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9 Ways To Say 'I Love You' With Books

02/07/2014 11:15 am ET | Updated Apr 09, 2014

When it comes to love, few things are more thrilling and frustrating than the language of flowers. You know a red rose means love, but how about a pink one, or yellow, or white? You know what, let's steer clear of roses as Valentine's Day gifts--they're overplayed. But even if you choose to give books to the special people in your life, you want to be careful about who gets what. Follow our guide to saying "I love you"--or "let's just be friends"--through the language of books.

  1. For friends: Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

    What it says: "I like you… just as a friend."

    Sometimes it happens: Someone is really into you, but you've got to friend zone him/her. In this situation, your best gift bet is a really long, difficult book. Nothing says "Let's just be friends" quite like a copy of Gravity's Rainbow. Your unwanted suitor should disappear for a few weeks to fight his/her way through this book that has, more than once, been called impossible to read. At least, it should earn you some time to yourself. Think of it as a nice and especially literary way of giving them time to readjust.


  2. When you're not meant to be: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

    What it says: "I love you enough to let you go."

    Oof. Most of us have been there: You love someone, but you know it's better for you two not to date. Few books deal with this situation with the candor and empathy of Chabon's Pulitzer-winning novel. Perhaps the most wrenching example of this comes midway through the book, when Sammy panics and bails on his relationship with Tracy, and there's nothing Tracy can reasonably do about it. Chabon makes it clear that Sammy has made an awful mistake, but also equally clear that all Tracy can do--in his love for Sammy--is let it run its course. It might be best to have some tissues handy.


  3. For friends with benefits: Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan

    What it says: "Let's get physical."

    Sure, Vaughan's seminal comic book series is about the last surviving man traveling across the world in search of his true love--but it's also about loving the one you're with. Yorick gets a lot of play on his way to find Beth (including my personal favorite character in this volume, Beth II). Not to mention, the countless women who turn to one another for comfort after all the men die, because c'mon, they're only human. Bonus: You can give this gift to a FWB of any gender, since it doesn't scream "manly" or "girly."


  4. For your significant other: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

    What it says: "I love every version of you."

    While The Sparrow contains a love story that could give Sammy and Tracy a run for their money, when you're searching for a Valentine's gift for your significant other, check this book's other big relationship. Anne and George have been married for decades, but this is how she looks at it: "I have been married at least four times, to four different men." As she explains, "Every ten years or so, George and I have faced the fact that we have changed and we've had to decide if it makes sense to create a new marriage between these two new people."

    Even without marriage, people grow and change within long-term relationships. Whether you want to be with that new person is how you know if your love will survive.