Here at Bookish, our love of all things literary knows no bounds. We fawn over characters like Dean Thomas and Margo Dunne. We lust after our favorite book covers. We even harbor neverending affections for the authors who inspire us. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ve asked 10 different authors to share their literary crushes with us. Some spoke of authors they admire above all others, others of characters they can’t help but adore, others still the books that will stay with them forever. The one common thread is a deep and genuine love of literature.
“This is about love and the writer I first cherished: Maya Angelou. What a voice, what a presence! The first time I read an excerpt in a school textbook, I melted. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya sits in a church pew and describes what she sees. When I was reading that scene, it felt as though our eyes and souls merged, even if she never knew me or had a clue as to my existence. Before that moment I don’t remember ever having read an African-American writer. My reading journey started with her, leapt to poets like Langston Hughes, and now I devour Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, and Ernest J. Gaines regularly. Isn’t it funny how one love leads to others? How my reading Maya Angelou taught me to write about and to read other writers of color? They say there is no love like the first one and that is true. Even when I am filled with despair, Angelou’s words come to me in the midst of struggle, and still I rise.” —Bonnie J. Glover, author of Going Down South
Mr. Darcy, Ted Beaudine, and Connor O’Rourke
“Asking a romance writer, or more importantly, a romance reader this question is just wrong. It’s inflicting torture. I mean, after spending decades essentially falling in love with one fictional character after another, you want me to choose? I could say Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy, who will always be my first book-love (and everyone else’s, I know). But then I’d also want Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Ted Beaudine, who’s so perfect in every way it is it’s own imperfection (and how perfect is that?). Then there’s Kristan Higgins’ Connor O’Rourke, who’s so noble, so nurturing, so immovably constant you want to run around cloning him to train future generations of men. I’ll stop at those three, because one can’t hog all the men, can one? Except in one’s head, which one will now go do.” —Sonali Dev, author of A Change of Heart
“I’ve been a fan of Willy Vlautin for over a decade now. About three years ago, we were both in Denver at a conference to promote our books, and I basically forced him into a lunch date, which was awkward, and handed him my beat-up copies of his books to sign. He was very nice even though I was a stranger with one small press collection who had essentially bullied him into feeding me. Whenever I’m feeling down, I’ll read my old copy of The Motel Life and listen to Frank Flannigan narrate the story of his ill-fated road trip with his brother, Jerry Lee. It’s a sad book, one of the saddest I’ve ever read, but it has given me an endless amount of comfort over the years.” —Mary Miller, author of Always Happy Hour
“I’m greedy and enjoy many literary crushes. My latest is Solimar Castro-Valdez, one of the two female protagonists in Shanthi Sekaran’s wonderful new novel, Lucky Boy. Hey, I may be heterosexual but my literary appetites know no bounds. What? Too literal? Okay fine. Chemistry aside, Solimar remains an extraordinary character. An illegal Mexican immigrant, Solimar escapes to California hoping to live the ‘great dream.’ But in the Golden State, her baby son is taken from her, she’s imprisoned and raped repeatedly. Solimar goes on the run, winds up homeless, penniless, and at the mercy of a legal system stacked against her. Throughout it all, Solimar grows in strength and courage. She’s flawed. Fierce. Loyal. Full of resilience and hope and love. I’m not just crushing on Solimar Castro-Valdez. I aspire to be ever more like her. For if you’re in her heart, Solimar would risk everything to save you from the raging storm.” —Ethel Rohan, author of The Weight of Him
“There’s often something unsatisfactory about a real crush—adolescent, illicit, unachievable—something you might not want to admit to until you’ve had a drink or two. The great thing about literary crushes, on the other hand, is that they can’t say no, or prefer someone else to you. So my literary Jake Gyllenhaal (whoops) is Duane Swierczynski. Swierczynski’s Charlie Hardie trilogy provides everything you could want from a full-blown affair. It makes the heart beat too fast, it pushes credibility to the limit and then that extra yard, it’s bone-shakingly exciting, and it leaves you exhausted and crying out for more.” —Charles Lambert, author of The Children’s Home
“I love Alpha men. The strong, daring, take charge, I-will-kick-your-butt-if-you-mess-with-my-woman type male who loves hard and deep, although at first he’s reluctant to do so. Their hearts can’t easily be tamed, but when they are, they will love a woman to madness and cherish her forever. There are several of these men who over the years have captured my heart. But at the top of my list is Brandon Birmingham from The Flame and the Flower, a historical novel by Kathleen Woodiwiss. This was one of the first historical romances I read and I was so captivated, I named one of my sons after the hero.” —Brenda Jackson, author of Forged in Desire
“One of the novels I just can’t quit is South of the Big Four by Don Kurtz. The narrator returns to his Indiana town and, before long, begins an intense affair with a married mother of four. He works long hours in the fields for a throwback farmer who resists corporate farm culture. Nothing ends well for any of them, of course. My crush on this book, which is set near where I was born, is enduring. Twenty years after I first read it, its characters and their longings still ring achingly true.” —Andrew Scott, author of Naked Summer: Stories
“My literary crush is George Saunders, because I believe he can see the future. No, I believe he can see a future, not in a supernatural way, but in a super intuitive way. I believe he has tried to warn us, again and again, about that future in a way no writer has since George Orwell. His stories chill me, sure, but they also warm me, with characters who, despite totally fucked-up circumstances, love and are loved back. George Saunders is my literary boyfriend forever.” —Caissie St. Onge, author of Jane Jones: Worst. Vampire. Ever.
“My literary crush is actually pretty easy: William Shakespeare’s Cordelia. She sets off five acts’ worth of unparalleled drama and conflict by her sheer moral fortitude and sense of herself, by being unwilling to tell her father she loves him more than her sisters do in public. She’s strong and true and full of conviction. What’s hotter than that? So: Cordelia.” —Daniel Torday, author of The Last Flight of Poxl West
Gilbert Blythe, Rodion Raskolnikov, and Sarah Waters
“I may be fickle when it comes to literary ‘crushes’—my love affairs with fictional characters change with each phase of my life. In girlhood, I fell for soft spoken boy-next-door Gilbert Blythe and couldn’t understand why Anne of Green Gables spent years resisting his charms. In college, my attraction to aloof “bad boys” (Dallas in The Outsiders, anyone?) stretched into the pages of books, and I obsessed over Rodion Raskolnikov’s struggle to choose reason over murderous emotion. For years, I used my Russian crush’s multisyllabic name as an online password. When I became a novelist, the attraction shifted from character to creator. Now I pine over novelists like Sarah Waters whose stories twist and turn so I’m suspended in that sweet spot between mystery and revelation. My escape into Waters’ novels, especially Fingersmith and Affinity, is so complete that I often miss a night’s sleep. Now that is true literary love.” —Julia Fierro, author of Cutting Teeth