LOVE: 4 Books on a Big Topic

Ilana Masad |
6 years ago
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Hello, Rioters! This is month #2 in my experiment to try to take a huge, big, sometimes abstract topic (though I want to take some nitty-gritty ones in future also) and find two works of fiction and two of nonfiction that address the topic particularly well. Last month, the topic was LIFE. Doesn’t get bigger than that, now, does it?

Well, this month, I’m going to take the topic of LOVE! Please enjoy the following recommendations, and please do recommend more books (of any genre) on this topic in the comments.


The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

Right off the bat, I’ll confess that I’m cheating a little bit, because this is a collection of three of Jemisin’s books: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdomsand The Kingdom of Gods (plus a bonus novella, The Awakened Kingdom). But what I’m not cheating about is the fact that these books are, in many ways, steamy love stories. Love takes many forms, whether it’s the love of one’s people, the love of a forbidden and impossible god, love of a friend, or love of self. Chosen by NPR as one of 100 featured romantic books during their 2015 Summer of Love, this is a clear winner of a book.

If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black

This gorgeous short story collection contains love stories of many stripes. Black succeeds where many have failed before her, in crafting what feels like a truly original take on many of banalities of life, be that the love or lack thereof in everything from childhood or marriage. With dependable writing that sneaks under your skin so that you find yourself thinking about sentences, turns of phrase, and the sheer amount of emotion in each of the moments portrayed, this book still feels like a well-kept secret of the literary fiction world that can, and should, be popular with readers of all persuasions and preferences.


Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

One of the best things about this book is the sheer amount of trouble comic Aziz Ansari went to in order to write a truly intelligent, as well as funny, book. Not one to write a cheap celeb offering (not that there’s anything wrong with those), Ansari paired with Eric Klinenberg, a bona fide sociologist, and conducted interviews upon interviews, focus groups galore, and gathered data from a large number of sources. What emerged was this: an exploration of the ways romance has changed, how our expectations have shifted, and what romantic love looks like today.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Love is a vast and beautiful thing, and it is also full of preconceptions, cliches, societal norms, and the expectations have of it. In Maggie Nelson’s book of “autotheory,” she takes her own love affair with a trans artist Harry Dodge, her own pregnancy, and her own experiences with queer family making, and dissects them and the way society writ large has approached things like childbearing, child rearing, parental relationships, gender, sexuality, and more. In a groundbreaking work of accessible theory crossed with personal narrative, Nelson’s book is truly one of the great works of nonfiction of our time.

Got any recommendations for more books (fiction, nonfiction, even poetry) that deal with love? Tell me about them in the comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook!