Ten Ways To Read Love

10 Ways To Read Love

by Marc Nair, Melissa De Silva and Carolyn Oei
14 February 2018

Forget flowers and chocolate. Give the gift of words instead. They never wilt, they can't melt and there's a book out there for everyone. This Valentine's Day, Mackerel recommends ten books that are love stories of all shades, shapes and sizes. 
Cover photo by Geoff Livingston (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).


1. This Is How You Lose Her
by Junot Diaz 

Everybody knows Yunior - he's that deadbeat who yawns loudly in class; he's the tough guy who gets into fights when somebody looks too hard at his girlfriend; he's the flunkee who wants to go to university but can't be arsed to even get his diploma. 

But he's also the guy who drops coins into a busker's tattered guitar case; the chap who always says "thank you" to the waitress; the fella who loves and protects his mother. 

"This Is How You Lose Her" is Yunior's life playing out before you because Junot Diaz is a genius. He marvels with quick-fire dialogue in voices so painfully real and relationships so utterly close to home, wherever that might be.

Available at Book Depository

2. A Room With A View
by E.M. Forster

"A Room With A View" is a demonstration of E.M.Forster's depth of emotion and his keen understanding of human dynamics. Reading Lucy Honeychurch's story of loving freely and openly is both liberating and idealistic. 

"I want to but I shouldn't" is an oft-whispered reproach to one's self. But perhaps, even if for once in our lifetimes, we could tell ourselves: We should; fields of poppies, notwithstanding.

Available at Book Depository.


3. Little People, Big Dreams: Maya Angelou
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser
Illustrated by Leire Salaberria

I love this series that celebrates the stories of incredible people. What I really like about the series is that each of these amazing individuals is depicted from their days as a child, and we see there is not so much difference between them and ourselves. They started out as children, like us, with hopes and dreams, and it’s their choices along the way, their determination not to give up in the face of discouragement or ridicule, or failure, that led them to making their mark. Each book is illustrated by a different artist, and I very much like the flat style of illustrator Leire Salaberria here, with a focus on line textures. Maya Angelou’s story sang out as one of a child who lost her voice due to trauma, then grew to become of the most powerful voices of strength and hope we know. 

Available at BooksActually.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Illustrated by Sophia Martineck

It’s hard to believe this indulgent hardcover of twelve Sherlock Holmes stories is going for a steal at only $29 at BooksActually. Fans of Doyle’s longer fictional works like the Hound of the Baskervilles will lap up these bite-sized morsels that can be read in one evening’s sitting. The book opens with the story of how Holmes’ came to be involved with the most significant woman in his life, mastermind Irene Adler (‘A Scandal in Bohemia’). Other stories are just as delicious, with intriguing scenarios such as a mysterious club that only admits red-headed men (‘The Red-Headed League’) or the hilariously titled ‘The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb.’ A comparable joy is the illustrations by Sophia Martineck. The distorted perspective and flat treatment make every spread a puzzle to discover.

Available at BooksActually.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Interior illustrations by John Tenniel, cover illustrated by Mary Kate McDevitt

This edition of the classic by Puffin Chalk is a gem to keep. The new line by Puffin Books reissues children’s literature classics with beautiful chalk cover designs. New York-based illustrator Mary Kate McDevitt’s cover is a graphic delight of tilting, tipsy fob watches, red roses, crazily stacked steaming teacups and of course, Alice and the Cheshire cat. 

Available at BooksActually.


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

While this was published almost ten years ago, it’s worth including for the sheer delicacy of relationships portrayed here. Niffenegger, who wrote the unforgettable, make-you-weep The Time Traveller’s Wife, deftly weaves nuances of emotion in every fraught situation her characters encounter here. A pair of adult twins fall out and never speak to each other again. One woman  goes on to have children–twin girls–and the other has none. The twin girls are left with their aunt’s apartment when she dies, on condition that their mother never steps inside. Throw in an awkwardly attractive grieving partner who is in between the ages of aunt and twin girls, and a troublingly gripping situation ensues.

Available at Book Depository


You Can Heal Your Heart by Louise Hay and David Kessler

Not everyone has found their someone, and some may have found and lost them, through a broken relationship or marriage ending in divorce, or death. For these people, Valentine’s Day brings especial pain. This powerful, tender book by self-healing advocate Louise Hay and loss expert David Kessler guides the broken-hearted through the emotions of grieving a lost relationship, nurtures self-awareness and provides them with the self-compassion and tools to help them grow, find peace and heal.

Available at Book Depository


Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

'in the factory
where loss makes all things
beautiful grow’ 

Ross Gay sing-speaks through this exuberant poetic foray into the natural world and the natural self. 
The lines above came from an ode to his misshapen, ugly, yet somewhat resplendent feet. 

But he is also a gardener, and nature runs riot through his poems, but not just a romantic view of nature, Gay breathes birds and gardens and flowers into his being, counts them and calls them forth to poetic life, through the ‘whole rusty brass brand of gratitude.’ 

Available from Amazon

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Hamid’s fourth novel is a moving story of refugees finding exit from a war-torn environment. It is in equal parts love story, political treatise and speculative world-building. Nadia and Saeed, the novel’s protagonists, are two young lovers caught in a web of violence, loss and the unknown opportunities provided by mysterious ‘doors’ that transport people to a different country. But problems aren’t geo-specific, humanity carries the seeds of destruction within itself, and soon what is ‘West’ and synonymous with safety becomes yet another construct riddled with violence. Hamid’s book acknowledges the reality of mass migration and questions the way we hold onto our borders. By centering the novel on the evolving relationship between Nadia and Saeed, Hamid homes into  what lies at the heart of us; spaces we so xenophobic ally defend, or the spaces inside us that need constant nurturing, and safety. A line that spills out of the page, when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind

Available on Book Depository.

Slant Rhymes by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

This is a photographic conversation between two lovers, a kind of imagistic exchange of love notes. Alex Webb calls it  ‘a kind of long, elliptical, unfinished love poem.’ The collection pairs 80 images taken by both of them over the course of their nearly 30-year relationship. The photographs appear side by side, creating a series of visual rhymes that talk to one another. Sometimes, they are only held by colour. Other times, by geometry; the wings of a bird on a fresco, the splayed hands of a little girl holding on to the cathedral’s grating. Meanings aren’t definitive. Then again, neither are relationships. But there is an invisible fulcrum about which the pairs of images pivot. 'A gift, this distance we’ve traveled so far,’ writes Rebecca in one of her poems. The gift comes to us unconditional; rich with depth and colour, a stereoscopic serenade that embraces us aslant. 

Available on Amazon