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Reading of and for love

Best Love Story
Susan Bodnar settles with one of her favourite stories of love

Want to show someone you love them this Valentine’s Day? For many people, the way to their heart is through their mind

Flowers and chocolate are the traditional top choices for Valentine’s Day.

But don’t let that stop you from venturing into your local book store to find what could be the most inspired and appreciated gift you give this year.

It’s all about sharing, says Rob Wiersema of Bolen Books.

“(Books are) actually one of the most romantic gifts one can give,” says the Hillside Centre shop’s event co-ordinator and author.

“The act of giving a book is tremendously intimate. You’re either demonstrating your knowledge of the other person, or trusting them with something that is important to you.”

Oak Bay’s two book sellers note that the classics can be a popular choices for the romantic gift-giver for Valentine’s Day.

Ivy’s Book Shop manager Shirley St. Pierre suggests such titles as Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, or even 13th-century poetry by Rumi for the person looking to present their loved one with romance-inspired literature.

Grafton Books owner Marc Tanner offers Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, as another beautiful example of classic romantic literature.Off the top of Wiersema’s head come Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, Love Poems by Pablo Neruda and Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

There’s other literary takes on classic figures, notes Ivy’s clerk Susan Bodnar.

“Somebody was just in and bought Love Letters of Great Men and Women and they were definitely buying it for a Valentine’s gift,” she says. The compilation features correspondence by such historic figures as Anne Boleyn, Charles Darwin, Mozart, Napoleon and Queen Victoria.

More contemporary offerings, such as songwriter-poet Leonard Cohen’s latest, Book of Longing, and The Book of Love, billed as a “miscellany of all things love,” will also catch people’s attention.

A marketer’s dream – with a billion or so cards expected to be sent out worldwide, it is the second most card-heavy celebration next to Christmas – the romance-inspired day has become a multi-billion dollar commercial event.

Part of that broadening of scope has seen families and children brought into the fray, with expressions of love not reserved to the romantic variety.

Ivy’s sells a number of children’s books for Valentine’s, whether it’s parents buying for their own kids, or grandparents looking for a healthy expression of their love.

“There’s lots of kids’ things, especially for the really little ones, like Franklin’s Valentines and Peter Rabbit, little Valentine sticker books and those very old-fashioned kids valentines in packages,” says St. Pierre.

Kids’ books can also be a fun way for couples to exchange loving gifts, Wiersema says. “A book like Guess How Much I Love You speaks straight to the heart.”

But for the people who make it a point to resist the mass marketing around Valentine’s Day, there are always plenty of options, Tanner says.

“People like romance all year.”

Oak Bay News staffers pick romantic books:

Sharon Tiffin - “I like Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I re-read it now and again – it’s so tragic and it’s a good cry but it’s very romantic. I also like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – it’s a kids’ story about a loving friendship between a boy and a tree.”

Vivian Moreau – “On one of our first dates I read to my future husband a couple of poems by American poet Billy Collins’ collection Picnic, Lightning. I like Collins’ work because he turns ordinary moments into extraordinary, like waking up to a snowy day where ‘the landscape vanished, not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness’. My date listened politely and then asked if he could borrow the book. We were married six months later.”

Janet Gairdner – “I typically don’t read ‘romantic’ type novels, however, I will say that I’ve had many a teary moment throughout Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. It’s time travel, historical fiction and romance all tied up in a very large series of books!

Don Descoteau – “I’m usually one more for non-fiction tales of people’s lives, but if told from the heart, such stories can evoke feelings of love and how it is communicated in so many different ways. Then again, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet can be pretty romantic.”

Did you know?

• Online bookselling giant this week crowned Greater Victoria as the Most Romantic City in Canada.

• The honour was based on Amazon’s sales per-capita of romance novels, sex and relationship books, romantic comedy DVDs and CDs by Canadian crooner Michael Bublé since Jan. 1.

• Cities and regions larger than 100,000 residents were included.