2.14.2017

VALENTINES DAY SPECIAL: 10 Books to Help You Survive a Breakup



Happy Valentines Day! If you're reading this you're probably single or considering being single quite soon... or maybe your significant other just sucks. Either way we're sharing some books we know will help. We're both very different post-breakups and this is well-reflected in our book choices (lol).


A few years ago I lent a guy I was hanging out with a copy of Chuck Klosterman's Fargo Rock City (2001) after his expressed interest. After we stopped hanging out he told my friends I lent him a self-help book to help him get over his ex and they still make fun of me for this all the time. I never got my book back. While that guy is a liar (nobody would suggest Fargo Rock City to help you get over an ex- it's subtitle is "a heavy metal odyssey in rural North Dakota" & I don't even know why I read it), I AM sharing a number of books today that do help me after breakups and that I hope will help you too. I hope you get over it soon, the guy is obviously a huge loser.

1. Eat Pray Love (2006) by Elizabeth Gilbert

Of course. I hate even suggesting this book because it's so obvious
but how could we do this post without it? For those of you who have been living under a rock, this is the true story of Gilbert as she leaves her husband, breaks up with her boyfriend, and travels to Italy, India, and Bali in a year 'finding herself'. I legit think this may have been the book that made people want to find themselves in the first place. There is a great movie starring Julia Roberts but I HIGHLY recommend the book if you're needing something through a breakup. There are so many truly inspiring passages that just couldn't be worked into the movie and they are so worth reading. I have read this multiple times in my life because it really does have the ability to instantly make you feel better.

"I have fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and I have hung on to the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance I have been a victim of my own optimism.” 

“I was full of a hot, powerful sadness and would have loved to burst into the comfort of tears, but tried hard not to, remembering something my Guru once said -- that you should never give yourself a chance to fall apart because, when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again. You must practice staying strong, instead.” 

Part of you will be pissed off reading this because she is just the LUCKIEST divorced woman ever who can get paid to frolick around the world for a full year and we don't all have that luxury, but we can dream...

2. Spinster (2015) by Kate Bolick

This was not my favourite book I ever read but I definitely think it  
would have picked me up out of a funk had I been reading it during a breakup. You read as the author, who is charming, and relatable (unfortunately not that funny), breaks up with her boyfriend because she isn't ready to settle down, and figure out if she can be happy in a world where she isn't part of a partnership. There are a lot of boring parts about women in history who motivate her (I'm not crazy into this kind of stuff) but they do have a good message. I also found that the author annoyingly tried too hard to be 'deep'... what do I know? I wouldn't say this is an easy read but as you start to search for happiness while you're single I think this would be motivational.

“Coupling, I realized, can encourage a fairly static way of being, with each partner exaggerating or repressing certain qualities in relation to the other’s.”  

If you're anything like me, you are happy to be alone but you want constant reassurance that you WILL BE HAPPY ONE DAY EVENTUALLY, and this book will at the very least give you that. 

3. Bridget Jones' Diary (1996) by Helen Fielding

It seems a trend that they turn the best books for breakups into movies I guess. Everyone knows this movie (and likely loves it) but
I think the book has been sort of forgotten about and it's amazing. Something that sucks about first person movie adaptations is that they can't really show all the inner thoughts in the movie even though those are the thoughts that make the story so great. The book is a diary entry style novel chronicling a year in the life of a single woman in England. British writers have the best humour and this book is so. frickin. funny. Bridget is an insecure smoker with terrible eating habits and annoying parents, so basically she is all of us really... It will instantly put you in a good mood, make you feel better about being newly single, make you appreciate your friends and family, and make you want to move to England. 

“Resolution number one: Obviously will lose twenty pounds. Number two: Always put last night's panties in the laundry basket. Equally important, will find sensible boyfriend to go out with and not continue to form romantic attachments to any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobic's, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits or perverts. And especially will not fantasize about a particular person who embodies all these things.” 

All the parts of myself that I hate relate perfectly to Bridget Jones' character so it's nice to just read this book and have a home for those qualities, and make you feel better about them. If you are sitting at home eating spoonfuls of Betty Crocker icing directly out of the tub this book will be perfect for you.

4. Tiny Beautiful Things (2012) by Cheryl Strayed 

I wrote about this book when I talked about Strayed's collected
works but it will 100% help ladies survive a breakup. It's an amazing collection of essays that range from the way we should let other people treat us to not worrying about the future to kindly asking guys not to spank you during sex if you don't actually like to be spanked. I love reading this no matter what is going on in my life but I find the last essay to be particularly comforting in "what the fuck is happening to my life" moments. 

"You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it."

I talk about this book a lot and recommend it in basically any situation but it is an absolute must read whether you're the happiest goddamn person alive or miserable trash (or both in a ten minute span like me sometimes).

5. It's Not Okay (2016) by Andi Dorfman

I didn't like this book very much but it will definitely be comforting
immediately post-breakup and it is super easy to read. I wrote about it more in it's own blog post but it's basically just one huge jab at her old fiancee Josh Murray and it's as though a teenager wrote it. Dorfman does go into detail about red flags in her relationship which were hard to see while she was in it, and you may be able to find similarities as you reflect on your own ex. For example, when men are mean to you that is bad (took me a while to learn that too). It also includes some cheesy extras like "ultimate breakup playlists" etc. which can be helpful or annoying depending on your mood. I thought the playlist sucked. 

Again, this is definitely not a great piece of writing but if you just got out of a relationship with a huge loser/liar/emotionally abusive asshole and want to give yourself a "look at me movin' on with my life doing what's best for me" couple of days in between sobfests, this will do the trick.


Honestly, the worst breakup I've ever had left me unable to eat for four days let alone pick up a book. But when it is 3 a.m. and I need to try and comfort myself with other people's failures and successes these are the books I go to. The most simple advice I've ever received was just that you will get better. And I'm sometimes sure this is true. My sister seemed to offer more realistic advice, being that you won't get better but you will get used to it. So, now that we are feeling optimistic... 

1. Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story (2005) by Chuck Klosterman

I used to read this book at least once a year. It makes you feel like you haven't dated enough people anyways and that you are going to be just fine. Killing Yourself to Live is supposed to be a "rock and roll odyssey" where Klosterman takes a road trip across America stopping at all the places rockstars have died. But the book really spends most of its time detailing his past and present relationships with three women: Diane, Quincy and Lenore. There are fights, ultimatums and pregnancy scares galore.

"We all have the potential to fall in love a thousand times in our lifetime. It's easy. The first girl I ever loved was someone I knew in sixth grade. Her name was Missy; we talked about horses. The last girl I love will be someone I haven't even met yet, probably. They all count. But there are certain people you love who do something else; they define how you classify what love is supposed to feel like. These are the most important people in your life, and you’ll meet maybe four or five of these people over the span of 80 years." 

The second half of this quotation is a bit depressing because in your disturbed mental state you will think you will never love anyone as much as the person who just destroyed your life. But I think Klosterman (who is much older and has experienced many more breakups) is saying that is absolutely not true. 

The ending is also fairly motivating for someone who is now recently all alone. It makes you feel like you are ready to be and that maybe it could have been your choice.

P.S. - Use this book as a screener for guys. If they say their favourite woman is Quincy run for the hills ... this man is clearly delusional and he is using you to try and make his life better.

2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (2012) by Cheryl Strayed 

This book will work for any woman. Cheryl Strayed went through so so much before she started hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Pushing the stuff with her mom aside, it's a great breakup story. And Cheryl wasn't just dumped, she was divorced. I think this book is also helpful for a very specific kind of breakup. Not one where it just happens out of nowhere, but one where it is dragged out and you both keep taking turns going back to each other ... where the break is certainly not clean. 


The biggest problem about reading this book, if you are a weak-willed loser like me who is way too easily swayed, is that you will start pricing hiking boots and a one-man tent almost immediately. You will start to consider quitting your job. 

A line I always think about whenever this book comes up is actually from the movie only.. Cheryl is on the phone with her ex-husband Paul talking about her trip when he says, "I'm sorry you have to walk a thousand miles just to..." He doesn't finish despite Cheryl prompting "Finish that sentence. Why do I have to walk a thousand miles?"  I don't know.. there is something about this self-punishment which is also relatable in any breakup. 

Strayed also writes a pretty inspiring and uplifting ending which will definitely drag you out of your personal hell for at least three hours. 

3. The Marriage Plot (2011) by Jeffrey Eugenides 

It is very like me to be completely comforted by a work of total fiction. But that is the goddamned magic of books so.. 

The book is supposed to be about this triangle between three college students Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell. But the relationship you're going to focus on is between Madeleine and Leonard. It is incredibly toxic and horrible for both of them. When I think about this book I immediately think about bipolar disorder, which is what Leonard is diagnosed with. I'm a bit nervous to even bring this up because I am so stupid, but I think it is very helpful to read when going through a breakup. So often I get caught up in trying to help the person I am with or am obsessed with the idea that "they need me." This often isn't the case. I'll also just quickly mention that even if it is, you are also responsible for yourself and your own happiness and need to pursue that... I cannot see the line between doing something nice for someone and bleeding myself dry for them. FRIG ... moving on.

"People don't save other people. People save themselves."

"He remained heartbroken, which meant one of two things: either his love was pure and true and earthshakingly significant; or he was addicted to feeling forlorn, he liked being heartbroken."

The other thing about this book is that again, the ending is "motivational." The theme with all these choices is that often the protagonist decides / ends up alone. And that is the sort of stuff I (someone who is terrified of being alone) NEED to read.

4. The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories (2014) by Marina Keegan

This mix of fiction and non-fiction is very different from the books I mentioned above. It doesn't deal with a breakup of any sorts, but there is still something about reading it that makes you want to work on yourself more. 

"What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over."

The author of this book is already dead. I think she died in a car crash. I like her book, published posthumously, so much because she isn't trying to inspire us. The collection inside is mostly random. The one's that come to mind are about a bunch of beached (and dying) whales by her home, an interview with an exterminator, and a short-fiction piece about being trapped in a submarine. 

"I worry sometimes that humans are afraid of helping humans. There’s less risk associated with animals, less fear of failure, fear of getting too involved. In war movies, a thousand soldiers can die gruesomely, but when the horse is shot, the audience is heartbroken. It’s the My Dog Skip effect. The Homeward Bound syndrome."

Still, her writing reminds you that you have time to do whatever you want. One of the first thoughts I had when I was dumped was "I'll move back to London." I mean, this was a one second thought I had and the rest were "HOW COULD HE DO THIS TO ME? I AM GOING TO DIE!!!" But I still had this thought almost immediately and I think about it all the time. The worst part about a horrible breakup is that you wish you were dead, the best part about it is thinking of all the things you're going to do for yourself. This book gets your thinking about what you want to do with the rest of your life ... and what you would do if you didn't have someone else to worry about. 

5. The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) by Joan Didion

I am barely going to write about this because I have somehow managed to write about Joan Didion and this book in every single blog entry I have ever done... BUT, this book is about GRIEF and DEATH, and isn't that exactly what a breakup is all about??

A notable section that may be helpful is Joan talking about her dead husband's shoes and how she keeps thinking he is going to come back and get them. This is something I struggle with a lot in breakups... all of the stuff. I got VERY fixated on my things when I was dumped.. I mentioned at least seven times that night, "but all of my things are here." 

I feel the same about the other person's stuff. If I even see one of their socks in my laundry pile days later I will break down. My best advice is don't put any pictures of your significant other up. Keep your space CLEAN of them. This will save you having to take them down when you break up. I may be a nasty pessimist, but you'll thank me later. 

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