If a heart-shaped box of chocolates just won’t cut it this Valentine’s Day, pick up one of these unique takes on finding—and keeping—love. They’re entertaining, thought-provoking and way lower on calories than a chocolate cherry cordial.
MEET ME IN MANHATTAN
What is it about New York City romances? We love those stories about couples who happen upon each other at the top of the Statue of Liberty or wandering through Times Square. Author Ariel Sabar has a theory about why Manhattan is so conducive to coupling: It’s all by design. “If you want strangers to talk, give them something to talk about: an unusual sculpture, a mime, a juggler, a musician, a street character. . . . It takes two strangers with ostensibly nothing in common and, through a shared, immediate experience, links them, even if just for a moment.”
Sabar’s thoroughly engaging Heart of the City profiles nine couples who met at famous New York City public spaces, much like his own parents, a Kurdish Iraqi father and upper-crust American mother who met by chance in Washington Square Park. The stories span generations, from the sailor who met a lost teenage girl in Central Park in 1941, to Claire and Tom, who met in 1969 at the top of the Empire State Building (“with its setbacks, clean lines, and needle-tip mast, the building looked like some precision scientific instrument, a scalpel under operating room lights”). Sabar has teased out each of these couples’ magnificent, ordinary stories and compiled them into a sparkling love letter to the city.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
Want a more practical take on love? Settle in with Spousonomics, a wry and convincing treatise from two financial journalists on why economics is the key to building a marriage that endures through good times and bad. Paula Szuchman, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, and Jenny Anderson of the New York Times clearly explain why common marital problems can be solved by applying simple economic principles. Fights over housework are really just an issue of division of labor. Are never-ending arguments the bane of your marriage? You might be loss-averse. And sex, say Szuchman and Anderson, is a simple “function of supply and demand.”
The thing is, Spousonomics actually makes a lot of sense, and you don’t feel like you’re reading a hellish undergrad textbook. When they explain the principle of incentives (a tool to get what you want), you understand that in economics, incentives work because they entice you to buy a pair of shoes just to get a second pair half off. In a marriage, incentives work because they get your husband to finish his honey-do list. Spousonomics “doesn’t demand that you look each other in the eye until you weep tears of remorse. It doesn’t require you to keep an anger log, a courage journal, or a feelings calendar.” It is simply a common-sense, laugh-out-loud guide to a happier marriage.
HEART, SOUL . . . AND KIDNEY
Angela Balcita has already undergone one kidney transplant and needs another when her new college boyfriend Charlie O’Doyle offers his kidney—an unorthodox way to kick off a romance, to be sure. Moonface is about what happens after she says yes to this most unusual proposal.
Balcita writes with humor and dignity about her second transplant at age 28, outlining the incredibly complex, fascinating process of removing and replacing an essential part of the body. But at its core, Moonface is a not-so-simple love story. “I wanted to take all of him, not just his kidney,” Balcita writes. “I wanted us to be like one person, one brain and one body, moving through the world. It was already starting to feel this way.”
Most gratifyingly, unlike so many memoirs of illness and recovery, this one keeps going after Balcita gets better. It won’t spoil the reader’s enjoyment to reveal that she and Charlie stay together and even have a baby. With her sharp ear for dialogue and unflinching honesty, Balcita offers a sweet story of love and healing.