#CBR4 Review #18: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

3 Apr

Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary is a dictionary, with one brief entry per page attributing some aspect of the relationship to relevant word plucked from the dictionary.  This is a love story, told in an A through Z series of moments and reflections. Calling it a love story is almost misleading; it’s more appropriate to call this a lover’s story.  Written from the boyfriend’s perspective, each dictionary entry is an ode to something about his girlfriend: her personality traits, his favorite memories, his least favorite memories. This is their love through his eyes, defined by the words he chooses.

This is a quick read worth reading. The last book I read, Louise Erdrich’s Shadow Tag, included an extensive discussion of whether our lives consist of moments. The husband in that book, also an artist, believed we’re defined by moments: the moment we fell in love, the moment we met our best friend, the moment we fall out of love. The wife doesn’t believe in moments, she believes in history; that our lives are defined by long periods of gradual change rather than sudden realization.

Regardless of your philosophical views, our memories seem to be dominated by moments.  When you consider your relationships with others, whether it’s your relationship with your ex, childhood friend, or estranged relative; you remember precise pieces of that relationship. A character trait exemplified by distinctive example; the happiest moment you ever spent with them; the time you really noticed what they looked like.

Levithan’s love story is not new or groundbreaking, but the series of dictionary entries describes the relationship just the way we tend to remember relationships: in a series of seemingly unrelated fragments, moments that would seem meaningless to anyone but us, punctuated with extreme happiness, extreme longing and extreme disappointment. It felt like I was flipping through my own mental catalog of memories, in a very satisfying way.

Also of note, Levithan is one of the authors of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, so if that’s your thing, you should check this out. And it’s incredibly quick to read…coming in at just over 200 pages, with one brief dictionary entry per page, you could probably finish it in under two hours.


78 Responses to “#CBR4 Review #18: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan”

  1. jessseeker April 6, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    I imagine that if my husband were to write a similar book about me then ‘S’ would be for ‘sleeping’. It’s when I’m at my quietest – and he’s at his most content. 😉

  2. dianadomino April 6, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    I really liked this review, makes me want to read the book right away. I am one of those who believe that life is made up of moments, and the best relationships have scores of lovely moments (and probably a few awful ones) to lean on. The moments together that build the relationships that mean the most and that linger throughout life, even after the passing of someone dear.

    When I remember my great-grandmother, I think of the precious moments spent with her, laughing with her, learning from her, just being with her.

    Thank you for the reminder.

    Now, I wonder if this book is available on my Nook…

    • hellokatieo April 7, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

      I’m glad you share my outlook on moments. P.S. Yup, available on the Nook!

      • dianadomino April 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

        Already purchased and ququed up! ^_^

  3. TeaSea.Inc April 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    I just did a review of this book too! I liked it, but to be honest I expected more in terms of an overall picture. I did enjoy the fragmented glimpses into their relationship, and I adored the format of the book. But for a quick read, maybe I shouldn’t have expected a thorough, complex story. Really, the simplicity of it was nice.

  4. TeaSea.Inc April 6, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    P.S. It’s nice to see another book reviewer on here. =) Who reads books similar to me…

  5. Cathy April 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Yes i have read this too and I find it to be interesting. Not many love stories are written in the guy’s perspective anyway.

  6. wifemeetslife April 6, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Sounds good! It’s difficult to find a fresh perspective on love. I’ll have to check it out!

  7. dreamz infra April 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    lovely blog…thank you very much for sharing this

  8. ForTheLoveOfBooks April 6, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading The Lover’s Dictionary as well! It was such an original concept :). Did you know that David Levithan has a twitter account for it? Here’s the link for it if you’d like to check it out! http://twitter.com/#!/loversdiction

    Have you read Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares? by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan?

    • hellokatieo April 7, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

      The Twitter feed is really great! Thanks for sharing. I haven’t read Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares – I’ll have to add it to my “to read” list.

      • ForTheLoveOfBooks April 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

        you’re welcome 🙂 I haven’t read a lot of Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares yet, but from what I’ve read so far, I’ve enjoyed it!

        Did you read Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist?

  9. Computer Help's And Tip's :-) April 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    nice :))

  10. deluxeartisan April 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    This sounds awesome! I will have to add it to my “To Read” list.
    Thanks for this!



  11. amberpat April 6, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    Interesting. Sounds enjoyable you should check out my site 1coffeehouse.wordpress.com I discuss relationships, love, and being single.

  12. Novelty April 6, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    Will have to read this! Thanks for the review!


  13. ceruleasbookshelf April 6, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    Quite a thought provoking review, I’d never really considered it before but the idea of a relationship being defined by moments that stay in your memory is one I can subscribe to. Quite often a situation, sight or sound takes me back to a specific memory.
    This sounds like a book I’d love to read – thanks.

  14. ceruleasbookshelf April 6, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    Reblogged this on CeruleasBookshelf and commented:
    I’ll definitely be giving this book a read!

  15. pippaandpolly April 6, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    I saw this in Waterstones the other day and almost picked it up but assumed it would be chick-lit so didn’t. Just goes to show you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover! I’ll go back and have a look.

  16. thelupinelibrarian April 6, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    I have been looking for this book ever since I first heard about it (sadly, we do not have a copy at my library). I loved Will Grayson, Will Grayson (co-written by David Levithan and John Green) and would like to read something else from David Levithan. I will have to move this up in my to be read pile. Thanks for the review!

  17. Grumpa Joe April 7, 2012 at 1:54 am #

    I like the “momemt”n it tool me to read this post. Great review of this book.

  18. Harold Boniol April 7, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    Interesting idea. Hopefully, this book already available in bookstores 😀

    • hellokatieo April 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

      Yup, I borrowed a copy from my local library.

  19. Refuting the Intolerably Stupid April 7, 2012 at 4:00 am #

    Loved reading this post and seeing another blogger’s perspective on a YA author and his work. It sounds intriguing and is definitely on my list!

    Also, another great one by David Levithan (and Rachel Cohn!) is Dash and Lilly’s Book of Dares! You should definitely check it out if you haven’t already!

  20. zkraahmad April 7, 2012 at 4:31 am #

    Reblogged this on zakheeraahmad234 and commented:
    I’m so into this.

  21. Balu April 7, 2012 at 6:08 am #

    I liked the movie Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, So I consider reading a book by David Levithan 🙂
    Nice review and I like the book’s cover design too 🙂

  22. Nancy April 7, 2012 at 6:39 am #

    Reblogged this on Never a failure, always a lesson. and commented:
    I gotta have a copy of this book! ♥

  23. Hanggar PS April 7, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    I like the art of love

  24. Elen-chan April 7, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    It seems like a very interesting book! I have to borrow it from the library if they got it.

    Thanks for the review!

  25. nataneva April 7, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    Reblogged this on Academic Writing-601-2 and commented:
    Hello girls–
    Have just come across this blog post while trying to add all of you to my G+ circles so that you could comment on my collection of photos from IATEFL. If you have a spare minute, read an excerpt from this dictionary available on the internet and share with something that caught your attention.

  26. flats in Marathalli April 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    Loved reading this post and seeing another blogger’s perspective on a YA author and his work. It sounds intriguing and is definitely on my list!

  27. Alison Armstrong April 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    You’ve definitely piqued my interest. My husband an I are in a long distance relationship for the first time in five years of marriage and I’ve taken to writing him three sentence love letters/ emails – just enough to remind him of the things we do together and love about each other, and sometimes good memories. I’ve found that skype-calling just doesn’t have the same romanticism and we end up talking facts and figures. I’d love to read this book for inspiration to keep the spark alive 🙂

  28. Marti Parham April 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

    Congrats on being Pressed!

  29. loversmentality April 7, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Reblogged this on A Lover Mentality and commented:
    I’m looking forward to reading this. Sounds very interesting! Can it be downloaded on the Kindle?

  30. The Edmonton Tourist April 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    I just finished this book on your recommendation. You forgot to include how lovely the language is. It was quite captivating, yet I liked that it wasn’t a traditional love story, or I may never have read it 🙂

  31. Valorie Grace Hallinan April 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    I really enjoyed this review. You are a good writer! And I like your list of books you’ve read, gave me ideas.

  32. aprincessespavane April 7, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    I had seen this book on Amazon and it was noted for being very popular. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it, but now I am 100% sure. (Thanks for making the review thorough!) 🙂

    Personally, I believe in a long history of gradual change and moments. Moments inside of a long history can express points of distinction while that period of gradual change can define the significance of that moment. For example, a marriage, in which there are points that are distinctively happy, sad, good, and bad make up the moments inside of the gradual change that marriage is.

    A moment, however, is more rare, and therefore more valued because of it’s quickness and suddenness.

  33. reflectionofthatgirl April 7, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    Think I am going to read…

  34. reflectionofthatgirl April 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    I think I am going to read this book…

  35. MainelyButch April 7, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    Thanks for a nice review that has made me now want to pick up both of these books to read! I have often said that life is lived in “chapters”, but defined in “moments” …which I call my “defining moments”. The historical path is also necessary, as we grow and seem to change periodically with the decades, thus producing the “chapters” in which the moments occur. I look forward to future reviews from you.

  36. DefiningMotherhood April 7, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Enjoyed that book too. In fact, it served as the inspiration for my blog’s format.

    • MainelyButch April 7, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

      I was so inspired by the review that I did a written blog on my WordPress and then did a vlog on my Youtube channel about it! I have talked about “defining moments” in life before, and this renewed my thoughts and gave me more to think about!

      • hellokatieo April 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

        Excellent – glad you enjoyed my review. I’ll have to check out your posts!

  37. fmerza April 7, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    Your book review has definitely peaked my interest! I’m always on the lookout for a good read, so thank you for shining a spotlight on this novel!

  38. Amica Duo April 8, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    Thank you for a fabulous read on a great subject!

  39. Exter Hardd (@topharddrives) April 8, 2012 at 3:43 am #

    Good review.

  40. Anzhik April 8, 2012 at 4:10 am #

    I think that is among the such a lot important info for me. And i’m satisfied reading your article. But want to remark on some general issues, The website style is great, the articles is in reality excellent : D. Good task, cheers

  41. dreamz infra April 8, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    I hate love story…!!!
    but this one i loved.

  42. barefoot_med_student April 8, 2012 at 5:46 am #

    This actually sounds like an excellent book 🙂

  43. yepindeed April 8, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    Loved this book too! However, David Levithan is openly gay and while it never says it outright, I’m fairly sure the book is about two men in a relationship


    • hellokatieo April 8, 2012 at 9:12 am #

      This is really interesting – a bunch of the reviews I read before checking the book out referred to narrator’s partner as a “she,” so I just assumed. But looking back I can’t remember the use of any gender pronouns. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

      • yepindeed April 8, 2012 at 9:17 am #

        it is really interesting!! I think he probably purposefully let it be ambiguous, which I think is really cool!

        Happy Reading!

  44. Life and Everlasting April 8, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    Definitely entreating me to read it through.. whether it is defining moment or a set of incidents make up of one history, it is about love relationship story isn’t it? The most profound phase in life of human being

  45. leatierney April 8, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    Really want to read this book now. Thanks for the review: I know what i need to add to my “must read” list now 🙂

  46. Dani Fullan April 8, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    This book reminds me Roland Barthes’s Les Fragments d’un discours amoureux. It’s always interesting see the boyfriend’s perspective.

  47. lijiujiu April 8, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Excellent post.
    This is really a good work. I appreciate your efforts behind that.
    Thanks for sharing.

  48. Yasir Imran April 8, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    awesome thoughts

  49. deborahhawkins April 8, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Loved this review. Going straight to B&N and “nook it.” Yes, yes, life is made up of moments. Looking forward to reading it.

  50. asoulwalker April 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    It sounds interesting.

  51. authormercedes April 8, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I just wanted to say I’m so glad you did a review about this book. I have read it some time ago after coming across it at the library and was blown away. I love simplicity fallowed by strong and deep emotions which is why I truly enjoyed this book. So thank you ❤

  52. Fiona @ lifelyricslemoncake April 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    This book has been coming up on my radar a lot! I must buy it, it really seems like my kind of thing. Anything that might inspire, and a sucker for alternative love stories.

    Happy Easter and lots of congratulations on being freshly pressed x

  53. thayannasantos April 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Reblogged this on thayannasantos.

  54. bbbonniechen April 8, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    Reblogged this on BONNIE CHEN's Blog.

  55. mollyspring April 8, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    This book is on my to-read list. Leviathan has also written and collaborated on numerous popular young adult novels, but the concept for this one intrigued me. Love stories aren’t anything new, so new approach is fun to check out. I hadn’t heard of the other book you mention, Shadow Tag, so I’ll check that one out too.

  56. Hello World April 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    Hello World Say:
    If you have an idea or a project or hobby, or anything else you want to talk about it, and you believe it will benefit the community or the world please feel free to talk about here http://hiallnew.wordpress.com/

  57. Renee, The Sober Party Girl April 8, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    My favorite book of all time is called The History of Love. This sounds like it would be interesting. I believe life is made up of the long history and then pivotal moments where real change begins, a fork in the road, a major decision takes you down a new path.

    • hellokatieo April 9, 2012 at 8:45 am #

      I actually read that! It’s a beautiful book. Nicole Krauss’s book Great House is also wonderful.

      • Renee, The Sober Party Girl April 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

        I will look into Great House as well. I loved her style and then I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and loved it too. Someone recently saw my top books list and commented that Nicole Krauss and Jonathan Safran Foer are married to each other. What an interesting coincidence.

  58. Kat April 9, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    will definitely read this book, thanks 🙂

  59. Janet Mackey April 9, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    You wrote a very concise, very interesting review, and I’m intrigued. I’d not heard of Levi
    than’s book, but I’m going to get it now. Thanks!

  60. Frances antoinette April 10, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    I´m happy to hear this book was well-received by you…the book is on my “to-read” book list.

  61. confessionsofaballerunner April 11, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Thanks for writing such a great review. You made me go out and get this book. Really enjoying it! Cheers 🙂

  62. apoetsjournal April 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Great review. I so want to read that book now. Thanks for posting your review on it.I’d not heard of it till you wrote about it!

    • HelloKatieO April 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

      I’m so glad! It’s really good, and a quick read. Perfect for a rainy afternoon.


  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #18: The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan « Cannonball Read IV - April 3, 2012

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