On the 14th of February every year a pink confetti shower of hearts, balloons and assorted cuddly toys fall upon our heads. In case you haven’t noticed, V-Day is looming. Whatever this dedicated day of romance means to you, there’s one thing for sure: love is on our minds. Despite being the eternal subject of musicians, writers, painters and poets, love still shies from definition. One minute sweet, the next minute sour, love can send you happily soaring or trample you underfoot. We’d like to get to know this wild thing a little better…. What is love? A total eclipse of the heart? Kindness and flowers? The meeting of souls and that? A tub of Haagen Dazs for one? We’re confused, so we’re turning to a few of our favourite books in search of that ever-elusive answer….
Love is…. a potent cocktail of neurochemicals
The Chemistry Between Us
By Larry Young and Brian Alexander
In the words of Girls Aloud, ‘You can’t mistake my biology’ and this forms the basis of Young and Alexander’s scientific approach to love and attraction. The Chemistry Between Us is a detailed and hugely entertaining exploration of the sticky hormone-fuelled corners of the human brain. Neuroscientist Larry Young and writer Brian Alexander boil love down to its basic elements, which all sounds a little bit depressing really. But then again, perhaps we’re just due another hearty dose of oxytocin?
Published by Current, 9781591845133, 312pp, h/b, £19.99
Love is… something we’re looking for
The Little Book of Lonely Hearts
By Paul Matthew Thompson et al.
Light My Fire! Arsonist Seeks Perfect Match! Those with a GSOH will adore this cheeky little pocket book of lonely heart ads. People have found all sorts of strange and creative ways to seek a mate, and this guide will help readers to de-code the language of love (Mysterious = Married, Bubbly = Irritating, Deep Thinker = Moody). Bawdy, sexy and often dripping in pathos, love and longing walk hand in hand in these witty one-liners.
Published by Oldcastle Books, 9781842432747, 96pp, p/b, £2.99
Love is… damn hot!
Best Erotic Romance 2013
Edited by Kristina Wright
The year’s most exquisite tales of lust and romance are gathered here for one long literary love-fest. Award-winning romance writer and editor Kristina Wright and her cast of terrific romance writers have crafted stories that touch the hearts and minds of readers. First love, new love, renewed love, love that has stood the test of time, love that has conquered every obstacle: each of these sensual tales luxuriate in that most delicious state of loving desire.
Published by Cleis, 9781573449038, 204pp, p/b, £11.99
Love is… for sharing
My Heart On My Sleeve
Edited by Janet Thomas
Fourteen women authors write about love, desire, heartbreak, sex, longing and guilt. Happy and sad, funny and fierce, Heart on My Sleeve includes stories of marriage, first love, affairs, what might have been, and all the messy joy and pain of human relationships. Covering the whole gamut of human emotions, these stories are beautiful, modern, human and honest.
Published by Honno, 9781906784669, 182pp, p/b, £6.99
Love is… beauty, (beauty is love?)
Ten Thousand LeavesEdited by Harold Wright
In eighth-century Japan, poetry was the basic form of communication between lovers. This volume of beautiful Manyoshu poetry is a melancholy ode to love. With resounding themes of separation and longing, the lonely lover traverses a sweeping landscape of moonlit mountains and oceans in search of their beloved. Paired with delicate artwork, Ten Thousand Leaves delights in the sad beauty felt by a mind clouded with love. The sweet ebbing sadness of the verse still retains its poignancy when read today.
Published by The Overlook Press, 9780879512408, 96pp, p/b, £10.99
A final thought
We hope you have enjoyed our patchy map of the human heart. We’ve learnt love is a heady brew of neurochemicals and emotions mixed with a fizz of the unexpected. It’s tricky to talk about love without leaning on clichés or bursting into a power ballad, so we hope to have delivered a cheese-free Valentine’s menu for your reading pleasure.
Because after all…love is all you need. Happy Valentines Day!