Romance is a beautiful thing–it should certainly be enjoyed and celebrated. But not in every single bit of content we absorb…. Seems unavoidable, right? Romance is everywhere, even on the playground and between amorphous, personified beasts.
Not to worry. Here are examples of books that sustain themselves beautifully, fulfill their readership, and carry perfect plot lines and character developments all sans romance. There are many, many books out there that work this way, but here is a short list of some favorites:
1. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A Pulitzer Prize winner, this book has almost zero romance. Literally almost zero. The only small whiff we get is at the very end. A young boy and girl meet and experience respective stirrings toward the other, but absolutely nothing comes of it, romantically. It is almost more of a picture of closeness between people than of love-at-first sight. Though “historical fiction” this is such a human story. These characters show what it’s like to love people–completely non-romantically–across miles, time, and culture borders. This is true love.
2. Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
Of course Harry had to make it to this list. This is an example of not one, but seven books in which the love of friendship carries the story. There are so many varieties of friendship in these books: best friends, boy/girl friendships, friendships between cultures (wizards and house elves, wizards and centaurs), father and mother figure friendships, actual parental relationships, teachers, pets, and more. Sure, a little romance develops in the later books as the wizards become older, but even then, the classic Harry Potter themes of friendship, bravery, adventure, and morality carry over everything.
3. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The last theme in mind during Life of Pi is romance. This story is about survival, trust, and forgiveness. Imagination runs wild through these pages, bringing readers right along with it as we try to parse out the meaning of this beautiful, strange story.
4. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Dark and thoughtful, this book is not about romance–nor friendship. This book is about the self: our self perception, how we present ourselves to the world, legacy, and longevity. Completely consumed in himself, Dorian casts away love, friendship, and even personality in this gripping, page-turning, nightmarish, and altogether amazing story.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Finally, The Great Gatsby. Though there are plenty of romantic intrigues in this book, this story is about ambition and admiration from Gatsby and his followers, respectively. If there is any love here, it is the love of the lifestyle of the Roaring 20s, despite and in complete awareness of the dire consequences.
All these and many other amazing classic, or brand-new books carry themselves without romance. The world is bigger than two people falling in love, and these stories reflect that. The kaleidoscope of human discovery, emotion, and creation is on the table in these books, proving that we don’t need a knight in shining armor and a damsel in distress to have a great story.
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