The book editors at online retail giant Amazon have been busy. Earlier this month, they released a list of the country’s “most romantic city” using sales numbers including romance novels, relationship books, rom-com DVDs, and, unnamed “sexual wellness products.” (The winner? Knoxville, Tennessee.)
They’ve also put together a bit of promotion called “50 Great American Love Stories” — a map of the U.S., on which they’ve assigned a book to every state in the union. The selections run from the obvious (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh to Pennsylvania; My Antonia to Nebraska) to the inspired—New Mexico gets the title piece to Raymond Carver’s fine short-story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
“We imagined that it would harder to find things for certain states, and it was not as hard as we thought,” says Sara Nelson, the company’s editorial director for books and Kindle. “There were some states where we had fewer choices. For Illinois we had a lot; we had to make a decision between Endless Love, Loving Frank, The Time Traveler’s Wife and a few other things. I don’t remember there being a lot of competition in Idaho.”
But the state still has a winner: True Confessions, by Rachel Gibson, the story of a romance between a tabloid reporter and a small-town sheriff.
The idea for the map of love stories came from the team’s realization that the stories included in their original Valentine’s Day love story brainstorm came from all over the map—literally—and that they may as well find books to fill in the gaps. Which meant deciding what exactly qualified.
“Certain things are obviously love stories. Love Story is a love story. Gone With the Wind I don’t think anybody would argue. Age of Innocence is a love story,” says Nelson. “But we had discussions around something like Gone Girl. Is that a love story? There were people who said it’s an anti love story, but I said, yeah, but it’s love gone wrong. To me that’s still a love story.”
Only one author, John Irving, made the list twice, along with only one play, A Streetcar Named Desire.
And unlike the city-ranking list, the love-stories map involves no sales numbers. Which is just right for what Nelson says her team aims to do. “We try to devise interesting ways to disseminate our opinions about books,” she says. “Everyone loves a love story.”