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Bad Romance: Valentine’s Day Reading List for the Romantic Cynic

Heather's picture

Love in the air, couples fawning over each other, gooey love notes, Nicholas Sparks’ movies:  Valentine’s Day grosses me out.  I’m all for love and romance, as long as you keep it to yourself.  Even though I’m extreme in my squeamishness for a day devoted to public displays of affection (yuck!), I’m certainly not the only person who dreads Valentine’s Day.  Whether coupled or single, the day is kind of a pressure cooker of romantic expectations and disappointment. 

Photo by Alex Bellink, flickr user

However, as a connoisseur of all heartbreak pop culture, I think Valentine’s Day is a good day to explore love’s dark side.  Below are some reading suggestions for those who choose to wallow in heartache this Valentine’s Day:  

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

If you read this in high school and thought it was the most romantic thing ever, it may be time for a re-read.  This is a story about how truely obsessive and damaging love can be, especially when it's between two cruel and destructive people.  

It Ended Badly by Jennifer Wright.

If you're newly uncoupled, or just want a good laugh at other people's expense (who doesn't?), check out this book which highlights several of the most epically bad breakups in history.  After reading about the breakups in this book, you'll be glad that at least your last relationship didn't end in dismemberment (hopefully!). Couples featured include Nero and Poppaea, Henry VIII and Anne Boylen and Catherine Howard, Lord Byron and Carolyn Lamb, and nine others.  

What Was I Thinking?: 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories

Every relationship, in particular every former relationship, has had its low points. This story collection allows women to share their real-life "aha" moments when they realized they were dating a jerk.  Stories run the gamut from relatable and funny, to serious and uplifting, to the truly bizarre.  A similar book with a gender reversal is Things I Learned from Women Who Dumped Me, which has a more humorous bent to it.  

Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obession by Lisa A. Phillips

Limerence, love's unhinged cousin, can lead to some pretty irrational behavior.  After being rejected by a suitor, Phillips because so obsessed with him, she actually started stalking him.  In this book, Phillips explores how loving someone unrequitedly affects the female psyche. While male unrequited love is often romanticized (think Love in Time of Cholera or Dante), women who love without return are often seen as pathetic and crazy.  She explores both how women’s obsessions can be useful to them (in terms of artistic inspiration and emotional development), as well as the dark side. Women tend to get away with a lot more aggressive romantic behavior because they aren’t seen as a threat in the way that men are.  It’s a fascinating read!