I was 15 when I got into my first breakup. I was dumped. No surprise there. It felt like someone pressed my ribs together until they split in half, and one of them somehow punctured my heart. It sucked.
Luckily, at that painful time, I turned to books. I read just about every book that made me feel better about myself. Some of them made me want to soak my eyes in bleach. Others changed my entire freaking life.
These are the two types of books I’ll be addressing in this article: the best books to read after a breakup and the worst. …Starting with the worst.
The Worst Books Books To Read After A Breakup
Three words: breakup recovery books.
90% of breakup recovery books out there are a total rip-off. Boring, bland, too long, and repetitive. Filled with shallow, impractical, and idealistic advice. One-dimensional, superficial, oversimplifying, and cheesy. Oozing with regurgitated information from every other generic D-list self-development book.
It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken. This Is Me Letting go. The Modern Break Up. Breakup Manual For Men. Breakup Bootcamp. The Breakup Tool Kit. Who Am I Without You? The Breakup Bible…
You name it!
They all sucked — at least to some degree. And they all more or less told the same platitudes: no-contact rule, affirmations, regaining confidence, understanding grief, vague relationship advice, breakup stages, empty pep talks, and so on.
That being said, there are some gems on the market that deserve to be called out. These books are not perfect by any means, and I still won’t include them in my “Top 14 Books To Read After A Breakup” list, but they’re at least worth a mention.
- Getting Past Your Breakup, by Susan J. Elliott. Nothing groundbreaking in terms of ideas, but when compared to all other breakup books on the market, it still has the best ideas out of all of them.
- No Breakup Can Break You, by Nick Dawson. It’s a breakup recovery book catered explicitly towards men. The ideas inside are nothing special, but the writing is incredible.
Ultimately, just remember that once you read one or two books on how to get over your breakup, you’ve probably read most of them.
The Best Books To Read After A Breakup
Note: The links below are affiliate links. I will get a commission if you click through and make a purchase with no additional cost to you. Also, the books are listed in no particular order. Enjoy.
1. The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – By Mark Manson
If you’re a long-time reader of the site, you knew this was coming. Of course, I’m recommending the book that a) inspired me to double down on writing in my professional life, b) got me out of several existential and identity dilemmas, and c) radically shifted my entire outlook on self-development.
This is, quite literally, the ultimate book to read after your breakup.
It’s a book that’s all about growth and self-improvement, not through avoiding problems or always being happy, but rather through engaging and improving upon problems and learning to accept the occasional unhappiness.
You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you’re going to get fucked.
2. Everything Is Fucked: A Book About Hope — By Mark Manson
That’s right, I just recommended two books from the same author (just wait for the third). Sue me.
Mark’s second book is similar in topics to The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck. However, it takes a much more philosophical approach to self-development. It’s a much deeper, less personal, and better-written work than his last book, in my opinion.
While the Subtle Art questions our conventional wisdom on what makes us happy, Everything Is Fucked questions our assumptions on what makes life worth living.
The two biggest highlights of this book were on the topics of pain and problems.
- It talks about how pain is a part of life. How you can’t avoid or suppress it. And how you shouldn’t even try to.
- It talks about how all of our problems are emotional problems. We’ll feel a lot better if we learn to handle our emotions.
This book was also a big inspiration for my Radical Recovery Course, specifically the first few lessons on pain and acceptance.
Because pain is the universal constant of life, the opportunities to grow from that pain are constant in life. All that is required is that we don’t numb it, that we don’t look away. All that is required is that we engage it and find the value and meaning in it.
3. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life – By Henry Cloud
As the title suggests, Mr. Cloud’s book helps you set proper boundaries with your partner, friends, and family members and gives you advice on how to keep them intact no matter the shitstorm life throws at you. It’s a great read altogether. It even inspired my article on boundaries.
The only thing I didn’t like about the book were countless cases of religious prattle thrown in. I don’t know about you. Maybe you’re into religion and will find this aspect of the work a plus. If so, more power to you. As for me, I wasn’t a fan.
We can’t manipulate people into swallowing our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Boundaries are a “litmus test” for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our nos. They only love our yeses, our compliance. “I only like it when you do what I want.
4. Stillness is the Key: An Ancient Strategy for Modern Life (The Way, the Enemy and the Key) – By Ryan Holiday
If you’ve been reading my articles, you’ve probably noticed that I steal many ideas from Stoicism, more specifically, from Ryan Holiday.
I can’t help it. Like with Mark Manson’s principles, I love his take on letting go, journaling and meditating, living a virtuous life, embracing pain, learning from pain, and living in the present moment.
At its very core, Mr. Holiday’s book teaches you how to live a fulfilling, peaceful, and meaningful life no matter how good/bad you have it, and then, when it’s time, reveals to you how to die well.
The gift of free will is that in this life we can choose to be good or we can choose to be bad. We can choose what standards to hold ourselves to and what we will regard as important, honorable, and admirable. The choices we make in that regard determine whether we will experience peace or not.
5. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work — By John Gottman
Want to learn how to effectively communicate with your next (or current) partner so your fights don’t evolve into toxic shitshows and end in a breakup? If so, do yourself a favor and pick up this book.
Gottman doesn’t only teach you how to make a relationship work. He also teaches you what to do if a steady relationship ever faces problems like constant arguments, toxic arguments, trivial arguments, miscommunication, resentment build-ups, and so forth.
This is probably the ultimate book for anyone who wants to have a healthy and lasting relationship. And while it is a bit academic and filled with practical exercises that not everyone is a fan of, it’s still a great and insightful read, and one of the best books I’ve personally read after a breakup.
Once you understand this, you will be ready to accept one of the most surprising truths about marriage: Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind—but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.
6. Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse – By Jackson MacKenzie
This book is a beast. It’s dense, it’s long, and it doesn’t treat you like a glue-eating buffoon like many other books in the same genre do. It also contains factual, pragmatic, and verified advice on recovering from a toxic relationship, moving on, and finding yourself again.
So if you’re someone who had a relationship that involved lying, cheating, manipulation, or any other form of abuse, this is the book for you.
As we learn that we’re responsible for our own emotions, we become more comfortable with the idea that others are responsible for their own emotions too. With this mindset, we can finally relax—and begin to heal.
7. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – by James Clear
From afar, Atomic Habits is a simple, short book on building good habits and breaking bad ones. But when you start reading it, you’ll see that there’s much more to it than that.
It teaches you how to overcome a lack of motivation, design your environment for maximum productivity, and develop a sturdier identity through habit formation.
It’s also jam-packed with easy and practical exercises, life-applicable formulas, proven principles, and real-world examples of people making tiny and ordinary changes in their lifestyle to achieve massive and extraordinary results.
Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.
8. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – by Brene Brown
This book is difficult to label. In one way, It is a self-improvement book, but then again, it isn’t. Brene even warns you at the end of the book about reading other self-help books, most of which have no scientific grounding to what they preach.
The gifts of imperfection, at its core, is not so much about improving yourself but instead accepting yourself.
And despite my struggles to relate to certain sections of the book, like the ones on kids and family, It’s still a beautiful, profound, and brilliant piece of writing. It will change your outlook on life. And It will probably shift the way you see yourself.
Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.
9. Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples – by Harville Hendrix
Like breakup recovery books, many relationship advice books are just as vague, cheesy, and filled with generic and often shoddy self-help advice. But this one from Hendrix stands out.
His book helps you realize why your past relationships failed and how to make your future ones succeed. It’s also filled with logical, well-researched, and sound advice. At its core, Getting The Love You Want helps you cultivate healthier relationships with others by first developing a healthy one with yourself.
Helen and I like to think of two people in a conscious love relationship as companion stars. Each person is a unique individual ablaze with potential. One is just as important as the other, and each has a unique and equally valid view of the universe. Yet, together, they form a greater whole, kept connected by the pull of mutual love and respect. They mirror the interconnected universe.
10. Models: Attract Women Through Honesty – by Mark Manson
I know I’m harping on Mark too much for one article, but fuck it. I know this is a man’s book, but women read it too. And I know it might seem like your typical ‘pump and dump instruction-manual,” but it’s not.
This book is a very different beast.
It’s a book that teaches you how to build a solid emotional foundation, reach emotional maturity, and make deep and meaningful emotional connections with others — specifically those you’re attracted to.
Challenge yourself to find the good and beautiful thing inside of everyone. It’s there. It’s your job to find it. Not their job to show you.
11. Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself — By Kristin Neff
Self-Compassion as a topic is often ridiculed and made fun of. Most people assume it’s some hippie new-age nonsense without any scientific grounding. In reality, it’s a legit field of psychology and proven to help anyone become happier, more self-accepting, confident, and comfortable in their own skin.
Kristin Neff is one of the leading researchers on self-compassion. In her books, she gives you the full package: the theory around self-compassion, real-life examples of people before/after they started practicing self-compassion, and exercises on how to practice self-compassion yourself.
Painful feelings are, by their very nature, temporary. They will weaken over time as long as we don’t prolong or amplify them through resistance or avoidance. The only way to eventually free ourselves from debilitating pain, therefore, is to be with it as it is. The only way out is through.
12. The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth— By M.Scott Peck
The Road Less Traveled is a timeless self-help classic. One of the best books to read after a breakup, hands down. It’s one of the very few self-self works that takes a down-to-earth approach to its themes. One of the best instances of this is actually right at the beginning of the book, specifically at its famous opening line, “Life is difficult.”
In The Road Less Traveled, Mr. Peck explores the nature of love and loving and healthy relationships and leads us toward a new serenity and fullness of life.
The biggest plus of The Road Less Traveled for me was the style of writing. Most self-help books feel like I’m either in a lecture or am engaging in a talk with someone who thinks his/her view of the world is the only correct one. Mr.Peck, on the other hand, does a beautiful job at being relatable and not sounding like a smart and entitled guru, but rather a smart, genuine, and humble friend.
Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
13. Attached: The New Science Of Adult Attachment And How It Can Help You Get And Keep Love — Amir Levine
Attached is not only one of the most important books I read after my breakup, it’s one of the most important books I’ve read in my life.
For a long time, I knew that I was overly obsessive and controlling, and clingy when it came to my romantic relationships (I had what Mr.Levine calls an anxious attachment style). I also knew I should change, but I didn’t know how.
Well, this book helped me change. It provided me with a well-crafted plan on how to become less obsessive, controlling, and clingy. It even helped me understand where those unattractive tendencies were coming from. And it can help you do the same.
In fact, even if you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum than me — you’re afraid to open up, avoid intimacy, and are scared of commitment — this book will help you transform into a more secure and confident person who won’t be so affected by those pesky hangups.
If you’re interested in this topic, I also urge you to read my article on attachment types, which is basically a summation of the core concepts from Attached.
Ultimately, this book will make you understand why your relationship failed how to make your next one succeed.
Instead of thinking how you can change yourself in order to please your partner, as so many relationship books advise, think: Can this person provide what I need in order to be happy?
14. The Breakup Recovery Manual – By Max Jancar
“Did you just plug your own book in here?”
Yes. Yes, I did.
It may be tacky to include my own book on this list, but then again, fuck it — it’s my list and it’s a good book. Hell, it’s probably one of the best books to read after a breakup, in general. At least, that’s what some of my readers think. Pick it up and decide for yourself.
How To Get Over Your Ex And Move On With Your Life
Discover 14 science-based, practical and proven ways on how to get over your ex and regain control over your emotions, identity, and life.
Why Do Breakups Hurt (Even When You Wanted It)
Discover the surprising science of why breakups hurt even though you've wanted your relationship to end all along.
6 Common Beliefs That Keep You Heartbroken
Discover the 6 common beliefs that keep you feeling heartbroken, jumping from breakup to breakup, and learn how to overcome them.
Why Do I Keep Dreaming About My Ex?
Learn why you keep dreaming about your ex, what does it all mean, and how do you stop dreaming about them so you can function in life again.
The Ultimate Guide To The No Contact Rule
Learn how to master the no contact rule — the most effective way to move on from your ex or get them back.
5 Breakup Fallacies That Subtly Screw You Over
Discover 5 fallacies that kill relationships and learn how to manage them to boost your chances of cultivating lasting love with someone.