A sex and relationships editor reveals her favorite books for broken hearts
Reading is one way to keep yourself busy after a split
Unlikely sources like Edith Wharton to Monica Lewinsky can soothe a break-up
So it’s over, huh? I’m sorry. Here are some books to feed your heart and keep your brain/hands busy so you don’t pour yourself a big glass of Jose Cuervo and battery acid.
1. “Him, Her, Him Again, The End of Him” by Patricia Marx
Seriously. Read this. Realizing that the guy you’ve wasted time on for years is a vacuous, pretentious douche nugget is actually kind of funny, and Marx proves it. A satirist who writes for the New Yorker, she’s confessed that the book – about an unnamed, neurotic college girl who spends 10 years pining for a pretentious PhD student – is based on her own experience with her own unnamed douche nugget, which is probably why it feels SO right.
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2. “This Is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz
The lovelorn main character routinely screws over the women he’s dating, but you can’t help but like him a little bit, since he’s one of those inimitable Diaz protagonists. It’s snappy and fun to read, and the final story will remind you that men need to realize they’re assholes before they become non-assholes, which sometimes takes awhile.
3. “Ethan Frome” by Edith Wharton
A departure from Wharton’s normal New York society jam, this sad-as-hell stark and beautiful novella is about a man with a sickly wife living in a small town who falls for her pretty young caretaker. It does not end well. People have worse lives than you. Now go change out of those sweatpants, muchacha.
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4. “I Don’t Care About Your Band” by Julie Klausner
I’ll let Ms. Klausner, a comedian and successful podcaster, sell this for you.
“As a kid, I took my cues from [Miss] Piggy, chasing every would-be Kermit in my vicinity with porcine voracity and what I thought was feminine charm. Remember how content Kermit was, just strumming his banjo on a tree trunk in the swamp? That’s the guy I’ve chased my whole life, killing myself trying to show him how fabulous I am. Kermit never appreciated what he had in Piggy, because she was just one great thing about his awesome life. I wonder how many guys from my generation looked to Kermit as an example of what the coolest guy in the room looks like. How maybe they think it’s fine to defer the advances of the fabulous women they know will always be there, while they dreamily pursue creative endeavors and dabble with other contenders.”
GAH, IT’S JUST SO GOOD.
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5. “Monica’s Story” by Andrew Morton
Yes, that Monica. You might feel like it’s confusing that this book is on the list, but not only is it “Scandal”-level entertainment (and real life!), you also look back at the 1998 scandal in a totally different way than you might have. She was 22 and infatuated with a manipulative married man. Sure, he also happened to be the most powerful guy in the free world, but the story is more relatable than you might think. I felt stuff.
6. “Dolores Claiborne” by Stephen King
Not for the faint-hearted. A blue-collar housekeeper in a police station, being questioned about the murder of her longtime employer, an eccentric and wealthy elderly woman – and that’s just where it starts. The heart of Dolores’ story is the actions she takes when her drunk, abusive husband rapes their young daughter. It’s a chilling book but showcases the resilience of women, even those trapped in unbearable circumstances, in a really powerful way.
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7. “Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson
Connected tales of a small town and its residents, who are mostly lonely and sexually repressed. Not as bleak as “Ethan Frome,” but similar deal, except the female characters are more human and complex.
8. “The Position” by Meg Wolitzer
This novel tracks a suburban family, whose mother and father published a “The Joy of Sex”-style book of sex positions with paintings of themselves as the models, over a period of about 20 years. The book became a cult success, and their children (two girls and two boys) grow up in its shadow. It depicts adult relationships in a very realistic but still interesting, way – and the character of Holly, the older girl, is fascinating.
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9. “Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age In The Bronx” by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
This sprawling reported non-fiction book is so absorbing that you’ll forget about all your problems. LeBlanc, a journalist, captures the tiniest aspects of the lives of two teenage Puerto Rican girls as they grow up in a bad neighborhood, have kids young, and one ends up in prison for working as a mill girl for her flashy heroin-dealing boyfriend. (At the end of the book, they’re in their late twenties and mid-thirties; LeBlanc spent 10 years basically living with their families.) But LeBlanc doesn’t condescend to the women, nor does she criticize their choices. She simply observes and reports, and her dedication shows that she truly cares about breaking the cycle of poverty.
10. “How Did You Get This Number” by Sloane Crosley
Crosley is like your smartest, funniest female friend, who articulates all the delights and inconveniences about being a young, ambitious woman in a big city that you’ve always felt but never known how to explain it. The last essay, “Off the Back of a Truck,” is about Crosley’s relationship with a guy who secretly had another long-term girlfriend at the same time. The girlfriend eventually finds Crosley in the guy’s phone (under “Doug”) and calls her. It’s really rough, and it articulates the steps of breakups in a way that will confirm you’re not insane for wanting to smack everyone who asks, “How long were you dating?”
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