critic, Nelson is unabashedly intellectual, so the Argonauts isn’t the easiest read. It’s an important and thoroughly rewarding one nonetheless.
“Every one of our lovers offers a different solution to the problem of beauty, and yet succeeds in redefining our notions of attractiveness in a way that is as original and idiosyncratic as the landscape of their face.”
A book for anyone who’s ever been in a relationship, or felt confused about love. De Botton’s Essays in Love follows in high definition the progress of a relationship between a man and a woman who meet on an aeroplane. From the ecstasy of the first kiss to the agony of breaking up, de Botton examines every little emotion in a relationship, wittily articulating feelings you don’t even know you’ve had. An author and philosopher, De Botton applies age-old philosophical theory to a modern love story. It’s unpretentious, charming, and it hurts so good.
“Fuck her once, she’ll write a book about it!”
In ‘I Love Dick’, Chris Kraus takes the reader on a bold and thought-provoking exploration of desire, identity, and the complexities of modern relationships in this barely-fictionalised account of her extra-marital affair. She and her husband meet Dick, a well-connected academic, at a dinner party. Chris falls madly in unrequited love, and enlists her husband in her dogged pursuit of Dick, which looks a lot like a letter-writing campaign. Dick doesn’t respond but Chris continues to write, and what starts as an account of her crush morphs into a philosophical treatise on art, sex, and love. Published in 1997, this book was way ahead of its time. Read it on the tram, we dare you.
“Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition.”
Our list wouldn’t be complete without this enduring classic by visionary feminist bell hooks. Totally accessible and jam-packed with absolute gold from the very first page, hooks explains how our predominant culture instructs us to love but fails to tell us how. She proceeds to redefine love, urging us to begin by “thinking of love as an action, rather than a feeling”. When we accept that the act of love is a choice, says hooks, “it becomes clear that we cannot claim to love if we are hurtful and abusive.” If you let it, this book will change your whole outlook on love and life.