No matter who ultimately decided to call it quits, breaking it off with a fling, partner or spouse sucks. And if you’re still reeling from the loss, diving into a good book can be the best medicine. Here are the 14 books that helped us through our very worst breakups.
14 Books to Help You Get Over the Breakup from Hell
1. when Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times By Pema Chodron
For some breakups, a pint of Chubby Hubby and watching Bridget Jones’s Diary a few times is sufficient. Others are so earth-shattering that you need the help of an actual Buddhist nun to help you put the pieces back together. And Chodron, who was married with children before becoming ordained, has been there. Through the story of her breakup, and meditative practices to incorporate into your own life, this book is the literary equivalent of a month-long spiritual retreat.
2. tiny Beautiful Things By Cheryl Strayed
Strayed’s popular advice column (and subsequent podcast) Dear Sugar is officially retired, but her sweet words live on in Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection her best, most heartfelt wisdom. Not all of the advice seekers are writing in for breakup help, but Strayed’s patient, sympathetic guidance is like a hug from your best friend. (Well, if your BFF were extremely smart and absolutely incredible with words.)
3. the Year Of Magical Thinking By Joan Didion
Let us guess: You could use a good cry right about now. Grab a box of tissues and dive into Joan Didion’s opus on grief and loneliness, written about the sudden deaths of her husband and daughter. It’s not exactly uplifting in the traditional sense, but there’s nothing like it if you need a good wallow.
4. social Creature By Tara Isabella Burton
While some breakup victims prefer to soak up the mopeyness, others want to think about anything but their disastrous love lives. If this is you, grab this present-day retelling of The Talented Mr. Ripley, featuring barely-tolerable (in a good way) millennials in the New York literary scene. Think Anna Delvey meets the A.J. Finn article in The New Yorker. Ex, who?
5. dear Mr. You by Mary-louise Parker
The Emmy, Tony and Golden Globe winner knows a thing or two about devastating breakups—her ex-boyfriend Billy Crudup famously broke things off while she was seven months pregnant. Because she’s classy, she doesn’t actually mention Crudup by name in her book of unsent letters to the men in her life, but an emotional chapter called “Dear Mr. Cabdriver” shows her at her most vulnerable. We hope she found it as cathartic to write as we did to read.
6. the Witch Elm By Tana French
You could hop a plane to Portugal, start a new life in New Orleans…or you could transport yourself to a completely new world through the pages of Tana French’s new novel. This psychological thriller has a slow burn, with most of the action taking place at the extremely creepy Ivy House, where protagonist Toby goes to convalesce after a violent assault. And the best news? If you get sucked in, French has the equally compelling six-book series Dublin Murder Squad waiting for you.
7. the Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself By Michael Alan Singer
If a rough breakup makes you want to wander out into the forest and ponder the meaning of life, toss this philosophical read in your backpack. Spiritual teacher Michael Singer’s book isn’t about breakups, per se, but as you explore what it means to be truly conscious, it might help you realize that your crashing and burning relationship isn’t such a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
8. dear Future Boyfriend By Cristin O’keefe Aptowicz
Let’s face it: When your eyes are bleary and your nose won’t stop running, sometimes you can only get through a couple of pages at a time, even if it’s a really great book. This quick collection of early poetry by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is just what the breakup doctor ordered, including the sweet and sad “Places I’ve Never Been Kissed” and “Ex-Boyfriend,” which includes the gem of a line, “I want to kill you with gasoline and cheesecake.”
9. bad Blood: Secrets And Lies In A Silicon Valley Startup By John Carreyrou
Sometimes, it’s comforting to read about a blazing dumpster fire that’s a billion times more messed up than your own. Carreyrou’s fascinating investigation into the wrongdoings of the infamous Silicon Valley biotech start-up Theranos will make your life feel like an episode of Leave It to Beaver in the best way possible.
10. it’s Called A Breakup Because It’s Broken By Greg Behrendt And Amiira Ruotola-behrendt
OK, this one is a little cheesy and outdated, but hear us out. Sometimes—especially when you’re feeling weepy and vulnerable—a heaping order of cheesy is exactly what you want. The husband-and-wife duo behind He’s Just Not That Into You is back with a no-nonsense guide to ditching the dude and “reclaiming your inner SuperFox.” (Yep, we told you.)
11. the Girl You Left Behind By Jojo Moyes
Told by two very different women across two time periods, this novel by Jojo Moyes (Me Before You) is a great way to forget about old what’s-his-face for a few hours. The book alternates between the story of Sophie Lefèvre, a Parisian woman whose husband is fighting in World War II, and Liv, a British woman a century later, whose husband has recently died…oh, and did we mention she owns a portrait of Sophie? The plot thickens.
12. how Did You Get This Number By Sloane Crosley
If reading about other people’s awkward breakups brings you joy, look no further. Crosley’s most recent essay collection—especially the parts about her exes—rings true. "Every restaurant suggested was one I'd been to with Ben," she writes. "Horribly insensitive friends marked their own birthdays with celebrations, re-signed leases in his neighborhood, used words with vowels that he also used." So been there, Sloane.
13. the Power Of Now By Eckhart Tolle
Existential types, this one’s for you. We’ll try not to blow your minds here, but for the uninitiated, Tolle’s book is an exploration of consciousness—he proposes that the only thing that’s real is this present moment. When you focus on the past and the future, that’s just your brain trying to play tricks on you. We’ll let you sit with that for a second (and if it sounds intriguing, give it a read).
14. a Single Man By Christopher Isherwood
This oldie-but-goodie from 1964 explores a day in the life of George, a middle-aged English professor who is grappling with his own life after the death of his partner, Jim. While the same-sex relationship was shocking when it was published, this one is worth a second read today for its sad and sweetly funny perspective on moving on after lost love.