Many a thing has been written, spoken, and sung about love. This Valentine’s Day we join the chorus with a stellar recommended reading list!
The following twelve works of prose and poetry honour true love in its many shades and forms, exploring various categories of affection from passionate affairs—which inflame, inspire, and sometimes implode; to stories of searching and longing; to those loves which connect us with family, community, and the world at large.
As a bonus for book lovers everywhere, save 25% off all available Book*hug titles as part of our annual Valentine’s Day Sale, from now until February 14th, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. Simply use the code VALENTINES22 at checkout!
ROMANTIC LOVE: Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart by Beatriz Hausner
What better way to commence a Valentine’s Day reading list than with some good old-fashioned eros? Cue Beatriz Hausner’s Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart. From wistful romance to explicit sex, these poems are inspired by the troubadour poets of Provence and Italy, and invoke such historical figures as the Byzantine Empress Theodora and her husband, Emperor Justinian, not to mention the Countess of Dia—Beatriz—a major poet of the troubadour tradition; these are Hausner’s “alter voices,” expressing permutations of presence, absence, conquest, and loss.
“Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart has a timeless quality to it…The erotics at its core are epic, musical, sensual, all the while never losing the intimacy of a couple straddling their tandem pains and pleasures” writes Aaron Tucker, author of Irresponsible Mediums and Catalogue D’oiseaux.
MOTHERLY LOVE: Hope Matters by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter
Throughout their youth, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter wrote poetry with their mother, the late beloved award-winning author Lee Maracle. The three always dreamed that one day they would write a book together. This book is the result of that dream. The wide-ranging poems in Hope Matters focus on the journey of Indigenous peoples from colonial beginnings to reconciliation. But they also document a very personal journey. “Daughters and mother poetry dances around each other, weaves rhythm and breathes love,” writes Katherena Vermette, author of The Break and River Woman.
FATHERLY LOVE: Umbilical Cord by Hasan Namir
Lambda Literary and Stonewall Book Award-winner Hasan Namir shares a joyful collection about parenting, fatherhood, and hope. These warm, free-verse poems document the journey that he and his husband took to have a child. Between love letters to their young son, Malek, Namir shares insight into his love story with his husband, the complexities of the IVF surrogacy process, and the first year as a family of three. “Hasan Namir’s Umbilical Cord is an exceptionally beautiful love poem that lays bare the joy and complexity of family life,” writes Jordan Scott, author of Night & Ox.
LONG DISTANCE LOVE: Catalogue d’oiseaux by Aaron Tucker
Catalogue d’oiseaux recounts a year in the life of a couple separated by distance, carefully documenting time spent together and apart. When reunited, they embark on travels across the globe—from Toronto to Berlin, Porto to the Yukon. Traced through art, architecture, and the cultural life of various cities, this stunning celebration of love lives between geographies and chronologies as a kaleidoscopic gathering of the many fractals that make up a couple’s life. Poet, Kirby, writes, “Tucker’s elegant lines, each a marvel, like the finest of lenses, draw us into exact focus, remind us of why we cascade trip fall head over heels at all.”
EPISTOLARY LOVE: Letters to Amelia by Lindsay Zier-Vogel
Lindsay Zier-Vogel is a lifelong letter-writer, the creator of the internationally acclaimed Love Lettering Project, and author of the novel Letters to Amelia—a novel filled with letters that speak to our essential need to love, relate, and connect.
Grace Porter is reeling from grief after her partner of seven years unexpectedly leaves. Amidst her heartache, the thirty-year-old library tech is tasked with reading newly discovered letters that Amelia Earhart wrote to her lover, Gene Vidal. She becomes captivated by the famous pilot who disappeared in 1937. Letter by letter, Grace understands more about Amelia while piecing her own life back together. “Brimming over with Lindsay Zier-Vogel’s obvious love for the story of Amelia Earhart, Letters to Amelia is a wonderful novel about flight and passion, about love-letters and reaching out; a novel about how we never know quite what’s coming next, but still keep launching ourselves into the blue tomorrow” writes Jon McGregor, Booker Prize longlisted author of Reservoir 13.
UNREQUITED LOVE: Worst Case, We Get Married by Sophie Bienvenu, Translated by JC Sutcliffe
Aicha lives with her mother in Montreal’s Centre-Sud neighbourhood. She’s only thirteen but claims to be older. She has never known her father, and resents her mother for leaving Hakim, her stepfather. Her only friends are Mel and Jo, two local prostitutes, and Baz, a musician in his twenties, who comes to her rescue one day and with whom she proceeds to fall in love. Her impossible love for Baz, her precociousness and her rebellious streak come together in an explosive and deadly cocktail. Raw and heartrending, Worst Case, We Get Married is narrated as a confessional statement Aicha gives to a social worker.
🐝 Shoutout to Yellowjackets fans: Sophie Nélisse, the actress who plays the young Shauna Shipman, also plays the lead role of Aicha in the French film adaptation of Worst Case, We Get Married!
PLANETARY LOVE: This Radiant Life by Chantal Neveu, Translated by Erín Moure
Winner of the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation, This Radiant Life is poetry capable of holding life and death, solidarity, and love. It draws from the lexicons of science, art, revolution, and corporeal movement to forge intense and extended rhythms that invoke the elements and spaces making up our world. In its brevity and persistence, This Radiant Life is a material call for action: it asks us to let go, even just a little bit, of our individuality in favour of mutuality, to arrive separately yet in unison at a radiance in which all living beings can thrive.
“Oscillating between various subatomic particles, spaces, and word matter that make life life—i.e. the stuff and messiness of being, the macro and the micro, the chemistry, biology, geology, language of experience/experiment—This Radiant Life entreats us to slow down, attend to, and cherish the elemental,” writes award-winning poet and translator Oana Avasilichioaei.
INTERPLANETARY LOVE: The Employees by Olga Ravn, Translated by Martin Aitken
Shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize, The Employees is funny and doom-drenched, chronicling the fate of the Six-Thousand Ship. The human and humanoid crew members alike complain about their daily tasks in a series of staff reports and memos. When the ship takes on a number of strange objects from the planet New Discovery, the crew become strangely and deeply attached to them, and start aching for the same things—warmth and intimacy, loved ones who have passed, shopping and child-rearing, and faraway Earth.
After the meeting yesterday, I suddenly discovered myself sitting in the room with one of the objects in my lap, and when I came properly to my senses, I noticed that I was caressing the object with my thumb, as if it were something I loved, although I’ve never felt love. But at that moment, before I fully realized what I was doing, I was filled with affection, and I knew, the way one knows in dreams, what it means to love something living.
DIFFICULT LOVE: Just Pervs by Jess Taylor
Two sex addicts meet and fall in love. A woman catches her husband cheating on her with their dog and escapes to her sister’s horse farm. Four friends—fellow pervs—grow up and drift apart, pining for each other in silence until one of them is murdered. In Jess Taylor’s sophomore story collection, contemporary views of female sexuality are subverted, and women are given agency over their desires and bodies. Through these characters, sex is revealed to be many things at once: gross, shameful, exhilarating, hidden or open—and always complicated. “Taylor’s prose is beautiful and cutting… Taylor touches on some really lucid relationship dynamics – particularly the grittier, more regrettable short-term kind,” writes Jackie Mlotek for Quill and Quire.
LOST LOVE: I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind by Marianne Apostolides
Ariadne is a single, forty-something writer and mother embroiled in an affair with a married man. At the core of her current manuscript, a book about the declaration of love, is the need to understand why: why her lover has returned to his wife, why their relationship still lingers in her mind, why she’s unable to conquer her longing. To make ends meet while writing, she joins a research study in which she’s paid to live with an AI device called Dirk. “What I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind does masterfully is examine love through the lens of Ariadne, poetically weaving in the philosophy and literary writings that inform her understanding of the world… the book is captivating, inquisitive, and provocative,” writes Nadia Siu Van in a review for Room Magazine.
RETURN TO LOVE: The Handsome Man by Brad Casey
The Handsome Man is a collection of linked stories that follow several years of the life of a young man as he is drawn around the world: from Toronto to Montreal, New York, Ohio, New Mexico, British Columbia, Berlin, Rome, and Northern Ontario, along the way meeting hippies, healers, drinkers, movie stars, old friends, and welcoming strangers. He isn’t travelling, however; he’s running away. But as far and fast as he runs, the world won’t let him disappear, and each new encounter and every lost soul he meets along this journey brings him closer and closer to certain truths he’d locked away: how to trust, how to live in this world, and most of all, how to love again. Guillaume Morissette, author of New Tab and The Original Face writes, “Brad Casey’s fiction debut is a gem that celebrates little blips of happiness and small, elusive moments of genuine human connection.”
SELF-LOVE: Small, Broke, and Kind of Dirty by Hana Shafi
They say it all begins with self-love—and so we end at the start with Hana Shafi’s Small, Broke, and Kind of Dirty: Affirmations for the Real World. Built around art from Shafi’s popular online affirmation series, this collection of essays and drawings focuses on our common and never-ending journey of self-discovery. It explores the ways in which the world can all too often wear us down, and reminds us to remember our worth, even when it’s hard to do so. “Hana revisits her wildly popular and comforting affirmations, stretching them out into tender coming-of-age stories and pointed social reflections. With her brash wit and honesty on display, this is the book that Frizz Kid / Hana Shafi fans (and new fans) have been waiting for” writes Vivek Shraya, author of The Subtweet and I’m Afraid of Men.