Breaking up with the love of your life is like going backward. That person who was next to you for years, whom you did everything with, and who was the first to know whatever you wanted to share, has now disappeared, so you find yourself back to square one. The worst part is that you feel as if you've gone backwards and people around forwards. They’re going on with their own lives and have no time to deal with someone who was left behind.
How to overcome a breakup isn’t something you’ll find in the pages of a book. Therefore, reading the books we’re mentioning won’t make you spontaneously forget that person who left, nor will they restore happiness in your life, but they can help you deal with the situation in other ways. Among optimistic, pessimistic, and even frightening interpretations, these books will show you love’s many faces, so that you can identify with each of them. Some of them show the growing love that only lives in your memories; others deal with the same situation you’re in, and some more will even show you the other side of the coin, that is, what your ex is dealing with.
These literary works –short stories, novels, and poems– will help you a lot. Although there are also many psychology books that explore the concept of love in a more theoretical manner, fiction can always be the best medicine to heal a broken heart.
The Post-Birthday World (2007) – Lionel Shiver
“It is never persuasive to argue that you are not the kind of person who does what you are actually doing.”
Everybody remembers the scene in 500 Days of Summer where Tom attends a party organized by Summer and the screen is divided between expectations and reality. This book goes beyond this idea and starts with a party in which the protagonist has the chance to cheat on her boyfriend. Then the story is divided in two realities: one where she does cheat, and the other where she doesn’t. It’s the perfect novel for those who wonder what would be of their lives if things had gone differently.
This is How You Lose Her (2012) – Junot Díaz
“You keep waiting for the heaviness to leave you. You keep waiting for the moment you never think about the ex again. It doesn't come.”
Yunior is Junot Díaz’ womanizer alter-ego. Through different short stories, we understand the problematic mind of a man suffering out of love but does nothing to change his situation. His stories land in reality, making anyone relate to those moments in which after fighting and solving issues for the thirtieth time, both simply remain quiet, since you know there’s nothing that can save the relationship.
High Fidelity (1995) – Nick Hornby
“What came first – the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person? People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands –literally thousands– of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”
Rock lovers now have a book to shelter themselves. Hornby is a musical and literary scholar who, besides giving you the perfect songs to cry and get over your ex, tells you a love story that goes from tragedy to romance. It’s not recommended for those who still hope to get back together with their exes but know it’s not going to happen.
Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) – Gabriel García Márquez
“He was still too young to know that the heart's memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”
This is perhaps one of the greatest love stories in history. The novel is based on how García Márquez’s parents fell in love, but the author adorns it with magical realism and drama as only a Nobel Prize winner can do. It’s a book that will make you see that you’ve lost the best of your life, but at the same time, you’ll get that perhaps your life is about to start.
Lolito (2013) – Ben Brooks
“I think the best way to escape your head isn’t to think about things that aren’t real, it’s to think about things that are and then imagine them happening to people who aren’t you.”
Lolito is a very odd suggestion for someone in this situation, but at the same time, it might be exactly what you’re looking for. Etgar manages to access his girlfriend’s Facebook account and find out that even if she didn’t have sex with someone else, she did other things with another boy at a party. Etgar’s world collapses the same way it happens to people who, without suspecting anything, find out something that makes their world crumble.
Instead of a Letter (1962) – Diana Athill
“People who have been happy in their first marriage are prone to be happy in their second. They're conditioned to affection and companionship.”
Diana Athill’s autobiography is a love letter to all those young women who feel lost. She fell in love with a pilot five years older than her; they got engaged, and when he was miles away from her, he told her the engagement was over and asked her to forget him. Before going back home so that she could confront him, he died. Athill shows us how to forgive, but also how to deal with rage and impotence when someone that important simply leaves you behind.
Conjunto Vacío (2015) – Verónica Gerber
“To forget someone one must become extremely methodical. Heartbreaks are some sort of disease that can only be cured with routine.”
It’s a book that includes the artist’s illustrations. It explores solitude and shows that our inner void is often caused by someone who took away our love, happiness, and even our identity.
Two Cures for Love (2008) – Wendy Cope
“You watch yourself
You watch the water too-
A ghostly figure on the garden wall
And one of you is her,
and one is you,
If either one of you exists at all”
Wendy Cope’s poems are hilariously beautiful. Besides showing you that your love isn’t as special as you think it is –since her words will make you see she has suffered more than you–, it’ll help you stop taking things so seriously. Finally, poetry to help you loosen up.
Los días del abandono (2002) – Elena Ferrante
“One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me. He did it while we were clearing the table; the children were quarreling as usual in the next room; the dog was dreaming, growling beside the radiator. He told me that he was confused, that he was having terrible moments of weariness, of dissatisfaction, perhaps of cowardice. He talked for a long time about our fifteen years of marriage, our children, and admitted he had nothing to reproach us with, neither them nor me. [...] Then he assumed the blame for everything that was happening and closed the front door carefully behind him, leaving me turned to stone beside the sink.”
One of Ferrante’s most important novels, Los días del abandono will show you that even the purest love can turn into nothing; it can go from the greatest passion to the most despicable indifference, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it.
Gone Girl (2012) – Gillian Flynn
“There's a difference between really loving someone and loving the idea of her.”
Finally, this book will make you want to drift apart that person with the high potential to become your partner. You’ll love the idea of being single, and not out of fright of getting your heart broken, but out of fear of being murdered, or at least of someone turning your life into living hell.
Don’t let sadness win the battle. Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional, and although these books will make you cry, after reading them you’ll be able to deal with the situation in a spectacular way.
There are many lessons to learn from literary works. You can read about the books that will teach you revenge only serves you to overcome sick jealousy, or the classics you should read if you want to be a literature know-it-all.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards