For Valentine’s Day, We Offer Some of Our Favorite Literary Crushes

Valentine Card. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Surrounded by stories surreal and sublime,
I fell in love in the library once upon a time.
— Jimmy Buffett, “Love in the Library”

Maybe it’s the intimacy of hushed voices, the privacy of so many nooks and crannies, or the feeling of mysterious possibility that comes from being surrounded by so many books and stories. Let’s face it—there’s something romantic about libraries.

That’s why this Valentine’s Day has hit us right in the feels. Normally, in pre-pandemic times, we would be encouraging you right now to go on a “Mystery Date with a Book,” wrapping up dozens of our favorite titles in pink and red paper with come-hither teasers designed to lure you in.

Alas, our innocent fun is another casualty of COVID. But we’re still hoping we can spice up your reading life. We revisited our mystery picks from years gone by and pulled together some of our all-time favorite literary crushes, personally recommended by our staff. All titles are available to check out through our Library Takeout Service.

So go ahead, treat your pretty little self to something different. Who knows? You might just fall in love with a new favorite writer!


Selected by Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Head, Humanities Section and Librarian for Literature and Theater Studies:

  • Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things: “Seven year old twins are forever changed by one day in 1969.”
  • Naomi Novik, Uprooted: “The fairy tale you always wanted as a child…and finally got as an adult.”

Selected by Kim Duckett, Head of Research and Instructional Services:

  • Anthony Mara, The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories: “A collection of beautiful interlocking short stories dipping back and forth through 20th century Russia.”
  • Matthew Kneale, English Passengers: “Twenty narrators tell a fascinating story of Manx smugglers, seekers of the Garden of Eden, and the plight of Tasmanian Aborigines.”

Selected by Brittany Wofford, Librarian for the Nicholas School for the Environment:

Selected by Megan Crain, Annual Giving Coordinator:

  • Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: “We all know what it means to survive. But do we know what it means to live in the 21st century?”
  • Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time: “A childhood classic about family, bravery, and finding light through the darkness.”

Selected by Aaron Welborn, Director of Communications:

  • Richard Hughes, The Innocent Voyage (A High Wind in Jamaica): “One of the best novels you’ve never heard of. A combination of Peter Pan, Heart of Darkness, and Lord of the Flies, all rolled into one.”
  • J. L. Carr, A Month in the Country: “A gem of a book: a quaint English village, a WWI vet, and a shimmering summer of youth.”

Selected by Elena Feinstein, Head, Natural Sciences and Engineering Section and Librarian for Biological Sciences:

  • Monique Truong, The Book of Salt: “Flavors, seas, sweat, tears – weaves historical figures into a witty, original tale spanning 1930s Paris and French-colonized Vietnam.”
  • Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife: “According to the author, the themes of the novel are ‘mutants, love, death, amputation, sex, and time.’ Many readers would include loss, romance, and free will.”

Selected by Jodi Psoter, Librarian for Chemistry and Statistical Science:

  • Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country: “Travel without having to fly….”
  • Catherine Baily, Secret Rooms: “A haunted castle, a plotting duchess, and a family secret.”

Selected by Hannah Rozear, Librarian for Instructional Services and Global Health:

  • Mike Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts: “Zombie kiddo loves her teacher, and also spores!”
  • Stefan Fatsis, Word Freak: “Wonderful word weirdos. Glimpse inside the world of competitive Scrabble.”

Selected by Sarah Park, Librarian for Engineering and Computer Science:

Selected by Katie Henningsen, Head of Research Services, Rubenstein Library:

  • Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo: “Love, Revenge, and Money.”
  • Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows: “Ocean’s Eleven but make it 17th-century Amsterdam. Read it before the adaptation shows up on Netflix in April!”

Selected by Lee Sorensen, Librarian for Visual Studies and Dance, Lilly Library

  • Collin Thurbron, Night of Fire: “John Banville and I think this is the best book we’ve read in years. Zen meets Spoon River Anthology.”

Selected by Sara Seten Berghausen, Associate Curator of Collections, Rubenstein Library

Selected by Ciara Healy, Librarian for Psychology & Neuroscience, Mathematics, and Physics

  • Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House: A Memoir: “If you lived through some stuff, and survived… this book is for you. Exquisitely written, heart wrenching.” 
  • Edgar Cantero, Meddling Kids: “A Scooby Doo re-do; former kids detective club grows up, messes up and tries to solve a spooky mystery + actual dog as part of the Doo crew.”

Selected by Kelli Stephenson, Coordinator, Access and Library Services

  • Omar El Akkad, American War: “A second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle.”
  • Tamsyn Muir, Gideon the Ninth: “Necromancers unraveling a mystery in a haunted space mansion, complete with epic sword fighting, deep world-building, and laugh-out-loud profane humor.”

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