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It’s the month of romance, February! And while some of us (read: only me) are nursing a cold and headache, others are planning mushy dates around Valentine's Day (never mind if it's over). Not that I’m complaining, of course not. I’m just revelling in the joy of reading some of the most romantic stories this entire month. Fair warning: these aren’t all just run-off-the-mill love stories. These are books about love - for one’s self, for another, for a thought or for a dream. The rest of the world can have their dates, I’ll keep my books, thank you very much. And, if you’re anything like me, chances are you want in on all the reads you can stock up on and curl up with right before winter draws to a slow close.
Letters To My Ex by Nikita Singh
We’ve all been there - harboring unexpressed feelings about our exes; having not said out loud the things we wished when they were around. Building on these suppressed feelings is Nikita Singh’s latest novel, Letters To My Ex. The story is told through letters exchanged between two ex-lovers. The more you read, the more familiar it seems. Nikita Singh is well known to young readers in India as one of the most promising romance novelists we have at the moment. And Letters To My Ex is proof that the author wears the title well. Don’t be surprised if you catch yourself reminiscing to the point where you tear up and feel a throb of resonance. It’s a good read whether you’re in love and struggling to talk about it; or whether you’ve said it all and still aren’t done talking. You’ll keep revisiting this one for a long time to come.
Buffering Love by Issac John
Romance in the time of the digital era has never been more complex and simple, at the same time. The sad part - what makes it so simple is exactly what makes it so complex. It’s perhaps the availability, the convenience and the spontaneity. In a very intriguing collection of short stories, Issac John very cleverly puts together characters from different walks of life in one book; the only thing connecting them is their desire - or is it a need? - to find love. The problem is how do you know if it’s true love when you’re searching for it not in another person’s eyes, but in their virtual profiles? It always beat me. Reading about it reiterates the fact that while some of us would always remain old school when it comes to romance, we’re also wondering if we’re headed towards loneliness. John’s short stories are fun and interesting, and shed some light on this. You’ll be turning pages faster than you swipe profiles on dating apps. It’s a quick short winter read that works perfectly well in the romantic month of February!
Love Curry by Pankaj Dubey
Pankaj Dubey might as well be the next Chetan Bhagat when it comes to having Indian novels being adapted into movies. His latest book, Love Curry is exactly that. Why it works? Because of the relatable characters - three flatmates from different walks of life and regions of Asia, living in London - the Bollywood-laced plot twist - one girl that they all fall head over heels for - and the central theme - love. But, there’s more to it. There’s the angle of regionalism that comes when you put three ambitious men together, all of whom are pining for the same thing. But, it’s also this very element that somehow binds them together in a friendship of sorts. Ali, a Pakistani, Shehzad, a Bangladeshi and Rishi, an Indian - are from different backgrounds and have different aspirations. But, in this short novel that initially reads like a Bollywood movie - and will even remind you of Bhagat’s Three Mistakes Of My Life. Not an intellectually stimulating read; but, it will leave you feeling lighter, somehow.
Rumi’s Secret by Brad Gooch
I first came across Rumi’s Secret two years ago; September, to be precise. I carried it along on a trip, as a rather heavy read. It was one of the best travel reading decisions I ever made, in all honesty. Here’s the thing about travelogues that are laced with a historical touch, they don’t always tick when it comes to keeping the reader hooked. But, right from the start of this book, you find yourself slowly being transported to the Middle East, to the seemingly ancient parts of a region where Jalaluddin Rumi’s life took shape and made him the poet he is celebrated as today. From having quoted Rumi countless times to actually learning about the rather mystical and elusive life he lived, Gooch’s penmanship will transport you to a time that no longer exists. And you’ll feel enlightened by the discoveries made by one man on a path to discover a legend. You suddenly see the poet behind the poetry and no other book could have done more justice to Rumi. If you have an intellectual appetite for love and wisdom, Rumi’s Secret will fill you up.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Last year, when I found this book resting on my lap - as a gift - I was actually questioning a lot of life, in general. And after reading A Man Called Ove, you realise that it was just the kind of book you need to get you through a lonely day, maybe even put a smile on your face. But that’s just me. It’s the story of an old man who has just lost his wife and who seems to have nothing else to look forward to decides one morning, as he sits quietly in the darkness of his empty house - that he’s going to die. He’s got it planned down to the last detail. But, something or the other keeps interrupting him. A knock on the door, a stray cat, the noisy neighbours who keep asking for help. Written in an easygoing voice that depicts the mindframe of a man who has no purpose in life anymore, the books is just heartwarming as it is heartbreaking. When you read about it; you find yourself falling in love with the protagonist in an annoying way. You’ll even resonate with him somewhere deep down. It’s a story of one man’s life till he found love and the same man’s life after he loses it. P.S.: After reading A Man Called Ove, I searched for more of Backman’s works. Verdict: We need more authors like him who fuel love, life and hope so effortlessly into a story. Go read Britt-Marie Was Here next.
Love Her Wild by Atticus
We live in a world where poets don’t pen their thoughts down as much as they type it out. Then again, we should be grateful that we live in a world where we still have poets. Atticus, an Instagram poet and photographer has, over time, garnered millions of followers not just for his photography; but also for the words he uses with each image. He builds a story around it. His poems of love, life and freedom have been bound into a book, Love Her Wild. Read it one day at a time; or keep revisiting it. You’ll always find some words to haunt you no matter what frame of mind you are in.
Wild Embers by Nikita Gill
Nikita Gill is a young girl’s author. She has a mind of her own and with the power and spell of her words she has been influencing her readers the world over; not to find love and life in someone else; but in their own selves. Gill’s poetry and prose have been echoed and shared by thousands of celebrated influencers; some of whom include the likes of Michelle Obama and Cara Delevingne. Her poems range from love, heartbreak, revolution, abuse, self love and feminism and will keep you up at night for all the empowering reasons. Wild Embers is Gill’s second book after the resounding success of Your Soul Is A River
That Thing We Call A Heart by Sheba Karim
Of late, I’ve come across a few authors who have been holding the torch for Pakistani modern literature. One of those authors include Sheba Karim. Not many writers and authors today write for the pure love of it as much as they do just for the plots and the twists. And there are very few who still uphold the kind of style and flair that seems to have ended with the Austens and Brontes of years gone by. That’s where Karim’s That Thing We Call A Heart comes in. Centred around Pakistani-American teen, Shabnam Qureshi, the book is about coming of age, finding love, finding one’s own self and then trying to strike a balance in a world where there’s so much more to life than just that. There are friendships and hardships and, most of all, the struggle of being a Muslim-American, above all of it. You will find yourself both, loving and hating the protagonist but, also relating to her as most youngsters would for having made questionable choices. Why it makes the cut is because the story teaches you love who you are, no matter what you are - something even the most mature souls struggle with, today more than ever.
The Atomic Weight Of Love by Elizabeth J. Church
For centuries now, women have had to sacrifice their own dreams and ambitions for the sake of the men they love. We’re still doing it today; but, now, there’s a battle that we’re ready to fight. It wasn’t always so. In the 1940s, Meridian Wallace was faced with a similar dilemma - to choose between the man she had vowed to love till death did them apart and the career she so desperately wanted to chase. And, like every doting daughter and wife of the era, Meridian chose the man. Until she began to question the love, the relationship and, most of all, herself. The author beautifully captures the protagonist’s thoughts - through her turbulent love life and her lack of decision making. And you catch yourself pondering over your own decisions on love and life. Meridian is every modern woman feeling trapped in relationships and traditions, no matter what day or age.
Eleven Ways To Love by Various Authors
Love is colourful, boundless and limitless. It knows no gender, age or race. And if you wanted the written word to ever convey the true message of love to you, look no further than Eleven Ways To Love - a book that puts together 11 beautifully written essays on love in any form imaginable - a long distance relationship that has two souls constantly pining for each other; the love story of a transgender person that captivates your heart and mind, love that addresses how emotions affect one’s physical appearance. It’s different people suffering in some form or another but finding the heart and hope to love like they’ve never loved before. It shows you a side of love that has nothing to do with fairytale romances and, more often than not, that’s exactly what you need - to disillusion ourselves of a whitewashed notion of love that is usually sold to us and see it, instead for what it really is. Simply, love - in its realest forms. And whoever said love doesn’t also have an ugly side didn’t know it enough. But, that’s also what makes it beautiful - a truth that these essays capture beautifully.