Librarians love reading and talking about books. You’d think that goes without saying. But at the Eugene Public Library, visitors who approach staff don’t always seem sure of this.
“Can you do book recommendations?” they hesitantly ask, as if we’ll scold them for whispering too loudly and bothering us.
The answer? Of course, we can. In fact, many librarians are thrilled to drop whatever else they are doing in favor of book talk. Among a million other things, that’s what librarians do. We track publishing trends, peruse countless professional reviews and read a lot of books — all so we can effectively connect patrons with their next great read. Whether it’s a personal recommendation from library staff or a list of books to match a certain time of the year, we’ve got you covered.
Speaking of books for a certain time of the year, February is when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, which in turn may have readers looking for some great books about love and relationships.
Traditionally, one may think of classics like “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “The 5 Love Languages,” and others. Those are perfectly good options and readily available at your public library. However, more recently-published books are focusing less on traditional, romantic gender roles and more on love and relationships of all kinds.
I’m recommending these books because they present a nuanced and complicated view of relationships, with others and with ourselves.
Readers will still find stories of dating and marriage, but also of parenthood, family, aging, and self-actualization. These books are refreshingly authentic, with a kaleidoscopic view of the connections we form with each other.
They show how relationships are beautiful and necessary, but also messy, difficult and imperfect. And they aren’t just about relationships with others, but about discovering our own best selves in order to put something good back into the world.
“Love Poems for Married People” by John Kenney
Based on the author’s hugely popular New Yorker piece, this poetry collection is a poignant and laugh-out-loud funny look at the reality of married life. Don’t worry if you’re not typically a poetry reader, Kenney’s writing is accessible and easy to read. He covers anything from the foibles of parenthood, to the grind of daily life, to the lack of spark in the bedroom. One titled “Are you in the mood?” goes like this: “I am./ Let’s put the kids down./ Have a light dinner./ Shower./ Maybe not drink so much./ And do that thing I would rather do with you than anyone else./ Lie in bed and look at our iPhones.”
“I Miss You When I Blink” by Mary Laura Philpott
Philpott, an Emmy-winning literary talk show host, offers an utterly charming collection of essays on her life as a daughter, mother, wife and successful business woman. The topics are wide-ranging and there’s something in here for everyone. In witty and sharp prose, Philpott candidly writes about her personal life while also tapping into a larger, shared human experience of striving for perfection and finding peace when we inevitably fall short of that unattainable goal.
“Women Rowing North” by Mary Pipher
Pipher, a cultural anthropologist, brings her expertise and personal experience to this landmark work about the myriad difficulties faced by aging women in our society. At first glance, this may not seem like a relationship book. But within these pages, there is a heavy focus on the importance of community and connection while growing older. Also, this book isn’t just for women of a certain age. Their partners, sons, daughters and any other loved ones can benefit equally from reading it right alongside them.
“What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About” by Michele Filgate (Ed.)
Fifteen writers provide unsparingly honest looks at their relationships with their mothers. The essays range from loving and sentimental to bitter and sad, but they’re all deeply emotional and likely to connect with readers of all ages. While hardly a fluffy or nostalgic ode to parenthood, this book is nonetheless a realistic and hugely rewarding read for parents and their adult children.
“Modern Love,” revised and updated by Daniel Jones (Ed.)
This collection from the New York Times “Modern Love” column got a revised and updated edition this past year to coincide with the TV series starring Tina Fey, Andy Garcia, Anne Hathaway, Catherine Keener and other A-list stars. Those familiar with the previous edition can still enjoy old favorites along with fresh new additions. Anyone entirely new to “Modern Love” can experience 15 years of stories about love, connection and relationships. ☸
Andy Northrup is an adult services librarian at Eugene Public Library.