The fact remains: college relationships suck and not all of them last. The healing process starts earlier than you think and this fact stands as the most important part to remember when suffering from heartbreak via breakup. Whether you refuse to accept that the relationship outlived its course or you need help processing what even happened, good books can help heal the hurt.
After you cried on your best friend’s shoulder and ate an entire tub of ice cream, check out the 15 best books to read after a breakup.
1. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Every split breaks your heart, but your first one will likely hurt you more than any other. This collection of prose and poetry deals with violence, abuse, love and loss. “My break up with my very first boyfriend was earth-shattering for me, at least at the time,” Florida International University junior Yanely Avila said. You can find comfort in Rupi Kaur’s short yet powerful poetry. “The passages that spoke to me the most were about empowerment and learning how to find power in myself rather than depending on another individual to feel whole,” Avila said. Even if reading doesn’t comfort you, Kaur’s words help to build you up with an entire section dedicated to healing after suffering.
2. Call Me by Your Name by Andrė Aciman
A recent box-office hit, Call Me by Your Name comes off as a hopeful and worthwhile read if you feel as though you can never love again. Reading about a 17-year-old boy falling in love for the first time in Italy and having an epic summer fling checks all the romance boxes. Even the most heartless readers find something to relate to. A definite tear-jerker, Aciman tells the story of the beginning, end and future impacts of a first relationship. He reminds us that worthwhile love exists—a positive message to consider when hurting. Don’t lose hope during your time of need. Instead, read Call Me by Your Name.
3. Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Misery loves company, especially when it has to do with heartbreak. Heartburn sits on every list of books to read after getting dumped and for good reason. Written by When Harry Met Sally screenwriter Nora Ephron, this book follows Rachel, who gets dumped well into her pregnancy and heals through food—unbelievably relatable. Everything you need to know about bouncing back after a breakup sits in this book. Following her pain comforts you with a lighthearted tale of growth. Next time you have a snack, give Heartburn a read.
4. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Breakups get messy and happen for all types of reasons. Regardless of whether he broke up with you or you broke up with her, it stung. Tiny Beautiful Things practically force feeds you breakup advice in a collection of essays from Dear Sugar, an advice column on TheRumpus.net. Cheryl Strayed gracefully reminds us of our strength to keep fighting the pain. Reading a self-help book when you need a kick in the right direction makes perfect sense, so why not read about love and life?
5. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Leviathan
Leviathan tells a love story in a rather odd format: dictionary entries. Regardless, David Leviathan defines quotable with this book. See what I did there? With an alphabetical telling of a love story through dictionary entries, Leviathan highlights the highs and lows of a relationship. The simplicity of this book gives you a chance to take in the harsh truths of the characters’ relationship. Another quick read, The Lover’s Dictionary fixes and entertains you in your time of need by including brutally honest lines that hit close to home. With lines like “I want to take back the piece of me that lies in you, to see if I truly miss it” tweeting becomes easier and your heart heals a little faster.
6. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Reminder: being in bad company damages you more than being alone. Now that your boo left you, look to Clarissa Dalloway, the definition of a strong, independent woman. Rather than letting her husband do everything, she wakes up one day and decides to buy the flowers for her party on her own—revolutionary, I know. Virginia Woolf follows various characters’ physical paths around London and writes about their suffering giving you a fresh perspective on healing. Named one of the best 100 novels of all time according to The Guardian, Woolf knows how to talk about experiencing pain in a way that only makes you want to grow and improve. If you need someone to sympathize with, read Mrs. Dalloway.
7. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
This book tells you to get your life together and shows you exactly how to do so. When in a rut, starting fresh and cleaning out belongings from your time together does miracles for the healing process. Plus, cutting up pictures of an ex helps you blow off steam. Marie Kondo’s strategy literally gets rid of all the deadweight for you by inspiring you to do some much-needed spring cleaning. This self-help book tells you to throw out anything and everything that doesn’t bring you joy—that includes the old pictures of your ex. Get rid of all your old baggage, read this book and binge the show on Netflix.
8. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
This book teaches you so many things, but the fact that relationships fail because you didn’t ask for enough resonates the mos. Process what you did wrong in your relationship. Try not to blame your ex or the circumstances of your relationship. Jenny Han chronicles the beginnings of Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky’s fake and not-so-fake relationship. Lara Jean and Peter make the mistakes we all did as teenagers. “I read To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before in what felt like minutes because I kept needing to know how it ended and because I related to Lara Jean’s cluelessness in my first relationship. Knowing that Lara Jean and Peter get through the craziest of circumstances inspired me to get over my ex,” Santa Monica College sophomore Marta D’Ocon said. The second-hand embarrassment you get while reading this one gives you a serious reality check.
9. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Known for his quirky romance novels, such as The Fault in our Stars and Looking for Alaska, John Green paints young love in a different light in An Abundance of Katherines. Spoiler alert: Colin dates over a dozen girls named Katherine because he needed to be with a Katherine. Just like Colin, we all think we know what and who we want. Like Colin, it just so happens that we usually don’t know what we want. Prepare yourself for silly teen moments and plenty of heart from Colin and the Katherines that spark joy after your depressing breakup.
10. Harry Potter (Books 1-7) by J.K. Rowling
Marathoning Harry Potter movies happen often, but how often do you sit down and reread your favorite childhood books? Definitely not enough. The familiar feelings of happiness and nostalgia that come with reading about Harry, Hermione and Ron heal the pain of grown–up relationship problems. Rowling makes it so that you lose yourself in the story so much so that the trio becomes a quartet. “Every time I revisit the fictional world [of Rowling], I am overwhelmed with joy,” Williams College freshman Maria Estrada said. The wholesome, childish fun that comes with a classic fantasy story about wizards and mythological creatures definitely soothes an aching heart by embarking on Harry’s heroic story.
11. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Maybe your breakup left you a tad bit bitter. Elizabeth Gilbert gets it and gives you the happy ending you need to get through it. A change of pace and a new perspective may just act as the missing piece that your ex stole during the breakup. “As a self-pronounced foodie, I was immediately drawn to Eat, Pray, Love. After my last breakup, I was going through a rough patch and decided to pick the book up. I’d read a chapter while cooking one of the recipes, and I’d immediately remember that I don’t need a guy to live my best life,” Emerson College senior Angelika Menendez said. This memoir takes you on a soul-searching journey through Italy, India and Indonesia. If Gilbert can find herself after divorce, then you can find yourself after your breakup. Eat, Pray, Love fills your ex-shaped hole by putting you in the shoes of a new and improved independent woman.
12. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
Stop blaming yourself. Even if you messed up the relationship, you need to forgive yourself to get past it. Stay patient, though. Junot Díaz shows patience in her novel through a man that screws women over just for kicks. This collection of short stories reminds you that unless men realize their faults, they can’t get any better. If a boy broke your heart, realize that you have to get your heart broken a few times before you find a good one. The main character, Yunior, spends so much time trying to repair his relationships. The book tracks many of his relationships, his faults and his horrible attempts at fixing things. His experiences with cheating and questionable redemption help remind you that even though people change, you don’t have to be the one to change them.
13. The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks
Getting through your breakup can take you on a bunch of different journeys. You have to let all of the emotions out at some point. Never fear, The Wedding for sure gets the tears rolling. All while planning their daughter’s wedding, Wilson and Jane lose the spark in their relationship after years of marriage. This painful follow-up to The Notebook tracks Noah and Allie through their daughter Jane and Wilson. Nicholas Sparks writes from Wilson’s perspective as he tries to win his wife back. When reading this classic, as Wilson remembers after time apart from his wife, remember that you should fight for the people worth fighting for to gain in the long run.
14. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
So far, these recommendations tell you what you should do and that it gets better. Bridget Jones’s Diary guides you on what NOT to do when single and lonely through Bridget Jones’s life which she dedicates to losing weight, finding the perfect guy and building a career. For example, don’t offer to cook if you can’t make a single meal. Instead, make sure you throw yourself into positive things like your friends and family. Don’t stalk your ex or spend months threatening their new fling. It won’t do you any favors but Helen Fielding’s writing can with perfect examples of how to screw up.
15. How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
You dated them for a reason. After you scream, cry and eat your broken heart away, remember that you still have time to bounce back. Sloane Crosley’s collection of essays give insight into the realities of an adult’s life in New York City. Unlike the glamorous Sex in the City version, this book gives the brutally harsh version. Crosley reminds you that you should stay optimistic in times of hardship. Try channeling your experience into something big: a book, a song, or even a movie. There remain endless possibilities to uncover in How Did You Get This Number and in your life.