Whether you are spending this Valentine’s day with that special someone or curled up with a wine bottle alone on a reading binge, there is a book for you. Here is a quick overview of the best books to get for the 14th, because the best Valentine usually comes in the form of a hardcover that you didn’t “swipe right” to find.

1. “Love Poems” by Nikki Giovanni: Acclaimed writer Nikki Giovanni’s Love Poems is a classic must-have. With poems like “You Were Gone,” Giovanni reflects on love lost as she states “You were gone like a fly lighting on that wall with a spider in the corner…You never existed and if it wouldn’t be for the gray hairs I’d never know that You had come” (36). As Busboys and Poets is named after Langston Hughes, you will also enjoy “A Poem for Langston Hughes”: “diamonds are mined…oil is discovered, gold is found…but thoughts are uncovered, wool is sheared…silk is spun, weaving is hard…but words are fun” (49).

2. “Love Poems” by Pablo Neruda: This book of love poems originally published in 1952 by the Poet Laureate, Pablo Neruda will serve as a great Valentine’s Day gift for that special person. Instead of a JPEG or PNG meme quickly sent the morning of, relay to your love in the words of Neruda: “…in love you have loosened yourself like sea water: I can scarcely measure the sky’s most spacious eyes and I lean down to your mouth to kiss the earth” (3). How’s that for a compliment (and we are only three pages in)? As “You in the Earth” encapsulates the universal and natural beauty of the beloved, poem “The Queen” speaks of the beloved’s regality. Neruda declares “I have named you queen. There are taller ones than you. Taller. There are purer ones than you, purer. There are lovelier than you, lovelier. But you are my queen. When you walk the streets no one recognizes you. No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks at the carpet of red gold that you tread as you pass, the nonexistent carpet” (5). This beautiful collection of poetry contains both the original Spanish version and English translation, with poems like “Juntos Nosotros (We Together)” The rhythm of the poetry in Spanish and English will be an interesting analysis (for you to look through with your beloved) as the left page of originally sings, “Qué pura eres de sol o de noche caída, qué triunfal desmedida tu órbita de blanco” (72) and translates to “How pure you are by sunlight or by fallen night, how triumphal and boundless your orbit of white…” (73).

3. “Love in Excess; or, The Fatal Enquiry” by Eliza Haywood: As one of the most prolific writers (male or female) of 18th century British literature, Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess; or, The Fatal Enquiry draws on the Shakespearean love narrative with a modern twist before her time. Apart from the traditional love narrative, Haywood’s writing drew in readers with her provocative frankness in expressing female desire. With patriarchal power plays and betrayals in the name of “love,” you will read Haywood and realize why this novel was a 18th century bestseller alongside Robinson Crusoe.

4. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen: Okay, so these are your nerdy Valentine’s Day plans: After having a romantic dinner at Busboys and Poets you’ll go home to have a Jane Austen “Pride and Prejudice” night with your beaux. Elizabeth Bennet and the Bennet sisters will take you through a young woman’s journey of what it means to love when the pride of life and the prejudice of birthright and class are complicatedly intertwined. From its 1813 publication, Pride and Prejudice served as the revolutionary female voice on love and marriage with Austen’s stunning interpretation of the female class experience. Elizabeth Bennett with capture your heart, like her dear Mr. Darcy, with her existential analysis of the world as she states “There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.” So seriously, prep for your night in by buying Pride and Prejudice today and then you can watch the 2005 movie version (only after the book!)

5. “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur: So you don’t have a Valentine, great who needs em’! Join young #1 New York Times Bestselling author Kaur as she gives a provocative account of love gained and love lost. Kaur first emerged on social media with her unique poetry paired with drawings, that transformed into a riveting book of poetry that divides the course of love into chapters titled “the hurting,” “the loving,” “the breaking,” and “the healing.” Kaur’s gives a raw account of love, as she affirms “when you are broken and he has left you do not question whether you were enough, the problem was you were so enough he was not able to carry it” (103). Apart from romantic relationships, the exploration of self and experience is further developed as she delves into more graphic and serious matters such as sexual assault and abuse. Her collection of poetry will relate to any person who has struggled with the most important rule, that part of love is to love thyself.

Other great titles to check out (for your valentine – or for you!):
“Love Voltaire Us Apart: A Philosopher’s Guide to Relationships” by Julia Edelman – Because who doesn’t want to see illustrations of Confucius with a cell phone as author Edelman gives a hilarious updated adaptation to his theoretical teachings as she states “It is essential to do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (42).

“The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships” by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. – Dr. Lerner offers a powerful psycho-analysis of the female experience in grappling anger in a patriarchal society in this classic that has changed the lives of millions of readers to question, “

“I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Relationships and Romance” by Joshua Harris – If you’re tired of the dating rotation of going, waiting for phone calls and breaking up, Harris will rock your perspective on dating as he reveals his perspective on how to break the loop that is modern day dating. As a local D.C. pastor, Harris takes a Biblical perspective on dating by asking the question, If God is love and God is void in romantic dating, how can there be love? If you give up on figuring out the dating realm and wish to try a religious approach join Harris’s other 800,000 readers in the journey to kiss dating goodbye.

This post is generously provided by Hyattsville bookseller Tsahai Crawlle. You can find all these books and more at any of our bookstores.


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“Part of the reason why I founded this place was that I wanted a space that feels like home away from home, a space that represents the multi-cultural, multi ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-age aspects of the city, a space that represents the city that I live in – Washington, DC.” – Andy Shallal