The Love List


For February, our staff was given a theme — love — and invited to interpret it as loosely as they wished in making their recommendations. Boy, did they take that word and run with it… Behold a wild assortment of “love”-inspired picks. (Cynics, don’t let the picture fool you: This list goes way beyond just romance.)

Two Books to Love at Once

Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford
The only bad thing I can say about the experience of reading Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate and In Pursuit of Love is that you will never find such deeply satisfying books again. They read like prickly Jane Austin. Other Mitford sisters wrote other astonishing books, but these two are my favorites. And no, they have nothing to do with the Mitford Series. – Ann Patchett



Three Love Stories… One Gone Wrong

The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress, Ariel Lawhon
This book is based on the true story of the disappearance of a New York City judge in the 1930’s from the point of view of his wife, his maid and his mistress. The entertaining cast of characters, including gangsters, showgirls and corrupt cops brings the Boardwalk Empire era of NYC to life. Nashville’s own, Ariel Lawhon has written a true page turner. – Karen Hayes



Love and Jazz

Herman and Rosie, Gus Gordon
Love and jazz are in the air, but it takes most of this delightful story for Herman and Rosie to find each other in this very busy city. When they do, though, “the city was never quite the same.” Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, calls it “quirky, soulful and alive…a book to treasure, like a favorite song.”  I call it one of my favorite new picture books. – Mary Grey James



Mother Love

The Runaway Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown
A mother bunny’s love for her independently-minded child is THE  consummate illustration of unconditional love.  – Mary Grey James




Love with Universal Appeal

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Though released as a YA novel, this has found an audience unbound by age or gender. It is one of the most touching, devastating, romantic, realistic portrayals of love at its most universal level. Don’t let the fact that the main characters meet at a Cancer Kid Support Group keep you from experiencing this beautifully written, life-affirming love story. – Mary Grey James



Something for Everyone to Love

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, Alice Munro
No matter how you feel about love this Valentine’s Day season, Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro has a story to suit your every mood. – Lauren Bardwell




Love the Book, Inside and Out

Until I Find You, John Irving
By far my favorite Irving novel. And there’s a heart on the front of it. – Sissy Gardner





A Book To Love Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Love Story, Erich Segal
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry…” so I won’t apologize for still feeling it for this one. And yes, though it was written by the guy who wrote the screenplay for Yellow Submarine (Erich Segal), I challenge any 13-year-old girl to read it and not go through a box of Kleenex. Then go watch the movie with Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neill. – Miriam Mimms



More of a Love Story Than You Might Expect

Prayers for the Stolen, Jennifer Clement
It would’ve been oh-so-easy for Clements to sentimentalize a theme so rife with heartbreak, but not with this heroine. Ladydi (!) powers right through how she and the girls from a Mexican village elude — or don’t — kidnapping by narco-predators. Laced with droll observations on the lives of the mothers and daughters left behind by their men to fend for themselves, hers is a tragicomic world view that delivers just enough punch and redemption to keep you from slitting your wrists at the end. In a good way. – Miriam Mimms


The Book I’ve Loved Since 4th Grade

My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell
I fell for Gerald Durrell when my 4th grade teacher read this to my boarding school class. As a 10-year-old, Gerald moved with his family to Corfu, from a very wet England, & followed his love of natural history combined with the exploits of his hilarious family…as he describes his life, it was “rather like living in one of the more flamboyant and slapstick comic operas.” A great read. – Bill Long-Innes




Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives, Hoda Kotb
(“I LOVE Hoda.” is actually the entirety of this recommendation from Bill Long-Innes. That’s how you know he really loves Hoda.)




The Book I Want My Love To Give Me

Nashville Chef’s Table, Stephanie Stewart-Howard
This book combines LOTS of things I love: Nashville, delicious restaurants, and recipes. It highlights some of the best spots and chefs this town has to offer, and it also makes a great Valentine’s Day gift. – Niki Castle  [<– Attention, Niki’s fiancé]




The Love-Test

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh
You can tell a lot about someone by what they love to read, which makes books great people-screening tools. For example, if I give you Brosh’s hilarious comic-essays, and you make a “what the heck?” face and fling the book down, we may not have much of a future. But if you hoist the book in the air and proclaim, “This is BRILLIANCE!” we will probably be friends, and I might just love you. – Mary Laura Philpott



Love, Loss, and Friendship

Autobiography of Us, Aria Beth Sloss
What happens when the love of your life turns out to be your best (girl)friend?  – Kathy Schultenover




The Novel I Love More Than Any Other

Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
This is the story of a fool, but a noble fool. I never feel certain that I have understood this tale. If you haven’t already, read it and laugh — and read it and weep. And read it again and again. – Nathan Spoon




Kissing Scenes I Love

Weetzie Bat, Francesca Lia Block
In my younger years, I was about the sort of girl you wouldn’t have been surprised to know grew up to work in a bookstore, and I didn’t do much kissing — but I did do a lot of reading about kissing. I did a lot of reading in general, but it was the kissing bits that I’d copy into journals, reread, close my eyes and try to imagine. An early and very influential kiss for me was the kiss between Weetzie Bat, the protagonist of Block’s debut novel, and her boyfriend, My Secret Agent Lover Man:

“He kissed her. A kiss about apple pie a la mode with the vanilla creaminess melting in the pie heat. A kiss about chocolate, when you haven’t eaten chocolate in a year. A kiss about palm trees speeding by, trailing pink clouds when you drive down the Strip sizzling with champagne. A kiss about spotlights fanning the sky and the swollen sea spilling like tears all over your legs.”

Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins
But my favorite literary kiss of all time has to be the one between Anna Oliphant and Ḗtienne St. Clair, a kiss written by Stephanie Perkins, a girl after my own heart, who advocates that all films and novels should have more kissing. I couldn’t agree more.

“I’m dizzy. My heart pounds, my pulse races. I tilt my face toward his, and he answers with an identical slow tilt toward mine. He closes his eyes. Our lips brush lightly.

‘If you ask me to kiss you, I will,’ he says.

His fingers stroke the inside of my wrists, and I burst into flames.

‘Kiss me,’ I say.

He does.”

And more favorite kisses in literature:

– Stephanie Appell


Love in a Different Climate

Mating, Norman Rush
“In Africa you want more, I think.” I’m in love with the narrator of this book and with the author who’s created her. She’s self-aware and alive with desire and curiosity about the strange world she’s found, as well as the man who’s built it. Male writers don’t always get inside the heads of their female characters, but Rush does: the consciousness here is capacious and exciting. – Margy Roark



Love Affair with Music and the Common Man

The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger, Alec Wilkinson
What makes a good life? How do you define success? Seeger thought it was through creating music, together, and through fighting for truth and justice. Somehow he stayed “new, tender, quick” all his life, and his life — passionate, full of purpose — is worth reading about. – Margy Roark



Love of a Newly Discovered Author

The Thing Around Your Neck, Chimamanda Adichie
This author is my new love. Just finished her new novel “Americanah” and am bewitched by her lightness of touch with grave matters. Raised in Nigeria, she looks with clear and lively eyes on love, on race, on the burden of memory and being human. These stories are at the top of my nightstand stack. – Margy Roark



A Portrayal of Dating You’ll Love

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman
A sometimes tongue-in-cheek observation of how a successful young author navigates New York and its smorgasbord of attractive women, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. will make you fall in love with Adelle Waldman’s keen eye for how twenty-to-thirtysomethings treat relationships and dating. She also crafts something so uncomfortably close to home in her titular character Nate — a man who draws women in with his wits and good looks, but eventually gets caught up in his own selfishness and many caprices. Though not perhaps the warm, mushy Valentine’s day read you were looking for, this book will bring a certain kind of comfort to those who are fed up with dating. – Ryllis Lyle


A Book That Makes My Heart Flutter

Books Do Furnish a Room, Leslie Geddes-Brown
Who doesn’t love exploring other people’s bookshelves? This is a beautiful book full of beautiful bookshelves, and it’s perfect for the bibliophile in your life. – Yashwina Canter




The Book For Your Girlfriend Who Loves Pride and Prejudice

North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
With the romance of Austen’s classic (featuring a witty, sharp heroine and a handsome, charismatic gentleman who is adorably bad at dealing with his emotions) and with the social criticism of Charles Dickens, this story about a girl moving from Southern England to the Industrial North has incredible chemistry, memorable minor characters, and an amazing plot-twist ending. (If you read it before you give it to your girlfriend, you get bonus points.) – Yashwina Canter


The Book For Those Who Really Love Golf

Golf in the Kingdom, Michael Murphy
Not for the casual player or even regular weekend hack, this book is for those for whom golf burns deep in their souls. Michael Murphy, one of the founders of the Esalen Institute, takes us on a mystical journey back to Scotland filled with late nights signing “the praises of golf” and midnight jaunts in a Morris Minor to find “true gravity”. – Andy Brennan 



The Book I Love Like a Brother

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
When my mother gave me a big, hardcover book about a boy on a broomstick, I set it aside for a while. When I finally opened it, I stepped into the halls of Hogwarts and into a bone-deep kinship with The Boy Who Lived. It changed me the same way it changed millions of other kids, and I certainly owe my love of reading to the furious desire to read one more word and take one more step with Harry. – Tristan Hickey


Sentimental Education

PLUS: Ann Patchett and 19 other authors share the books that taught them about love in The New York Times Book Review.