There’s a reason why even books that aren’t in the romance genre still have love and relationships present in them, in whatever form. Despite what people may grumble and mumble about a disdain for romance in general or some pretentiousness about romantic literature or “chick lit,” it’s a part of life and books are better for it. There’s something so heartwarming about pretty prose, love interests and well-developed relationships, romantic or platonic. I don’t read contemporary literature as much as I do the other genres, but when I do, I am reminded of the importance of representation and relatability for readers of all identities. Whether you are looking to commemorate Valentine’s Day curled up with a good book or want to celebrate love in the name of friendship and family, here are some Galentine’s Day reads. Many of them also have cinematic adaptations that I approve of, so feel free to check those out as well.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” Trilogy by Jenny Han
It’s not that I’m against contemporary fiction, it’s just that I lean more towards the fantasy genre. Basic, I know, but I’m working on expanding my horizons. Anyway, this trilogy remains one of my all-time favorite series in general and probably my top realistic fiction choice, along with Rainbow Rowell. A mix of nostalgia, sentiment and just good, quality writing contribute to this recommendation. The loveable character of Lara Jean Covey and her relationships with her love interest(s), her family and her friends are what carry this series. Sure, the trope of love letters may seem trite; however, Han’s incorporation of Lara Jean’s culture as an Asian-American, her emphasis on the importance of her relationship with her sisters and how she portrays her inexperience with romance as a realistic fear elevate the novels. I read the novels in high school, so Lara Jean’s relatability to me personally holds some sentiment, especially as she navigates the college decision process alongside my own.
“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” by Ann Brashares
I must admit, I have not finished the series, and I also must admit that I picked up the book after I watched the movie (which I also love). Nonetheless, both the first movie and novel are excellent selections for a Galentine’s Day celebration. The story follows four friends that have been together since birth as they spend their first summer away from one another. Another admission: When I first picked it up, I honestly thought it would be a light, fluffy selection. However, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” does a great job of addressing pretty serious and realistic topics, such as depression, divorce and cultural dissonance, while still maintaining the heart of female friendships.
“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
Although this novel has been adapted many times before, Greta Gerwig’s Academy Award-nominated version allows the story to have its day in the sun for the modern audience. From a coming-of-age story to the dynamic March sisters and their relationships with one another, the timelessness of Alcott’s work will make you wonder why you hadn’t picked up the book before.
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
There’s a reason this book is so widely talked about. I’m including it on my list to give you that push to read it if you’ve pushed it off, like I did before. It has romance, it has angst, it has gay Mexican-American leads, and it has beautiful prose. The inclusion of LGBTQ+ main characters — and Latinx ones to boot — may seem like a decision for token characters, but Sáenz’s writing is the real deal. The slow and soft atmosphere that he creates for the two teens, who go from friends to maybe something more, sets the scene for some important topics, but still keeps it light. You want a good, quality read with some well-written representation? This is it.
Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.