Grown-Up Reads

10 Timeless Love Stories to Get Lost in This Summer

by Jill Santopolo

Photo credit: Hero Images, DigitalVision/Getty Images

It might not be surprising to anyone who knows about my novel The Light We Lost that I’ve always been a fan of love stories — and that even when the book I’m reading isn’t a love story per se, I’m drawn to the romantic subplots in those novels. There’s something about a deep connection between two characters that makes me want to read books — or scenes — over and over again. In fact, some of my battered copies of the below novels seem to open to up to certain pages all on their own.

If you’re looking for literary love this summer, here’s a collection of novels you might want to check out:

  • Queen of the Summer Stars

    by Persia Woolley

    This is the very first adult love story I remember reading, a retelling of the legend of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot from Guinevere’s perspective. I think I was about twelve, and I remember swooning over the tender moments between Arthur and Guinevere, and my heart beating just a bit faster when Lancelot arrived on the scene.

  • Mila 18

    by Leon Uris

    Soon after I read Queen of the Summer Stars, I picked up Mila 18. While this is a very multi-layered story set during World War II in Poland, the piece of the story that has always stuck with me is the relationship between Andrei Androfski and Gabriela Rak. There’s one scene in which Leon Uris describes how Andrei and Gabriela appear physically different when they’re with one another that made me really appreciate that detail of being in love.

  • Acts of Faith

    by Erich Segal

    Most people know Erich Segal from his novel Love Story, which is also a favorite of mine, but there’s something about Deborah and Timothy’s relationship in Acts of Faith that — when I read it as a teenager — made me believe in the power of love. The characters meet when they’re teens themselves, and even though they live different lives in different worlds, they never stop loving one another.

  • The Princess Bride

    by William Goldman

    This is another book that made me believe in love when I was a teen — Buttercup gives up the chance to be a princess (though, of course, the prince is pretty awful) for the possibility of being reunited with Westley. And there’s something about the moment that Buttercup realizes that “As you wish,” means “I love you,” that melted my heart.

  • Lady Chatterly's Lover

    by D. H. Lawrence

    I read Lady Chatterly’s Lover when I was in college, and was floored by how sexy this book I’d been assigned for class was. That book was in my head so much while I was writing The Light We Lost that I went ahead and had one of the characters read it.

  • Pride and Prejudice

    by Jane Austen

    There’s no way I could make a list of my favorite love stories without including Pride and Prejudice because it’s not until Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy see each other as equals that they end up together. My favorite kinds of relationships to read and to write are ones where the two people who love each other feel like true partners.

  • Romeo and Juliet

    by William Shakespeare

    I read a lot of Shakespeare in college, and the one aspect of Romeo and Juliet that stood out to me is encompassed in these lines: “that which we call a rose / by any other name would smell as sweet; / So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d.” I love that it’s Romeo himself that Juliet loves — not his family or his title, just him.

  • One Day

    by David Nicholls

    I love seeing how Emma and Dexter change and grow until they reach a point where they seem just perfect for one another. It reminded me that the right people still need to find the right time to make their love work.

  • Me Before You

    by Jojo Moyes

    I think Jojo Moyes’s ability to get emotion into the pages of a book is nothing short of remarkable. I sobbed, not only at the end of this book, but at various points along the way as well. Best not to wear mascara while reading this one.

  • Americanah

    by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

    I’m in the middle of reading this book right now and, though I haven’t finished it yet, I can already tell that Ifemelu and Obinze are characters I won’t forget for a long time. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s stunning writing brings their love to life so vividly that I can’t wait to get back to their story and find out what happens.