By Laura Dave
Readers often ask me to list my favorite novels. I’m always grateful when they couch the question in terms of novels as opposed to books in general. Memoirs and essays and plays and poetry and story collections all fill up my already full bookcase—and the thought of plucking out a few recommendations (beyond what my recent favorite at a given time is) feels impossible.
Choosing favorite novels isn’t an entirely easier task and yet I know how to answer.The truth is when I look at the sum total of the novels that have enlightened my world and made it feel richer, there’s no way to deny it. Many of the novels that have touched me the most are love stories.
I’ve always loved a love story.I think it’s fair to say I’m a love story junky. I’m not talking an airport romance novel. I’m talking about greatlove stories. I’m talking about meditations on love. On the way it moves us closer together. On the way it pulls us apart.
One of my first loves was Pride and Prejudice. I devoured the story of Elizabeth Bennett, and started down a path of reading Austen, day and night. Austen. Margaret Mitchell. Leo Tolstoy.
I also started keeping a reader’s journal. I started writing down the sentences that struck me while I read, that I wanted to remember the sound of. Phrases that I wanted to return to so I could remember the feeling.
And long before Pride and Prejudice, long before the reader’s journal, I was a love story junky in the making. I adored Forever by Judy Bloom; I devoured Caitlin: Love Trilogy. And there have been thousands of novels since—classic and contemporary—that have stolen my heart.
Stories of lost love, stories of searching for it, stories of not knowing quite how to hold onto it once you found it.
These stories help me understand the world, and the people that inhabit it. They help me look deeper at what is breaking people apart and pulling them together. And the impossible times that those feel like the same thing.
So when a reader asks me to list my favorite novels? I say I love great love stories. I say I have a long list.
And if we are in a bookstore together, I go and show them just a few.