Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

by Patricia Yarberry Allen, MD | bio

It is still February. New York City is cold. The days are short and the skies are a Communist gray. I have indigestion from political topics and serious people.

I know that we are in a recession. I know that our foreign policy decisions have been economically and morally devastating. I know that the national debt is a number unimaginable, sort of like eternity and the universe. I know that wars rage across the globe with child soldiers, and that poverty and illness and global warming increase every minute.

But I confess I need a break. I know just what I want for Valentine’s Day: the literary equivalent of comfort food. 

I can’t be the only one who is feeling overwhelmed. Some people recover and escape with a vacation to ski or sun. I need to escape with some new books. Do you have any suggestions?

For the record, I don’t want books that use the word "myriad" — and, speaking of, where the hell did that word come from? Never heard of it until two years ago, and now I can’t read a blog or a news article without that annoying word cropping up. What, may I ask, is wrong with the word "many"?

I don’t want books that try too hard. I don’t want books with some kind of agenda. I want 10 books that amuse me, books take me away for an afternoon: memoirs, good crime stories or mysteries, chick-lit with a semi-decent IQ, a classic romance.

I want books that are not read for the bragging rights at a dinner party. Give me guilty-pleasure books. Books as easy to consume as a bag of Hershey’s kisses.

So, dear readers, send me a present this Valentine’s Day: Leave the name of your favorite easy-to-love book in the comments, and I promise to read them all and review them here. Books for the light of heart and simple of mind — that’s my wish.

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  • andrea simon February 20, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    wonderful exchange — can i just add two delightful choices, the first THE YOUNG VISITERS a brilliantly straight-faced Edwardian farce — published in 1909 i think, purportedly by a precocious adolescent called Daisy Ashford but more likely from the pen of some man of letters one night after far too much absinthe — this text truly beggars description, but suffice it to say that sex does make an appearance in the form of a handsome and enigmatic guardian called Mr. Salteena …
    also, the ever-fabulous COLD COMFORT FARM, written by Stella Gibbons ca. 1925 or so, which i have read a dozen times and still causes paralytic laughter. The proverbs of the Abbe Fausse-Maigre are a high point, as are the DH Lawrence-style shenanigans amongst the Starkadders and their farm animals, and the heroine’s desperate pursuit of the perfect brassiere. Enjoy, Pat!

  • Dr. Pat Allen February 17, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Not too late at all! Let’s keep this going. And thank you for these marvelous book selections. All 3 are new to me.
    This Edna St. Vincent Millay fragment that I have paraphrased, since I am too lazy to go to the poetry section of my library and dig it out, is the toast that I gave to my husband amid our somewhat startled guests at our rehearsal dinner before our marriage. The flame still burns, I am delighted to report.
    My candle burns at both ends
    It may not last the night
    But oh, my foes and ah, my friends
    It makes such a lovely light.

  • Madeleine Kineavy February 17, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I am probably too late to get my two cents in, but loved your article and have done nothing but read all winter long. Timing is everything! Three of my favorites are “Savage Beauty” The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I especially think that you will enjoy this book Dr. Allen! Another favorite was “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides and “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan about the scandalous love affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Maymah Borthwick Cheney. I am thrilled to add all of these new titles to my list of books to read! Thank you!

  • Dr. Pat Allen February 17, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    So glad that the members of our WVFC family gave me and our readers these great book recommendations just in time for a national holiday. I am just back from Borders with my bags of new books. I feel like I have just walked out of Tiffany’s with a 10 carat diamond! Happy Reading!
    P.S. I have read “Away” and highly recommend it. Here is my reflection on Amy Bloom’s lovely book.

  • Karen O'Kane February 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Perfect timing! I am heading to the Caribbean in a couple of weeks and will enjoy these great suggestions. Actually I will get started now. Thank you Pat for whipping this up and thank you WVFC readers.

  • Karen O'Kane February 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Perfect timing! I am heading to the Caribbean in a couple of weeks and will enjoy these great suggestions. Actually I will get started now. Thank you Pat for whipping this up and thank you WVFC readers.

  • Karen O'Kane February 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Perfect timing! I am heading to the Caribbean in a couple of weeks and will enjoy these great suggestions. Actually I will get started now. Thank you Pat for whipping this up and thank you WVFC readers.

  • Lillian Valchar February 15, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I, too, loved Woman of the South for the same reasons, and anything else by Perez-Reverte. Intriguing and well written tales of other places and times. Also, Donna Leon’s mysteries that, though uncomplicated, immediately transport one to Venice, where we are exposed to its seamier side, but ever mindful of that beautiful place. She’s a delightful distraction from my everyday reality – truly ‘light of heart and simple of mind’. I agree with comments about The Reader, but still think it’s worth reading.
    What fun to share this information – thank you, Pat, for inspiring us to remember what we enjoy and to pass this on.

  • Dr. Pat Allen February 15, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    I read and fell in love with Lucia and Georgie years ago. I, in fact, believed myself to be Lucia. I had an entirely different life in the summers in a delightful Anglophone village outside Montreal with all the stock characters from Benson’s saga there with me.
    Adam, my wonderful friend and decorator, bought a tiny house next to mine, just as Georgie did with his Lucia. We did not do 4 hands sonatas badly since I did not have a piano for that divine decade of my life, but we did almost everything else.
    I strongly urge those of you who are not yet addicted to reading and re-reading The Lucia and Mapp series to do so. And, Mapp, you certainly deserved to know that I could do everything better than you. So there.
    Pat Allen

  • Margaret S. Upshaw February 14, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Yes, read Amy Bloom’s “Away” and “The Senator’s Wife” by Sue Miller. Miller is always good; this time especially so. She knows her women.
    And, finally “The Lavender Hour” by Anne LeClaire which my friend described this way – “I would put it down thinking why am I reading this; only to fly around the house an hour later wondering where is that book.” I liked it too.

  • Agnes Krup February 14, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Hm, I am with Laura on the Schlink. But are we sure Kraus’s “The History of Love” qualifies as light reading?
    And I heartily agree with everyone recommending never-ending English sagas, at least when it comes to light. Here is my absolute favorite, the one that makes me laugh out loud: E. F. Benson’s Lucia & Mapp series. It is extremely addictive, but, fortunately, there are six volumes, published between 1920 and 1939, so it sort of feels as if it were going on forever (but winter is still long). Think of Jane Austen gone slapstick.
    Happy greetings to St. Valentine and all of you passionate books lovers,

  • Laura Sillerman February 14, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    “The History of Love” by Nicole Kraus. Oh yes, do read that one.
    And, please, please, please read the transcendent, smart, heartbreaking and elevating book of essays by Jo Ann Beard called “Boys of My Youth.”
    You will love “Crackpots.”
    If I were you, I’d only read “The Reader” when I was certain I would be going to someplace sunny within 10 minutes after finishing it.
    Aren’t you lucky to be the kind of writer who inspires your readers to respond fiercely and instantly, Pat?
    Happy Valentines Day and Happy Reading.

  • Beverly Schwartz February 14, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Read Sara Pritchard’s “Crackpots” and Amy Bloom’s “Away.” Very different, but both about resourceful women…and you’ll love both…guaranteed.

  • Faith Childs February 14, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Nothing makes me happier than reading a book I love. I read for a living, every day, every night, usually manuscript pages, so when I can read a real bound book, I’ve the sensation that I’m engaging in illicit love. On those evenings, I can hardly wait to get home, tear off my clothes and settle in with a thriller. Here are a few books which have thrilled me.
    “Night Train to Lisbon” by Pascal Mercier, a book about discovery — oneself, another, and more. The writing is irresistible.
    “The Queen of the South” by Arturo Perez-Reverte. As compelling as the agent heroes of LeCarre, the woman at the center of this novel is memorable — beautiful, tough and a survivor.
    “Of Blood and Sorrow” by Valerie Wilson Wesley. A woman private investigator who is also a single mom raising a teenage son in Newark, Tamara Hayle, is witty, funny, and ever so sly. A woman of parts, she misses nothing.
    “Almanac of the Dead” by Leslie Marmon Silko. One of my favorite books. While not a thriller in the strict sense, this is a book about locating oneself in a particular terrain, in this case, the Southwest, and how that terrain marks itself upon those who live there. A sublime and wonderful read.
    “The Reader” by Bernhard Schlink. A young boy and an older woman meet in the aftermath of the war in Germany. A sublime story of awakening and lost innocence, “The Reader” is irresistible.
    “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame. I have read this book, considered by some a children’s classic, every spring of my life. When February feels unsurvivable, the antics of the self-important Mr. Toad will make me happier. I dare you to read it and not laugh.

  • Sally February 14, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Pat, “Letters Between Six Sisters – The Mitfords.” Juicy, snarky, loving, thoughtful, intelligent, provocative, political, personal- sisters growing up and growing old.

  • Elizabeth Hemmerdinger February 14, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    SOOOOO glad you asked. I’m reading the second of three delicious books by Penny Vincenzi, “No Angel”, “Something Dangerous”,and “Into Temptation.” They’re long books that you never want to end and can’t stop reading. The genre is English Family Saga, with so much drama you can’t believe the author can come up with another twist. And yet she does; so far, anyway. E

  • Deb Patterson February 14, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Dear Pat,
    Thank you for the lovely reminder that we get to take a break – and spoil ourselves with a little secret soul candy…so here is my gift to you…never to repay the so many you have given to me…
    Same Sweet Girls by Cassandra King – a lovely book about the bond between women, now in the their fabulous fifties. It reminds me of how fortunate to be women. It won’t challenge the mind, but it will soothe the soul.
    God bless and Happy Valentines Day.