Whether it’s glimpsing 19th-century Russia in Anna Karenina, or witnessing endless family drama on the Australian outback in The Thorn Birds, each of these fabulous books has something special. “These are much more than love stories; they are life stories,” says Select Editions editor-in-chief Laura Kelly. “If you like a good love story, books are so much more satisfying than movies,” she continues. “Books take you into the minds of all the characters, where their hopes and dreams will really fire up your own imagination.”
1. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (1977)
via amazon.comSet in 1915 Australia, this remarkable saga chronicles the forbidden love between a beautiful, headstrong young girl and a priest. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll stay up way too late reading this fabulous story. If you and your significant other are both bookworms, check out the best romantic books to read as a couple.
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
via amazon.com“Reader, I married him.” Charlotte Brontë’s gothic masterpiece, with its unyielding heroine, dashing love interest Mr. Rochester, creepy manor house, and foggy English countryside, has become synonymous with 19th-century romance. And writing love stories ran in the Brontë family—Charlotte’s sister Emily’s classic Wuthering Heights is also a strong contender for this list of best romance novels.
3. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2013)
via amazon.comTechnically a collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her counts as a novel because the stories all somehow connect back to the same one character’s life. The impressive way the Pulitzer Prize-winning Díaz weaves together multiple love stories—happy and sad, fleeting and lasting—from all around the world makes this one of the best romance novels of the 21st century.
4. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (1996)
via amazon.comNicholas Sparks has made a name for himself as the writer of some of the best romance novels in recent years. Though he’s written more than 20 books, his first has stood the test of time for a reason. Noah and Allie’s tear-jerking, decade-spanning story remains the wonderfully escapist romantic read it was 20 years ago. Don’t miss these other emotional books that will tug on your heartstrings even after you put them down.
5. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman (2007)
via amazon.comEven if you’ve seen the Academy Award-winning film, this enchanting story of first love and self-discovery is still more than worth a read. Prepare to fall just as in love with the magnificent Italian setting as with the story of summer romance and intoxicating attraction.
6. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles (1969)
via amazon.comA Victorian gentleman is engaged to a wealthy and suitable woman, but when he encounters a beautiful, mysterious woman rumored to be the forsaken lover of a French lieutenant, he becomes utterly smitten. Truly magnificent entertainment.
7. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire (2012)
via amazon.comWith an edgy, modern twist on the good-girl-meets-bad-boy theme, Beautiful Disaster has topped recent must-read romance lists for a reason. After reinventing herself just before college, Abby finds herself involved in a tantalizing bet with her school’s resident tattooed player. Neither of them is prepared for the results. Here are some more hot romance novels to crack open on the beach this summer.
8. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2003)
via amazon.comEvery love has its challenges, and while your husband being an unwitting time traveler may not be one you’re familiar with, this four-hanky tale will still tug on your heartstrings.
9. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877)
via amazon.comTrapped in a loveless marriage, Anna Karenina succumbs to temptation and embarks on a dangerous affair with the handsome Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds amid the canvas of 19th-century Russia, in the most famous of doomed love stories. A memorable and enduring classic.
10. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991)
via amazon.comA powerhouse time-travel romance, this is the first in Gabaldon’s hugely successful series. Strong, beautiful Claire Randall leads a double life, married to a man in one century, with a lover in another century. Filled with humor, passion, wit, and wonderful Scottish scenery, this is one fast read for a 600-plus page book. Enjoy the wallow!
Next, check out our favorite romantic quotes from more of the best romance novels.