The Blagger's Guide To Valentines Day Books

Books to love...and some to kick out of bed

Novels out just in time to be Valentine's gifts for that special (or not-so-special, last-minute-dash-to-Smith's) someone tackle romantic themes with varying success.

Daisy Waugh's Last Dance With Valentino (HarperCollins, £12.99) is based on 14 years of research. Meanwhile, an emetic of chick lit novels arrives, boasting gorgeous New Yorkers, lots of shoes, and one author's credentials as the wife of a Sex in the City writer. By contrast, Daniel Glattauer's Love Virtually (MacLehose Press, £9.99), which has already sold a million copies in German, is a modern epistolary novel, beginning with a mis-addressed email. The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan (Fourth Estate, £12.99) also describes the arc of a relationship, in instalments from Aberrant to "Is this the zenith?" Don't leave the price tag on Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger, by Heidi Rice. This racy story of lifeguard Maddy and millionaire entrepreneur Ryan is free from www.datemillsandboon.com, with a chance to win £500 by rating it on the same website.

***

Fans of 2010's Sexually, I'm more of a Switzerland: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books, by David Rose (Picador £9.99), should enjoy Francesca Beauman's historical romp through the lonely hearts ad, in Shapely Ankle Preferr'd (Chatto & Windus, £12.99). From the first ever personal ad in 1695, to an east London builder looking for a wife with only one leg, this is entertaining proof that "loneliness is not new". And then, there's The Love Key: How to Unlock Your Psychic Powers to Find True Love by Joanna Scott (Penguin, £7.99). Can you intuit psychically whether it's any good or not?

***

Poetic lovers should look to the wisdom of Ovid. This 2,003-year-old advice on how to get laid proves depressingly (or encouragingly) that not much has changed since AD8. As does the new translation of the Kama Sutra (Penguin Classics, £14.99). These will probably impress your Valentine more than Andrew G Marshall's Help Your Partner Say 'Yes', though its advice on "better co-operation and communication" is much more sensible than the title suggests.

***

If you can't get enough of Garrison Keillor through his Lake Woebegon series, his radio show and those grizzly-voiced Honda commercials, try his 77 Love Sonnets (Bloodaxe Books, £12). A thoughtful meditation on all types of love, it includes the rather touching "Updike", for "my older brother John".

***

Usually, other people's sex lives are best avoided, but The Sex Diaries Project, edited by Arianne Cohen (Vermilion, £12.99), is a compulsive collection of week-in-the-life relationship diaries by ordinary people. If "The insecure Cabaret Dancer Pussyfooting her Way into a Hot, Healthy Relationship" doesn't show you how lucky you are, "The Dying Aids Patient Who Just Broke up With his Soulmate" will.

***

Also best avoided is a book so bad, lazy and utterly insulting that the Blagger must withhold its name just in case any publicity is good publicity. This collection of "140 ways to say 'I love you' in a tweet" is a saccharine mix of the nauseating ("I want to run across the beach into your arms. Bleurgh, corny I know, but that's what you do to me"), the plain weird and the slightly stalkerish ("I went to bed with your grey sweatshirt last night. Good but no cigar :-)". If you know anyone who would rather buy someone else's 140-character romantic sentiments than think of some of their own, dump them.

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