The Lover's Dictionary

The Lover's Dictionary

by David Levithan


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How does one talk about love? Is it even possible to describe something at once utterly mundane and wholly transcendent, that has the power to consume our lives completely, while making us feel part of something infinitely larger than ourselves?

Taking a unique approach to this age-old problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary constructs the story of a relationship as a dictionary. Through these sharp entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of coupledom, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250002358
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 01/17/2012
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 105,207
Product dimensions: 4.56(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.59(d)

About the Author

David Levithan is the author of many acclaimed young-adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn), which was adapted into a popular movie. He is also an editorial director at Scholastic.


Hoboken, New Jersey

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

New Jersey


B.A., Brown University, 1994

Read an Excerpt


I, n.

Me without anyone else.

idea, n.

“I’m quitting,” you say. “I can’t believe how wasted I was.

This time, I’m really going to do it.”

And I tell you I’ll help. It’s almost a script at this point.

imperceptible, adj.

We stopped counting our relationship in dates (first date, second date, fifth date, seventh) and started counting it in months. That might have been the first true commitment, this shift in terminology. We never talked about it, but we were at a party and someone asked how long we’d been together, and when you said, “A month and a half,” I knew we had gotten there.

impromptu, adj.

I have summer Fridays off; you don’t. So what better reason for me to take you to lunch and then keep you at lunch for the whole afternoon? Reserving these afternoons to do all the city things we never get around to doing – wandering through MoMA, stopping in at the Hayden Planetarium, hopping onto the Staten Island Ferry and riding back and forth, back and forth, watching all the people as they unknowingly parade for us. You notice clothes more than I do, so it’s a pleasure to hear your running commentary, to construct lives out of worn handbags or shirts opened one button too low. Had we tried to plan these excursions, they never would have worked. There has to be that feeling of escape.

inadvertent, adj.

You left your email open on my computer. I couldn’t help it – I didn’t open any of them, but I did look at who they were from, and was relieved.

incessant, adj.

The doubts. You had to save me from my constant doubts. That deep-seeded feeling that I wasn’t good enough for anything – I was a fake at my job, I wasn’t your equal, my friends would forget me if I moved away for a month. It wasn’t as easy as hearing voices – nobody was telling me this. It was just something I knew. Everyone else was playing along, but I was sure that one day they would all stop.

indelible, adj.

That first night, you took your finger and pointed to the top of my head, then traced a line between my eyes, down my nose, over my lips, down my neck, to the center of my chest. It was so surprising, I knew I would never mimic it. That one gesture would be yours forever.

ineffable, adj.

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.

infidel, n.

We think of them as hiding in the hills – rebels, ransackers, rogue revolutionaries. But really, aren’t they just guilty of infidelity?

innate, adj.

“Why do you always make the bed?” I asked. “We’re only going to get back in it later tonight.”

You looked at me like I was the worst kind of slacker.

“It’s just what I’ve always done,” you said. “We always had to make our bed. Always.”

integral, adj.

I was so nervous to meet Kathryn. You’d made it clear she was the only friend whose opinion you really cared about, so I spent more time getting dressed for her than I ever had for you. We met at that sushi place on Seventh Avenue and I awkwardly shook her hand, then told her I’d heard so much about her, which came off like me trying to legitimize your friendship, when I was the one who needed to get the stamp of approval. I was on safer ground once we started talking about books, and she seemed impressed that I actually read them. She remarked on the steadiness of my job, the steadiness of my family. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be steady, but she saw my unease and assured me it was a good thing, not usually your type. We found out we’d gone to summer camp within ten minutes of each other, and that sealed it. You were lost in our tales of the Berkshires and the long, unappreciative stretches we’d spent on the Tanglewood lawn.

At the end of the dinner, I got a hug, not a handshake. She seemed so relieved. I should have been glad . . . but it only made me wonder about the other guys of yours that she’d met. I wondered why I was considered such a break from the norm.

“Excerpted from THE LOVER’S DICTIONARY by David Levithan, to be published in January 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2011 by David Levithan. All rights reserved.”

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The Lover's Dictionary 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 116 reviews.
Nikkayme More than 1 year ago
I'll let the description speak for itself in explaining the book, but I will say: this is a short read. I finished it in about an hour and like always, David Levithan does not disappoint. The format of The Lover's Dictionary is unlike anything I've ever read before. Short snippets of the lives of a couple are showcased through dictionary definitions. The chosen words play out in each scenario, some funny, some tender, some angry, and some a little heartbreaking. Levithan somehow captures the narrator and made me care for him. He remains nameless, as does the woman in question, but the two of them have this up and down, rollercoaster of a relationship that will get into your heart and make you feel for them. The Lover's Dictionary is not fun or lighthearted; it is real and full of aching and pain, but also the budding curiosity of new love and the hope for a forever. David Levithan is a force to be reckoned with and this book showcases that. Each page brought with it another line of inspiration or a few words that just jumped out and grabbed me. I don't even have a favorite line, I have about ten. Opening line: Aberrant, adj. "I don't normally do this kind of thing," you said. ~ pg. 3 Favorite lines (one of many): You were asleep, and I imagined you older and older. Your hair graying, your skin folded and creased, your breath catching. And I found myself thinking: If this continues, if this goes on, then when I die, your memories of me will be my greatest accomplishment. Your memories will be my most lasting impression. ~ pg. 161
Catherine Poling More than 1 year ago
my vocabulary certainly grew as i read this. i was very glad to be reading on a device with a built in dictionnary. the author clearly captured all of the nuances that make this book so unique. i wanted more though....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So relatable. Reminds us all of the range of emotions and complications in a relationship
PaulGNYC More than 1 year ago
I saw David Levithan read the book tonight at Borders in NYC--a moving evening. David's passion comes through each line read, each written. I love his books, but I didn't know he was such a wonderful performer. He feels deeply as he reads, and he's hilarious when he isn't breaking your heart--no, he's hilarious when he's breaking your heart too. His is a beautiful heart, such a generous artist. The Lover's Dictionary is one of the most creative novels I've read. Alphabetized entries headed by beautiful words most of us don't take the time to speak anymore give pieces of a relationship that on one page is in devastating freefall, and then in the next entry the lovers are riding the heights. The structure is exhilarating, pulling you inside out with anticipation with each new chapter--and the chapters are short, at times only a line or two long. You want to linger on the language, but the relationship's constant ups and downs keep you moving into the next chapter. I kept thinking, Will they make it? Will their love last? It doesn't and it does--I won't spoil it for you. But having the chance to root for these two people was uplifting. The writing is gorgeous. I always feel this way about David's books, but TLD is different. It's so very poetic. With few words, the author had me hoping, wishing, wistful at times but above all laughing. So many moments in here rang true with my direct experience. That's my very favorite thing about the book: It speaks to so many of us, man, woman, gay, straight, human. It's a wonderful gift to us, to be able to see ourselves in a romance so heartfelt--and so cinematic. David's language is evocative. His characters are our friends, and I was blessed to spend time with them. Truly a lovely work of art, and a terrifically fun read too. I think it's the kind of book I might just get up the courage to read aloud with my wife--maybe after a beer or two. Thank you to David Levithan for putting the brakes on my cynicism for a night, for giving me one of the most rewarding reads I've had in a while, and to FSG for publishing such a beautiful work of art.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked it. I loved the way it told stories through the definitions of different words. This book is one I would definitely recommend reading and it is such an easy read.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read a few books written entirely in dictionary entry format and thoroughly enjoyed them so was curious to read this one about love and relationship. Just what words can explain love, make it knowable to people beyond the two involved together? Written alphabetically, the story is not presented in a linear fashion and the main characters are not named. The assumption is that the lovers are a man and woman (a pregnancy is mentioned once although whether facetiously or not is debatable). There are other small clues scattered throughout the text about the realities of the relationship as it develops, endures, stumbles, and ultimately ends. Some of the words Levithan uses to describe the couple and their life together are mundane while others are emotional. And the definitions illustrating each word can be surprising, truthful, and clever. The writing here is well done and smart but there's a distance in the narrative that makes it hard to connect viscerally with the tale being told, to share in the giddiness of new love or to share in the outrage of betrayed love or to experience any of the mountains or valleys between these two. The focus is entirely on the two unnamed characters together, not on history and so a complete picture of either of them never quite gells. And without a completeness in character portrayals, there can't be a completeness about their relationship either. A slight, quick read, this is very much a private rumination, thoughtful, and reflective but there's something missing, some part of the heart that would have elevated it from good to great.
esquetee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Heard about this book in a few different places, found it on the New Books shelf at public libraryAfter reading so much magic realism, I think the only way I could have enjoyed a regular old troubled love story was to find it wrapped up as a dictionary. Levithan simultaneously apologizes for the weaknesses of the form while also showing off its strengths. There is a story here but that takes second billing to the snapshots created by each "entry" - it's like reading a collection of postcards that the writer has sent to himself over a period of two years. He has shuffled the postcards so they're all out of order, and now we're sitting on the living room floor flipping through them before they go back in their box. p. 120 "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." (from: ineffable)
AngelaCinVA on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. While at times it had me laughing out loud, it was also a poignant look at pain and betrayal. The format, a dictionary of terms related to love defined by episodes in a specific relationship, was interesting. It disrupted the narrative flow of the story, but I still got a sense of the ups and downs of a relationship over time. I liked the way certain scenes repeated in different definitions, each time showing a different aspect of the experience. I got a real sense of the lingering and recurring strain that one partner¿s cheating can have on the relationship. I also liked the way that Levithan shows the ups and downs of being a couple but that with commitment to stay together it can work. I wasn¿t blown away, but it was an enjoyable read.
DJLibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When it comes to writing in a fresh and unique way, I'd have to say David Levithan takes one of the top prizes. How many would think to write a story in the form of a dictionary? I definitely commend Levithan for delivering such a story that made for quick and enjoyable reading.That being said, while it was a fresh manner in composing a story, it did have a few confusing moments. At times it felt as though the narrator was backtracking in the story, but I didn't always know where this train of thought was backtracking to in the timeline. I felt this sometimes disrupted the overall flow of the story, but that could have been Levithan's point. Life and relationships cannot be viewed as completely linear. There are always bumps and caveats we hit on the road.The narrator appeared to be a very sensitive soul, and when they connected with their partner, I could feel the open warmth between them. When some issue arose (usually involving an infidelity), it was clear how hurt both characters were. In spite of this infidelity (or infidelities?) the two never seemed to break apart from each other despite their bumps in the relationship road. Who knows where they will be in the end because relationships are always changing.I thought The Lover's Dictionary was a great means of telling a story about life, love, and the trials people encounter while traversing both. While I'm not sure that I would read it again, I would say it is worth checking out from the library.
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a quick read, easily done in one or two sittings, written in dictionary format. In it, the reader catches little snatches of the relationship & dialogue from the writer's (man's) point of view. It's very original & although you see only little pieces of the writer's relationship, it does give a fairly realistic picture. Somewhat hard to describe, but very moving.
jkienzle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's the story of a man meeting a woman and falling in love with her and moving in together told though dictionary entries. I thought it was a fun read (and very quick) though I found it hard to feel really invested in it. Also, I kept hoping the guy would break up with the girl--not sure why. Creative way to tell a story, though it felt more like a short story than a novel.
fastaxion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
How can you describe love? Is there any one word that can summarize it? David Levithan does exactly this in his book The Lover's Dictionary: A Novel, by using different words in the dictionary the character gives meaning to love not by the words definition per say but by the meaning each word conveys to a particular circumstance or feeling. Some of the entries in this book made me smile and others made me sad, love is only the accumulation of different words combined to depict a picture of a relationship such as is done in this case.
jennzee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Lover's Dictionary is a fast read. Because of how the book is set up, with one word and its following definition to a page, it's size is deceptive...I finished it in two sittings, during a lunch break and the following evening, as I couldn't wait to get back to the story. While it is a fast read, it is a good one. The narrative is full of rich and delicious moments, sentences that beg to be read out loud and over again, words that capture the feeling of falling for someone, pining for someone, wrapping your life up in someone else...and even having your heart broken. At first I was obsessed with knowing the characters--who is who, which one wrote which entries, all of that--but about a third into the book, when I had picked up on their voices a bit, I found myself just reveling in their story. Their story is simple, real, powerful and painful. We only get glimpses, moments, but it's enough to feel like it's a picture of two lives that have, for better or worse, become intertwined.Now, I feel like I would enjoy the book more reading it a second time. I would linger over the passages more, enjoy the phrasing, re-read the words that meant the most. Levithan has written an engaging book, one that I recommend whole-heartedly.
ditzeedancr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love David Levithan! He once again shows off his amazing talent in this book. It will make you want to laugh, cry, and say "awwwwww". A must for anyone who is even slightly romantic. :)
MeganZ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved the short entries and the alphabetical arrangement. Levithan does a great job of telling a story by just giving pieces and the leaves the ending without a concrete understanding. Reading a book about love from the perspective of a man is always refreshing.
framberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Levithan's most recent romance is slight, but I have a feeling I may revise my rating stars as the book grows on me (much as I did with Love is the Higher Law). This is a quick read, the story of a relationship told in dictionary entries, the brief entries revealing and obscuring the two individuals and their shared story. If the story were told in a traditional narrative format it would be ordinary, maybe even trite, but Levithan's creativity with format refreshes it and creates a level of mystery and poignancy that would otherwise be absent.
jakehlyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Lover's Dictionary is a sweet, moving relationship story told in an interesting and unique format. I was really surprised I how much I enjoyed this book and that I connected with the characters given that the entire story is told through short, anecdotal entries of alphabetized words. But somehow Levithan makes it work and creates a lovely little novel that's worth visiting more than once.
pocketmermaid on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing, absorbing read. It took embarrassingly longer to read than it should have. So heartbreakingly real. Simplistic and complicated, both, at the same time. Just like love.
Kassilem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Someone had mentioned this book a few years ago to me and I sort of just scoffed at the idea of writing a book with a dictionary layout. How would you be able to really tell a story that way? Well, my brother picked the book out for our book club so I picked a library copy up and set it on my bedside bookshelf. Then, last night I picked it up and tried a few pages just to see. My reaction was I couldn't believe I hadn't picked it up before now. I forget sometimes how much I like David Levithan's books. While the idea of writing a story with a dictionary format is far-fetched, it works wonders here. I'm not sure yet if it's because it's the first of its kind that I have read or if it's just Levithan's writing but this really hit a cord for me. Because how do you describe love? These short glimpses show all aspects of the relationship between the two characters, the good, the bad, the important, the unimportant. To me it showed all aspects of a relationship. It's a short piece and easy to get through but at the same time deep. I absolutely loved it and believe that whether your gay or not, everyone should read this at least once in their lives. I'm taking this to my roommates and demanding that they read it.
jcwlib on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got to hear David Levithan speak in January at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. I've heard of his previous books, but have not read any of them. I just happened to be walking by the Macmillian booth on the exhibit hall when David was signing copies of this book. I thought the concept for this book was interesting and decided to get a signed copy while I had the chance.As vocab is not one of my strengths, I read about 50 pages of this book without a dictionary next to me and realized that if I was going to "get" the definitions as written by Levithan, I needed to understand the main definition of the word. The reader is not given any background on the couple featured in the definitions, so it felt like you are reading someone else's diary. It was hard to follow the "happenings" within the couple's relationship because the events weren't chronological due to the alphabetical listing of the words and definitions. I was surprised that some of the definitions overlapped for multiple words. I'm curious how Levithan came up with the words for the entries. Here are some of my favorite entries from the book: blemish, n The slight acne scars. The penny-sized, penny-shaped birthmark right above your knee. The dot below your shoulder that must have been from when you had chicken pox in third grade. The scratch on your neck - did I do that? This brief transcript of moments, written on the body, is so deeply satisfying to read. dissonance, n Nights when I need to sleep and you can't. Days when I want to talk and you won't. Hours when every noise you make interferes with my silence. Weeks when there is a buzzing in the air, and we both pretend we don't hear it. punctuate, v Cue the imaginary interviewer: Q: So when all is said and done, what have you learned here? A: The key to a successful relationship isn't just in the words, it's in the choice of punctuation. When you're in love with someone, a well-placed question mark can be the difference between bliss and disaster, and a deeply respected period or a cleverly inserted ellipsis can prevent all kinds of exclamations.
JackieBlem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book. It truly is told in the style of a dictionary--a word and then a short explanation of that word as it relates to the unnamed male narrator and his unnamed girlfriend. The "definitions" are sometimes a single sentence, sometimes a paragraph, a few are a page long. They are spare and poignant. I teared up at some, laughed at others, and experienced vivid memories about being in similar situations and having similar emotions. I re-read a lot of them because I loved the way he was able to describe an emotion or a moment--he really cuts to the heart of something with just a few words. The story in not chronological, which makes it a sort of puzzle to put together--a delightful puzzle. This isn't a happy story, nor is it a sad story--it's the story of two people in a relationship with ALL of its emotional currents. It's moving, brilliant, and a book I could not recommend more sincerely.
readingdate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In David Levithan¿s first book for the older than young-adult crowd, we follow the ups and downs of a relationship as told through short dictionary entries. The nitty-gritty of coupledom is explored from first meeting to moving in. This is a short and sweet chronicle of a relationship, and falling in love.I have enjoyed David Levithan¿s writing in the books he has co-authored with Rachel Cohn and John Green. This is the first I have read that he has authored alone. His familiar writing style shines through in this book, and solidifies my admiration of his work. I also think the cover art suits this book perfectly with the words contained in a heart shape.The narrator is an unnamed male and the story is told in dictionary style from A-Z. One word per page is chosen and includes the parts of speech as in a dictionary. This becomes the starting off point to describe an event in the relationship. It is fun to read the creative words he chooses for each letter and see how the story relates. I even learned some new vocabulary words in this book.Starting out, I was not sure that it was going to be easy to follow the story in this format of short entries. However, the emotions and feelings of the characters come through well and the story works in this format. It is interesting that sometimes a new word entry will revisit or continue a scene discussed within a previous entry. At first I thought I was re-reading a page before I realized that the scene was expanded.The good, the bad and the ugly moments are included in this intimate look at relationships. The writing is observant and sharp in documenting the day-to-day life of adjusting to being a couple. I enjoyed this insightful, quick read and recommend it for fans of David Levithan¿s books and fans of contemporary fiction. Although this book is written for adults, I found it shelved in the Young Adult section at the library. I urge you to seek out this moving and honest portrayal of love and relationships.
dancingstarfish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿I spent all this time building a relationship. Then one night I left the window open, and it started to rust.¿Alphabetical entries line the pages of this book in an exploration of love. Heartbreak, boredom, devastation, tenderness, pure contentment; every aspect of a relationship is explored in bite sized doses. When I first glanced at this book I wasn¿t sure if definitions were enough to really create a story I would enjoy, but I admit I loved it from the first page.¿You fell quiet, gestured for me to listen. The sound of the woods, the feel of the air. The wine settling in my thoughts. The sky, so present. And you, watching me take it all in. Naked to the world. The world, naked to us.¿The smallest details of relationships seen to be examined with care and recorded according to their correct word. Annoying habits. Sweet silent exchanges. Fighting. Families. The feeling of being lost, even when you¿re in someone¿s arms.This little gem of a book is a must own for anyone who loves writing filled with beautiful imagery and eloquent moments. I am happy it has a place in my bookshelves.¿Finally, I said. Its over.¿
Lisahgolden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There were passages in this novel by David Levithan that I had to read aloud to my husband. There were passages I read and reread because they were so poignant or interesting or so fabulously written. There were passages that I wished I'd written or that, at the very least, I had the skill to see, to be that observant, to connect a simple act with something poetic. There passages that made me laugh out loud. There were passages that were like a mirror. There were passages like a punch to gut or a slap to the head. There were passages that left the bad taste of guilt on my tongue.
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well-respected teen author David Levithan tries something different in this novel created from entries in a dictionary. First date? It was "aberrant" or they both behaved in an "aberrant" manner... How they met? On the internet--it was a "fluke"! "Flagrant"--"I would be standing right there, and you would walk out of the bathroom without putting the cap back on the toothpaste."Through definitions, Levithan tells the whole story--the little every day things of their love, the doubt when they feared it wouldn't last. A fast read, and a surprisingly affective one.