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Sylvia Warren graduated from Oxford in biology, after diversions in precious metals, parasites, and archaeology. She now works for Blackwell’s as their University of Oxford Liaison.

Page Turner

Sylvia Warren

Ah, Valentine’s Day... bit over-commercialised, isn’t it? Lots of flowers, teddy bears and restaurants offering you free champagne if you turn up with your partner and subscribe to their mailing list. Luckily, books don’t discriminate based on your relationship status, and there is one to suit almost every need at this time of the year.

If you are happily single

There are so many wonderful books out at the moment, it’s hard to choose just one for you to dive into. If we’re sticking with the love theme, ‘Girls of Riyadh’, translated from Rajaa Alsanea’s original Arabic, is ‘Sex and the City’ crossed with a hilarious analysis of cultural dating and relationship rituals.

You are single, but unhappy about it

‘Her Body and Other Parties’, a collection of short stories by Carmen Maria Machado, has been making waves since its publication in December of last year. Critics either adored it, or loathed every word (I’m in the former camp). Mixing every genre from horror to psychological realism, Machado dissects the relationships that women have with each other, with men, and with the world in general. By the end, you’ll have read some excellent contemporary fiction and probably be a lot happier with your (lack of) love life.

You are in a happy relationship

Unfortunately, happy and contented pairings do not make for the most thrilling reads, however wonderful it is to actually experience in reality. Cooking together is fun, gives you a chance to be silly, and lick the spoon afterwards. Nigella’s ‘At My Table’ is my standout new cookery book: every recipe I have tried has been delicious, the pictures are gorgeous, and I guarantee that you will have fun together.

Your relationship could be better right now, if you are being honest

‘First Love’ was Gwendoline Riley’s luminous offering to unhappy relationships last year. The writing almost shimmers on the page, it’s so light – the subject matter, however, isn’t quite so pleasing. Despite being so relentlessly grim in its approach, it serves the plot up with a hefty dose of black humour that makes you laugh despite yourself.

You are having an affair

Affairs are so common in novels, you must wonder how anyone gets anything done besides sneak around and feel angsty. ‘When Light is Like Water’, by Molly McCloskey, was a standout book of 2017, deromanticising the novel’s love affair with adultery. In clean, elegant prose, McCloskey examines the self-destruction and inexorable delusion that occurs during infidelity. Also, stop it – you’re not being very seasonal. Buy it for yourself, not your partner(s).

- Sylvia Warren