The best books on how to get a deep and fulfilling love life

Pouline Middleton Author Of One Woman Three Men: A Novel about Modern Love and Sex
By Pouline Middleton

Who am I?

I was living one of the darkest periods of my life when a friend took me to a Louise Bourgeois show. I wandered among her pieces feeling numb. Then I entered a large room filled with Passage Dangereux from 1997. A most depressing art piece that put me into contact with the restrictions in a family, the limitations we set for each other, and the unhappiness everywhere. When I left the room, I felt a lift in my spirits. I’m a writer to try to put more precise words to what goes on inside ourselves when we are alone and when we fall in love and enter into a relationship with another person. 

I wrote...

One Woman Three Men: A Novel about Modern Love and Sex

By Pouline Middleton,

Book cover of One Woman Three Men: A Novel about Modern Love and Sex

What is my book about?

My novel is heavily inspired by my own real-life story where I had 3 men over a period of 2 years. I tell the tale of the strong, independent woman Elizabeth who, following a divorce, decides that the modern paradigm of love needs a revolution. Given that infidelity is rampant and that 40% of first marriages end in divorce, she decides that trying to get all of her needs fulfilled by a single man just doesn’t work in today’s world. What she needs is three men—a guy for conversation, a handyman to do work with her around the house, and a lover. What follows is a riveting, sexy, saucy tale about her search for three men willing to play those rolesand for her to live up to them, when they do.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

City of Girls

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Book cover of City of Girls

Why this book?

This is the book I wish I had written, because it so well reflects some of the struggles with love I’ve had. It is the story of a woman who lives and makes love according to her own standards. At first, she does it in secret and has no problem ignoring the norms of society. But when her life is turned upside down by these same norms, she is thrown back, feeling numb and doing nothing. I can so much identify with how she handles the dilemma of wanting to follow your own wishes in a culture that sets a lot of limits on how women live their lives. I admire how she gets back on top of things even when life sucks big time. It’s also structured in a great way that made it a page-turner for me on love, sex, and friendships. It made me smile, laugh and cry.

Healing the Shame That Binds You

By John Bradshaw,

Book cover of Healing the Shame That Binds You

Why this book?

This is a very dear book to me since I came across it in a book review 15 years ago. It is an amazing book if you struggle with toxic shame, which I did and do, since such a thing never leaves completely. It can be put into you at a very young age and if that is taking place it becomes invisible. This book made it visible for me. It also gave me the tools to deal with it. But the book mainly gave me what felt like the full insight into a force that was governing my life without me knowing anything but a mere fraction of it. Thank you, John Bradshaw!

The Five Love Languages

By Gary Chapman,

Book cover of The Five Love Languages

Why this book?

I read this book years ago and find I have reverted to the model again and again. It enlightened me on how difficult another person can perceive the loving actions I’ve done. So in hindsight, I got an explanation for dates that didn’t feel right or talks about love that go in completely opposite directions. It also gave a likely explanation why a specific relationship I was in, never really worked on a deep level. A great book that can teach you about yourself and others to make you better at giving and receiving loving signs and actions.

Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature

By Janice A. Radway,

Book cover of Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature

Why this book?

A man I was working with recommended this book to me, when he heard about my novel, while it was in the making. I got hold of this book and already after the first chapter I understood why. Janice Radway investigates how Harlequin novels have such a large audience. In essence it is because romance novels always end well, as opposed to life, that keeps being complicated. It taught me that I’m a very romantic person. This was something I had never regarded as a positive trait so of course I failed to see just how important romance was and is to me. By identifying with millions of women who read these romance novels, I gained a respect that I still feel is lacking in our culture: A respect for our emotions and the big role they play in our sense of satisfaction with life.  

The Course of Love

By Alain De Botton,

Book cover of The Course of Love

Why this book?

A philosopher writes about love in the most extraordinarily ordinary way. It is a story about a couple and how they fall in love and why the two of them fall in love with each other. That is fascinating in itself. Then he follows how the love between them develops—and he comments on it as they move along. It is a book that gives a deep insight into how love works when it works—and when it doesn’t. I felt much better about the mistakes I’ve made in love when I read his book. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, Manhattan, and shame?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about romantic love, Manhattan, and shame.

Romantic Love Explore 414 books about romantic love
Manhattan Explore 62 books about Manhattan
Shame Explore 10 books about shame

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Hamnet, The Giver, and Words Upon the Word if you like this list.