Breakups are never easy. But sometimes they seem impossibly difficult to overcome. The thing is, they aren’t.
Everybody feels a little lost after the dissolution of a serious relationship — a relationship you truly believed was with your soulmate. That’s normal. Grieving, raging, pleading — this is all normal. But after all that, we still need a little bit of help to remember who we are. That we are not defined by our partners. That a broken heart is universal and has been around forever.
Having recently gone through a bad breakup myself, and dealing with it partly by immersing myself in books (while downing a bottle of Cabernet), I realized I found solace in fiction novels and sci-fi tales like The Golden Compass, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones series. I wondered what books my friends read after finding themselves in similar situations. Here’s what they told me:
(Ok, fine, I don’t have 13 close friends, but I do have several close friends, and a bunch of coworkers, and also friends of friends, ok?!)
13. If We Ever Break Up, This Is My Book by Jason Logan
What’s it about? A guide to post-breakup recovery in the form of a scrapbook full of advice tidbits and drawings.
“I stumbled on this book while walking unshowered and defeated through the bookstore by my house, and it was exactly what I needed at that moment. I sat down and read it all the way through and still bought it afterwards. It’s so easy to get through, and before I knew it, I was laughing myself into hysterics. So much of what I found inside hit the nail right on the head, and it felt like talking to a close friend more than anything else.” -Kemisha, 27
12. Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak by Writers Famous and Obscure
What’s it about? Hundreds of true tales dealing with love and loss, six words at a time.
“I never realized six words could be so powerful. It took me like, a half hour to get through this book and I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say I felt every single range of emotion available to the human psyche. It’s one of those books I know I’ll pick up and read over and over.” – Jena, 36
Quote we love: “Don’t trust a man who waxes”
11. Him, Her, Him Again, The End of Him by Patricia Marx
What’s it about? Former SNL writer and current New Yorker satirist Patricia Marx penned a hysterical and semi-autobiographical tale of one woman’s ten-year obsession with her first love, who is a total jerk.
“A story about the worst dude ever (obnoxious, cheating, arrogant) and a woman’s fixation on him, despite her being far too intelligent, capable, and independent for his terrible ways. I loved how Marx’s protagonist was sort of pathetic at times – I definitely related — and how her characters experienced emotions without having to explain why they felt that way. Also, it had me literally laughing out lout into my pint of Phish Food ice cream.” – Justina, 27.
An aside: Justina would also like readers to know she doesn’t like Phish, “it’s just seriously the best Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor.”
10. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
What’s it about? Chabon’s debut novel deals with a young man trying to figure out his sexual identity while dealing with complex, adolescent relationships with friends and family.
“It’s almost hard for me to put my finger on why I loved this book so much I read it twice after my terrible breakup. There’s something about Art’s insecurities and lack of confidence that is so innocent and endearing, and when he falls in love it’s easy to fall in love along with him — even though you know it isn’t going to last. Also it has these really cool Great Gatsby-esque and Catcher in the Rye vibes about adolescence and young love, which I adore.” – Georgia, 24
9. Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
What’s it about? “A housekeeper with a long-hidden secret from her past…one that tests her own will to survive.”
“I didn’t consider myself a Stephen King fan until I read Dolores Claiborne. This story has it ALL (trigger warning), murder, rape, incest, alcoholism, abuse…but ultimately, it’s about the strength and resilience of women. Talk about putting things in perspective!” – Lindsay, 29
Quote We Love: “Sometimes you have to be a high riding bitch to survive, sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hang on to.”
8. Flaming Iguanas by Erika Lopez
What’s it about? Tomato Rodriguez embarks on a motorcycle trip across the country; “A story in that combines all the best parts of Alice in Wonderland and Easy Rider as Tomato crosses the country in search of the meaning of life, love, and the perfect post office.”
“Ok, this book is just straight up FUN, which I hate as an adjective, but whatever. It’s undeniable. It’s got these funny drawings and these really profound life truths embedded into an insanely funny story about this chick named Tomato Rodriguez who decides to take a motorcycle trip across the country. Except she doesn’t know how to ride a motorcycle. And she’s a bisexual WOC just like me, which was rad. Basically it distracted me from my hellish breakup and truly reminded me that all I need in this world is my own damn self.” – Veronica, 29
Quote We Love: “The more you’re aware of anything, the worse off you are in the long run because you have to live with yourself.”
7. Personal History by Katharine Graham
What’s it about? If you’ve seen The Post, then you’ve seen the captivating tale of Katherine Graham. This Pulitzer-prize winning memoir is about perseverance
“Wow. Just…wow. Katherine Graham was the first female publisher at a major newspaper (The Washington Post) so you can guess how much of a badass she had to be. But besides that, she had to overcome so much freaking trash its seriously a miracle she survived, let alone thrived. She is seriously my new role model.” – Priyanka, 25
Powerful quote: “What I essentially did was to put one foot in front of the other, shut my eyes, and step off the ledge. The surprise was that I landed on my feet.”
6. What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories by Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman
What’s it about? 58 stories about really sh*tty boyfriends.
“I felt sooo f*ckin’ stupid for refusing to see all the red flags in my relationship. Mainly that the scumbag was cheating on me and barely doing a job of hiding it. But somehow, these women made even dumber decisions, which made me feel better. We’re all on this stupid world living these same stupid experiences with stupid men. Also, every one these stories left me straight up cackling.” – Kristy, 31
5. Love, Loss and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman
What’s it about? A pictorial autobiography for adults about a life told through (fabulous) clothes.
“Ok, so this book is about the clothes Beckerman wore throughout her life, complete with illustrations, which sounds boring. But it isn’t! It’s a powerful memoir viewed through the lens of fashion and how transformative fashion is and can be. Beckerman keeps getting dumped by all these guys, but in the end life is about the future, not the past. It’s easy to forget that sometimes.” – Leila, 30
4. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
What’s it about? After a painful divorce and love affair, the author falls into depression. To recover, she decides to do something drastic: She gets rid of all her belongings, quits her job, and takes a yearlong trip around the world.
“I know, I KNOWWW, this is like, the stereotypical breakup-go-to-Italy-learn-to-make-ravioli or whatever book, but it’s seriously the go-to breakup book for a reason. I cried, which, granted, I’m more prone to crying these days, but it also has a happy ending and sometimes you just need that, ya know?” – Emily, 24
3. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
What’s it about? Pop music junkie Rob gets broken up with by Laura, who could’ve been the love of his life. He turns to tracking down the “top 5 women” who broke his heart.
“As a music nerd and a recently broken-up-with person, this book was exactly what I needed. Even though the main character is a dude, I related so much with the way he filled his head with facts rather than feelings, the way he escaped into his world of music and struggled to be a real human being. It’s actually so much better than the book, and it sort of forces you to wonder whether, like Rob, this breakup even makes it into your ‘top 5’ breakups.” – Leigh, 33
2. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age In The Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
What’s it about? Journalist Adrian Nicole LeBlanc followed two Puerto Rican girls over a ten year span, chronicling urban life, the glamour of being bad, and the insidiousness that is poverty.
“This book is heaaavy, but so beautiful, and so real that it really makes all your issues seem like small potatoes. It also follows these two Puerto Rican girls through all their decisions over 10 years. It made me realize how much things change from day to day and year to year. It gave me distance from my problems and made me realize just how much worse things could be.” – Allie, 23
1. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
What’s it about? Strayed is the once-anonymous The Rumpus advice-giver known as “Sugar.” This compilation of true stories, memoir, poetry, and straight up advice is a reminder that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
“If nothing else, this book made me realize that I’m not as alone as I felt in the wake of my breakup. Strayed has this way of pummeling into you how you are the only person responsible for your emotional well-being– but she does it in this very eye-opening and sympathetic way.” – Dawn, 34