Cultural observer James Baldwin once compared love to a battle; he also said that love is growing up. Writer Zora Neale Hurston said it “makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place,” while poet Nikki Giovanni declared it an adventure. Novelist Harriet Wilson called love an “arbitrary and inexorable tyrant.” Me? I think it is an unavoidable necessity, a beautiful one.
And even with its seemingly contradictory attributes, it is the ultimate emotion, the one that sustains us. In celebration of love in all its forms—familial, romantic, friendly, erotic—here’s a list of books that reinforce what we already know: It’s our lifeline. For as writer Jean Toomer once suggested, through experiences with love, we can discover the reality of our souls.
By Lamar Ariel
This unique collection of letters explores the mixed emotions of a self-described 20-something who “is not straight, not white, not uneducated—and contrary to popular opinion—not unusual.” It’s not the unusual attribute that makes many of the book’s insights universally felt—especially the overriding epiphany that a little introspection goes a long way in finding and embracing love.
By Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance with Hilary Beard
Kimani, February 2009 (paperback edition)
Marriage is hard work. Throw in fame and Hollywood, and you may have a train wreck on your hands. Yet Jada and Will aren’t the only ones making the unworkable work. Not only will you fall in love with Bassett and Vance’s romance, you’ll be encouraged that “let’s be friends” is just as important as “let’s be together.”
By L.A. Banks
St. Martin’s Griffin, February 2009
At times, the effects of love seem paranormal. So why not delve into another world, packed with demons, plagues and dark powers, to really see how powerful that four-letter word is? It’s a nontraditional romance that can tell us a lot about the battles we face to maintain order in our relationships and in this crazy world.
By Shakara Bridgers, Jeniece Isley and Joan A. Davis
Fireside, August 2008
Food holds its own erotic power. Hence that old-school saying about reaching one’s heart through his or her stomach. With recipes like “luscious candied sweets,” “oyster bisque,” and “so-serious suffocated pork chops” as well as menus for couple trips, the morning after and other relationship milestones, you’ll be traveling down the right romantic road with this cookbook as your guide.
By Dana Canedy
Random House, December 2008