7 Books About Breakups And Heartbreak To Read When You Need A Little Help Healing And Moving On
"The half-life of love is forever," or so Junot Díaz famously wrote in This Is How You Lose Her. (That book isn't on this list, because who wants to read about a cheating dude after a breakup?) Regardless of how I feel about its source, that brutal sentiment will ring painfully true for anyone who's just had their heart broken: When you're in the midst of a separation, it feels like you will never, ever stop loving the other person. Luckily, I can personally attest to the truth of that "time heals all wounds" adage, but unluckily, I can also personally attest to the truth of that "patience is a virtue" adage. And honestly, who feels virtuous after a breakup? So while you wait for patience and time to work their magic, I suggest you take matters into your own hands and nudge the healing forward by reading some books about breakups and heartbreak.
If you are anything like me, reading through these books will require that you carve out an entire afternoon for a good, long cry. But there's plenty of humor to be found in these books, and a lot of optimistic thinking about future love, too. Yes, all seven books deal with heartbreak, but more importantly, they deal with what comes after: the healing that makes you stronger, kinder, and braver — if you let it.
'Tiny Beautiful Things' by Cheryl Strayed
I will never stop recommending Tiny Beautiful Things. Going through a breakup? Read this book. Someone you loved has passed away? Read this book. Can't figure out what to do next with your life? Read this book. Feeling a little iffy about your brunch plans? Read this book.
Cheryl Strayed is the fairy godmother to an entire generation of readers, and her Dear Sugar columns are guaranteed to soothe your aching heart — no matter the cause of the hurt.
"You don’t need those people. By stepping aside, they’ve done you a favor. Because what you’ve got left after the fools have departed are the old souls and the true hearts. Those are the uber-cool sparkle rocket mind blowers we’re after. Those are the people worthy of your love."
'Juliet Takes A Breath' by Gabby Rivera
Trust me when I say that Juliet Milagros Palante is the discerning, vivid, and fresh voice you want in your head right after a breakup. After coming out to her conservative Latino parents in New York, Juliet books it to Portland, where she has plans to intern (and live) with Harlowe Brisbane, an author who's pretty much the expert on all things gay and feminist. Over the course of one summer, Juliet learns a lot about who she wants to be, what it means to be a queer brown babe, how to get over a heartbreak, and how to find the people and places that are "safe spaces" for her heart.
"You’ll meet people that you love who fuck up constantly. You’ll learn how to weed out the assholes from the warriors. You’ll know what groups of people to stay away from because they’re not safe spaces for your heart. You’ll learn when to forgive human error and when to eradicate the unworthy from your spirit."
'The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater' by Alanna Okun
Fair warning: Alanna Okun perfectly described how I felt every single time I've had my heartbroken. I didn't even read this in the midst of a breakup, and I still felt the emotional whiplash of one. In the titular "The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater," Okun splits herself open to write about one of the least talked-about (and most emotionally damaging) aspects of breaking up: the severing of the pre-established rules — the rules being, of course, that you won't hurt the other person. What do you do when suddenly "your person" isn't "your person" anymore? Okun doesn't have all the answers, but she certainly has a lot of lived wisdom to share, and maybe her book will inspire you to pick up a new hobby to work your way out of heartbreak.
"Just like I hadn't known what it was to be loved, I also hadn't known that the other person was allowed to stop loving you. And then one night at his house, he told me that he was sorry but he wanted to break up. I felt not so much sadness just then as shock — those weren't the rules. He was supposed to be on my team, be my person, not just decide to leave one day without giving me a chance to make it right. What was I supposed to do with all of these feelings, all this time, all this space in myself I'd set aside for him? How could I go back to being just me?"
'The Lover's Dictionary' by David Levithan
David Levithan's unusual book is a love story told from beginning to end through dictionary entries. It's concise, but the simplicity of it actually emphasizes the brutal truths that underpin this ill-fated romance. This is a book you'll want to quote to all your friends. Luckily, the unabridged version is on Twitter, so you can share all your favorite entries with friends (or subtweet your ex) with a few clicks.
'All About Love' by bell hooks
As can be expected, bell hooks' musings on love — external and internal — are brilliant and sage and (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on where you are in the healing process) completely actionable. Her definition of love (originally from M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled) is a quote to commit to memory and the heart: "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth."
"One of the best guides to how to be self-loving is to give ourselves the love we are often dreaming about receiving from others. There was a time when I felt lousy about my over-forty body, saw myself as too fat, too this, or too that. Yet I fantasized about finding a lover who would give me the gift of being loved as I am. It is silly, isn't it, that I would dream of someone else offering to me the acceptance and affirmation I was withholding from myself. This was a moment when the maxim "You can never love anybody if you are unable to love yourself" made clear sense. And I add, "Do not expect to receive the love from someone else you do not give yourself."
'Dear Future Boyfriend' by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
This one was personally recommended to me following a breakup, so I can attest to its healing power. If you want to wallow in your feelings, there's a poem that will perfectly articulate all those emotions. If you want to rage email your ex, there's a poem that will convince you not to, because it says all the things you wanted to say. If you want to dream about the possibility of moving on to someone else, there's a poem that will make you believe with your entire being that it is possible, that it will happen, that you will fall in love again.
"I can't believe I used to want to Sappho you, Jason
I used to want to Pablo Neruda you,
to Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller you. I used to want
to be O for you, to blow for you in ways
that even Odysseus's sails couldn't handle.
But self-imposed illiteracy isn't a turn-on."
'Heartburn' by Nora Ephron
No one wrote about love quite like Nora Ephron. And no one wrote about the loss of love quite like Nora Ephron, either. In this autobiographical novel, Ephron walks you through a breakup that is definitely not her own with humor, heart, and a whole lot of recipes. That's right — this book comes complete with all the wisdom you need to make it out of a heartbreak and a new hobby that just happens to result in delectable meals.
"Sometimes I believe that love dies but hope springs eternal. Sometimes I believe that hope dies but love springs eternal. Sometimes I believe that sex plus guilt equals love, and sometimes I believe that sex plus guilt equals good sex. Sometimes I believe that love is as natural as the tides, and sometimes I believe that love is an act of will. Sometimes I believe that some people are better at love than others, and sometimes I believe that everyone is faking it. Sometimes I believe that love is essential, and sometimes I believe that only reason love is essential is that otherwise you spend all your time looking for it."