1. If you need to be reminded of your own strength, read Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.
This book — a compilation of Strayed’s best work as “Dear Sugar” advice columnist at The Rumpus — is an insightful, courageous, and brutally honest reminder that we’re all made stronger by our hardships.
2. If you can’t stop obsessing over “what if,” read The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver.
In a sort of modern take on the choose-your-own-adventure format, Shriver presents the reader with two parallel universes — one in which protagonist Irina McGovern gives into temptation, and one in which she doesn’t — and shows that comparison between the real and the hypothetical is largely futile.
3. If you’re looking for stories that will make you feel better about your own, read Self-Help by Lorrie Moore.
Moore’s nine stories — touching on infidelity, trust, passion, and mortality — range from vaguely optimistic to downright depressing while maintaining the thoughtful, personal, and often funny tone that makes you feel like you’re just commiserating with a friend who’s had it worse than you.
4. If you want permission to just sulk for a bit, read Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding.
It’s so widely read (and, of course, widely watched through the movie adaptations) for good reason: Bridget Jones as a thirtysomething single woman who isn’t ashamed of the fact that she wants to be in a relationship, but also doesn’t want it so much that she compromises her self-respect; it’s realistic, refreshing, and hilarious.
5. If you’re feeling disoriented and want someone to commiserate, read Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Lahiri’s second short story collection gives us characters confronted by change and feelings of alienation — in issues of home, identity, family, and love — and shows how we adapt accordingly, in time.
6. If you can’t shake the feeling that you will never get over it, read A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood.
A day in the life of a man who’s still reeling from the sudden death of his boyfriend reveals all of the pain and banality of picking yourself up after tragedy — but more importantly, the enduring ability to do so.
7. If you’re looking for redemption, read This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz.
Díaz’s Yunior, the adulterous protagonist at the center of this short story collection, has left a trail of broken hearts behind him. Whether you were on the giving or receiving end of similar wrongdoings, reading about his losses is an effective form of catharsis.
8. If you want a renewed belief in the power of love, read The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith.
Feeling like you need to remember that love can conquer? Lose yourself in a story of two women who fall in love and run away together, and who quickly realize that they can’t evade their previous lives and obligations.
9. If you want to laugh about what an idiot your ex is, read I Don’t Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner.
Julie Klausner has dated a LOT of jerks, and she wants you to laugh about them all (and learn from her mistakes) in these insightful, explicit, and hysterical essays.
10. If you want to ruminate about the past and your patterns, read High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.
The story of record shop owner and notorious commitment-phobe Rob Fleming, as he deals with one breakup by analyzing those that came before it, is equal parts infuriating and enlightening.
11. If you want to get psyched about diving back into the dating world, read Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin.
Maupin’s 1970s San Francisco (which he explores in this six-book series) is exciting, sexy, and optimistic, filled with love affairs and one-night-stands that prove dating can be fun and breakups don’t have to be tragic.
12. If you want to witness endurance and perseverance, read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love as teenagers in Nigeria, but never forget their young passion even after both struggle through separate ex-pat lives in the U.S. and the U.K., respectively.
13. If you’re just trying to make sense of it all, read The End of the Story by Lydia Davis.
How do you find the meaning in an ended relationship? That’s what Davis’ protagonist is trying to figure out, as she revisits memories and analyzes her past in an effort to create a narrative.
14. If you need to see that romance is just one messy, wonderful aspect of an already rich life, read The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon.
Recent college grad Art Bechstein’s youthful adventures — not least of which involve some sexual exploration — will make you excited for your own romantic freedom, however complicated and entangled it can become.
15. If you’re looking for the artistic or intellectual value of infatuation, read I Love Dick by Chris Kraus.
In a controversial novel that is somewhere between fiction and autobiography, one woman’s obsession with an art and culture theorist leads to a series of self-revelatory letters and meditations on art, feminism, anxiety, and desire.
16. If you need a reminder that it’s never too late for a fresh start, read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami.
Murakami began long-distance running in his thirties, and he uses this decades-long passion as a lens through which he examines his victories, his pitfalls, his decision to become a writer, and the monumental ways in which his life improved after middle age.
17. If you want to feel better about falling for someone you knew was bad for you, read I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell.
Part tragedy and part comedy, Kilmer-Purcell’s memoir chronicles his time as a drag queen, and his rocky relationship with a man whose red flags he decided to ignore.
18. If you want a reminder that you’ve always been fine on your own, anyway, read Never Have I Ever by Katie Heaney.
Katie Heaney (BuzzFeed’s very own!) recounts a love life full of false starts and mishaps in this funny, touching, and uplifting memoir that proves the single life isn’t a bad one.
19. And if you just want to forget it all, [re-]read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.
Instant, foolproof happiness.
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