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19 best romance novels to add to your reading bucket list

#1/20:

We're weak in the knees

New Line Cinema
#1/20:

We're weak in the knees

Romance junkies, there's finally a place for you to let your mushy-gushy flag fly, and it's within the pages of a good book. As much as people would like to pretend that romance is for suckers, a page-turner filled with love, longing, ecstasy and a little tragedy is bound to change your mind. True love is never dead, if you believe everything you read.

We've rounded up our favorite heavy-hitter romance novels, some classic and some modern, to keep you on the edge of your seat.

 

#3/20:

'Doctor Zhivago' by Boris Pasternak

#3/20:

'Doctor Zhivago' by Boris Pasternak

If you're in the mood for love, this may be the perfect time to brush up on your classics. This 1957 novel, written by Pasternak, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958. The captivating story tells a classic tale of forbidden love — the rich son of an industrialist is torn between career, family and the woman he falls for during the Russian Revolution. And it's nearly impossible to put down. 

With all of its twists and turns, Doctor Zhivago makes for a great read. The novel was also adapted into a movie in 1965 and a U.S. TV miniseries in 2002.

#4/20:

'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

#4/20:

'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

Austen is the icon for classic romance novels. Not only is Pride and Prejudice one of the most popular books in the English language, it's also one of the most romantic love stories you can find.

Elizabeth Bennet is facing the prospect of marriage, along with her four sisters. An unpleasant relationship with a Mr. Darcy turns into a much more complicated scenario as the two play the dating game in the 19th century.

#5/20:

'Fifty Shades of Grey' by EL James

#5/20:

'Fifty Shades of Grey' by EL James

James was Forbes' top earning author last year for her 50 Shades of Grey series, which has taken the romance and erotica world by storm. This book practically paved the way for an entirely new genre of books: new Adult. Though the story is controversial, this is a book that can't be ignored.

Innocent Anastasia meets wild and sexy billionaire Christian Grey, and things take a turn for the kinky. But as their love unfolds, so do the secrets and the dark pasts neither may be able to outrun.

#6/20:

'The Time Traveler's Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger

#6/20:

'The Time Traveler's Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger

This one can definitely be bookmarked as the most unique love story on the list — even ahead of Outlander.

Henry is a time traveler who can't control when he leaves or goes or where he ends up on his timeline of life. His relationship with Clare, therefore, evolves at all stages of her life. Though the relationship sounds doomed to fail, it is just as unpredictable as this page-turner.

#7/20:

'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Brontë

#7/20:

'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Brontë

Possibly the most heartbreakingly beautiful love story ever written, Wuthering Heights was initially called vulgar when it was published and criticized for its difficult characters. Of course, now we can recognize the complexity of the central relationship, which showcases that societal standards shouldn't dictate our happiness.

The novel is the depiction of the romance between Catherine and Heathcliff, whose love seems to both destroy them and keep them going throughout their lives.

#8/20:

'Outlander' by Diana Gabaldon

#8/20:

'Outlander' by Diana Gabaldon

Gabaldon, as she told us during our interview, doesn't like for her novels to be considered romance, and this book really does cross typical genre guidelines. But let's be real — it's hugely, disgustingly, dramatically romantic. And the evolution of Claire's relationship really does a lot to drive the story.

Claire Randall's life is torn in two when she mysteriously time travels from 1945 to 1745. As if that doesn't complicate matters enough, things are further confused when she falls in love with two very different men from two very different centuries.

#9/20:

'The History of Love' by Nicole Krauss

#9/20:

'The History of Love' by Nicole Krauss

The title alone suggests this is a book that belongs on our list.

Though Leo and Alma are years apart, they are more closely connected than they realize. When Alma's search to find her mother a mate leads her to Leo, their story unfolds in a beautiful and breathtaking way.

#10/20:

'P.S., I Love You' by Cecelia Ahern

#10/20:

'P.S., I Love You' by Cecelia Ahern

Whip out the tissues. This one is sure to leave you surrounded by a puddle of your own tears. And you're sure to love every minute of the sobfest.

When Holly's soul mate, Gerry, dies, she isn't sure she can move on. Then she discovers a bundle of notes Gerry wrote her before he died — one for each month following his death for a year. Through the letters, Holly learns that life, love and the pursuit of happiness continues.

#11/20:

'Twilight' by Stephenie Meyer

#11/20:

'Twilight' by Stephenie Meyer

Meyer brought back paranormal YA romance with her whirlwind tales of vampires like we'd never seen them before. Love it or hate it, this book has staying power.

Bella falls in love with vampire Edward, and though they would each die to be with the other, love is never that easy ... especially when one person is immortal.

#12/20:

'Gone with the Wind' by Margaret Mitchell

#12/20:

'Gone with the Wind' by Margaret Mitchell

First published in 1936, the book was adapted into Academy Award–winning film three years later, and the novel was already considered a classic by many. That reputation has, of course, lived on to this day.

While many consider the book historical more than romantic, the Civil War romance between bad boy Rhett, and southern belle Scarlett is not to be missed. Torn apart by war, their relationship doesn't seem possible until they're reunited many years later.

#13/20:

'Eleanor & Park' by Rainbow Rowell

#13/20:

'Eleanor & Park' by Rainbow Rowell

Young-adult (YA) romance can still be heart-wrenching, evidenced by a few other blockbuster books turned movies on this list. In Eleanor & Park, we meet two odd kids who share a common bond back in 1986 Nebraska — a love for comic books and mix tapes.

If you've ever fallen hard, this sweet tale of young love is enough to get you right in the feels — and make you appreciate all those fleeting first-love moments that aren’t meant to last.

#14/20:

'Me Before You' by Jojo Moyes

#14/20:

'Me Before You' by Jojo Moyes

Here we have a quirky and unexpected love story sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. Lou is living her predictable little life, until she needs and falls in love with a paralyzed man who doesn’t have much to live for.

If you want to get a jump on an unconventionally romantic story — that will be turned into a movie starring Emilia Clarke in 2016 — add this book to your reading list.

#15/20:

'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green

#15/20:

'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green

If you haven’t seen the tearjerking movie yet, then start with the tearjerking book. The Fault in Our Stars is Green’s sixth book, published in 2012 and coming from the point of view of a 16-year-old cancer patient.

When Hazel falls in love with someone she meets at a cancer support group she is forced to attend by her parents, well, you can only imagine the beautiful heartbreak that is sure to come next.

#16/20:

'Just Kids' by Patti Smith

#16/20:

'Just Kids' by Patti Smith

How about a titillating and true love story to cap off the list? In Smith’s first book, a memoir written in 2010, the iconic ’70s punk rocker explores her relationship with artist and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe that fans have never heard before. It's an honest and innocent look at young love in the late 1960s and early ’70s, and Smith’s voice — set against the backdrop of her badass life — is both irresistible and sweet.

This is what it looks like to fall in love as a young girl who's still trying to figure herself out, and most of us can relate.

#17/20:

'Water for Elephants' by Sara Gruen

#17/20:

'Water for Elephants' by Sara Gruen

You may have seen the recent movie in all of its Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon-y glory, but this is yet another time when fans argue that the book is better than the movie. In this timeless love story, we meet Jacob — a veterinary student who, after tragedy strikes, hops on a train that belongs to a traveling circus. Jacob begins working as an animal caretaker, where he meets a beautiful circus performer named Marlena.

Their shared compassion for an elephant (and the undeniable romantic attraction between the two) makes for a beautiful and captivating love story set against the backdrop of prohibition and the Great Depression.

#18/20:

'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

#18/20:

'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Blame it on Leo and another film adaptation of a great book, but this is one classic love story that we can’t get enough of. Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby tells the tale of glitz, glamour, pain and privilege — in an easy read that is short and sweet. Gatsby’s neighbor Nick Caraway recounts the story of the love between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan in the early 1920s, brought to life by over-the-top parties and Gatsby's lavish wealth.

Though you may already know how this book ends because of its Hollywood coverage in recent years (no spoilers here!), The Great Gatsby follows suit with other tear-jerking and page-turning love stories that end in heartbreak.

Originally published February 2016. Updated June 2016.

#19/20:

'Bridget Jones's Diary' by Helen Fielding

#19/20:

'Bridget Jones's Diary' by Helen Fielding

With the new movie coming out in which Bridget is carrying someone's baby, the smash hit and iconic '90s chick lit novel is a natural choice. As fluffy and hilarious as the book may seem at times, it has touching moments and undercurrents of angst that we can all relate to. Bridget puts a cute little face to all the nameless 20- and 30-somethings who have no idea what they're doing and feel completely inexperienced in the ways of love.

If you've ever spent way too much time pining over someone you think you can't have, this is a novel you'll appreciate.

#20/20:

'Silver Linings Playbook' by Matthew Quick

#20/20:

'Silver Linings Playbook' by Matthew Quick

While the movie was a big win, the book, published in 2010, might do you one better. The characters are still the same, though the storyline follows Pat further as he tries to reunite with his wife while struggling with mental health issues. If anything, the book's going to give you that dose of reality that the movie did not have the time or the detail to delve into.

Love is real, and it's complicated and sometimes, it's really complicated.

Originally published February 2016. Updated August 2016.

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