Everyone knows the five stages of grief and loss that accompany a breakup. First there is denial: This is actually happening ... you're now single ... life has taken just a slight turn toward the darker. Then there is anger, typically felt toward that jerkface who did the dumping. This stage is followed by bargaining: Maybe if I take up a new hobby or cut off all my hair or consider an open relationship, he'll take me back! At the very least, life will become more interesting! This period of optimism is followed closely by depression. And finally, at long last, there is acceptance.
It's a long, hard road to travel. I'm not gonna lie. Breakups suck the big one.
Luckily, there are books you can read at each stage of your loss and grief in order to ease your pain. There's no therapy like book therapy, and I'm not just talking about the lower price tag.
At a time when you don't want to see or talk to anyone (because cranky is an understatement, and also you'd like to wear your flannel pajama pants all day every day without judgment), books are there for you, allowing you to retreat into isolation while also providing a window into the outside world. If you're post-breakup and looking for help, here are 11 books to get you started on the road to recovery.
Under the Tuscan Sun
Okay. You’ve just been dumped. BUT! This could all be a huge misunderstanding. Maybe. I mean, when he said, “I need some time apart,” he may have just been referring to your Friday night plans.
Or maybe not. Maybe you are single again. But that need not be such a terrible thing! Now you finally have the opportunity to abandon all of your mundane responsibilities, and buy a villa in Tuscany, and spend your days eating olive bread! There’s nothing holding you back now! Read Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun for some life-changing inspiration.
Runner-up for the Denial stage: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.
The denial stage — so full of hope — is cruelly brief. What follows is anger. Which is the stage High Fidelity’s protagonist is in, at the opening of Nick Hornby’s book. Angry with his ex for dumping him, he attempts to hurt her by telling her that this breakup doesn’t even rate among his top five breakups. Of course, he doesn’t mean it, but we spend the rest of the book watching him come to grips with this reality.
Bridget Jones's Diary
Coming from the female perspective, nobody says “gracelessly handling the single life” like Bridget Jones. As you read about Bridget singing drunkenly and comfort eating and just generally making a fool of herself, think about her as that girlfriend you can really rant to, because she knows exactly where you’re coming from.
(Take comfort also in the fact that she’s on her way back to the big screen. Though we’re still not sure whether or not this is a good thing.)
Screw love! It only leads to … to marriage. And marriage is terrifying.
Or at least it appears to be in this dark novel by Gillian Flynn, in which a woman goes missing and her husband becomes the prime suspect.
The Skeleton Crew
The bargaining stage might mean a new hobby — looking for one that will take up an inordinate amount of time while also allowing you to remain in your pajama pants? You might be intrigued by Deborah Halber’s The Skeleton Crew, about amateur sleuths who spend much of their time online trying to solve cold cases.
Or maybe I just think this is a good idea because I’m obsessed with crime procedurals.
Whatevs. If you’re a fan of Serial, you might feel the same way.
MWF Seeking BFF
Or perhaps you should leave the house. Perhaps the key to getting him back is surrounding yourself with so many friends and having so much fun that your ex suddenly realizes the error of his ways. Rachel Bertsche’s fun MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend provides a game plan because, sometimes, making new friends as an adult is even tougher than finding a new boyfriend.
No. Not the genre of self-help. Rather, the collection of short pieces by every girl’s fantasy lit-girlfriend, Lorrie Moore, master of spare yet beautiful prose.
Why? Because you’ve hit the fourth stage: depression. There there. It will all be okay. Moore’s stories may not lead you to healing, but they’ll likely hit a nerve and, sometimes, in the wake of a breakup, it feels right to lean into that pain for just a little while.
Tiny Beautiful Things
Cheryl Strayed’s collection of advice columns from her stint at The Rumpus feels like a direct descendant of Self-Help, even though it doesn’t follow any sort of narrative. And is not fiction. And is actually a series of letters from an advice columnist to her readers. Shut up.
What feels similar to me is the depth of feeling behind the words. The way they make me cry. And crying can be cathartic, especially during this difficult time in your life.
Not all of Strayed’s columns are about love, but each one has worthwhile wisdom to impart.
A Rogue by Any Other Name
You’re almost there girl. You’re almost out of the woods, sliding into acceptance. First thing’s first. Reclaim your status as a sexual being, indulging in some self-love with some help from a piece of erotic fiction. I’m a huge fan of Sarah MacLean’s Rules of Scoundrels series. Start with A Rogue by Any Other Name and go on from there.
Next, discover your ability to laugh again, a skill that may have gone stagnant during the other stages of grief. Amy Poehler’s Yes Please has been getting rave reviews from readers. Other strong contenders in this department include Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.