Listen, there's absolutely nothing wrong with gifting your soon-to-be-married friends with that slow cooker on their wedding registry. But why not throw in a book (or three) for them to take on their honeymoon? We slow dance to love songs, and snuggle on the couch when watching a romantic movie, but only a book comes close to replicating the gut-punch, can't-sleep, free-falling sensation of love. Here are a few titles for the happy couple, with the caveat that not all these books, just like marriage, have a happy ending.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1813)
"My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
An obvious choice to be sure, but there's a reason why young Elizabeth Bennet's roller-coaster relationship with Mr. Darcy has stood the test of time. Make sure to buy a zombie-free edition, although there's something romantic about two people falling in love while fighting off the walking dead.
Tess of the d'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy (1891)
"I don't want to marry! I have not thought of doing it. I cannot! I only want to love you."
How did people meet before Tinder? In the case of peasant girl Tess Durbeyfield, it's at a May Day fair where she first encounters the love-of-her-life Angel Clare, the idealistic son of a reverend. How quaint. Still, there's no shortage of drama – family secrets, unrequited love and murder – in Hardy's fatalistic love story.
A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway (1929)
"And you'll always love me, won't you?"
Hemingway's over-the-top macho dialogue hasn't aged particularly well, but the story of an ill-fated love affair between an American ambulance driver and an English nurse, set against the backdrop of the First World War, features one of the most unforgettable endings in literature. Make sure to stock up on tissues.
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1985)
"Forever," he said.
Florentino Ariza spends "fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights" pining for his one true love, Fermina Daza, who broke off their engagement and married a well-to-do doctor instead. My pick for the most romantic novel of all-time, and it isn't even close.
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
"It's a shame, Kath, because we've loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can't stay together forever."
Ishiguro's genre-bending exploration of fate, free will and the limits (and limitless power) of love follows the lives of a group of students at a rural British boarding school. The less you know going in, the better.
The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss (2005)
"He was a great writer. He fell in love. It was his life."
A decades-spanning testament to the powers of both love and literature, this novel-within-a-novel's plot – which features the Holocaust, a lost (and found) novel, a lonely teenage girl – is as wonderfully intricate as the mechanisms picked by its locksmith narrator Leo Gursky.
Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff (2015)
"For a minute they watched a tide pool full of spiny creatures that sent up curls of sand in vanishing. Then he took her face in his hands, kissed her pale lips. He could die right now of happiness."
This ambitious, incisive study of a marriage between a slightly egotistical playwright and his devoted wife was one of last year's best books. Told over the course of several decades from the point of view of both Lotto, the husband, and Mathilde, his wife, Fates and Furies is a novel that asks if we can really truly know the person we marry.