This whole "new year, new you" thing has never felt so relevant — especially with your newly single status for the first time in a while. You've just separated for good after a period of tumult. And you're looking for a little bit of solace in all of the haze. I get you. I totally, totally do.
Break-ups can often be a lonely experience, particularly if you relied on your ex-partner for most of your emotional needs. And while well-wishing friends and relatives might be doing their best to comfort and support you, sometimes you really need to get advice from someone who’s been through what you’re going through.
Reaching over to your bookshelf is one of the few ways to make things suck a little less — or at least help you make sense of it all, you know? As James Baldwin once wrote, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.”
Here are 12 books that'll give some context to what you're probably feeling right now, regardless of what you're looking to read. Whether you’re a fan of memoirs, self-help, or just something funny to take your mind off things, take a scan through some of these titles, and find something that'll give you an extra boost when you need it most:
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Probably the best book on divorce ever, Heartburn is an autobiographical novel about what happens when the main character finds out, seven months pregnant, that her husband is in love with someone else. The book is essential reading for divorced romantics — Ephron manages to capture beautifully in the novel how it feels to fall in love, knowing the risks, and get burned anyway. And, hey — six years later she wrote When Harry Met Sally . How’s that for a happy ending?
Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You by Susan J Elliott
Since its publication in 2009, Elliott’s book has become Amazon’s bestselling self-help book on divorce. The author herself divorced her first husband and remarried happily — the detail most readers look for when looking for an expert on divorce. Elliott popularized the no-contact rule and also developed "inventory" writing tasks to help readers focus on why you are better out of the relationship. Even if you're a little skeptical on self-help books, it's worth a gander.
It’s Called a Breakup Because it’s Broken by Greg Behrendt
The comedian and creator of He's Just Not That Into You returns with more no-BS lit. It's mean, it's rough, and it relies such wisdom as “you can't make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t” — but it’s also practical, charming and full of heart. It’s a best friend of a book, perfect for if your real BFF is more than a phone call away.
Too Far to Go by John Updike
No one wrote adultery like Updike, but he could never have mastered that subject without also nailing marriage. In his remarkable foreword to the stories, he writes: "That a marriage ends is less than ideal; but all things end under heaven, and if temporality is held to be invalidating, then nothing real succeeds." If you have scorned the sugary taste of self help in favor of rich prose, this is for you.
Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation by Rachel Cusk
For readers who want a book that can take you by the hand through worst parts of your breakup and say "me too," Cusk writes an unflinching analysis about the first year of her separation. Baking a ludicrous cake, feeling lonely at a carol concert, and getting a lodger to help pay the missing half of the mortgage all fall under her scrutiny — perfectly recreating the alien feel of the world after a breakup.
Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds
Where self-help and memoirs fail to comfort, Olds’ award-winning collection of poems steps in. Moving and simple, it is a powerful response to the end of a long marriage. The rhythms of the poems themselves and the collection as a whole, have a healing pattern — they elucidate and transform the experience of a divorce from a split to a conclusion.
Season to Taste, Or How To Eat Your Husband by Natalie Young
Bored by her marriage, Lizzie Prain stoves her husband’s head in with a spade and finds a neat way to dispose of the evidence. One of last year's funniest narratives that bloomed in a similar vein of Gone Girl, the gory story was inspired by Roald Dahl, Louise Bourgeois, and the author’s own divorce. Read it to inject some humor (and horror) into your day — and don’t forget to leave it somewhere your ex might see it.
The Divorce Diet by Ellen Hawley
Abby has a baby, gets dumped, and moves back in with her parents. This new Eat Pray Love-plotted novel is about discovering what you love after divorce knocks you onto your ass. Decidedly pulpy, this escapist tale will inspire you to find your own passion (and look at the silver lining of moving back in with your folks).
Split by Suzanne Finnamore
Structured around the five stages of loss, Finnamore’s memoir of divorce begins in her beautiful kitchen, above which her 1-year-old son is asleep. What follows is a funny (and practical) guide to divorce, and the allies you need to help you survive a breakup. Order a copy if you need to talk, but don’t know yet who to turn to.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Between the yucks, Poehler’s newly released collection of essays includes a chapter on her divorce from Will Arnett — one highlight of which, is Louis CK’s remark that “divorce is always good news, because no good marriage ever ended in divorce.” Her writing is funny and frank — a perfect read if you can’t manage a spiky divorce memoir right now.
Women, Food and Desire by Alex Jamieson
If you’ve fallen out of love with your body, sex life, or appetite, grab Alex Jamieson’s new not-a-diet-book. By teaching mindfulness of the body, the food-addict-turned-coach wants to help readers work out the emotional reasons behind their cravings. She untangles the reasons why women suppress their needs and desires, so if like she did you’re craving meatballs and red wine despite swearing vegetarianism, you can find out how to stop eating your feelings and start dating again.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed collected her best “Dear Sugar” advice in one book. Most of it will make you cry, not least “A New, More Fractured Light” (aka “Wanting to leave is enough”). Wild, the story of Strayed’s own divorce, has just arrived on the big screen, but crying at the cinema is probably not your thing right now. Read this collection for a big fat catharsis, and the kind of quotes you will want to have tattooed.