When you’re not in the mood for love

February 11, 2016

By Baharak Yousefi

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching but not everyone's in the mood for love. Here are five book recommendations from the SFU Library to keep you entertained in the no-romance zone.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Baldwin gives you gorgeous writing, but he’s also out to break your heart in a thousand little pieces. The novel is about David, a young American in Paris, who falls in love with an Italian bartender, Giovanni. It’s the 1950s and David has a girlfriend who has gone off to Spain to contemplate marrying him. From then on, nothing goes well for anyone except you, dear reader. You’ll get to contemplate important stuff like social isolation, homophobia and racism, with the incomparable Baldwin as your guide.

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Billed as a collection of love stories, you’ll want nothing to do with love after Diaz is done with you. Of course, you will love him and his dizzying, seductive and brilliant use of language, but that’s altogether a different story. If you’re familiar with Diaz’ previous works, Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, you will have met protagonist Yunior before. Yunior, who some have described as the author’s alter ego, is back in This is How You Lose Her and this time, Diaz gives him center stage. You will love the flawed and wonderful Yunior and hate yourself for it. Enjoy!

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

You are a writer in New York City and all signs are pointing to the fact that the love of your life is a married bookseller in London whom you’ve never actually met in person. What you have done though is write him letters for 20 years. You wrote the first one in 1949 and he’s matched you wit for wit every single time. He’s also sourced and sent you all the books you’ve ever wanted. Throughout the years, you’ve tried to save money to go to England, but alas you are a writer and need to take care of things like rent and dental work. It is possible that this was just the friendship of your life, but I guess we’ll never know for sure. Will we?

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing like the story of an anxious 1950s suburban marriage to get me out of the mood for love. Revolutionary Road is about love, loneliness, failed dreams, and unrealized aspirations. Yates is masterful at painting a devastatingly accurate portrait of what it looks like to cling to conformity and societal norms at any cost. If you prefer films, you may opt for the 2009 adaptation directed by Sam Mendes and starring Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio. Yes, Mendes and Winslet were indeed a couple at the time of filming, but their marriage ended in divorce a year later.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Isn’t Jane Eyre romantic? An orphan saved by education and liberated by love! Well, you know who is not very free? Rochester’s first wife, Bertha Mason. She is the infamous “madwoman in the attic” and in Wild Sargasso Sea, Rhys will tell you all about her ordeal of being locked up. Do you know what’s not romantic? Patriarchy.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Your library loves you!

Baharak Yousefi is an SFU librarian and head of Library Communications