The 5 Most Romantic Books

In celebration of Valentine's day wOw asked book maven, Roxanne Coady to tell us the most romantic books she's ever read. Here are her recommendations:

1. My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides, is about the complexities of love - betrayal, lost love, lost opportunities, heartbreak - as well as the more joyful aspects that we celebrate on Valentine's Day. Looking back on 40 years of marriage, I know I'm lucky to see a preponderance of happiness marking those years, but if I drew them as a bar graph I'd have to include the ups and downs that we also experienced. I think that's true with most couples, and it's why I don't favor love stories about boys and girls (or men and women) who fall in love and live happily ever after. This book really delivers.

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2. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. This may trouble some people, so let me explain. A few years ago I re-read Lolita and I was struck by how it made me reflect on the dimensions of love, not just the story of an older man seducing a young girl. Maybe it was the distance of so many years - I first read the novel as a young woman - but my reaction in later life was completely different. Give it a try and let me know what you think. In essence this is a book about what love means to people, and that's why it's such a great discussion book. Here's an idea: Host a couple's book club and invite your closest friends. You'll be amazed at what happens. Ours was among the liveliest book group meetings I've ever had.

3 & 4. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and The Lover, by Marguerite Duras. Both of these novels are set in foreign lands - the Marquez in South America and the Duras in Indochina - and each has that wonderful quality of magical realism. When I think about these books I can perfectly imagine the lushness of the settings in each. What I love about them is the physical atmosphere they conjure and how the richness of the writing adds to the sensuality of the relationships they describe.

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5.
Silk, by Alessandro Baricco. This is a lyrical, sensual novella that's set in 1861 in Japan and France. It's the best read-aloud book I can think of, and what could be more fun than curling up with your Valentine and reading to each other? There's something so old-fashioned and lovely about reading aloud, and also something so unselfish. A nice bottle of wine won't hurt either.

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