2014 has been a gamechanger for relationships. From Tinder taking over to "ghosting" replacing official breakups, how we date and fall in love have gotten more complicated — and literature has taken note.
Instead of following the tired tropes of traditional romance, this year's new novels, non-fiction and short stories got honest about the not-so-easy reality of modern love. It's often the not-so-pretty parts of relationships that define us, from blinding lust to painful divorce, awkward dates and partnerships without desire.
These 11 passages captured the ups and downs, complications and moments of pure bliss, in the most inventive, non-clichéd ways. Love isn't easy — it's complicated, confusing and even painful. But that's the beautifully honest truth.
- Chang-rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea
This short story collection released in January made a splash in the literary world for what the New York Times called Lee's preoccupation with "the oft-told tale of the desperate, betraying, lonely human heart."
- Ali Smith, How to Be Both
This modernist novel by can be read in different orders and is narrated by two protagonists, each of whom offer modern, radical perspectives of language, art and love. Because what we need from love isn't simple and straightforward.
- Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl
Dunham is famous for getting naked for her hit TV show Girls, but she strips down in her memoir too by sharing the raw emotional process of dating in your 20s. It's OK to want a sexual relationship, it's OK to want love and wanting one doesn't necessarily imply wanting the other.
- Caitlin Moran, How to Build a Girl
This sexual coming-of-age story is Moran's first fiction, after her inspiring memoir How to Be a Woman. By writing from the perspective of a teenage girl, Moran uncovers some of the complex truths about love and sex that's easy to forget as you grow up.
- Catherine Lacey, Nobody Is Ever Missing
In Lacey's novel, released in the summer, the narrator, Elyria, takes a one-way flight to New Zealand, leaving her husband to figure out what happened in her disappearance. Their complicated relationship lends deep insight to the interwoven natures of love and fear. Because love isn't happy-go-lucky all the time.
- Ben Marcus, Leaving the Sea: Stories
These short stories offer multiple perspectives on love, from this experience of a rebound to a story about an automaton who must reinvent language to accommodate his discovery of love. These piercing stories observe human vulnerability with startling honesty, reminding us that love doesn't always appear in the time or form we expect it.
- Marilynne Robinson, Lila
When Lila seeks shelter from the rain in a church, she begins a relationship with the minister that sparks a debate that will reshape the town. As Lila tries to reconcile her marriage with her husband's religion, readers learn about the process of loving and forgiving, one that anyone in a loving relationship will recognize.
- Siri Hustvedt, Blazing World
This novel tracks one woman's struggle to be seen in a world twisted by perception, prejudice and desire. Hustvedt explores how desire and truth contradict to create new opinions of those we love. Nobody's perfect, but that's what makes love thrillingly dynamic.
- David Mitchell, Bone Clocks
This best-selling novel from the author of Cloud Atlas is the electric story of a runaway teenager with psychic abilities. As her story progresses, the overlapping characters and intricate plot shed light on the complicated nature of human relationships.
- Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
A finalist for the National Book Awards, this dystopian novel shows how relationships can sustain us even in the darkest of times. Love isn't necessarily what we expect it will be, but it can be just what we need.
- Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You
This debut novel tracks how a family comes together after the disappearance of their daughter. When parents have to refocus on their marriage and putting together the pieces, we realize how love isn't a one-time achievement but rather a complicated process. But that doesn't mean it's not worth it.