By Julianne Ross January 29, 2015
Courtesy of

Susan Sontag famously wrote, “Nothing is mysterious, no human relation, except love.”

She had a point. Philosophers have argued over the meaning of love for millennia, but a glance at literary history gives us the beginnings of a definition: Love can be a connection to something greater than ourselves, or the thing that shows us who we really are. It is the oldest feeling in the world, yet somehow always feels new. It is patient and kind, yet requires relentless dedicationand hard work. It is at once our most comforting support and the thing that makes us lose our balance.

At the very least, it’s more than cards, candy and fancy dinners. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, here are some of the loveliest descriptions of love from literature. Because when it comes to capturing this most wonderful and mysterious part of the human experience, Hallmark doesn’t cut it.

1. “Is love this misguided need to have you beside me most of the time? Is love this safety I feel in our silences? Is it this belonging, this completeness?”
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun

2. “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”
— Jane Austen, Persuasion

3. “‘Maybe you’ll fall in love with me all over again.’
‘Hell,’ I said, ‘I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?’
‘Yes. I want to ruin you.’
‘Good,’ I said. ‘That’s what I want too.'”
— Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

4. “You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: Love is eternal.”
— E. M. Forster, A Room With a View

5. “Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.”
— William Goldman, The Princess Bride

6. “She could feel herself through him. Her skin. The way her body existed only where he touched her. The rest of her was smoke.”
— Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

7. “I need all the time I have and a thousand times more than all the time I have and most of all I’d like to have all the time there is just for you, for thinking about you, for breathing in you.”
— Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena

8. “This is what we call love. When you are loved, you can do anything in creation. When you are loved, there’s no need at all to understand what’s happening, because everything happens within you.”
— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

9. “Whatever our souls are made out of, his and mine are the same. … If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be. And if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”
— Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (So, Wuthering Heights is probably more crazy than romantic. But this is a beautiful line.)

10. “I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you. … We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pin trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams. … And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight.”
— Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass