There’s nothing like a cold, gray day to make me look outside and go, “Nope. Not going out there.” Since cold, gray days are a dime a dozen this time of year (well, finally), I figured this is a good time to bring out the books—especially since a lot of us recently made resolutions to start reading more (me included).
While you’re going through your divorce and afterward, people will probably shove a lot of cheesy, condescending self-help books into your hands or leave copies discreetly on your desk, and while this is all well-meaning, in my opinion the best therapy is regular old fiction. I get why Deepak Chopra and Eckert Tolle are useful in these moments, but really, sometimes you just need to escape into a book that Gets You.
So if you’re barricaded indoors this January and February (and March and perhaps April), here are the books you should be reading, according to me.
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
There are a lot of reasons to like this book. Basically, it’s the story of a person who went through hell, more than once, and came out a better, stronger, more interesting human being… which is what most of us do. Anyone going through a divorce will be moved by Strayed’s honest portrayal of what the pain of divorce can do to you, and the sheer determination it takes to get through it in one piece.
What Maisie Knew, by Henry James
This is one of those books I read in college English class and ended up keeping on my bookshelf forever. It tells the story of a young girl witnessing the divorce of her parents and its aftermath, and throughout she is on the whole much wiser than the adults in the book. An entertaining story, it also serves as a cautionary tale of how NOT to co-parent, and makes you glad divorce is considerably easier—legally, anyway—in the 21st century.
Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs
Ready to laugh and cry at the same time? This book is for you. Burroughs is one of those writers who can tell a tragic story in a hilarious way, and frankly, his past probably makes yours look like a picnic. In this book you’ll find the true story of Burrough’s young life: dealing with his parents’ toxic marriage, a mentally ill mother, a crazy psychiatrist, and an addiction problem—and somehow, it’s really, really funny.
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
Maybe this isn’t a laughing time for you; maybe you’d rather wallow in the darkness of the world a bit before you welcome the joys of spring. If so, and if you somehow haven’t yet, read this book. A sort of uber-male perspective on the breakdown of the human psyche, it tells the story of Kurtz, a guy who went AWOL on his intended spouse and disappeared into the jungle—and you really don’t (and DO) want to know what he got up to out there.
Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Mock if you will: this is a good book. Gilbert does something really great in this book, which is describe what it feels like to realize you are going to have to end your marriage, and then describe what it feels like to end your marriage—the bad and the good. She takes an unashamedly positive view on things, and even while I may not share her worldview oneverything anything, I do think she has a lot of insightful things to say about human relationships.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Want to feel really, really good about not being married? Read The Great Gatsby. In it, a young man observes the unhappiness of young, rich, married people in the 1920s; this book abounds with champagne, huge parties, and a lot of bad, bad decisions. Revel in the beginning and end of the American dream in this classic work of irony and relationship woes.