Browsing through the romance section, you hardly find anything that qualifies as literature. I see lots of lovely romances, simple boy meets girl stories – nothing wrong with that. But there comes a time when your brain needs more. Personally, I think it is the difference between being a horny teenager and not. You are there one second and then you are not.

I am not sure if I’ve actually heard of all the great romances out there but there is this list that works for me. If I think back, to reflect on that great book, with unforgettable characters that live on in my memory as the ones who went through untold hardships just to be able to be with that one special person, I keep coming back to this short list.

Here, in no particular order –


  • Gone with the Wind: I know this isn’t a romance technically, it is so much more. It is more about the characters and the way they deal with the situation around them than the story, but the romances detailed in this book are all unique. Everybody’s heard about that one character who seems to be in the middle of everything. Scarlett O’Hara and her romances, her beaus, legal and illegal, and the one man she truly loved. Simply timeless.
  • The Book Thief: This began for me as a book about the holocaust like it should. War-time romances always seem that much more tragic and here it is love of a different kind but romantic nonetheless. The love between Man and child, child and books, man and his country, Germans who hated Hitler but were too afraid to say so and Jews who suffered because of it. And then there is the tragic love-story between the girl and her neighbor. Lots of love here.
  • The Notebook: All Nicholas Sparks novels are romances but this one just leaps out of the shelves. It is bang in the middle with literature on one side and tawdry romances on the other. I think Sparks finds that middle-ground beautifully in this novel. Loved the book, loved the movie and loved the twist.
  • Love Story: The timeless classic by Erich Segal. There was a time when this was my bible. I knew I wanted to be a writer someday and I’d look at that one line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” and just wonder. How could something that obvious, that simple, have missed the rest of us until we found it in there? That to me epitomized what a good writer is all about. Finding that thing that everyone relates to at the right time in the right way. And the story has been retold in a million different ways ever since, over and over, yet no one seems to tire of it.
  • The English Patient: Should this be a timeless classic? Illicit war-time love but then again, who thinks the lovers should have suffered this way, even for a second? Cannot but love this story and the characters. I wasn’t honestly terribly taken by the way the book dragged on in parts but the ending justifies it all. A must read. (Didn’t like the movie.)
  • Bridges of Madison County: Oh my! I never thought I’d like a book about a romance between old people but this one was awesome. I am not sure if I read the book after the movie and that is how I found this classic. This is a true romance like ‘The Notebook’ and it tells the story, the real story, holding nothing back, or so it seems. This meets the reader’s expectations for what the characters in such a love-story must go through.
  • The Price of Salt: At first all I read from this author, Patricia Highsmith, was the Ripley novels. Then I began reading all of them and found this delightful LGBT romance from the fifties. Does it mean something that the Ripley novels were written by a lesbian? I love all of them anyway.
  • The Guide: One of the first romances ever written by an Indian author. This coming of age book that destroys the protagonist, came at the right time when the movie industry was taking over the entertainment world in a big way, and it had a timely moral. It is perhaps timeless in its own way. I like how it exposes the innocence of the masses that lap up everything Bollywood/Hollywood, even today.
  • The Ramayana: The great Indian epic about a king who must leave the comforts of his palace in search of his kidnapped wife. It is the only love-story between a man and his wife that has enamored so many, but is also about the love between two brothers and the love between man and his animal pets. It teaches one what the ideal way to love is, and has a moral for those who might be tempted to disobey. It is no wonder that the characters have been immortalized as gods.
  • The God of Small Things: Arundhati Roy’s Booker winner may not sit well with many as a traditional romance, but all she talks about is ‘love’ and the rules surrounding, “who should get it and from whom and how much” and then, I like to think, took it to a ‘I dare you’ ending that shocked many. Love across the class-hierarchy is the only tragedy dealt with over and over, in art, in every form in India, and Arundhati Roy sums that up in ‘Bold’ and ‘Underlines’ it and shines it over our heads in florescent lighting for added effect. Cannot unlearn what you learn here, even if you try.
  • The Iliad – Who doesn’t know the story about the Trojan War? How many remember that it is only about a woman? Helen of Troy. I like to think this is all about romance and the war was just inevitable. ‘The Iliad’ is a lot like ‘The Ramayana’ even down to the Trojan horse – in the Indian epic it is a gigantic monkey god that first infiltrates enemy territory. Both could be pure fantasies but then again, we all like to think things like this happened all the time, for real, once, long, long ago.