Take a break from your planning guides and curl up with these timeless—and unexpected—classics.
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“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Márquez
Translated from the original Spanish, Love in the Time of Cholera is a love story that spans five decades. When Florentino and Fermina cannot wed as young paramours, Florentino waits for over fifty years for Fermina’s husband to die (of old age) before attempting to renew his youthful romance. Márquez has a way with words and wisdom that makes this novel not only romantic, but also downright beautiful.
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“The Princess Bride” by William Goldman
This 1973 novel is self-proclaimed to be the greatest love story of all time. While you may be familiar with the movie of the same title, which is fairly true to the novel, it’s well worth the time to revisit the original story—yes, even if you’ve seen it so many times you can recite every line (“Does anybody want a peanut?”).
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“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
After all, how can you talk romance without talking Mr. Darcy?
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“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare
Romeo & Juliet usually takes front-of-mind when we’re asked to think of a romantic Shakespeare play, but A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a much more fun (and witty) romp, with a happy ending for everyone.
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“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander has made a bit of a splash with its recent Starz television adaptation, and it’s easy to see why: It involves time-traveling romance with Scottish Highlanders, a wife torn between two centuries (and two husbands), and an imperfect but believable love that overcomes the strangest of situations. Bonus: There’s a whole series of books to enjoy if you like the first one.
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“The Lover’s Dictionary” by David Levithan
Levithan’s work is not strictly a novel. It lacks a beginning, middle, and an end. Rather, it is a collection of definitions of romance-related words that combine to tell the story of a marriage—and its uniqueness makes it worth every page.
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“Bonk” by Mary Roach
Bonk is an exploration of the science of sex. It’s not “romantic” in the truest sense of the word, but it is funny and insightful and full of tons of “you won’t believe this” tales. (You won’t believe, for example, the tests Roach was willing to undergo herself to get to her story.)
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“Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell
The Fault in Our Stars (both book and movie) took the young adult world by storm in recent years; Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park is a quieter novel, but one just as powerful, about two awkward teenagers finding each other—and love—in the Eighties.
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“How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky” by Lydia Netzer
Netzer’s premise is an interesting one: Two women raise their children to become soul mates, and though the women have a falling-out, the children ultimately meet again and (you guessed it) fall in love. It may sound odd, but the novel asks wonderful questions about what love really is and how it plays with destiny (and vice versa).
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“The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin
Zevin’s debut novel is heartfelt, adorable, and wonderfully romantic ... and bookish. (A.J. Fikry runs a bookstore.) Just keep tissues on hand, because this one can venture into the teary-eyed arena.
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“The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Sendker’s novel, set in Burma, celebrates romance and the strength of family ties in one masterful piece of storytelling. The narrative at the heart of the novel spans decades, continents, and physical disabilities to bring two people into a lasting, or perhaps everlasting, love.
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“A Rogue by Any Other Name” by Sarah MacLean
The couple at the center of A Rogue by Any Other Name gets married because they must, and then go about the business of falling in love. It’s much less swooning-ladies-in-ball-gowns than some of the romance novels you see in grocery-store checkout aisles, and MacLean’s writing is smart and sharp, to boot.
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“It’s Not You, It’s the Dishes” (originally published as “Spousonomics”) by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson
It may sound dull, but Szuchman and Anderson manage to make a book that applies economic principles and ideas to the careful balance of marriage fascinating—and exceedingly relevant for anyone married, engaged, or living with a long-term partner.