As an early bibliophile, books influenced my outlook on understanding love - if not more than - movies. Here is a list of some authors that I found particularly influential in this topic. I will note that it was a very difficult list to pare down. You should feel bad for me. Really.
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Joan Lowery Nixon
Joan was the literary step in my mystery journey after Nancy Drew, but before Agatha Christie. What she showed me was that you could be a smart young woman in danger and overcome it, often by solving crimes via varying degrees of sleuthing (or just surviving, to be honest.) Plus, almost always there was a cute boy. Maybe it was a dangerous cute boy, maybe it was a nice cute boy… the point was, I realized just how marvelous some side romantic tension is. Especially when there is a murderer on the loose!
Witty and pointed, Austen presents us with a landscape almost foreign to us now - a society that values manners, gentility and patience. Throughout her work, I started understanding love is faced with many different hardships, such as poverty, scandal, hypocrisy, heartbreak, curiosity, pride and irrationality. Yet love always wins out in the end. Her wonderful novels also remind us bookish girls of an important principle. A principle that even in the time of cravats and chaperones there are men who prefer the odd girl, the girl who prefers reading and (hatless!) walks outside to snobby chit chat. There is hope yet!
Oh, Jane Eyre. This novel presents a plain, quietly determined young woman with a tragic past and an oft unlikeable, angry and reckless man as a beautiful love story. And oh, how it works! Unlike any other novel, Jane Eyre showed me that love doesn’t have to be superficial, that beauty and our perception of it adjusts with true tenderness of feeling. It showed me that love can soften the pain of the past and provide new hope. That it is also a moving character study of an inspiring young woman in a gothic, enigmatic setting is of minimal note in the shadow of Mr. Rochester and Jane’s love.
From when she was writing under the pen name Jenny Carroll to when she became famous for The Princess Diaries to every phase of her career, I was a fan. Her books were the ones where I got very attached to the romantic aspect of the story. As her books were mostly all part of an ongoing series, there was always a lot of buildup, breakups or whathaveyou that kept the reader (i.e. me) semi-obsessed with the future outcome. She introduced me to the excitement of the crush and the thrill of the chase. Cabot excels at will-they/won’t-they popcorn escapism fun.
A prolific high fantasy writer, so far I have only read Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. Yet what a trilogy it was! In it, we are introduced to a deeply flawed, hardened character in Vin. What I felt was important, was that despite all of this - she could still feel love. She could still fall in love. It might take her longer, she may be more cautious and have more roadblocks… but it was still possible. Your past does not define your future.Your failures do not deny you hope. Your defects do not rob you of the ability to love.
Ooooh, boy. Stiefvater is an author who uses pure, elegant language to not only sweep you into graceful, terrifying urban fantasy worlds but also to slip in unexpectedly demure yet tempestuous love. Understanding love, in its most real state, is an intense initiator of choices, woes and resolutions. Her stories are emotional, tapping into those raw pieces of us that make us who we are... and reveal how those same raw pieces are where love truly grows.
I know, I know. She is a polarizing author, her works both loved and hated. I enjoyed the Twilight books and felt they focused on a relationship based on a refreshing foundation of conversation and rapport. Truth be told though, Meyer made my list due to The Host. The Host presents a unique perspective on what love is, what it can overcome and how quietly it can grow - even while taking place in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-like world. Tell me that isn’t awesome. I dare you.
With a poetic, quiet and unidealistic literary style, Dessen always manages to bring romance into a story with a near unparalleled genuinity. This Lullaby in particular took a heroine with a jaded heart and showed how a good guy could break down those walls. Keeping the Moon showed how a good guy could see past leftover insecurities. In general, though she has penned several shades and flavors of love, she really taught me that good guys were out there, they were worth waiting for, and you just need to recognize them when they came around.
As Harry Potter is one of the most influential book series in my childhood period, it quite unsurprisingly makes the list. From Goblet of Fire to Deathly Hallows, I was (and am) a Ron/Hermione superfan. Most memorable and lasting of the romances of Harry Potter though was the one that was unrequited and, in all honesty, quite damaging. If you have yet to guess it, I am speaking of Severus Snape and Lily James. Snape’s love was one that left an impression on me, as it was a love that never faded. Even after death. It was a love that influenced change on a wizarding-world scale, as a character who had succumbed to the darker side of himself found a reason to be more. It is not a happy love story, but it underscores the power understanding love has.
Everything, Everything holds a special place in my soul. In it, the protagonist risks her very life - knowingly - to just be able to hold a hand. Experiencing and pursuing love for a short time was more important to her than a long life without. Yet again, a conglomeration of words put to paper evokes an electrocuting thought: What is living without love? Whether it be the love of a family member, a friend, a significant other or, most importantly, God… are we truly alive if we do not pursue that love with a courageous spirit.
What are some of the books that helped you start understanding love?
Ravenclaw Angie is new to Page Chaser, but not to book lovin'. With a physical library with over 2500 books, she is equal measure enthusiastic and sarcastic, is a Jane Austen addict, self-identifies as a cheerful leprechaun barbarian in Dungeons & Dragons, and has a tattoo on the back of her neck inspired by Severus Snape.