Valentine’s Day, Schmalentine’s Day. Inspired by Daniel Handler’s new novel, Why We Broke Up, I decided to come up with a list of books to read if you just ended a romantic relationship.
Why We Broke Up, a 2012 Printz Honor Book and BookPage’s Children’s Top Pick for January, is the story of a breakup told through the items Minerva collected while she was dating Ed. In BookPage, Heather Seggel described it as “a beautiful story, but also soul food for dark times.”
What is your soul food for dark times? Let us know in the comments. (And share your own breakup stories on the Why We Broke Up Tumblr page!)
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver (Harper)
This deliciously long novel makes for excellent reading if you’re going through a breakup—or if you’re still looking for The One—because it shows you how life can change in a single moment. (So perk up, why don’t you—who knows who you’re going to run into on that subway!)
Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell (Random House)
Some people might think I’m crazy for recommending this tearjerker to a person going through a breakup, but I have my reasons: This is an engrossing story of a powerful friendship between two women, and it can be refreshing to read a book that portrays a meaningful, non-romantic relationship. The memoir is about how Caldwell became friends with Caroline Knapp, and what happens after Caroline is diagnosed with terminal cancer (no spoilers; you know from page one). I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard during a book, so if you’re looking for catharsis . . .
The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan (FSG)
From A-Z, The Lover’s Dictionary tells the story of a relationship through dictionary entries. (Example: Fluke (n.), “The date before the one with you had gone so badly—egotist, smoker, bad breath—that I’d vowed to delete my profile the next morning. Except when I went to do it, I realized I only had eight days left in the billing cycle. So I gave it eight days. You emailed me on the sixth.”) It’ll make you feel wistful, sad and hopeful about the search for love.
Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner (Simon & Schuster)
Jennifer Weiner’s debut novel had its 10th anniversary in the spring of 2011, and it’s just as funny and empowering as ever. What happens when a guy breaks up with a girl—and then writes a magazine column called “Loving a Larger Woman”? If anything, this hilarious book will make you feel good your ex didn’t go to a national mag with your story (let’s hope). More than likely, it’ll make you feel happy to have a new friend in heroine Cammie Shapiro.
MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche (Ballantine)
This memoir is about a 20-something woman who moved to Chicago to be with her husband, then realized she was missing an important slice of the pie of her life: a best friend. If you’re sick of reading about romantic dates, you’ll love this heartfelt and charming story of the search for true friends. (And hey, if you don’t have the perfect significant other, maybe you’ll remember that a BFF is pretty darn significant in its own right.)
What Was I Thinking?: 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories, edited by Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman (St. Martin’s)
The title here says it all. These funny (and eye roll-inducing) bad boyfriend stories will remind you that you’re not the only one who’s had a lightbulb moment that made you realize he’s just not Mr. Perfect. You’ll no doubt start to think of your own breakup story as fodder for happy hour with your best friend—not cause for agony.
Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: By Writers Famous and Obscure, edited by Larry Smith (Harper Perennial)
Perhaps your breakup will lead to creative expression: How would you describe your breakup in six words? The examples here range from the sweet and sad (“She owns my heart, always will”) to the funny and terrifying (“He posted our sex tape online”).
Agonizing Love: The Golden Era of Romance Comics by Michael Barson (Harper)
Because sometimes love is agonizing and that’s just the way it is. We interviewed Michael Barson about his book on 1940s and 1950s romance comics, and my favorite answer responded to the question: Is love always agonizing? He says, “In my experience, yes. Because if it isn’t you that’s doing the agonizing, then the other person probably is. The real question is, would we really have it any other way? The empirical evidence of the past 100 years suggests the answer is no.”