Arts and Entertainment

Top 10 love stories of all time

'Gone With the Wind' places first on Beth Helstien's list of top 10 love stories
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Beth Helstien

Special to the Journal

When I think about a love story, the first thing that comes to mind is heartbreak.

It’s too bad that literature requires so much drama, when so many enduring loves through the ages are peaceful, but without the glamor. And so many great loves aren’t romantic at all: love of country, love of the land, parental love, filial love, sibling love. One romance blog, to paraphrase, says a great romance novel needs believable characters: a strong heroine who sticks up for herself, and a hero who will do almost anything to win her. Realistic conflict keeps them apart; the interest is in their struggle to overcome.

Of course, even romantic love isn’t all about male-female relationships.

Some of the most long-lasting love stories remain special because they evoke settings that seem exotic, historic, or just comfortably familiar. Great literature adds to these characteristics the dexterous use of language to create images that do more than advance the plot.

To write this piece my first thought was to google others’ lists. Before I scanned them, I stopped myself and scribbled my own list, untainted by the opinions of others.

The New York Public Library offers a list of the 10 greatest love stories of all time, check out the Guardian’s top 10 love stories, or Reader’s Digest’s.

Here’s mine:

1 “Gone With the Wind,” by Margaret Mitchell

2 “The English Patient,” by Michael Ondaatje

3 “Pride and Prejudice,” by Jane Austen

4 “Jane Eyre,” by Charlotte Brontë

5 “Kristin Lavransdatter,” by Sigrid Undset

6 “Wuthering Heights,” by Emily Brontë

7 “The Little Prince,” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

8 “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” by Audrey Niffenegger

9 “The Velveteen Rabbit,” Margery Williams Bianco

10 “The Wild Birds,” by Wendell Berry

Here are some great titles that don’t make it to my list: “Outlander,” “Twilight,” “Anna Karenina,” “The Thorn Birds,” “Water for Elephants,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Dr. Zhivago” … of course there are dozens more. On the non-fiction side there’s “100 Names for Love,” and “Elegy for Iris” (both true stories of the enduring kind of love of long marriages), and Robert Fulghum’s “True Love,” among others.

Visit the library to browse our display of love books and movies and take some love home.

Beth Helstien is the Outreach Coordinator for the San Juan Island Library. She may be contacted at 378-2798 most Saturdays through Wednesdays or at See her other reviews at



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