Books

Top 5 books about love, selected by 'QI elf' Edward Brooke-Hitching

From great art to personal ads, books that take love as their starting point, chosen by author and QI researcher Edward Brooke-Hitching

Pink neon light in the shape of a heart

Image: Ayana Wyse on Unsplash

Many strange customs have been observed in the name of love. Edward Brooke-Hitching’s top five explores the spectrum of human desire.

Sex: Lessons From History by Fern Riddell  

A fascinating history of the spectrum of human relationships, with endless rabbit holes of research to tumble down. A technicolour journey through our sordid, sacred, scandalous past.  

The Medieval Art of Love by Michael Camille  

This book scans artistic innovation of the 13th, 14th and late 15th centuries to show how love has inspired the creation of some of the great treasures and allegories of history. 

Love Letters: 2000 Years of Romance by Andrea Clarke (ed.)  

A glimpse into the intimate lives of historical figures. From Jonathan Swift’s love triangle, to Robert Devereux telling Elizabeth I: “the two windows of your privy chamber shall be the poles of my sphere…” Phwoar. 

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Newlyweds on Tour by Barbara Penner  

19th-century American honeymoons were no weekend breaks. Newlyweds would bring their in-laws on month-long journeys across the country, taking in Niagara Falls, battlefields, prisons, even psychiatric hospitals. 

Sexually, I’m more of a Switzerland by David Rose 

The history of personal ads is a long road of loneliness, but there is humour too. “The origin of Evil may have been a problem for the Romantics, but not for me – I lay it squarely at the door of freeze-dried onions,” reads one appeal for a kindred thinker. Delicious.

Love: a curious history book cover

Love; A Curious History in 50 Objects by Edward Brooke-Hitching is out now (Simon & Schuster, £30). You can buy some of these titles from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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