At the very beginning of the summer, I went through a very sudden, very emotional break up. No matter what side of a break up you’re on–I was actually the one who initiated mine–there’s no getting around the harsh reality that ending a relationship sucks. I felt lonely and sad and even a little lost, in ways that even friends and family couldn’t always help. So I did what I always do in times of trouble: I turned to books.
The day after my break up I went on my bookstagram and asked people to recommend books they thought would help someone get through the end of a relationship. To my surprised I received many responses, both from IRL and bookish friends alike. Some of these recommendations were really helpful, while others were a bit too emotional for me to read right away. But what I started to notice more than the specific titles of these recommendations were the kinds of categories these books fell into. What I realized for myself this summer was that it was less about what I read (although that still played an important role) and more about how I read what I read. As a rule, I tried to stay away from romance novels or books that heavily featured couples; however, sometimes the circumstances in which I read a book superseded this rule. Seeing the categories themselves helps explain this discrepancy more clearly:
The first book I turned to after my break up was To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. This might seem counterintuitive–a book all about romance?!–but I had good reason for it. I watched the movie adaptation of this novel over spring break with some friends, so this book reminded me of that night and how fun that whole trip was. Although reading about a relationship did hurt a little, I found myself focusing more on the family aspects of this book. Remembering good times with my friends and traditions with my family made me more grateful for all the support I had, which was exactly what I needed in that moment.
I’m the kind of person who attaches emotions to music. Certain songs remind me of certain memories, and before you know it I’ve taken a sad, angry trip down memory lane. To avoid hearing certain songs on the radio or on old playlists, I listened to audiobooks on my one hour commute to work every day. From the magical adventures of Mary Poppins to the fascinating facts of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte, audiobooks are the perfect way to distract yourself when you need it most. Of course, you can only distract yourself for so long before you actually have to deal with the issues you’re trying to avoid, but sometimes you just need a quick coping mechanism like this to make it to work without an emotional crisis. And that’s okay.
Books that aren’t about people
The first physical book I turned to after my breakup was Watership Down by Richard Adams. Why? Because I needed to read something that wasn’t about humans, who I was desperately frustrated with at the time. Sometimes you just need to not deal with people, and reading books about rabbits, aliens, robots, or any other non-human creatures ends up being the perfect remedy.
Sometimes it helps to look at things from the perspective of someone younger than you. Back in the day, the tiniest problems seemed like the end of the world. Chances are that years from now you’ll look back on this breakup and it will be just another page in a big book of pages, just another thread in the scarf of life (just look at that knitting metaphor…). This summer I particularly enjoyed reading Mary Poppins Opens the Door by P.L. Travers, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, and The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.
Memoirs (preferably those written by empowering women)
I LOVE reading memoirs. Especially memoirs of strong, powerful, inspiring women. In fact, I recommend reading many of such memoirs in the aftermath of a breakup. Not only do they give you an important sense of perspective, but they also remind you that all lives are tumultuous journeys with countless ups and downs. Things might suck in the moment, but you never know what tomorrow will bring. A few of the memoirs I read this summer include Becoming by Michelle Obama, My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, and I Might Regret This by Abbi Jacobson, all of which I highly recommend.
Read books with other people
I don’t normally buddy read books because I’m generally so busy that I just read whatever, whenever. But this summer I was feeling a bit lonely after graduating (and the breakup…) so I reached out to some friends (old and new!) to see if people would like to read something together. I buddy read The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien with Mary Drover and The Stand by Stephen King with a friend from college, and it was so much fun. It’s nice to remember that even with reading–perhaps especially with reading–you’re never alone.
Now, you’re probably saying: What?!?! Holly, this is exactly what I’m trying to avoid!!! And yes, this is true–at first. For the first two months after my breakup I steered CLEAR of romance in any form. I didn’t listen to romantic music, or watch romantic movies, or read romantic books. But once I was feeling better, I decided that I should probably dip my toes back into it eventually. I started listening to some music, then watched some rom coms, and then finally read The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen. I had read it before so I knew it was a good one to read (SPOILERS because she ends up single) and I felt so much better after reading it this summer. It’s good to remind yourself that not all romance is bad.
I hope this post is helpful! Nothing like some good book therapy to get you through a breakup. What books would you recommend to someone going through a breakup? What do you think of the books that I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!