I am a bonafide romantic, more so as a reader. I am also a feminist who doesn’t believe that the onus of ‘saving’ someone should only lie with the man. Guilty of moping in public transport with a book in my hand, when I am not chuckling loudly at how badass, flawed and temperamental its lead characters (read: women) are, here are 23 romantic books & novel every girl must read before she turns 23.
1. Love Story by Erich Segal
If you are not much of a reader, then this 131-pager is a good place to start. This book has the famous quote, ‘Love means never having to say you are sorry’, which I used as a teenager to get away with just about anything. Two young people fall in love, families oppose, and SPOILER ALERT - there is the famous cancer trope which thankfully becomes the book’s undoing.Price: Rs 144. Buy it here.
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Where does a plain, young country girl get all that sass? If I had half the zingers, Elizabeth Bennet had for Mr Darcy (rich, handsome and intelligent), who rubs her off in all the wrong ways possible, then I’d be better equipped at pursuing a mildly successful career in comedy. Case in point, “"I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine." Price: Rs 250. Buy it here.
3. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones is in her 30s but her problems are acutely relatable even in your early 20s. Body-image issues, career misapprehensions, boyfriends who are emotionally distant and a family who doesn’t understand boundaries. Jones is self-aware to a fault but boy, she is so adorable.Price: Rs 319. Buy it here.
4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Author John Green understands teenagers extremely well. Yes, the protagonists both have cancer but there is so much of nuance and depth to their characters which extends well beyond their illness. This book is full of quotable quotes, my favourite one being, “As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
Again, a headstrong, young woman who is painfully aware of her physical appearance as she is of her limited means. She is a governess at Mr Rochester’s house, who is a prick for being already married and playing hard-to-get and breaking poor Jane’s heart. Again, sorry for the spoiler but this is one must-read for its strong protagonist who lives by her own values and in the end does get what she wants. Price: Rs 179. Buy it here.
6. One Day by David Nicholls
This book follows the lives of two friends Dexter and Emma over twenty years through just one day of the year. This book is funny, sad, and poignant. It is a testament to how people can change, evolve and how far they can go to find their way back to each other.Price: Rs 409. Buy it here.
7. Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
A coming-of-age story where Charlie, a nervous high school student, becomes friends with his school seniors who help him navigate the fine line between adolescence and adulthood. Also, how true is this quote from the book, “We accept the love we think we deserve”.Price: Rs 615. Buy it here.
8. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
A riches to rags story where a young affluent woman, Scarlett O’ Hara, is reduced to somewhat of a dysfunctional wreck. She makes bad decisions only to evolve as someone slightly more compassionate about people and her surroundings. It also boasts of the suave Rhett Butler who is only as adamant as Scarlett. This book has the best breakup line ever, “Frankyl, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’
A young awkward teenager discovers she is a princess, what’s not to love? Her life changes overnight and she has legit access to the most handsome young men in the world. Yet, Mia remains in love with her friend Lily’s older brother, Michael. Again, I ask, what’s not to love?Price: Rs. 245. Buy it here.
10. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
The plot of this one might as well be out of a Bollywood film. Girl and boy meet and fall in love. Boy’s family is not as wealthy as the girl’s family and hence they are forced to part ways. The love reignites after years of war, failed relationships and continues into a climactic old age. Price: Rs 210. Buy it here.
11. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
As a metaphor for her failed relationships, Audrey Niffenegger wrote this book about a man whose rare genetic condition causes him to involuntarily time travel. Left to bear the consequences of his sudden absence is his wife, who waits for him anyway. Price: Rs 299. Buy it here.
12. The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi
This book makes love feel like poetry and sadness as a prerequisite for romance. A young married couple, Anuradha and Vardhaman’s lives change completely after losing their son in a tragic accident. Joined by Anuradha’s niece Nandini, who is taking over the Bombay art scene, the couple tries to mend their old lives by moving in an old villa by the sea.
If you are perpetually prone to setting your friends up on dates, this might be the one for you. Meet Emma, who is particularly unlikeable for overestimating her matchmaking abilities to the point of meddling in other people’s personal affairs. And of course, she is in love with her neighbour and close friend, George Knightley, who is the only one trying to dissuade her of her activities.Price: Rs 177. Buy it here.
14. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
A genetics professor, Don Tillman, who struggles to commit to serious relationships with women, comes up with a questionnaire to ease his woes. His plan is to find out the suitability of his female partners, but Rosie doesn’t check many of the boxes. Yet, she goes on to question many of his habits and becomes an integral part of his life. Price: Rs 285. Buy it here.
15. P.S I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
A husband dies suddenly of a brain tumour and leaves his wife ten letters for each month of that year to make sense of the loss and his overbearing absence, in order to help her move on. Gerry’s words serve as a guide, as his wife Holly, embraces life once again and rediscovers herself in return. Price: Rs 243. Buy it here.
16. Levels of Life by Julian Barnes
The premise of this part biography, part autobiography? ‘You put two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed.’ The book documents the lives of pioneer balloonist and aerial photographer Nadar, Colonel Fred Burnaby who is utterly besotted with the actress Sarah Bernhardt. Finally, the book casts an unflinching gaze on the Booker Prize-winning author’s life and his complicated relationship with grief, after his wife’s death.
This book chronicles the agonising process of heartbreak through poetry. Divided into four chapters – the hurting, the loving, the breaking, the healing, this book with its beautiful illustration is a must-read for all young women. Price: Rs 311. Buy it here.
18. The Universe of Us by Lang Leav
The best part about Lang Leav’s poetry is that it is not filled with complex metaphors of love but the lucid language which makes her work even more poignant. I’d recommend every book of hers, and since this is her latest, you could start with this.Price: Rs 268. Buy it here.
19. Dirty Pretty Things by Michael Faudet
Faudet’s poems are beautiful as they are suggestive. “Put your hands on my knees, she said, and think of me as a book you’ve been dying to read.” If you think poetry is not your cup of tea, this book of love poems, will make you think differently. Price: Rs 599. Buy it here.
20. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
As a New Yorker reviewer puts it, this story isn’t as much about love, as it is about its “extreme consequences”. It is the tragic story of an aristocrat woman who pursues a love affair with Count Vronsky, who will marry Anna only if she leaves her husband Karenin, a senior officer with the Russian government. This is a story ravaged by the norms of societal class, religion, morality, gender and their extreme effects on individuals.
Price: Rs 289. Buy it here.
21. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The only novel to be written by the author, Wuthering Heights draws a lot of criticism for having at the heart of it, an extraordinarily turbulent love story that transpires between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. We say, read it for yourself and decide!
If you are someone who has to binge on the books before watching the films, I suggest you get started with this one as the second installment of the series (Fifty Shades Darker) is releasing next weekend. What is it about? Oh, an outrageously rich and handsome young man (who is into BDSM) falls for the girl next door. The books, with their detailed sex scenes, are basically the speed bumps before a happily ever after. Price: Rs 180. Buy it here.
23. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Close to a decade after first reading it, I still feel that this book shouldn’t have been expanded it to the series. Bella, a teenager, finds herself drawn towards the elusive Edward who goes to the same school. Again a self-aware, funny but mysterious teenage romance where one-half of the couple is a 17-year-old vampire who is actually well over 100 years of age. Price: Rs 2,792. Buy it here.
The bookworm in you will absolutely love these books!