Our Literary Lady is on vacation this week, so we’re bringing you a classic from the archives!
Dear Literary Lady,
I went through a bad breakup recently. Any advice on what to read to mend a broken heart?
—Sophie, Philadelphia, PA
They say that time heals all wounds, but what does one do while waiting for all that time to pass? Read. Abundantly.
I’m sorry to hear about your heartbreak, but I think it’s great that you’re turning to books to get over your ex. It’s one of the most underrated ways of recovering from love gone wrong. Pop culture would have us believe that one tweets, Tinders, and tequilas all over the place when our twosomes are torn asunder. According to rom coms, we’re supposed to eat ice cream while our mascara runs, call our friends sobbing, or enter into a string of misguided liaisons—all of which you certainly have license to do. But if you want a surefire DIY overhaul of your heart, literature is where it’s at. After all, people have only been writing about love and loss for thousands of years.
Here’s what I suggest if you want to read and not weep. (Or weep if you want, sometimes that’s good for you, too.)
1. Books about exotic places and travels.
You’ll realize how inconceivably big the world is, how much you have yet to experience, and how much you can experience without your no-longer-significant other. These books will inspire your own wanderlust, and maybe help you see that you were stuck in a rut with your ex. Even if you can’t escape to a tropical island with your best girlfriends, stories of faraway places can whisk you away from the everyday.
2. Books about love in other cultures.
Some of the greatest love stories ever written take place in other countries, cultures, and times, where the rules and social mores of boy meets girl are a little different. Reading about forbidden love makes you realize what a luxury it is to love whomever you want in this day and age. Who knows, perhaps reading Anna Karenina and Love in the Time of Cholera might just inspire you to get back in the dating game.
3. Books about other people going through breakups.
Misery loves company, and there’s no reason you can’t hang out with characters riding the same post-breakup roller coaster as you. Some breakup novels are comically on point, like Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, while others are raw and reflective, like Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her or Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without Men.
4. Funny Books.
“Always laugh when you can. It’s cheap medicine.” –Lord Byron. ‘Nuff said.
5. Nonfiction Books.
Want to avoid the subject of love and relationships entirely? One surefire way is to try something intellectually edifying. There’s compelling nonfiction out there with nary a suggestion of romance. The added benefit? You’ll learn something new, which already makes you that much more of an interesting, ever-changing person.
Whatever step of the breakup process you’re in, books are those great, nonjudgmental friends who don’t care if you’re single or not and will never set you up with their accountant. With books, you can bide your time getting over your ex while sharing in the wisdom of a hundred other lovelorn characters. There’s no better way than reading to experience love, romance, and heartache vicariously, until you’re ready to try again yourself.
Love and Paperbacks,