These books have stolen, broken, mended and melted our hearts throughout the decades. Whether you’re searching for first love or self-discovery after love ends, these books have you covered.
1. The Notebook
by Nicholas Sparks
As if this one wasn’t going on our list. Nicholas Sparks has to be the most popular romance author of our time. Half a dozen of his books could easily make sense on this list, but The Notebook is the one that stands above the rest, thanks, in part, to the now-classic film adaptation.
After a summer romance like no other, Noah and Allie are pulled apart by social class in the early 1900s. Years later, the two reconnect, but it might be too late since Allie is engaged.
2. Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Jane Austen is the icon for classic romance novels. Not only is Pride and Prejudice one of the most popular books in the English language ever, 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 relationship as the two play the dating game in the 19th century.
3. Fifty Shades of Grey
by E L James
E L 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 it was criticized for its difficult characters. Of course, now we can recognize the complexity of this relationship, which showcases that societal standards shouldn’t dictate our happiness.
This 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.
by Diana Gabaldon
Diana Gabaldon, as she told us during our interview, doesn’t like for her novels to be considered romance since 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, Claire’s life is further confused when she falls in love with two very different men from two very different centuries.
7. The History of Love
by Nicole Krauss
Even 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.
8. P.S. I Love You
by Cecelia Ahern
Whip out the tissues for this one. It’s sure to leave you surrounded in a puddle of your own tears. And you’re sure to love every minute of the sob fest.
When Holly’s soul mate, Gerry, dies, she isn’t sure she can move on. But 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.
by Stephenie Meyer
Stephenie 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 one another, love is never that easy. Especially when one person is immortal.
10. Gone With the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell
First published in 1936, the Academy Award-winning film adaptation came after this novel was already considered a classic by many. That reputation has, of course, lived on to this day.
While many consider this novel 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, it’s a relationship that doesn’t seem possible until they’re reunited many years later.