There’s nothing quite so comforting, in the dismal days after a terrible breakup, as seeking solace in the pages of a good book. Sure, friends are great, too—but a book will never clap you on the shoulder and sternly tell you to “buck up.” It won’t say, “You’re better off; I never really liked him anyway,” or, “That’s it, change out of those ratty sweatpants, we’re going out dancing and you’re going to have the time of your life and I will NOT take no for an answer!” (Note: if a book does say this to you, you may require more serious intervention.)
No, a book will simply offer up its lessons and wisdom, without comment, for you to glean what you will from them—and that’s why I’ve often found that the best companion, when you’re in the early throes of a bad breakup, is a great book.
There are many different kinds of breakups, so below you’ll find a wide variety of books to cater to your every brokenhearted need.
The “I’m Better Off On My Own Anyway” Breakup:
It’s My F—ing Birthday, By Merrill Markoe
The protagonist of Markoe’s book is a sharply funny, occasionally hapless high school teacher who, starting in her late 30s, begins writing an annual letter to herself on seven consecutive birthdays, in which she takes stock of her life and works to untangle her dysfunctional relationships with both her parents and a string of good-for-nothing boyfriends. Markoe, a long-time writer for the David Letterman show, paints a smart, acerbic, and ultimately realistic portrait of a woman who gradually discovers that yes, she can be happy all on her own.
The “I Guess It Could Always Be Worse” Breakup:
I Don’t Care About Your Band, by Julie Klausner
Author, podcaster, and all around hilarious human being Julie Klausner has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to dating (but mostly the latter two), and she writes about it in an unflinchingly honest, sometimes excruciating, but never boring collection of essays on the trials and tribulations of looking for love in some really terrible places and from some really awful people. You’ll laugh, you’ll wince, you’ll feel grateful that you (hopefully) haven’t dated any of these types; if you have, you’ll nod ruefully and salute Klausner with a box of Thin Mints.
The “My Life is in Shambles” Breakup:
Sex Tips for Girls, by Cynthia Heimel
This is the book I save for those Atom Bomb breakups—the ones that leave you feeling as though you’ve been torn in half and set adrift in the wreckage of your miserable life. Heimel is one of my favorite authors, and her witty, kind, no-nonsense voice offers the kind of comfort and advice you need when nobody seems to know what to say to make you feel better. She’s been there, she’s survived, and she’s here to lead you through to the other side, to make you feel understood, and best of all, to teach you how to poke emotional tragedy in the eye and laugh.
The “I Need to Hear Some Love Horror Stories Right Now” Breakup:
Winner of the National Book Award, by Jincy Willet
Winner of the National Book Award is a dark, twisted journey exploring the rocky relationship between twin sisters who could not be more different—one is a voluptuous sexpot, the other a prickly spinster—and the sinister man who both unites them and tries to come between them. Bad idea, guy. It’s also a terrifying look at a marriage so warped, you’ll thank your lucky stars for your singleness.
The “That’s it, I’m Moving Home Forever And Never Dating Again” Breakup:
Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White
This collection of disarmingly sweet stories is written by a former schoolteacher who lives in a ramshackle house in South Georgia with her mother. Very few of the stories remotely revolve around romance (which will give you a well-deserved breather!), as White appears patently uninterested in relationships and dating, but they are all beautiful, thoughtful, piercingly funny vignettes about colorful characters and Southern living. You may have heard White’s lyrical voice on NPR’s All Things Considered, but now it’s time to fall in love with her writing as well.
The “Well, Isn’t That Just Grand” Breakup:
My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One Night Stands, by Chelsea Handler
Sure, you’re sad about your latest breakup, devastated even, but if you’re entirely honest with yourself, you’re also just the teensiest bit excited at having an excuse to wear sweatpants and wallow in your own crapulence while devouring an entire box of Birthday Cake Oreos and binge-watching eight seasons of Bob’s Burgers. So maybe you don’t exactly need cheering up, but you’re in the mood to laugh—and this no-holds-barred collection of stories about Handler’s raunchy sexcapades will do the trick. Sometimes mean, always funny, these essays are a reminder not to take yourself too seriously—even (or especially) when nudity is involved.
The “Life Goes On” Breakup:
The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, by Jill Conner Browne
As a devoted connoisseur of all books heartbreak-related, I’m not sure how I let this one slip through my fingers for so long; I only read it recently, and I definitely could have used its wisdom years and years (and a number of boys and men) ago. The Sweet Potato Queens are effervescent, unflappable, down-to-earth, and hilarious, and they condense their many years of romantic experiences (good, bad, and meh) into a gem of story collection about love, loss, and friendship. This book made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me want to be a Sweet Potato Queen. (Seriously, y’all, they have their own parade float!) You’ll see!
What’s your favorite post-breakup read?