The best books on courtship

18 authors have picked their favorite books about courtship and why they recommend each book.

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Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen,

Book cover of Pride and Prejudice

I have loved this book ever since I first read it in my teens; it introduced me to romance and England in the 1800’s. With her trademark humor, Austen reveals the strict social rules and plight of the young women of that time that needed to marry well. It’s one of the few books I’ve read more than once, due to the witty dialog, outrageous character behavior, and the evolution of both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth into finer versions of themselves after falling in love. 

Who am I?

There are many reasons to read, one of them is to escape from day-to-day life. As an avid reader and author of five novels, I think the ideal books for a mental getaway contain not only a good story and engaging characters, but also touches of humor. These bright spots can make you smile or even laugh out loud, heightening your reading pleasure. When I write, I try to give my readers a chuckle or two, like the books I’m recommending here. I hope you will enjoy them! 😊


I wrote...

Andromache's Story: What Really Happened in Troy

By Nancy MacCreery,

Book cover of Andromache's Story: What Really Happened in Troy

What is my book about?

In Andromache’s Story, I wanted to give the ancient tale a new perspective and touch of humor. Andromache, Hector’s spirited wife, has waited thousands of years to tell her story—an entertaining saga of love, loss, friendship, and misplaced trust. Told from her wry perspective, the characters of ancient Troy come alive: Paris, the lighthearted lover of beauty, dependable Hector, trainer of horses, and Cassandra, whose prophesies are correct but never heeded.

Then Paris brings back Helen, and Andromache must help the aloof beauty assimilate. Through the long years of war, the two women develop hidden strengths that enable them to take charge of their fates. The engaging narrative builds toward an ending that puts a new spin on this classic story.

The Unsuitable

By Molly Pohlig,

Book cover of The Unsuitable

This book combines a lot of potentially tired gothic signifiers into one slim package. You’ve got the tortured ghost of the young mother. The scarred young shut-in nearing spinsterhood. The domineering aunt tasked with marrying her off. The cold and distant father just as eager to unload her. However, none of these tropes go where you expect them to go. Iseult Wince, the titular unsuitable young woman, has an inner life and motivations that are deeply weird—borderline horrifying, but most importantly, weird, and all her own. Spinsterhood is the least of her problems. 


Who am I?

Hi! I'm Maxine Kaplan and I'm a writer who is also a genre magpie. My favorite thing to do as a writer is to take a background character, or non-playable characters in gamer-speak, and make them real. What’s an archetype? It’s a type. A character described by their occupation—the princess; the femme fatale; the tavern wench (ahem)—basically the tropey background players that nobody feels the need to unpack as idiosyncratic individuals, with vibrant inner lives. This list is full of books that do this sooooo well.


I wrote...

Wench

By Maxine Kaplan,

Book cover of Wench

What is my book about?

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

By Jane Austen, Seth Grahame-Smith,

Book cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Few books can make you laugh just from the title alone, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was just one such book. Before the book blew up, became a movie, and spawned its own subgenre of fantastical reimaginings of classical literature, I remember seeing it on display at a Barnes and Nobles and laughing just at the title alone. The good news is that, much like a zombie who just ate a clown, the book continues to be funny on the inside.


Who am I?

Having completed military survival courses as well as stints in an improv comedy troupe, James Schannep knows the best zombie stories are those presented with a wry grin while staring down the end of the world. The product of an overactive imagination, the genre-hopping Click Your Poison series puts you in the driver’s seat against zombies, pirates, international spies, a detective whodunit, superheroes (and villains), exploration through a haunted house, and more! 


I wrote...

Infected (Click Your Poison)

By James Schannep,

Book cover of Infected (Click Your Poison)

What is my book about?

3 Unique Storylines. Over 50 Possible Endings. Just one question... Will you survive the zombie apocalypse? Here's how it works: You, Dear Reader, are the main character of this story. Live, die, and rise again based solely on the merit of your own choices.

"Infected. Is. So. Good." -- A girl just like you. "Holy $#*% this is awesome!" -- A guy more or less like you.

Looking for a Few Good Males

By Erika L. Milam,

Book cover of Looking for a Few Good Males: Female Choice in Evolutionary Biology

When Darwin proposed the two mechanisms of sexual selection, one was almost immediately embraced by his Victorian contemporaries: male competition. Female choice, on the other hand, had to wait almost 100 years to be fully recognized. This book is an account of the history of female choice and provides fascinating insights into the development of a scientific discipline and how it is intertwined with society. Well written and very accessible, this is a great read.


Who am I?

I am an evolutionary ecologist with a lifelong fascination with mating behavior in animals, particularly fishes. The core of my doctoral thesis was trying to understand why some males mate with females of a different species, a behavior that I thought could not be adaptive. This was the starting point of my work on male mate choice, but also mate choice more generally. Originally from Germany, I have lived and worked in the US for a long time. Most of my work is on neotropical fishes so moving to America made sense.


I wrote...

Male Choice, Female Competition, and Female Ornaments in Sexual Selection

By Ingo Schlupp,

Book cover of Male Choice, Female Competition, and Female Ornaments in Sexual Selection

What is my book about?

As Charles Darwin developed his theory of natural selection, he noticed that the existence of highly ornamented males was a problem. How could such traits as the tail of a peacock evolve and be maintained when it clearly made the owner more likely to be detected by predators? Darwin’s solution was to propose sexual selection, where traits can be adaptive because the owner leaves behind more offspring due to the two mechanisms he proposed: female choice or male competition.

I argue that in addition to these two mechanisms, males also choose their mates and females compete for partners. The role of this has not been fully recognized and needs much more attention. My book provides a fresh look at the field with many amazing examples.

Stardust

By Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Stardust

Stardust is, in essence, a modern fairy tale, with the concept of ‘the magical world next-door’ I always wished to discover as a child. As with my previous recommendations, it isn’t a secret to be stumbled upon, but a known world to venture into if you dare. 

What I love about these settings is how you go in thinking that they’d seem mundane and easier to navigate compared to stumbling into hidden worlds, but the catch is that the laws of everything—including reality—differ there. It heightens the excitement and how the plot can surprise you with those new twists!


Who am I?

I am Lucy Tempest, an bicultural author that puts my love of history, culture and folklore into creating vivid, expanded adaptations of tales that stood the test of time. I adore stories either set in our own recent past or are similar to them in set-up, finding them full of interesting opportunities, not just in world-building but aesthetics as well, that Medieval-fantasy lacks. Gaslamp fantasy is a Goldilocks setting, detached enough from our modern world, but with enough crucial traits to be familiar. I can read about the magical adventures of pseudo-industrial people without worrying about how they survive without indoor plumbing!


I wrote...

Thief of Cahraman: A Retelling of Aladdin

By Lucy Tempest,

Book cover of Thief of Cahraman: A Retelling of Aladdin

What is my book about?

Thief of Cahraman, first of a trilogy, is an expanded, gender-bent and culturally rich adaptation of Aladdin starring a small-time thief who is plucked from her isolated island to the desert Kingdom of Cahraman and blackmailed into a palace heist to steal a golden lamp. She infiltrates a bridal contest set for the mysterious crown prince, has to go through trials with ever-increasing stakes to buy herself time and finds herself in a comedy-of-errors style romance. As their fates further intertwine, Ada and Cyrus uncover grave secrets about the past along their winding path, exploring and breaking the cycle of dark magic, conflict and politics they were born into.

Introverts in Love

By Sophia Dembling,

Book cover of Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After

I had a great deal of respect for this author from reading her Psychology Today columns. Sophia Dembling is an introvert and from her research and personal experience knows that relationships between different personality types can be challenging to say the least. 

She takes us through all aspects of the dating process and doesn’t slam extroverts. What she does is show us, through her great wit and transparency, how we are not perfect but that we can balance each other. 

Dembling teaches introverts “how to let someone into their hearts while honoring the solitude we need..” I found myself laughing many times, even while reading the table of contents. “Whee! Fun With Extroverts” and “I Love you But Please Don’t Call Me.” And she helps extroverted readers understand and empathize with introverts who don’t find joy in too much socializing. 


Who am I?

I grew up in a talkative family in an extroverted culture near NYC. I discovered I also liked the quiet and found a man to marry who was very introverted. After the “opposites attract” phase we needed to learn ways to make our differences work and we've been doing that for almost 50 years. I took this knowledge to the workplace where, as a career coach and learning and development professional, I became a champion for introverts. I've written 4 books on harnessing the talents of both introverts and extroverts at work and speak about this topic around the world. I believe we are all better off when we work through our differences to achieve magic.


I wrote...

The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together

By Jennifer B. Kahnweiler,

Book cover of The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together

What is my book about?

FDR and Eleanor. Mick and Keith. Jobs and Woz. There are countless examples of introvert-extrovert partnerships who make brilliant products, create great works of art, and even change history together. But these partnerships don’t just happen. They demand wise nurturing.

The key is for opposites to stop emphasizing their differences and use approaches that focus them both on moving toward results. This first-of-its-kind practical five-step process helps introverts and extroverts understand and appreciate each other’s wiring, use conflicts to spur creativity, enrich their own skills by learning from the other, and see and act on things neither would have separately. This book shows how to perform the delicate balancing act required to create a whole that is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.

Maiden & Princess

By Daniel Haack, Isabel Galupo, Becca Human (illustrator)

Book cover of Maiden & Princess

This sweet story told in rhyme begins with the usual trope of a royal family holding a ball to find a bride for the prince. One maiden, the bravest in the land, is not thrilled. The racially diverse cast of characters, illustrated in bright colors, find an ending satisfying to all when the maiden falls in love with the prince’s sister.


Who am I?

I wrote Uncle Bobby’s Wedding in 2005, just after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. It was published in 2008 and immediately became the target of anti-LGBT attacks. Many people attempted to ban it. Some went so far as to burn it – and then they wrote to tell me they had. It was one of the most challenged books in the country that year, and it was one of the 100 most-challenged books of the decade. I have been deeply involved with LGBTQ+ picture books ever since. 


I wrote...

Uncle Bobby's Wedding

By Sarah S. Brannen, Lucia Soto (illustrator),

Book cover of Uncle Bobby's Wedding

What is my book about?

Chloe’s favorite uncle is getting married, and she’s not happy about it. But after a magical day with Uncle Bobby and his boyfriend, Jamie, Chloe realizes she’s not losing an uncle, but gaining one.

​Produced in coordination with GLAAD, this adorable picture book is a positive example of same-sex marriage and a celebration of family.

Lakeshire Park

By Megan Walker,

Book cover of Lakeshire Park

There is something alluring about the regency era that makes you want to curl your hair and go to a ball. The genre is full of beautiful, well-written books. Lakeshire Park stands out in the crowd thanks to its gentle honesty, delightful prose, and believable romance. Sprinkled with comedic scenes, regency-era details, and a couple you can’t help rooting for! I read this one in one sitting and didn’t want to come back to reality. 


Who am I?

My fascination for historical novels began long before I ever penned one of my own. As a child, I often sought out books that took me back in time. Before I was even a teenager I began gravitating toward historical novels with romantic threads (give me all the sweet romance). My love of all things historical has only grown through the years. My children have come to expect our vacations to include stops at museums and historical sites. I have four published novels (as of 2021), files of future ideas, and stacks of novels beside my bed ready to take me for a historical ride.


I wrote...

A Lady in Attendance

By Rachel Fordham,

Book cover of A Lady in Attendance

What is my book about?

Five years in a New York state reformatory have left a blemish on Hazel's real name. So when she takes a job as Doctor Gilbert Watts's lady in attendance in 1898, she does so under an alias. In the presence of her quiet and pious employer, Hazel finds more than an income. She finds a friend and a hope that if she can set her tarnished past in order, she might have a future after all. As Gilbert becomes accustomed to the pleasant chatter of his new dental assistant, he can't help but sense something secretive about her. Perhaps there is more to this woman than meets the eye. Can the questions that loom between them ever be answered? Or will the deeds of days gone by forever rob the future of its possibilities?

Rachel Fordham pens a tender tale of a soft-spoken man, a hardened woman, and the friends that stand by them as they work toward a common purpose–and perhaps find love along the way.

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen, David M. Shapard,

Book cover of The Annotated Pride and Prejudice

This is a brilliant book that you will want to read in print—not digitally—because, for every single page of Jane Austen’s classic novel, there is an accompanying page of annotations. This is a great book if you want to dive deeper into Pride and Prejudice. The annotations include pictures of carriages and locations in the novel; historical details that helped me understand property laws, relationships, and societal expectations; definitions and connotations of how words were used in Austen’s time, and much more. It’s written in a very readable style, and you can either read it from start to finish or skip around to your favorite passages.


Who am I?

I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when I was ten years old, and I loved the book so much that I reread it a few months later. In my teenage years and early twenties, I thought that I was like Elizabeth Bennet—she’s witty and opinionated, goes her own way, and loves to read books and play the pianoforte. As I grew older, I realized that in many ways I'm more like Mary Bennet (social situations can be difficult!). Jane Austen always offers me new insights into my life, and her stories have become a sort of mythology, providing fertile ground from which writers and filmmakers have created their own works.


I wrote...

The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet

By Katherine Cowley,

Book cover of The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet

What is my book about?

Mary Bennet is the dull, plain, overlooked sister from Pride and Prejudice. Which means she’s also the last person anyone would suspect to solve a murder.

Upon the death of her father, Mary is invited to stay with a distant relative, Lady Trafford, at Castle Durrington. But once she arrives, she’s faced with one mystery after another. Who is Lady Trafford really, and what is she hiding? Do her secrets and manipulations place the small seaside community at risk of an invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte? Always curious, Mary sets out to discover the answers. But when she finds the dead body of a would-be thief she outed prior to her father’s funeral, she jeopardizes her position at the castle and her family’s good name in her quest for the truth.

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