Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! To celebrate, we’ve gathered together some of the best books from independent publishers all about love, dating, and relationships.
If you’d like to purchase any of these books, we’d highly recommend seeking out your local independent bookstore. Your business helps ensure the survival of these vital cultural institutions during this difficult time.
1. The Little Book of Love
From Shakespeare’s sonnets to the rom coms of modern-day cinema, Enlightenment philosophy to the latest Nicholas Sparks novel, one could say that no other topic has inspired such beauty – in art, literature, poetry or music – than that of love.
In The Little Book of Love, the words of civil rights activists sit alongside those of movie stars, world leaders, and the philosophers of Ancient Greece. In its pages, you will find some hard-won lovers’ wisdom, a whole host of poignant and inspiring reflections on love, as well as some of the most famous, endearing, and enduring declarations of love ever spoken.
2. The Rose by Brent Elliott
The story and history of the world’s favourite flower through 40 of the most popular and interesting species and hybrids.
The Rose tells the story of the world’s favorite flower through 40 of the most popular and fascinating species and hybrids. Arranged chronologically, The Rose brings to life the arrival of each flower in European gardens, detailing the history of the layout of rose gardens and the role that roses play in the “language of flowers”.
This little book is an indispensable guide to the dating process. It teaches us about the history of dating (and why the way we are dating now is so novel and so perplexing), the reason why our dating days can be so anxious, how we should discuss our past on a date, what questions we might ask a new partner, how to optimize our attempts at dating—and how to digest and overcome so-called “bad” dates. The book is at once heartfelt and perceptive and never minimizes the agony, joys, and confusions of our dating days and nights. It provides us with the ideal wise road map to the varied, sometimes delightful, sometimes daunting realities of dating.
4. Love Skills by Linda Carroll
Linda Carroll’s first book, Love Cycles, describes the five stages of intimate relationships in detail, illuminating the behaviors associated with each stage and strategies for successfully navigating them. This companion workbook, Love Skills, is a practical guide to creating and maintaining a loving relationship. Exercises, activities, self-assessments, and other concrete tools allow readers to understand where they are in their relationship. Carroll addresses such thorny issues as the loss of sexual energy, why what once seemed endearing is now annoying, and the many ways that family history and personality type can wreak havoc in relationships. Her well-researched practices help keep love alive in the midst of seemingly intractable differences, and specific, effective solutions to couples’ most common struggles provide a clear map for moving forward. Most important, Carroll’s couple-tested techniques allow readers to deal with conflict without losing connection, and show that conflict, when navigated properly, can lead to renewed closeness and unprecedented connection.
5. Love Drugs by Brian D. Earp & Julian Savulescu
Is there a pill for love? What about an “anti-love drug”, to help us get over an ex? This book argues that certain psychoactive substances, including MDMA—the active ingredient in Ecstasy—may help ordinary couples work through relationship difficulties and strengthen their connection. Others may help sever an emotional connection during a breakup. These substances already exist, and they have transformative implications for how we think about love. This book builds a case for conducting research into “love drugs” and “anti-love drugs” and explores their ethical implications for individuals and society. Scandalously, Western medicine tends to ignore the interpersonal effects of drug-based interventions. Why are we still in the dark about the effects of these drugs on romantic partnerships? And how can we overhaul scientific research norms to take relationships more fully into account?
6. How to Get Married
Many of us are attracted to the idea of marriage and yet feel a bit uncomfortable with some of the rituals that are traditionally associated with the big day. Perhaps the old ceremonies place too much emphasis on theology or else seem out of step with some of the complex realities of contemporary relationships.
In response to this dilemma, the School of Life has rethought exactly what the ideal wedding day would consist of and redesigned the entire process from scratch for the use of modern couples.
The book begins by proposing new ways of getting prepared for a wedding at a psychological level, suggesting how couples should ready themselves for the often tricky journey ahead and how to think through some of the thorniest issues that beset love. The book then presents an entirely practical and thoughtfully redesigned wedding ceremony, from picking out a suitable venue to suggested vows and readings. Finally, the book offers some ideas for how to approach the start of married life.
7. u & i by Michael Hall
u & i is a series of frank, funny, and surprising typographic illustrations paired with brief text that tells the story of attraction, marriage, family, frustration, antagonism, and ultimately, the deep appreciation for a lifelong partner.
The story begins with physical attraction that blossoms into a full-blown love affair. i imagines a marriage with u that includes world travel, children, and the joy of watching the children grow. But things don’t go as planned. The marriage faces financial problems, overwhelming responsibilities, and bitter arguments. Eventually, the couple overcomes their troubles and finds themselves in a much richer relationship than they had known before.
8. The Love Scrapbook by Tom Devonald
Funny, practical, and totally unique, The Love Scrapbook helps you assess and celebrate your relationship! Log your important milestones, complete argument scorecards, figure out which romcom best describes your life, design your own heart-shaped sweets, and take the Meatloaf Test (just what would you do for love?). Whether your relationship is brand new or super comfy, you’ll love these, silly, cheeky, and sometimes sensual activities for couples.
9. How to Find Love
Choosing a partner is one of the most consequential and tricky decisions we will ever make, and the cost of repeated failure is immense. How to Find Love explains why we have the ‘types’ we do, and how our early experiences give us scripts of how and whom we love. It sheds light on harmful repetitive patterns and the extent to which we are not always simply choosing people who can make us happy. We learn the most common techniques we use to sabotage our chances of fulfillment and why, despite their costs, we unwittingly engage in them. The book provides a crucial set of ideas to help us make safer, more imaginative, and more effective choices in love.
A fresh approach to matters of the heart, teaching us that success in love need never again be just a matter of luck.
Love has a history and we ride—sometimes rather helplessly—on its currents. Since around 1750, we have been living in a highly distinctive era in the history of love that we can call Romanticism. And it has been a disaster for love.
Relationships challenges the assumptions of the Romantic view of love. It shows how to develop new attitudes that can lead to a psychologically mature vision of love.
11. Couples in Art
This book tells the story of romantic companionship in one hundred works of art. Chronologically arranged and emotionally driven, this study of couples runs through many cultures, civilizations, and epochs. With examples from across the globe, it portrays iconic and lesser-known (yet fascinating) couples immortalized in the history of art. Whether affectionately embracing, engaged in flirtatious exchanges, seducing one another, or simply enjoying each other’s company, readers are invited into their complex world of passion, lust, and love. This celebration of these romantic relationships is expressed through sculptures, paintings, photographs, tapestries, stained glass, and illustrations.
12. The Forgotten Art of Love by Armin A. Zadeh
Cardiologist and professor Armin Zadeh revisits psychologist Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving, a book that has fascinated him for decades. The Forgotten Art of Love examines love in its complex entirety — through the lenses of biology, philosophy, history, religion, sociology, and economics — to fill in critical voids in Fromm’s classic work and to provide a contemporary understanding of love. This unique and wide-ranging book looks at love’s crucial role in every aspect of human existence, exploring what love has to do with sex, spirituality, society, and the meaning of life; different kinds of love (for our children, for our neighbors); and whether love is a matter of luck or an art that can be mastered. Dr. Zadeh provides a fascinating, empowering guide to enhancing relationships and happiness — concluding with a provocative vision for firmly anchoring love in our society.
13. Love Voltaire Us Apart by Julia Edelman, Illustrated by Hallie Bateman
Love Voltaire Us Apart is a hilarious spoof relationship guide with a philosophical edge, made up of philosophers’ love letters, advice columns and breakup letters.
From Confucius learning the Golden Rules of dating to Simone de Beauvoir considering bangs after breaking up with Jean-Paul Sartre, comedy writer Julia Edelman views the love lives of prominent philosophers through a clever and contemporary lens. She points out that Margaret Fuller is the “Carrie” of transcendentalism, and Nietzsche will always find a way to make a bad breakup infinitely worse.
14. In Praise of Love by Alain Badiou
In a world rife with consumerism, where online dating promises risk-free romance and love is all too often seen as a mere variant of desire and hedonism, Alain Badiou believes that love is under threat. Taking to heart Rimbaud’s famous line “love needs reinventing,” In Praise of Love is the celebrated French intellectual’s passionate treatise in defense of love.
For Badiou, love is an existential project, a constantly unfolding quest for truth. This quest begins with the chance encounter, an event that forever changes two individuals, challenging them “to see the world from the point of view of two rather than one.” This, Badiou believes, is love’s most essential transforming power.
15. All We Know of Pleasure edited by Enid Shomer
A groundbreaking anthology of well-known female poets that broadens traditional notions of erotic poetry.
Here is the good stuff: poetry written by women that actually excites the thinking reader. This anthology, spanning work of the last 75 years, will broaden its readers’ notions of what defines erotic poetry. For what is more intriguing, more satisfying than strong, self-assured writing?