A painful breakup is one of the worst feelings in the world. No breaking news there… We wouldn’t know from experience, but we’re guessing it’s more painful than kicking heroine. It’s the result of a beautiful thing though: the fact that for a significant period of time you have cherished the presence of an other human being in your life, in a very intimate way. There’s no escaping the pain, but there are ways to make the hurting a little less rough, and more enriching. Yes, yes, a breakup can enrich your life and give you more insight into who you are as a person, what makes you tick, what your needs are, how you communicate those needs, and how much (too much?) or how little (too little?) you value other people’s needs. It’s definitely one of the more painful milestones on the road to self-discovery.
One way to speed up the healing process, is to take story vitamins. Huddle under a warm blanket or the rays of the sun and find out you’re not the only one dealing with this shit. And never underestimate the catharsis effect of stumbling across some lines that capture exactly what you are feeling.
This wouldn’t be project authenticity, if we’d advice people to read books we haven’t read ourselves, so here goes:
Essays in love, a novel, Alain De Botton
One of the better books to get wrapped up in the experience of falling in love, falling out of love, and… falling in love with someone new.
The Reader, Bernhard Schlink
Ah, the life altering pain of a first love that gets shattered, for no clear reason. As a bonus this book racks your brain with certain moral dilemmas. Mainly though it’s a book about love. About still loving or at least caring for someone, even if they may not deserve that love, long after the initial attraction is but a faint memory, that is somehow engrained in the body. The body always remembers, doesn’t it?
Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney
That time after a breakup where you think you might bumb into your ex every time you round a corner, at every party you go to, basically any time you show your face outside of your increasingly messy home that looks like it was clusterbombed with heartache.
When a breakup also takes the fire out of you at work. When you are wandering around aimlessly, like a stray dog sniffing every carbage can for a trace of love… A cocktail of desire, ambition, nostalgia, self-reflection, stumbling on insight and getting severely bruised in the process, until, ever so reluctantly there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
One Day, David Nicholls
The book doesn’t have the greatest plot in the history of romance. Ok, that may be so, but the chemistry between the two main characters is all too real. Especially on the part of the female character. It’s a story about hubris on the one hand, and sucking up your pride to get on with life, on the other hand. Mainly it’s about that little je ne sais quoi that goes on between two people. When this rare vibe happens it’s a magical thing. Attraction between two strangers is perhaps the last piece of magic in this world, without having to get lost in the intricacies of string theory or black holes.
The secret diary of Adrian Mole, Sue Townsend
Raging emotions. When we laugh at Adrian’s teenage misery, we mainly laugh at ourselves, because it’s all way too familiar.
The dying animal, Philip Roth
This tale comes with a warning: your own limiting beliefs can undo the most beautiful relationship you’ve ever had. Also: is man capable of feeling something more stormy, more besieging, more humbling, more enslaving than what he experiences when he looks at a beautiful woman? I think not.
I am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe
A dilligent girl who was handed a mighty collection of brain cells, but was born somewhere close to the bottom rung of society, goes off to college. She’d have only smooth sailing in front of her, if the sweet and sour taste of love didn’t have such a tantalizing allure. (And if some people didn’t think they were better than others just because they have more money)
Love’s executioner, Irvin Yalom
Because it’s so healing to get a front row seat to take in the drama of other people’s emotional struggles.
The post-breakup era is one of the best times to go to work on yourself. This book offers the toolkit to do some much needed renovations.
Pick-up artist literature
Now, give this a chance, I know it sounds crazy, but: books written by pick-up artists can take the edge of your sorrow, whether you’re a man or a woman. It will show you how scripted the process is in which men and women fall in love, whether we like that fact or not. It will make you forget that there can only be one person in the world for you. A lot seems to depend on how people meet and what is said and done in the first couple of hours or even minutes after two people meet. Pick-up artists are masters in turning that initial contact into something more. They ‘escalate’ the contact. If it can all depend on some controllable factors whether an encounter becomes a relationship, then what are you worried about? Perhaps you haven’t lost your soul mate, but you have -for some reason- turned someone into your soulmate based on certain pre-programmed reflexes…
Someone else is going to come along! Keep your eyes open. Some good ones in this genre are: Get inside her, The game, by Neil Strauss (Certainly not the book if you want to truly master seduction, but a hilarious account of how totally artificial, desperate, yet effective in the short term, seduction techniques can become…), Models, What women want and how to give it to them.
Novels I haven’t read yet that presumably could do the trick:
High fidelity by Nick Hornby
Eat, pray, love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
Up Island, Anne Rivers Siddon