There’s no better distraction than a literary love affair.
The right book can hold you captivated in the heat of the moment, flicking the pages past as you reach the climax—of the plot or otherwise. Consider it an easy antidote to your stuck-at-home doldrums.
Romance novels exist on a wide and varied spectrum: There are your mass-market bodice-rippers, the popular practically-made-to-become-a-movie bestsellers, the YA heroes, and the literary love stories. And the ones in that last camp might be your best fare for sustaining your interest and heightened emotions long after you’ve finished their last page. Consider them a close companion that will keep your passion alive and burning—whether you enjoy in the form of an audiobook, gently reading you to sleep, or a physical tome you can page through any moment you need a bit of fantasy.
The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard At its core, this novel is about fate—and how personal decisions can only bring you so far. It follows two sisters through their lives, first as girls in Australia, then as young women in England, and then in America and beyond. All the while loves lost and loves conquered continue to haunt them and push them forward to consequences both profound and mundane.
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman Yes, you’ve seen the movie, but Aciman’s original text is well worth a read. Told through Elio’s perspective, it’s rife with the kind of over-analysis that young lovers are wont to make. The book’s setting of Italy in the early ’80s is transportive enough, but lyrical prose makes it easier to burrow inside this romance.
Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin Not all love stories have happy endings—that’s as true in fiction as it is in life—but it’s the sad tales that might be even more spiritually fulfilling. This novel, about a young American man’s time spent in Paris, as he attempts to find himself and in the meantime gets involved with a bartender named Giovanni, is about gender roles, desire, and identity; simply put, it’s a study on the vast impact one person can have on your perception of yourself and the world around you.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder A master at operating in extremes, Broder’s dark fairytale of a romance is visceral and lurid—but don’t write it off as an average bodice ripper. This is story is about obsession and addiction just as much as it is about a deceptively hot love interest who really likes the ocean.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman The agonies of late adolescent love affairs hit a particular pang, but that’s what makes this novel, set at Harvard in the early ’90s (back when email was new and exciting) particularly poignant and humorous. Yearning over a few sentences sent by a potential flame isn’t unique to this decade, and the romantic struggles of Batuman’s young protagonist are deeply relatable—so much so that this narrative feels like a quiet comfort.