The single introvert’s Valentine’s Day book review

Culture Literature

Make a book your main squeeze this February

Stock photo accessed via Pixabay

There’s no worse combination than being an introvert and single on Valentine’s Day.

It doesn’t help if both your roomates have girlfriends, and when they’re over and you’re on the couch in sweatpants watching reruns of SportsCenter, you feel like a bit of a fifth wheel.

Though for couples, Feb. 14 serves as a yearly opportunity to express enduring love, for others (like me), it can be a regular reminder of loneliness. It’s a day of self-evaluation, a chance to look in the mirror and question why you haven’t found that special someone.

I’m emotionally unstable to the point where I wonder if I’ll ever be able to hold a relationship — intimate or platonic — with anyone over a prolonged period of time.

I’ve learned, to help combat my swaying emotions, that I need to have some sort of constant routine.

A couple of years ago, I thought I found a routine. I had a girlfriend, two loving parents, and had just successfully finished my first year of university. But I’m a pessimist. Honestly, I’m trying really hard to change that, but I can’t help but wonder when the next bad thing will happen to me. Thanks to my pessimism, I can’t help but see the exit ramp in a relationship and wonder if I should take the turnoff; I can’t help but wonder if this person or friend is right for me, or if they would be better off without me in their life.

It’s hard to always think like that, and every February elevates those emotions inside me.

There’s always one constant routine, however, that never fails to bring my mood up: reading a chapter of a book, or even just a few pages, before I fall asleep. Curled up in bed, listening to the rain pounding on the window and snuggling deeper into the sheets, a good book is always able to transport me away from my depressive thoughts.

This Valentine’s Day — whether you’ll be at home alone or looking for gifts for your partner — considering picking up one of these three books.


What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan

An issue that hits home personally to me, What Made Maddy Run looks at the life of former Penn University track and cross country runner Madison Holleran and her battles with depression.

Fagan, a sports reporter who previously worked for ESPN, published an article in 2015 describing Holleran’s depression and tragic suicide.

In her book, Fagan delves deep in the topic of depression and social media — specifically how Instagram and Facebook mask depression and anxiety issues for young adults.

“On Instagram, Madison Holleran’s life looked ideal: Star athlete, bright student, beloved friend. But the photos hid the reality of someone struggling to go on,” reads the ESPN feature.

Holleran was a scholarship student at Penn, a state champion in track, and standout soccer player (who also had a scholarship offer to Lehigh university). But she hid most of those feelings from her Instagram followers.  

As the pressure of school, living up to her perfectionist standards, and competing track at the university level started to ratchet up, Holleran continued to post normal photos of friends, family, and running to hide the fact she was struggling with depression.

In What Made Maddy Run, Fagan recounts Maddy’s final days: Fagan is given access to her laptop, text messages, and dorm room. She gives a first person narrative of a tragic depression story, while shedding light on a problem that affects so many people across the world.


The Reckoning by John Grisham

Legal thriller? Check. Family drama? Check. Unknown murder motive? Check.

Grisham, a renowned American novelist who specializes in legal dramas, sets his latest novel at the conclusion of World War II in a small Mississippi town.

In the beginning, Pete Banning, county hero and World War Two veteran, wakes up one morning and decides this is the day for a killing. He walks to the church and shoots the minister, and refuses to give any reasoning. Banning is sentenced to execution, and even when he’s offered immunity he refuses to explain his motive.

The rest of the story is segmented in three parts, each hinting at a possible motive for the murder while showcasing his time in war, and the trouble he’s caused his family by killing the town’s famous priest.

The three parts — ‘The Killing’, ‘The Boneyard’, and ‘The Betrayal’ — explore the Banning family history, Pete’s startling recollection of being forced to take part in the Bataan Death March, and how his children are forced to grow up without parents, fending for themselves.

Grisham is a master of juggling multiple different narratives and possibilities, and it’s not until the final few pages that you learn why Pete killed the minister.  


All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Also set around World War II, All the Light we Cannot See is about two young children in opposite situations: a blind French girl and a German boy in occupied France.

A daughter of the town’s locksmith, Marie-Laure LeBlanc suffers from cataracts and becomes blind at age six. Her father, however, doesn’t see it as a disability and starts to teach his daughter how to see the world without sight. He teaches Marie how to read through braille, and builds her wooden puzzles to develop her sense of touch.

Marie’s father also works at a museum rumoured to hold the ‘Sea of Flames’, a diamond which allows for the owner to never die.

Meanwhile, in Germany, eight-year-old Werner Pfenning quickly develops a skill for science and radio circuits. He is able to build, and re-build, the circuits of radios and frequencies with the skill of those double or triple his age, and is recruited to join the Nazi war effort.

As the Nazis close in, Marie and her father flee their home town and find refuge with their great-uncle, Etienne, where they join the local Resistance. At the same time, Werner trains to be a Nazi youth, and a Nazi gemologist is summoned to find the Sea of Flames.

The book’s short chapters and gripping storyline keep you in suspense wondering when, or if, the paths will ever cross.