New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Lovely books to read or gift this Valentine’s Day

Whether you’re looking for a fictional valentine or a gift for your date, here’s a list of books that will never fail.

Heart-shaped chocolate boxes, red roses, romantic playlists and red-lipped stained kisses are all reminiscent of the beloved Valentine’s Day. February always becomes an inevitable 14-day deadline for finding a date, or, if you already have a date, it becomes a struggle to find the perfect gift that will remind your partner of how much you love them. Whether you’re looking for a date for the day or a gift for your loved one, a book will never fail to solve all of your worries.

“Beach Read” by Emily Henry

Yellow book cover with the title “BEACH READ” and the author’s name “EMILY HENRY” in white on it. A man and woman reed books on patterned towels on the left and right sides of the cover.
(Illustration by Jocelyn Chen)

I know I’m not alone when I say I can’t wait for winter to end and for summer to take over. I’ve found that the best alternative to not being able to control the weather is to do some fictional time-traveling of my own. Emily Henry’s “Beach Read” will very much satisfy this option, with a summery feel and the opportunity to submerge in an all-consuming romance.

The only thing that Augustus Everett, an acclaimed literary fiction author, and January Andrews, a bestselling romance writer, have in common is that they spend three months living in neighboring beach houses. Both are under the weight of an inescapable writer’s block, until, one day, they decide to strike a deal — January has to write the next Great American Novel, and Augustus has to write a novel with a happy ending. He takes her to interview surviving members of a death cult, and she takes him on rom-com-inspired field trips. The one thing they can’t do is fall in love, though that’s always inevitable in any Emily Henry novel.

“Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston

An illustration of a pink book with the title “RED, WHITE AND ROYAL BLUE” on it. Two men lean against the word "BLUE."
(Illustration by Jocelyn Chen)

When I think of Valentine’s Day, the color that always pops into my head, besides red, is pink, and it’s no coincidence that the cover of Casey McQuiston’s romance novel — one of my all-time favorites — is just that.

I’ve read McQuiston’s “Red, White & Royal Blue” five times, and Goodreads is my witness.

Alex, the son of the U.S. president, considers Prince Henry of Wales his sworn enemy. After their feud leads to a major disaster at a royal wedding, they are forced to put up a friendly front for the press and reinstate the amicable relationship between both nations. After spending so much time together, they start to see each other in a different light, exchanging their secrets as tokens of friendship and love. As their relationship progresses, the boys start to wonder: as sons of powerful families, how can they keep their affair hidden from the world?

“One True Loves” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Illustration of a book cover, which includes a pink sunset sky and a green beachfront with palm trees, as well as the title, "ONE TRUE LOVES" written in green above the author's name in red.
(Illustration by Alisia Houghtaling)

Sometimes, the one thing I am craving from a romance book is a good cry. I want to feel as though I am the main character trying to do the impossible — deciding between two men that are desperately in love with me, and I crave romance books that take me there. “One True Loves” does that and so much more, taking the love triangle trope to another level.

Years after losing her husband, Jesse, Emma Blair is once again engaged. But one call changes everything, when she finds out that Jesse is still alive. Caught between two marriages, Emma has to make the very important choice of whether she goes back to her old life or moves forward with her newfound love with Sam. Taylor Jenkins Reid will forever be one of my favorite writers. In every story, she brings the complexities of the many hardships that we face during our lives — heartbreak, grief and love.

“Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed

An illustration of a blue cover with a white block of sugar, the title "tiny beautiful things" and the author's name "CHERYL STAYED" on a purple background.
(Illustration by Allina Xiao)

My favorite Valentine’s Day activity is people-watching, whether it’s going to Trader Joe’s and seeing everyone quizzically evaluate which flowers to gift their partner, watching couples hugging each other in Washington Square Park or observing a group of girls hand in hand on their way to their Galentine’s Day dinner. They are all scenes that remind me of how beautiful loving others is. Cheryl Strayed’s book is just that, with many little tokens of love for anyone willing to take them.

For more than a decade, thousands of individuals sent “Dear Sugar” letters seeking advice from Strayed’s column while she worked at The Rumpu, an online literary magazine. Whether they were asking about breakups, feeling lost, grief or just life in general, Strayed responded to each and every one of them with deep care and affection. Her column is now a popular Substack newsletter, which Strayed has drawn from to create “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.” This book is a vulnerable yet heartwarming mosaic of different people’s stories that reminds us that we are not alone when it comes to pain and love.

Contact Diana C. Sánchez González at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Alisia Houghtaling
Alisia Houghtaling, Illustration Editor
Alisia Houghtaling is a first-year in Applied Psychology in Steinhardt and one of WSN's Illustration Editors. In her freetime, you can find Alisia drawing, painting, reading, eating pasta or autopilot walking around SOHO to window shop or stare into windows and say "I want to live there." You can find her on Instagram @_alisiart_ and send Italian restaurant recommendations or ridiculous real-estate listings in the city.

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