Top Five Love Stories (In The Past Twenty Years)

Ta-Da! I’m back!

I haven’t really able to write recently for a myriad of reasons, but mostly the past couple months have just been hard. I don’t want to lie to you guys and tell you that life is great 100% of the time, because that’s not how life works. BUT life is filled with little bits of extreme happiness and love. And fortunately I have love from my family and my significant other to help me through.

It’s exactly that love that I want to discuss today, because on Monday the 16th it will be mine and my boyfriend’s anniversary (whoopie!!! part-ayyy!) and I’m psyched! I love our anniversaries, it reminds me of when my life really began to feel complete (okay okay, I’m sorry I’m sappy!)

Nonetheless, the past couple days I felt an overwhelming feeling of love not only from my boyfriend but from my family as well. And because of that, I began thinking about the books that I’ve read that have stuck with me as great love stories, or stories of triumph in situations because love was prevalent. Some of my favorite love stories actually don’t have that much romantic, intimate love in them. But I remember the following books as incredibly well written and often struck me as the best love stories of all time. Or at least of the past 20 years.

These aren’t necessarily in any particular order, and this is just my opinion – but let’s be honest, my opinion is always right. So here we go:

1.  Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

This is a book that I love. I just absolutely adore this book. In no way is it a traditional love story, in no way is it a happy story – but it’s the story of a girl with a dream so big and a heart filled with so much love for one person that she is willing to do anything to make it a reality. Now I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but had you been thrust into a Geisha lifestyle at the age of  nine-years-old and sold for your beauty, you would probably think this story was the most romantic thing you’d ever heard.

2.  The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

This is an easy one, but I would be remiss if I didn’t add it to my list. This novel, with its beautiful writing and striking humor coupled with an incredibly believable and heartbreaking story, has made me cry more than any other novel I have ever read. And this is coming from a girl who has dealt with the deaths of Dobby, Fred Weasley and Remus Lupin all in one book (madness!!!!) But nonetheless, Green writes a novel from the point of view of a girl dying of a disease. Going to support groups for it, she winds up meeting a boy who also has a disease, but not one he’s dying from. The plot thickens from there, but this book was written with grace, amazing humor, and such unpredictability that I was on the edge of my seat (crying) the entire time.

3. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Alright, this one I’m honestly a little embarrassed to put on the list, but I cried so much during this book that I had to put it on here. This book, while a love story, is a true story about a woman finding herself and loving who she is. It’s a struggle between living a life she was just comfortable in and a life that has purpose. In this case, her life of purpose includes meditation, lots of pasta and a man she fell in love with. This one struck me as less of a book about the love between two people but rather a book about the love of oneself. The idea that you can live your life, and you can do it your way. The idea of looking at your body in a mirror and saying, “hey, if someone doesn’t like it, then they don’t need to see it. And also, screw them!” and I really like that.

4. All of the Harry Potter Books – JK Rowling

I really don’t need to go into detail on this one, because anyone who has read the books will understand why this is on my list. Despite the romantic relationship stories in this series, the most prevalent, and most important relationship is the friendship and kinship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron/The rest of the Weasleys. If I go into too much detail I’ll start crying over here, so instead I’ll just leave it at this: the HP books have given me a lesson in all the different types of love someone is capable of having. From the smallest bit of kindness to a huge show of affection: love is everywhere.

5. The Valley of Amazement – Amy Tan

My girl! Amy Tan is the shit. I’m in love with all of the books she’s every written, and honestly I wanted to put this book and The Bonesetter’s Daughter on this list, but TBD was less about love and more about over coming obstacles (also I didn’t want to overcrowd you with Amy Tan – but please read that book because it’s fantastic!) Anyway, this novel is incredible. It’s about a woman’s journey as half-Chinese, half-American living in China as a courtesan. Honestly this book has a similar feel that Memoirs of a Geisha has but without the feeling of the main character being a slave and unable to do anything about her own life. This book has so many different moving parts to it, but the thing you need to know is that when this book had loving moments in it, it had heart warming, heart breaking, all consuming, vulnerable, tears rolling down your eyes moments. Read this!

So that’s the last of it. I’m sure if I wracked my brain a little more I’d be able to give you some other books, but for now here are the top five books that center around love that are my personal favorites.

If you have other books that you think ought to be on the list, let me know in the comments or e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com

The next time you hear from me will be after my anniversary, which means that the next time you hear from me I will have gained twenty pounds from all the pasta I’m going to eat at our favorite Italian restaurant. YESSS! Ciao!

Rachel

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A Little Bit Of Me | You Are Perfect

I’ve been re-reading an excellent book, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. This book is fantastic, I read it a few years back and absolutely loved it. It sparked a big chapter in my life of books about Asian cultures (particularly the wonderful Amy Tan!) and I just can’t recommend this book enough.

But that’s not what I want to say. You see, in Memoirs of a Geisha the main character is forced into the Geisha life at the age of 9. She has to go through a lot of really difficult situations, but the biggest situation in the beginning of the book is her relationship with the Geisha in her house, Hatsumomo. Hatsumomo thinks she is God’s gift to everyone and treats everyone around her like shit because she can.

She is jealous of the main character, Sayuri (Chiyo), and seeks to make her life hell. And this is why I’m writing: I was thinking about this chapter in Sayuri’s life a lot, because bullying is unfortunately something I know a lot about.

Since I was a child I have been bullied relentlessly. Whether it be about my body, my skin, my features, my clothes, my house, whatever it may be, I was picked on for it. Growing up in a wealthy town but not having as much money as the people going to school with you, you really are made to feel inferior.

I had a hard time getting the school system to listen to my complaints, and unfortunately that gave my bullies more ammunition. By the time I entered high school I was already so beaten down that I couldn’t physically walk through the door of the school. I would go in to school and throw up in the bathroom because I was just so uneasy.

I was constantly avoiding classrooms, avoiding people, and sadly that meant that I was failing my classes. What was a girl to do? I couldn’t get inside the building without being physically sick, I couldn’t stay home because then I’d fail my classes, but I couldn’t face the people I’d have to see at school.

So I did what any sane person would do. I stopped going to school. (NOTE: I do not condone dropping out of school) For about a year I just stayed home and had anxiety attacks. It was an incredibly hard time for me.

But you know what happened in that time? I started to learn about myself. I began to look back on my life and the people in it and I could say, “hey, I’m fucking awesome. I’m smart, I’m funny, I’m pretty, I have an awesome family, I’m comfortable with who I am. So if people can’t appreciate that then they go kick rocks!”

This was a good period in my life. Because once I came to that conclusion I actually managed to get back into school, and this was an interesting school. It was basically an academic program that allowed kids who have difficult home-life situations earn a high school diploma while catering to their needs as individuals. This was a godsend. That school taught me so much about life.

You see the kids I went to school with were rough and tough – the kinds of kids you’d see on the street and be like, “shit, I don’t want to mess with them” but when you talk to them they’re incredibly sweet and intelligent people. They all taught me a lot about acceptance. I was finally accepted somewhere. Granted, I was a quiet person and one time I told someone to shut the fuck up and everyone was super taken aback, but they accepted me, still. They never shut me out or made me feel unwelcome. Even though I didn’t look like them, I was still one of them because it didn’t matter how I looked, it just mattered that I accepted them too.

The teachers were incredible, they constantly made me feel like I was doing something well. I’ve always been smart with history and English, but math and science you can just forget about. They were not my best subjects, but I was offered help and I took it.

By the time I graduated high school and started going to college I felt like the person I was supposed to be. I felt comfortable in my skin and felt confident that I could succeed in anything I did.

But you know what? I had to go through years of mental and verbal abuse, years of thinking I would never be worthy enough for someone to love, years of thinking it would never get better and it might be easier to just not be around anymore. And yes, that sucked!

But here’s the thing: it gets better. I was fortunate enough to have a great family to help me through the difficult times, but even without them, I would have been just fine. Because I know, and I knew, that the person I am is worth it. I am worthy of being loved, I am worthy of a good education, I am worthy of earning respect, and I am worthy of being around.

And guess what? All those people that made fun of you, they mean nothing. They were making fun of you and tormenting you because they had something wrong with them. They felt inferior about something and found someone to pick on to use it against them. Their mean spirits and their abuse has nothing to do with you or how you look or how you act. It has everything to do with them not feeling good enough. You are always good enough, and you are strong for holding on to who you are even in the toughest of times.

So whenever you think you aren’t good enough, that your body isn’t exactly what the magazines say it should be, or that you have crooked teeth, or your clothes aren’t in style, or whatever it may be that makes you feel inferior. Just remember, you are perfect! You are exactly what you were meant to be. You are intelligent, you are funny, you are kind, you are helpful, you are strong. And you will get through anything you’re going through, and will look back on the other side and realize how much stronger you are after going through those obstacles.

Never think it will not get better. It will get better. I know it’s hard, but you can do anything. And I mean really, if Sayuri can get through being bullied by Hatsumomo and then proving everyone wrong by becoming the best Geisha in Kyoto, then you can get through anything too.

I hope that helped at least one person, because if I knew what I know now back in school, I wouldn’t be sweating that small stuff. I’d be so blissfully happy knowing that I would have a wonderful boyfriend who loves me no matter what, a supportive and loving family who has helped me through everything in life, an amazing little dog who eats my lipstick but is the cutest thing in the entire world, and the most awesome, badass life I could ever imagine.

It gets better. And you are perfect. Don’t forget that.

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com