Louisa May Alcott
A book for nostalgic nights when family feels essential and maybe too far away, or when you wished you lived in a different era. The characters of Little Women will never go stale, after all, and can be read over and over again. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, and let’s not forget about unruly neighbor Laurie and Mr. and Mrs. March–these folks envelope you like a mist of sugar drops, even their trials bittersweet and beautiful. Go to sleep with Marches and wake up with them too.
A Little Princess
Frances Hodgson Burnett
You’ll never be at a loss for imagination with Sara Crewe, the heroine of this classic book. Even in her worst moments, Sara is conducting a love affair with life, whether it’s her intense friendships with the other girls around her, the dolls she believes in so much, her missing father, or the rat and birds she tames and makes into friends. She is never alone because she always has her own resilience. And, like any true morality tale, Sara’s patience and fortitude pay off big time, but you can only love her for it.
Not one of the books people mention as often when they think of this awe-inspiring novelist (those are usually Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Jazz), Love is nevertheless a Morrison must-read. The story of Bill Cosey, a deceased hotel owner, is really the story of the people around him, the story of those he affected and who had an effect on him in return. Life and love feature in this brilliant non-linear, multi-voiced novel, and it’s a reading-late-into-the-night-because-there’s-no-good-stopping-point kind of book.
The Age of Innocence
In the novel that won her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1920, Wharton draws a portrait of society in early 20th century New York City, where her love-triangle—a man, his intended, and his intended’s more interesting and less duty-bound cousin—is both wonderfully relevant and utterly tragic. A novel of social mores and conventions, its prose is beautiful and witty.
Narrated by a boy who becomes a man, My Ántonia is one of those novels that will make your heart hurt, but in a good way. Following the story less of the narrator and more of his childhood crush, Cather evokes the beautiful Nebraska setting the two main characters grow up in. Seemingly never as connected as the narrator would like them to be, there is nevertheless a thread of love that passes between them that changes in nature throughout their lifetimes as the former watches the other and wishes he could be in her life. But due to various factors—one of which is Ántonia’s own desires—he can’t, so he makes do with sharing her story with us, the readers.
Land of Love and Drowning
With one of the most beautiful and disturbing opening scenes to be found in contemporary literature, The Land of Love and Drowning nevertheless achieves its goal in being a book to spoon with. Its characters stand tall and its prose is gripping, and as it tells a story of family, love, class, and race, you’ll disappear into the scenery of the Virgin Islands as they were once.
There are two things people often forget about Anna Karenina: first, it’s incredibly readable and fast-paced; second, it has two love stories and a myriad friendships and family relations in it. It isn’t all tragedy, doom, and gloom. There’s a reason some folks deem it to be the perfect novel—it has everything, from comedy to descriptive scenes to a saga-like passage of time to its two endings. There is a tragic ending, you know this going in—but there is also a happy one, one that will make your heart sing. And it’s well-worth the book’s length to reach that ending.
Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez
Despite having affairs numbering in the hundreds, a man can, apparently, keep his heart entirely set on one woman, to whom he will return over fifty years after telling this one woman that he loved her. A classic, a must-read, Garcia Marquez is a masterful storyteller and will make you a romantic despite yourself.
The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes)
Meaulnes is a boy-man, poised in that middle place which can stretch further than tween years, when he arrives in a new city in France and falls for a hidden girl at a party. Beloved by French readers for years and translated into English some years ago, this classic tells of yearning and seeking, the difficulties of growing up and into love, and the shimmering truths that can be found there.
On Such a Full Sea
Dystopian fiction isn’t often the kind of book you really want to hug to your chest, but On Such a Full Sea is an exception. Its collective voice, a “we” that speaks to us collective readers, tells us a story of a love lost between a pair of simple young adults in a Baltimore of the future, a world in which cities are merely manufacturers. But this isn’t your garden variety race for survival, but rather a journey of a woman discovering herself, a family recovering from its loss, and a people together discovering the flaws in their systems. There is a tragic nature to this book that is impossible to resist. It’s an all-nighter kind of book, so save it for a weekend.
We’ve got your back. Or your belly. It depends on whether you prefer being the big spoon or the little spoon, really. Point is, we’ve put together a beautiful list of books that are perfect to fall asleep with and hold. However the sweet friendships and romances in these books turn out, just remember: when you’re a reader, you never have to go to sleep alone.
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