Top Ten Love Stories. Plus 2

A book list for lovers, friends, and readers that will make you want to create a book club.

Washington, DC, December 31, 2012 — New Year’s resolution: Read a book or story every month, join a book club or create one. But where to start? With love, of course.

If love is the answer, what is the question? Reading list follows to help you find out. 

1. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Marquez: Marquez’s love story spans the lifetimes of Fermina Daza and Florentina Ariza. Love begins in the heart but can be renewed no matter how old you are. If you don’t believe in love, this book will change your mind. Skip the film; read the book.

2. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway: Robert Jordan’s love for Maria will make the earth move. You’ll be calling your loved one thee and hear thou in response. And all this happens in the midst of the Spanish Civil War. Your heart will break and it’ll be worth it.

3. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence: No one could write about passion the way this author could. He’s wrongly remembered for Lady Chatterly’s Lover, which is not his best book. Women in Love gives you two pairs of lovers: Birkin and Ursula, Gerald and Gudrun. You will find the answer in the first pair, the question in the second. See the flick, too.

4. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene: The tale of Maurice’s love affair with Sarah begins with these words, A story has no beginning or end and neither does love. Graham proves it with questions of faith that are part and parcel of the journey. See the flick, for sure.

5. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster: The exploration of young love challenged by the discovery of self is Forster’s subject. And then there’s Italy to make sure you understand where romance lives and cannot be denied. Great film, too.

6. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett: South America, a hostage situation and a gorgeous opera singer who sings her heart out will hold you in their grip and never let you go. You won’t be able to put this book down.

7. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín: Eilis travels from Dublin to Brooklyn and back again to learn that love is the answer. Her journey by ship and in the heart will rock you, almost break you, and make you strong. She will have to choose and so will you.

8. The Bear Came Over the Mountain by Alice Munro. A short story that young writer and director Sarah Polley, when she herself was still in her twenties, made into the film Away From Her. This luminous short story reads like a novel and will make you yearn for Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, the whole collection by Munro.

9. Sweet Hearts by Melanie Rae Thon: A shattering, glorious book of hope and grace. A deaf narrator tells the story of her sister’s children, of her own mother Rima and of her father. The narrator says, In summer, chickadees land in my father’s palms. Love will land in your palm.

10.  The Summer Before the Summer of Love by Marly Swick: Begin with the title story to learn about lost innocence through the lens of parental separation. Then read all the stories to find hope in love with all its imperfections. The writing breezes through you like a breath of fresh air.

Ten books and two months left in the year. What to do? 

Bonus 11. The North China Lover by Marguerite Duras: This French writer’s novel reads like a film script in lyrical prose that will make you believe it’s poetry. When you realize that this is memoir in fiction and that the author is telling the story of her own childhood in Indochina, you won’t be able to stop reading.

Bonus 12: Gesturing by John Updike: When Updike died in 2009, a piece of The New Yorker magazine died with him. Most of his stories appeared regularly there. This love story will never let you forget the words With this ring, I thee wed. The story appeared in Playboy because in 1980 it was too sexy for The New Yorker. Sex is the part of love that drives us, bemuses us, confuses us. Updike shows us why and proves that love is the answer.


Mary L. Tabor is the author of the novel Who by Fire, the memoir: (Re)Making Love: a memoir and The Woman Who Never Cooked. She says, “I ferret out the detail, love the footnote, am never bored and believe it all leads to story. Best advice I ever got? ‘Only connect …’ E.M. Forster.” Find out more at


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Mary Tabor

I’m the author of the novel Who by Fire, the memoir (Re)Making Love: a sex after sixty story and The Woman Who Never Cooked, which won Mid-List Press’s First Series Award. I graduated from high school and went to college when I was barely sixteen. I always think I am the youngest person in the room—am trying to get over that—or maybe not because I have so much to learn.

You can read more about the so-called literal biography, where I went to school and jobs I’ve held, at but one thing’s for sure: I believe love is the answer. Now, what was the question? In this column, I’ll try to figure that out with you.


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