Romance novels aren’t really my cup of tea. I much prefer a thriller or supernatural fantasy, but being that it’s the month of love, I put together my top 14 favorite love stories of all time. Let me know which of these you’ve read and which love stories you think I’m missing!
1) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Has there ever been a male lead as hunky and desirable as Mr. Darcy? I think not. Then there is Elizabeth. Smart, witty, determined Elizabeth. *sigh* They are too perfect together for words to express. Read this story and rest easy knowing you’ve just read the greatest love story ever written.
2) To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Lighthearted and endearing, this book dives into the highs and lows of a teenage romance. Sure the stakes may not be life or death, but doesn’t everything sort of feel like life or death in high school? Jenny Han captures the feeling of being in love in high school perfectly.
3) A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Though this play is technically a comedy, I think it is also a pretty decent romance. All of the characters are driven by a love for something, and that love leads them all into confusing, tangled, hilarious mishaps. Shakespeare is often seen as too old to be relevant, but, with this play in particular, that is absolutely not true.
4) Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
I love Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’s Diary is basically just a modern retelling, so it has to be on the list! Bridget Jones may not be as classy and witty as Elizabeth, but she is endearing all the same.
5) A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
I couldn’t talk about romance without at least one Nicholas Sparks novel, right? Right. If I’m being honest, this is the only Nicholas Sparks book I’ve ever read. I know, shocking. I’m just not a huge fan of romance novels, but the story Sparks tells here is too beautiful and heartbreaking to be missed.
6) Fallen series by Lauren Kate
Readers of this series fall into two categories: those who unashamedly love it and those who absolutely can’t stand it. I am an unashamed lover of this love story. There are fallen angels and heavenly battles and time travel and the ever present threat of a fiery death. It’s all very dramatic, and, though at times slightly cheesy, I’ve read all four books in this series twice.
7) Emma by Jane Austen
Often when talking about Jane Austen, people pass over Emma to focus on Pride and Prejudice. I think this is a crime. Emma is just as good, dang it! It has a much more complex story line with several different romances all happening at the same time, and much of the plot is focused on Emma trying to untangle this very tangled web. However, the love story that forms from the chaos is beautiful and deserves to be read.
8) The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare
This is a spinoff trilogy to Cassandra Clare’s wildly popular series, The Mortal Instruments, which is currently being adapted into a television show on Freeform. The story is set in 1800s London, but the love story that takes place amidst the chaos of villains and demons is timeless. I think Cassandra Clare pushed a lot of boundaries with this love story, which is why it left the fans of her writing so divided, but she showed the ever changing nature of love. Because of that, her books have made it onto my list.
9) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I literally groaned when I realized I had to put this book on the list. Of course it’s beautiful and amazing, but it’s also horribly sad. I feel bad telling people to read a book that will break their heart. Regardless though, the love story of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters can’t be dismissed because of a few (okay, many) shed tears. Read it if you haven’t already.
10) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
A teen romance told from both character’s perspectives that is set in the 1980s? Count me in! The love story Rainbow Rowell constructs is realistic and complex, and you find yourself as in love with each of the characters as they are with each other.
11) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The love story of Heathcliff and Catherine shows both the sustaining power of love, but also the destructive power. There are a lot of strong emotions surrounding this story. People either love it or hate it, and I am someone who loves it. It is heartbreaking and frustrating and passionate—everything you need for one of the greatest love stories of all time.
12) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Now, this book is not your classic “romance” novel, but so much of this story is about love. Liesel learns to love her adoptive family and her friends, and she explores her love for words and how that passion can help her make sense of life. It may not be a romantic love, but, to me, it is still a love story.
13) The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer
I recently wrote a review for this series, so check it out here for a longer description. For now, to be brief, these books are futuristic retellings of classic fairytales, and they are just as magical, if not more so, than the originals.
14) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
I almost didn’t put Romeo and Juliet on this list because I know the things people say about it. For many years it was touted as the ultimate love story, and then suddenly, the tides began to change. People said the two leads were too young to be so in love—the story took place over a few days and ended in both of their deaths. I know, I know. I see the faults, but I also see how beautiful the story is. A story with a line as gorgeous as “come gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night; Give me my Romeo; and, when I shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night,” can’t be all bad, right?