Feeling sexy, sad, happy, or mad?
No matter your feelings about love, we got you covered with this list of 20 different books to suit any mood you’ll have on Valentine’s Day.
And for bonus points, the books are all written by authors from other lands which are adored by both readers in their native countries as well as a wider international audience.
If you’re in the mood to gal pal & kick ass
Pick up this “delightful romp through Victorian gothic literature with a decidedly feminist slant” written by an author born in Hungary:
“Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this ‘tour de force of reclaiming the narrative, executed with impressive wit and insight’ (Publishers Weekly, starred review) debut is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins.
Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.
But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.
When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.”
If you’re in the mood for something earthy
Check out this “lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages” written by a Singaporean novelist who grew up in a variety of countries & has family roots in the Punjab region of India.
”A spicy and alluring mix of Together Tea and Calendar Girls.
Every woman has a secret life . . .Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a "creative writing" course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.
Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.
As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s "moral police." But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.”
If you’re in the mood to read about complex relationships that aren’t your own
Dig into this “engrossing and thoroughly entertaining read flavoured with humour, proverbs, and malevolent feuding” written by a poet/author from Nigeria who was the granddaughter of a traditional polygamist ruler of a large Nigerian town.
”African-born Lola Shoneyin makes her fiction debut with The Secret Lives of Babi Segi’s Wives, a perceptive, entertaining, and eye-opening novel of polygamy in modern-day Nigeria. The struggles, rivalries, intricate family politics, and the interplay of personalities and relationships within the complex private world of a polygamous union come to life in The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives—Big Love and The 19th Wife set against a contemporary African background.
This deft, lightly spun story packs quite a punch. Shoneyin's unravelling of a family is rooted in and flavoured by Nigeria, but speaks more widely. It is a book you'll want to eat in a sitting - and then start again.”
If you’re in the mood for a quirky romcom
Jump into this “delightfully witty…poignant novel” written by a British novelist & journalist:
“Tom Hazard has just moved back to London, his old home, to settle down and become a high school history teacher. And on his first day at school, he meets a captivating French teacher at his school who seems fascinated by him. But Tom has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history--performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.
Unfortunately for Tom, the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: Never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society's watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can't have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.
How to Stop Time tells a love story across the ages—and for the ages—about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live. It is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.”
If you’re In the mood for revenge
Get sucked into this “dystopic feminist revenge fantasy about three sisters on an isolated island, raised to fear men” written by a British author born in Wales:
Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize
“A gripping, sinister fable!" -Margaret Atwood, via Twitter
”King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has lain the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cult-like rituals and therapies they endure fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world.
But when their father, the only man they've ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day two men and a boy wash ashore. Over the span of one blistering hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent. Can they survive the men?
A haunting, riveting debut about the capacity for violence and the potency of female desire, The Water Cure both devastates and astonishes as it reflects our own world back at us.”
If you’re in the mood for something sexy
Savor “one of contemporary literature's most important writers” born in France who also lived in Spain before moving to the US:
"[Little Birds] is so distinct an advance in the depiction of female sensuality that I felt, on reading it, enormous gratitude." —Alice Walker
“Evocative and superbly erotic, Little Birds is a powerful journey into the mysterious world of sex and sensuality. From the beach towns of Normandy to the streets of New Orleans, these thirteen vignettes introduce us to a covetous French painter, a sleepless wanderer of the night, a guitar-playing gypsy, and a host of others who yearn for and dive into the turbulent depths of romantic experience.
Anaïs Nin explores passion in all its forms, from two strangers on a moonlit Normandy beach to a woman's sudden fulfillment at a public hanging. Evocative, compelling, superbly erotic, Little Birds is a powerful journey into the mysterious world of sex and sensuality.”
If you’re in the mood for second chance love wrapped up in a dark family saga
Relish this “haunting story of love, family obligations and redemption” written by someone born in Trinidad and Tobago with Indian roots:
“A literary romance novel - The Namesake meets Wuthering Heights. The Yard is a story of love and redemption, set in Trinidad, that exposes the fault lines in Indo-Muslim culture. Behrooz, an abandoned boy, is brought to a familial complex to live with a devout and extended family, where he struggles to belong. He forms a childish alliance with Maya, a willful and rebellious girl, and his guardian's daughter. After they share a night of adolescent tenderness, Maya, fearing retribution, flees to London. Behrooz painstakingly rebuilds his life and marries another. When tragedy strikes, Maya returns to her childhood home. There, she and Behrooz must face up to old demons. Can their love endure? Even after Maya is dealt the most ‘righteous’ blow of all?”
If you’re in the mood for something wistfully bitter
Snap up this “timeless classic of African literature depicting betrayal, love, embarrassment, and deep friendship” written by an award-winning Senegalese novelist:
“So Long a Letter has been recognized as one of Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century. The brief narrative, written as an extended letter, is a sequence of reminiscences—some wistful, some bitter—recounted by recently widowed Senegalese schoolteacher Ramatoulaye Fall. Addressed to a lifelong friend, Aissatou, it is a record of Ramatoulaye's emotional struggle for survival after her husband betrayed their marriage by taking a second wife. This semi-autobiographical account is a perceptive testimony to the plight of educated and articulate Muslim women. Angered by the traditions that allow polygyny, they inhabit a social milieu dominated by attitudes and values that deny them status equal to men. Ramatoulaye hopes for a world where the best of old customs and new freedom can be combined.
Considered a classic of contemporary African women's literature, So Long a Letter is a must-read for anyone interested in African literature and the passage from colonialism to modernism in a Muslim country.”
If you’re in the mood for a coming of age love story
Be dazzled by this “sensuous novel of a Mediterranean summer” written by an author born in Egypt who lived in Italy as a young adult before moving to NYC:
A NY Times/USA Today bestseller & winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Fiction among other awards
“Andre Aciman's Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an intellectually precocious & curious 17-year old boy and the handsome, young American scholar visiting his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Each is unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, when, during the restless summer weeks, unrelenting currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion and test the charged ground between them. Recklessly, the two verge toward the one thing both fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. It is an instant classic and one of the great love stories of our time.”
“If you have ever been the willing victim of obsessive love—a force greater than yourself that pulls you inextricably toward the object of your desire—you will recognize every nuance of André Aciman's superb new novel.” - The Washington Post
If you’re in the mood for unrequited love
Pine for this “love story of astonishing power” written by a Colombian Nobel Prize-winning author:
”In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs--yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
With humorous sagacity and consummate craft, Gabriel García Márquez traces an exceptional half-century of unrequited love. Though it seems never to be conveniently contained, love flows through the novel in many wonderful guises - joyful, melancholy, enriching, and ever surprising.”
If you’re in the mood for anguish, rage, & abandonment
Be captured by this “startlingly beautiful novel of devastation and bold strength” written by an author from Italy:
A national bestseller for almost an entire year, The Days of Abandonment shocked and captivated its Italian public when first published. It is the gripping story of a woman's descent into devastating emptiness after being abandoned by her husband with two young children to care for. When she finds herself literally trapped within the four walls of their high-rise apartment, she is forced to confront her ghosts, the potential loss of her own identity, and the possibility that life may never return to normal.”
"Ferrante dissects the personal microcosm so well, and with awesome lucidity and precision shows us the meanderings of a woman's mind, the suffering that accompanies being abandoned, and the awful rumbling of time passing." -El Mundo
"Severe and rigorously unsentimental, packed full of passages written with dizzying intensity at a rare and acute pitch. Ferrante is at her best when her writing holds tight to those nagging, niggling obsessions that make up our mental landscapes." -La Stampa
If you’re in the mood for courtly love
Swoon for this epic saga written in the 12th century by a poet from Georgia (the country, not the state):
“Man in the Panther's Skin is a medieval epic poem by the Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli, the ‘crown and glory of the Georgian culture’. It is considered the ‘masterpiece of Georgian literature’ which held for centuries a prominent place in the heart of Georgians, the majority of whom were able to quote whole stanzas from the poem. Until the early 20th century, a copy of this poem was part of the dowry of any Georgian bride.
The story tells the friendship between the two heroes, Avtandil and Tariel, and their quest to find Nestan-Darejan, the object of their love. Dedicated to Queen Tamar of Georgia who is a model for Nestan-Darejan, the work boasts of the glory of the Kingdom of Georgia in its golden age. The idealized heroes and devoted friends are united by courtly love, generosity, sincerity, and dedication.
This epic poem is regarded as a complex, rich work depicting medieval Georgia, chivalric romance, and the Georgian vision of the world."
If you’re in the mood for a very unhappy ending
Spiral down into this “masterpiece of modern fiction with a cruel ending” from an author who grew up on the island of Dominica before moving to England:
“A considerable tour de force by any standard… A triumph of atmosphere.”
- New York Times Book Review
“Written by a bestselling author known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters, Wide Sargasso Sea, ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.”
If you’re in the mood for a unique take on a royal romance
Be charmed by this butch/femme fairy tale written by an author from a small town in Scotland:
“Georgina, Princess of Wales, has always known her destiny, but she never expected duty to call so soon. When her father dies suddenly, she is called back from her Royal Navy post to assume the crown. While the people acclaim their new Queen, Great Britain’s first openly gay monarch, all George feels is the isolation of her station.
Beatrice Elliot’s staunch anti-monarchist views have always been a point of gentle contention with her working class, royalty-loving parents. When Bea—director of a hospice charity—must spend six months working with Queen Georgina, her charity’s new patron, sparks fly and passion blooms. But is love enough to bridge the gap between Bethnal Green and Buckingham Palace?”
If you’re in the mood for a self-help book celebrating solitude
Explore this meaningful book on self-discovery written by an English Psychiatrist:
“A pre-eminent work in self-help and popular psychology literature, Solitude was seminal in challenging the psychological paradigm that ‘interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only, source of human happiness.’ Indeed, most self-help literature still places relationships at the center of human existence. Lucid and lyrical, Storr's book argues that solitude ranks alongside relationships in its impact on an individual’s well-being and productivity, as well as on society's progress and health. Citing numerous examples of brilliant scholars and artists—from Beethoven and Kant to Anne Sexton and Beatrix Potter—he argues that solitary activity is essential not only for geniuses, but often for the average person as well. For nearly three decades, readers have found inspiration and renewal in Storr's erudite, compassionate vision of the human experience—and the benefits and joy of solitude.”
If you’re in the mood for a historical paranormal romance
Delight in the “sharp-tongued characters, white-hot chemistry, and ghostly, wry humor” in this novel by a writer born in Germany who lived in a variety of European & Asian countries before ending up in the US:
“It’s the roaring twenties, and San Francisco is a hotbed of illegal boozing, raw lust, and black magic. The fog-covered Bay Area can be an intoxicating scene, particularly when you specialize in spirits…
Aida Palmer performs a spirit medium show onstage at Chinatown’s illustrious Gris-Gris speakeasy. However, her ability to summon (and expel) the dead is more than just an act.
Winter Magnusson is a notorious bootlegger who’s more comfortable with guns than ghosts—unfortunately for him, he’s the recent target of a malevolent hex that renders him a magnet for hauntings. After Aida’s supernatural assistance is enlisted to banish the ghosts, her spirit-chilled aura heats up as the charming bootlegger casts a different sort of spell on her...
On the hunt for the curseworker responsible for the hex, Aida and Winter become drunk on passion. And the closer they become, the more they realize they have ghosts of their own to exorcise.”
If you’re in the mood for something funny about heartbreak
Laugh out loud with this national bestseller written by an English native:
“Hornby’s protagonist looks back at his old relationships, and he doesn’t always like what he sees. High Fidelity is funny, honest, and brilliant. If you’re going to sulk, sulk cleverly.
From the bestselling author of Funny Girl, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down, a wise and hilarious novel about love, heartbreak, and rock and roll.
Rob is a pop music junkie who runs his own semi-failing record store. His girlfriend, Laura, has just left him for the guy upstairs, and Rob is both miserable and relieved. After all, could he have spent his life with someone who has a bad record collection? Rob seeks refuge in the company of the offbeat clerks at his store, who endlessly review their top five films; top five Elvis Costello songs; top five episodes of Cheers.
Rob tries dating a singer, but maybe it’s just that he’s always wanted to sleep with someone who has a record contract. Then he sees Laura again. And Rob begins to think that life with kids, marriage, barbecues, and soft rock CDs might not be so bad.”
If you’re in the mood for Nerdy love
Squeal over this “well-written, clever, and warmhearted novel” perfect for fans of Lord of the Rings. Penned by a native New Zealander:
“Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in ‘happily ever after’ ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in the Lord of the Rings movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.
Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.”
If you’re in the mood for a hilarious neo-feminist manifesto
Idolize this book by a “profane, witty and wonky best friend you wish you had…the feminist rock star we need right now”. Written by an English native:
“It's a good time to be a woman—we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven't been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain...
Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you're going to have a baby?
Part memoir, part rant, Caitlin answers the questions that every modern woman is asking. Caitlin Moran puts a new face on feminism, cutting to the heart of women’s issues today with her irreverent, transcendent, and hilarious How to Be a Woman.
Moran’s debut was an instant runaway bestseller in England as well as an Amazon UK Top Ten book of the year; still riding high on bestseller lists months after publication, it is a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Now poised to take American womanhood by storm, here is a book that Vanity Fair calls “the U.K. version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants… You will laugh out loud, wince, and—in my case—feel proud to be the same gender as the author.”
If you’re in the mood for something romantic
Enjoy this “vibrant and exuberantly romantic” novel written by an author born in India:
“Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.
Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.
Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s novel is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.
“Deeply romantic and emotional, with characters I fell in love with…simply unputdownable.” — Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author