Type of book: Tear-jerker romance
Message: He wants to take the next step
This bestselling novel doesn’t mess around when it comes to the subject of love, and if your sweetheart gives you a copy as a gift, it probably means he doesn’t either. Niffenegger’s novel, which Time named one of the 10 most romantic books of all time, tells the story of Henry, a librarian capable of travelling back in time who visits his lover, Claire, at various stages in her life. As the novel progresses, the dimension-hopping inevitably leads to complications—imagine having to date two vastly different versions of the same person at once—but the end result is a picture of true love that cuts across every kind of barrier, quantum-mechanical and not.
Type of book: Poetry
Message: She’ll never cross you again
Nothing says “I’m sorry” like a collection of Shakespeare’s 14-line riffs on love, loss, and beauty. But, don’t let your partner out of the doghouse until she’s recited at least one out loud. We suggest number 116, which begins with just about the closest thing to “My bad” as you’re likely to find in Shakespeare: “Let me not the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments.”
Type of book: Experimental fiction
Message: He wants to take risks with you
If your significant other gives you this National Book Award-nominated experimental novel by Mark Z. Danielewski as a gift, it might at first seem like the only thing he’s trying to give you is a headache. The story of two teenage lovers on a cross-country road trip, the novel moves at random between different time periods in American history and boasts some seriously pomo page formatting. Like Danielewski’s popular debut novel, House of Leaves, it’s a challenging, not-always-intuitive read, but one that will ultimately win you over with its sense of thrill and romance. It might be your significant other’s way of opening your imagination, or simply stoking your wanderlust. In any event, the message is: Let’s take a journey.
Type of book: Steamy novel
Message: She wants to spice things up in the bedroom
Any book that Monica Lewinsky gifted to Bill Clinton is bound, for better or worse, to raise the temperature of a relationship. In Vox, high smut virtuoso Nicholson Baker creates a full-blown erotic tale out of a single conversation between a man and woman calling into an anonymous phone sex hot-line. With only words to entice the other, the protagonists engage in an increasingly frank dialogue about everything from lingerie catalogs to pornography. Even if the gift of Vox doesn’t lead to intimacy, it’ll certainly succeed in getting the two of you to talk about it.
Type of book: Hedonistic/nihilistic European literature
Message: He wants to keep seeing you… and others, too
Not every book you receive from a significant other will be an indication that he wants to get more serious. If you’re given André Gide’s The Immoralist, take it as a sign that the other person values independence and pleasure above commitment and sacrifice. The modern French classic tells the story of a man who neglects his new wife to pursue intellectual rapture and hedonistic indulgences. It’s the furthest thing from a romance, but if you can take the hint in stride, the book can at least lead to some interesting discussions about selfhood, sex and intimacy.
This article was updated September 25, 2014