Love is a many-splendored thing, but sometimes it can also straight up stink. Since the beginning of time, we’ve had breakup songs, but what about breakup books that can help us sift through the pain and come out better by the last page? We all have those lyrics and artists we turn to when we need to vent, cry, or heal—so here’s a list of what books you should pick up, based on your favorite tunes.
If you listen to Back to Black by Amy Winehouse…
Just as there are few voices as recognizable as Amy Winehouse’s, there are few books as funny as Patricia Marx’s. Which is why HIM HER HIM AGAIN THE END OF HIM, an endlessly entertaining novel that follows a woman’s obsession with her first boyfriend, is the perfect literary companion to Back to Black. Both address an age-old question—why can’t we just let go of people and things we know are bad for us?—and try to provide the answer in words that are full of pain, honesty, and insight.
If you listen to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac…
If we’re being honest, this Fleetwood Mac masterpiece is probably the best and most beloved breakup album of all time (don’t @ me), composed during Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s dramatic divorce, and capturing the full, honest life cycle of their marriage through their own eyes. Lauren Groff’s hit novel follows a similar thread, telling both sides of the complicated twenty-four-year relationship between creatives Lotto and Mathilde with an intensity and intimacy that have made it a modern classic.
For fans of “The Affair”
There are two sides to every story—and the psychological drama “The Affair” explores that quite creatively. FATES AND FURIES is perfect for fans of dramatic romances told from alternating perspectives. At the core of this expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents a dazzling examination of a marriage over the course of 24 years.
If you listen to Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette…
Before there was Amy, there was Alanis. Jagged Little Pill shocked—and thrilled—listeners everywhere with its raw, unapologetic female viewpoint when it was released in 1995, much in the same way that Flynn’s bestselling novel captivated readers when it was published nearly two decades later and revealed the twists, turns, and manipulations in the fictional marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne when one goes missing on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary.
Some say she’s cold and unfeeling, calculating to a subhuman degree, and basically totally nutso. I say Amy Dunne is just a smart, sensitive woman in a man’s world, frustrated by patriarchy, down with to-do lists, and dedicated to the fine art of revenge! This powerhouse of a novel sees crime writer Gillian Flynn come into her own as a dramatic storyteller in full command of her many gifts.
Crazy like: A fox! Amy is a hottie!
Best crazy moment: The box cutter. ’Nuff said.
If you listen to 21 by Adele…
Most people have read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, but some have (wrongly) overlooked her earlier standalone book, which depicts a woman’s descent into total devastation after her husband leaves her and their two children alone. Like Adele’s hit songs, each chapter is full of pain, sadness, and fear that life may never be the same, confronting those feelings head-on and validating them as a necessary way to heal.
If you listen to The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown…
Admittedly, this one might be a deep cut, but Jason Robert Brown's early 2000s musical is not to be missed when you're in the midst of rewinding to the key moments of your relationship, wondering if one was the turning point. Like writer Jamie and actress Cathy in TLFY, the two characters in Leslie Cohen's novel, Eve and Ben, might not be the right match for each other. Still, they can't quite walk away, even as life doesn't go according to plan. The result is an honest and memorable look at the complexity and chaos of a formative bond.
If you listen to 808s & Heartbreak by Kanye West…
Both critically acclaimed upon their release, Kanye West’s fourth album and Adelle Waldman’s debut novel are unique because they explore heartbreak and pain from the perspective of a person simultaneously suffering from it and inflicting it upon others as their career blossoms and choices have to be made about what kind of life they want to live. It’s often difficult in a breakup to step into another person’s shoes and see things from their point of view, but both of these works teach us that doing just that can help us heal quicker.
Adelle Waldman’s witty debut is one of Kaling’s all-time favorites. Nate Piven is a rising star who has to balance both magazine assignments and women. With tough-minded intelligence and wry good humor THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF NATHANIEL P. is an absorbing look at what one man really thinks about women, sex, and love.
If you listen to Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan…
Bob Dylan has never confirmed that his 15th studio album was based on an estrangement with his then-wife Sara, but it’s hard to imagine that these confessional and intimate songs were inspired by anything else. It’s also hard to imagine that Rob, the pop music junkie protagonist of Nick Hornby’s beloved novel, would listen to anything else as he deals with being left by his longtime girlfriend, Laura, and evaluates the relationships and music that have defined his life.
Who could forget John Cusack as the compulsive, list-making record-store owner Rob in “High Fidelity?” The novel shows bestselling author Nick Hornby at his quintessential best. This wise and hilarious novel about love, heartbreak, and rock and roll is a must-read for the nostalgic souls of Gen X.
If you listen to Lemonade by Beyoncé…
Another iconic breakup album, Lemonade was a surprise release by Queen Bey that revealed to the world that her equally famous husband, Jay-Z, had cheated on her. Before Becky with the Good Hair, however, there was Thelma Rice, the other woman immortalized by Nora Ephron in her landmark novel. A fictionalization of the very real affair Ephron's then-husband had at the time, HEARTBURN explores infidelity through the eyes of Rachel, a writer who is forced to pick up the pieces after her personal life becomes public—and embrace the aftermath.
If you listen to Red by Taylor Swift…
Sometimes, the best medicine is a laugh, and both Swift's album and Helen Fielding's beloved novel contain hilarious moments that provide great relief in the midst of heartbreak. Despite the ups, downs, drama, and Darcy, Bridget—like Taylor—manages to keep her optimism that it’ll all turn out okay, and if worse comes to worst, at least you get some good material out of the experience.
Loosely based on Pride and Prejudice, this laugh-out-loud chronicle charts a year in the life of Bridget Jones, a single girl on a permanent, doomed quest for self-improvement. Caught between her Singleton friends and the Smug Marrieds, Bridget struggles to keep her life on an even keel—or at least afloat.
If you listen to the music from If/Then …
It's a natural thing to ask “what if?” when a relationship ends, and both Taylor Jenkins Reid's novel and the soundtrack to the 2013 Broadway musical If/Then tackle the question by examining how one decision has the potential to alter the course of a person’s life, for better and for worse. At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin finds herself facing two choices in a bar: go home with her friend, or leave with her ex. As the novel plays out on parallel story lines, we see where each path takes her and whether there really was ever any difference.
If you listen to Body Talk by Robyn…
Once the tears, anger, and pain start to subside, there’s no better way to get your groove back than blasting “Call Your Girlfriend,” “Dancing on My Own,” and other favorites from this hit Robyn album—and to grab a copy of Liz Tuccillo’s novel about a single woman named Julie who, fed up with failed dates and friend drama, decides to leave New York and travel the world. With equal amounts hilarity and heartbreak, HOW TO BE SINGLE is the perfect companion to your new chapter.
Tired of being eternally single, Julie Jenson sets out to discover how women around the world deal with singledom. From Paris to Brazil to Sydney to Beijing, Julie falls in love, gets her heart broken, and learns more than she imagined. IN THEATERS NOW.
Listen to the Playlist!