What to Read at Valentine's
Valentine’s Day, also known as St. Valentine’s Day, originated in the church and has been observed across various denominations. Today, however, it is primarily a commercial celebration of romance and love, often accompanied by flowers, chocolates, and other gifts.
So — whether you celebrate or ignore it — in the spirit of the day, we asked faculty members to recommend some of their favorite books about passion or romance.
By Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Penguin Classics (2007); originally published in French in 1782, new translation by Helen Constantine in 2007
“There are not many novels that fascinated generations of both readers and filmmakers. I thought about Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons because it is a book mainly based on seduction and power, on love and intrigue, and I cannot think of a better book than this sulfurous novel for Valentine’s Day! It was published just a few years before the French Revolution. The story revolves around two aristocrats, narcissistic rivals who are also ex-lovers, the Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont, who both decide to start a sophisticated game of seduction and manipulation to bring amusement to their bored lives. Needless to say, the consequences prove to create more heartbreak and chaos than they could have ever predicted. A must read!”
—Stéphanie Boulard, associate professor, School of Modern Languages
A True Novel
By Minae Mizumura, Other Press (2002); originally published in Japanese, English translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter in 2013
“A True Novel, an adaption of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights set in postwar Japan, deals with the themes of love, desire, change, and loss. Set at a time when Japan was in the midst of an incredible transformation, the novel follows two lovers, Taro and Yoko, whose relationship is doomed by class difference and social change. Mizumura’s description of the resort town of Karuizawa is particularly evocative. Just as the moorland of Wuthering Heights represents the vast and rocky terrain of Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship, the elite yet declining Karuizawa becomes a symbol of the social and economic strata that continue to separate the lovers even as Japanese society globalized.”
—Amanda Weiss, assistant professor, School of Modern Languages
You: A Novel
By Caroline Kepnes, Atria/Emily Bestler Books (2014)
“This story recounts the obsession Joe has with Beck, a writing student he meets in the bookstore in which he works. It starts out as a love-interest story, with Joe describing to Beck his reasons for being attracted to her and the steps he takes to pursue her, but then morphs into the psychological drama of his growing obsession with winning her over, keeping her interest in him and, ultimately, regaining control over her as her interest in him flags.
The story is told in second-person and written by a female author talking through the voice of an obsessed male, making it a very unique read. If you don’t like the book, try the Netflix series!”
—David J. Shook, associate professor, School of Modern Languages, and associate dean for Undergraduate Studies, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
By Haruki Murakami, Kodansha (1989); originally published in Japanese in 1987, English translation by Alfred Birnbaum in 1989
“Watanabe is a college student in Tokyo in the tumultuous 1960s. He is in love with Naoko, a friend of his from high school, but Naoko is in a peculiar condition that makes her stay in a mountain sanatorium. In the meantime, he meets Midori, a lively, independent young woman who has a boyfriend. A long journey awaits Watanabe before he comes to somewhat understand where his love is. This classic in Japanese fiction is delightful, sad, and pure.”
—Qi Wang, associate professor, School of Literature, Media, and Communication
Britta Kallin, associate professor, School of Modern Languages, recommended two books:
The Piano Teacher
By Elfriede Jelinek, Serpent’s Tail (1983); originally published in German, English translation by Joachim Neugroschel in 1988
“Love and passion come in all shapes and sizes. The Austrian Nobel laureate published this important novel in 1983 and it was her first book to be translated into English. Erika Kohut is a piano teacher who falls for her student, Walter Klemmer. Teacher and student share an intense passion for the music by the composers Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann. Another young piano student, Anna, turns the love triangle into a confusing web of jealousy. Renowned Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke turned the script into a feature film that won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001. The story is a psychological drama that leaves no one untouched.”
Death in Venice
By Thomas Mann, Dover Thrift (1995); originally published in German in 1912, English translation by Stanley Appelbaum in 1995
“This world-famous love story by the German Nobel laureate Thomas Mann is about the writer Gustav von Aschenbach, who worked in Italy and was looking for spiritual fulfillment but instead fell passionately in love and was overcome by an extraordinary physical attraction to the much younger Polish man, Tadzio. In the early 20th century, Mann’s voice and themes set themselves apart from the times, and he had to flee from Nazi Germany to the United States where he continued to write. The novella is considered a masterpiece about gay love in Western literature.”
It's the dead of winter, but Spring Break will be here soon. Time to read a new book or maybe catch up on one you missed. Have you read something recently that you really enjoyed and you'd like to recommend to others? Let us know!
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following:
-Your name, title, and department
-The book’s title, author, publisher, and publication year
-75-100 words describing the book's plot (no spoilers!) and telling why you recommend it.
Deadline for submission is Feb. 28, 2020.