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Arts & Culture

Read it and weep (or not): Books to check out this Valentine's Day

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Rahul Pandit | Pexels
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Looking for love? Look no further.

TPR's Book Public host, Yvette Benavides, highlights her favorite books about love. From romantic love to familial love to the love we have for our furry friends, here are some options for this Valentine's Day.

Romantic love

"Ghostlove" by Dennis Mahoney

In Dennis Mahoney’s novel Ghostlove, protagonist William Rook is a reluctant occultist living in a brownstone in upstate New York that’s haunted by a ghost named June.

She is trapped in a limbo and Rook is determined to help her move on from that space. That will mean letting her go from the house he lives in with his cynical doppelganger and a three-winged pigeon. But how? He has fallen in love with her.

"Paris Without Her" by Gregory Curtis

When longtime Texas Monthly editor Gregory Curtis first laid eyes on the woman who would become is wife, that was it. Love at first sight.

Over the course of their marriage, they traveled to Paris several times. With the final trip to the City of Light, Tracy felt like she had conquered this place, like she knew it and loved it fully. There was no need to go again. That trip was her final trip, it turns out. Tracy had already beaten lung cancer, but pancreatic cancer took her life. At that time, she and Gregory had been married for 35 years.

In his profound grief, Gregory made the decision to travel to Paris — the city they both loved and meant so much to them both — by himself.

"Luz at Midnight" by Marisol Cortez

In Marisol Cortez’s novel Luz at Midnight, the setting is San Antonio in the near future where slow, stuttering strides are being made in going carbon neutral. But the displacement of the poor and vulnerable comes to the fore in these negotiations while extreme weather events devastate lives further, and the rich get richer in the race to move away from fossil fuels.

The author has said she wanted to write a novel that was both speculative and plausible. Steeped, too, in the history of San Antonio, including its long story of social movements, the novel offers a world of insights on environmental justice that remains a story about love, too.

Friends and family

"Landslide" by Susan Conley

In the novel Landslide, Susan Conley, a fishing accident leaves protagonist Jill’s husband, Kit, hospitalized in Canada. Jill is left to look after her two sons — two teenaged boys she refers to as “the wolves.”

Money was already tight for the family. Kit’s prognosis worsens — meaning a longer hospital stay and mounting tensions at home with the boys. And then Jill suspects that her husband has been unfaithful. As Jill further becomes the pillar holding everything up to keep the family together, life at home in the Maine fishing village starts to unravel, a veritable landslide about to overwhelm them all.

"Speak, Okinawa" by Elizabeth Miki Brina

Elizabeth Miki Brina is the daughter of an Okinawan mother and a white American father. She has trouble fitting in at school. Her relationships with her parents are complicated by her mother’s alcoholism and her father’s PTSD.

The resulting embattled dynamics threaten to break her family apart. We talk to author Elizabeth Miki Brina about her debut memoir, Speak, Okinawa.

"You Made Me Love You" by John Edgar Wideman

John Edgar Wideman was only the second African American person to win a Rhodes Scholarship. He since been the recipient of a number of prestigious awards and his prolific writing life has not waned at all.

On the contrary, he’s published some 20 books, including his latest, "You Made Me Love You," a collection of 57 stories selected from previously published collections. The book celebrates Wideman’s significant contributions to literature, especially the short story form.

"The Mysteries" by Marisa Silver

Two little girls in 1973 St. Louis are at the heart of Marisa Silver’s latest novel, The Mysteries. Miggy is an unfiltered, imaginative kid who can’t be reigned in. Ellen is polite and cautious. She is also loyal to Miggy and her boisterousness.

The parents of these girls are living in an unstable and tense time. There is a recession and Watergate simmers on newspaper front pages and televisions. These events add to festering, quiet tensions from these already complicated relationships.

"Unsettled Ground" by Claire Fuller

Claire Fuller is back with a new novel. This time, in Unsettled Ground, she brings us a darkly poignant tale about 51-year-old twins who still live at home with their mother and whose lives are devastated by her untimely death — and the secrets she left behind.

"Martita I Remember You/Martita Te Recuerdo" by Sandra Cisneros

In Sandra Cisneros’ latest book, Corina is living her life in Chicago when she finds a letter she’d long forgotten. This and other ephemera of bygone days when she was young, single and following her dreams to become a writer in Paris lead Corina to respond to her friend Martita through this epistolary work.

Critters

"What is a Dog?" by Chloe Shaw

In her debut memoir, Chloe Shaw guides us on an emotional journey that anyone who has ever loved and lost a dog will appreciate.

"A Most Remarkable Creature" by Jonathan Meiburg

You can trace the origins of the fascination with the caracara — a smart, sociable bird of prey — to 1833 when Charles Darwin met an unusual animal in the Falkland Islands. In their inquisitiveness and intelligence, he saw a larger story and wondered why they were confined to the remote islands at the tip of South America. What was the fuller story of this curious bird?

Fast forward about 200 years and Jonathan Meiburg has picked up those and other clues of this mystery. His book A Most Remarkable Creature is part science writing, part travelogue, part history, part biography and offers a comprehensive story of the caracara. Along the way we meet other avian creatures and human ones, who, like Meiburg, champion these improbably remarkable birds.

"The Everybody Ensemble" by Amy Leach

Readers who appreciate Amy Leach’s singular style as an essayist and devoured her first collection, Things That Are, can now rejoice and join The Everyday Ensemble.

This new essay collection celebrates the natural world. The Ensemble of the title means me, you, and everybody—every other living thing.

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