Amy Poehler is full of sage—and hilarious—wisdom, but even she turns to pals for advice when it comes to situations as tough as divorce. In her book Yes Please, she writes, “As my dear friend and relationship sponsor Louis CK has noted, ‘Divorce is always good news because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce.’”
While that may be true, it’s often difficult to see any silver linings when facing your own crumbling marriage. It can, however, help to know that others have made it through and even come out better on the other side. We’ve rounded up some books about divorce and struggling through difficult times—fiction, memoir, and some self-help—that might just help guide you through.
Heartburn, by Nora Ephron
Going through a divorce means trudging through some dark days, but beloved author Nora Ephron managed to find humor and levity in her own split from her second husband, Carl Bernstein, through Heartburn, the autobiographical novel based on their relationship. In it, cookbook writer Rachel Samstat is seven months pregnant when she discovers her husband, Mark, is having an affair with a woman with “a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs.” Ephron serves up plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in less than 200 pages.
Paperback $14.95 | $16.95
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed
Sometimes adult problems like facing a divorce can leave you feeling like a lost child just wanting one of the real grown-ups to come in and tell you exactly what you’re supposed to do. Enter Wild author Cheryl Strayed—aka Sugar—the formerly anonymous online columnist for literary website The Rumpus. Blending self-help and memoir, Strayed advises readers on topics like sex, love, family, and grief in this collection of advice from her Dear Sugar column with compassionate insight and her own heartbreaking stories. Tiny Beautiful Things may not give you the solutions for your own unique situation, but it will offer the opportunity for a cathartic cry and even some hope for the future.
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
Sometimes an unfortunate situation leaves you with only two choices—to laugh or to cry. And inevitably when going through a divorce, you’ll find the need to do both at some point. When you’re ready to laugh, pick up comic genius Amy Poehler’s first book Yes Please, a collection of personal stories, lists, and even a haiku that’ll definitely put a smile on your face. Poehler doesn’t dedicate a lot of space to her own divorce from Will Arnett, calling it “too sad and too personal,” but the insight on splitting up she does offer will have you nodding right along with her as she writes, “getting a divorce really sucks.”
Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World, by Rita Golden Gelman
Getting a divorce definitely marks an end—the end of a relationship, the end of a direction you thought your life was headed in—but it can also mark the beginning of a new life like it did for author Rita Golden Gelman. In her memoir Tales of a Female Nomad, Gelman finds herself at 48 facing a divorce from her husband of 20 years. She opts to leave behind her lavish Los Angeles lifestyle, selling her possessions and embarking on a nomadic existence that leads her from a Zapotec village in Mexico, to the Galapagos Islands, to a palace in Indonesia. Gelman’s tale is an inspiring one about starting over and learning what it really means to live at large in the world.
How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over, by Theo Pauline Nestor
Theo Pauline Nestor’s divorce story itself isn’t that out of the ordinary—she confronts her husband about his massive gambling debt, not the first breach of trust she’s endured with Kevin but certainly the last as far as their marriage is concerned. It’s the approachable, raw, and even funny way she relives her story on the page and the revelatory doorway it opens into her family’s past that make her tale extraordinary. “I’m from a long line of stock market speculators, artists of unmarketable talents, and alcoholics. The higher, harder road is not our road,” she writes. “We move, we divorce, we drink, or we disappear.” Readers will see themselves in Nestor’s honest reflections and maybe even find some healing in the process.
Paperback $13.92 | $14.95
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, by Pema Chödrön
When life throws its worst at you, one of the main things you need above all else is for someone to grab you by the shoulders, look you in the eyes, and tell you, “You’re going to be OK.” And American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön has a knack for doing just that, with her teachings like those found in When Things Fall Apart. A collection of talks she gave between 1987 and 1994, the book doesn’t just offer sympathy—Chödrön gives readers useful advice and real-deal action items for what to do now and where to go from here, which is something we could all use in difficult times.
High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
Most breakup books focus on a woman left by/leaving a man, but Nick Hornby gives readers a fresh perspective in his novel-turned-film High Fidelity. Sarcastic and self-deprecating record store owner Rob Fleming has just been dumped by his girlfriend Laura, leading him to track down former girlfriends for a thorough examination of his five most memorable breakups. In this funny read, Rob discovers that what he seeks isn’t in his past—it’s what awaits him in the present.
What books would you recommend to help someone get through a divorce?