Alternative Valentine’s Reads

Casting off the shackles of romantic love, celebrations of unconventional desires, independence, or nonconformity: here’s a list of novels and memoirs that make good foils for the more sickly-sweet visions of valentine’s day, maybe for someone you love or maybe just for you and the cat to savour.

Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Townsend Warner

An early feminist classic. As the generations go by, “Aunt Lolly” lives in the shadow of each successive Willowes patriarch, slowly subsumed into the confines of familial duty and a stuffy, frigid post-Victorian moral sensibility which she tacitly rejects. Approaching middle age, she suddenly decides (to the horror of her relatives) to move to the Chilterns for a life of solitude, freedom and… witchcraft! A perfect, witty modernist novel and a thorough rejection of society’s expectations of women

The Living Mountain, by Nan Shepherd

Throw off the shackles of so-called “romantic love” and instead appreciate the purest, most intimate of all loves: the love between a woman and the mountains of Scotland. A seminal work of nature writing and poetic celebration of the sublime, solitary beauty of the Cairngorms.

Mrs Caliban, by Rachel Ingalls

That’s right: a novella about an unsatisfied suburban housewife and her curious, sexy affair with a frogman (yep!!) on the run from his scientist captors. A weird yet profound exploration of freedom, femininity and sexuality.

Witch, by Rebecca Tamás

The only author who’s cast a penis hex on customers in our shop… so far! For fans of visceral witchy, feminist poetry and reading about the occult by candlelight.

Bear, by Marian Engel

This is a wild folktale about a disenchanted librarian, a remote summer escape, and, yes, a bear. Escapist, intellectual, sexy, and with just the right amount of archiving content.

100 Boyfriends, by Brontez Purnell

Punk, slutty, literary and devastating. Short stories and vignettes come together to form a kaleidoscopic portrait of one night stands, adultery and self-sabotage. This is a filthy, messy, unforgettable love song to queer bodies from a truly singular creative force.

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband And He Hanged Himself, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Addictively mean short stories that were banned in the author’s native Russia – wickedly witty and wince-inducingly cruel in parts, the title of this collection is fair preparation for what’s in store.

I Love Dick, Chris Kraus

This is entirely uncategorizable: part memoir, part epistolary novel, part philosophy. Kraus, an unsuccessful and self described plain artist, meets an academic called Dick, with whom she promptly becomes infatuated and convinces her husband to join her in crafting love letters to him. It sounds even less wild than it is!

The Cost of Living, Deborah Levy

Levy is, without a doubt, one of our all time favourite writers, and this is perhaps one of our all time favourite books full stop. The Cost of Living is simply the book on what it means to be a woman making art and the quest for financial, artistic and bodily independence. All three installments of Levy’s “Living Autobiography” are well worth a read, but The Cost of Living is a particularly universal installment, filled with poignant questions and simple pleasures.

The Appointment, Katharina Volckmer

Caustic and sharply hilarious, this merciless and perfectly formed novelette is one brilliant monologue, the results of a woman’s single appointment with her doctor – expect blazing ruminations on shame, sex and squirrel tails.

Buy every book on this list and save 10%!

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