The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

Rarely am I ever so lucky to read two books worth raving about in a row. I read this one in forty-five minutes. Now, I’m a fast reader— I read upwards of a page a minute. But this was FAST. I felt like I was hurtling inexorably towards something as I was reading it. Like the book had something to tell me and I knew the answer to everything I ever wanted to know was in there. I read and read and read, and when the last page came, I stubbed my toe, and went, what happened?

Can we discuss how this is the cutest cover ever?

This is a book you will read over and over. I can tell I will. Because it’s the story of the human condition. Of us. Neither of our narrator’s have names. They have genders—male and female, but their gender often becomes fused and mixed-up in my mind. This is a book that must be taken in all at once. There’s no easy resting point and why would you want to? You can pick the book up at any page and read any damn way you please. Levithan alphabetized the entries, creating a non-linear story. And thus the book demands to be read as a whole, not in parts, or over a period of time. It’s like a wall of emotions and feeling coming at you. And you want it. You want it to drown in it.

I hate David Levithan for taking the best idea for a book ever and selling it. And doing it well. Basically, the abridged version of the inspiration for the story comes from a tradition he has. He always writes stories for Valentine’s day. But one year, he couldn’t. So he went to the dictionary and selected some words at random to make a story from. And The Lover’s Dictionary was born.

From The Lover’s Dictionary:


These words will ultimately end up being the barest of reflections devoid of the sensations words cannot convey. Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.

3 Comments on “The Lover’s Dictionary

  1. I need to add this book to my “list of books to read”. Yes, and the cover is cute too…looks like judging a book by its cover worked well in this case…

  2. Awesome book review; you have quite the writing style there.

    Also, I can shoot daggers out of my eyes whenever I read a book with an awesome premise. It’s like . . .grrrr….why….fshhh….couldn’t I think of that?!!!!!

    Ah well. Thankfully, there are people like Mr. Levithan (I totally thought it was Leviathan at first) who run with their ideas.

    I just may have to check The Lover’s Dictionary out.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Thank you for the nice compliment! Yes, now we can only use the idea as a writing exercise and nothing more, lest we be accused of aspiring to Levithan-greatness (I thought it was Levithan too, at first).

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