Relationships can be a lot. They’re messy, sometimes overwhelming, a lot of times amazing, at other times confusing, and everything in between. (Unfortunately, this is the case no matter how much experience you have.) But that doesn’t mean you have to process all of that by yourself.
Your solution to navigating these feelings: a good old fashioned book.
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Yup, as someone who often turns to books to fix pretty much everything in my life, allow me to put you onto some good reads from writers that will 100 percent make you feel better.
Because not only will reading these provide you with the tools you need in order to process your own relationship, but they will also serve as an excellent distraction from the Real World. And let’s be honest, sometimes reading a love story between two fictional characters can help you better process your own problems. (Seriously, try it.)
So see below for some novels that are classics, some are newer, others are pure fiction, and a few have a more technical approach, but trust me, all are definitely worth adding to your reading list.
1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah to every list I possibly can because it’s that amazing of a read. It tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, who leave Nigeria for the West—Ifemelu in the U.S. and Obinze in the U.K. They meet fifteen years later and feel all of their previous passion and emotion come back. (I’m literally sobbing just thinking about it.)
2. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
You’ve seen the Netflix movie and briefly fell in love with Noah Centineo that one confusing summer, but if you’ve never read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, you’re definitely missing out. You’ll get all of the behind-the-scenes thoughts from main character Lara Jean as she deals with the fact that every crush she ever had found out about her feelings all at once. Yikes.
3. Why We Love The Way We Do by Preeti Shenoy
Preeti Shenoy is one of the top five best-selling authors in India. In her Why We Love the Way We Do, she puts together a collection of essays she’s written about relationships with topics like, “How should you send a first message” and “Why do breakups hurt so much?” She’s funny, insightful, and everything in between. Plus, why not get relationship advice from the most successful woman author in India?
4. Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
In Heart Berries, writer Terese Marie Mailhot writes about her hospitalization after being diagnosed with PTSD and bipolar disorder. And while the book is also about her relationship with her parents, it’s also largely about her failed romantic relationship. Take it from me: Reading about Mailhot finding her way back to herself is enough to inspire any reader.
5. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
If you haven’t read every James Baldwin book ever, wyd??? If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless classic that tells a love story that also intersects race, class, and coming of age. Tish’s lover Fonny is imprisoned after being falsely accused of a crime—all while 19-year-old Tish has to tell her parents that she’s pregnant with Fonny’s child. You’re taken on a roller coaster of emotions as you see how the two pine for each other while desperately trying to fight against the institutions of racism that have kept them apart.
6. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Like Water for Chocolate is a love story that takes place during the Mexican Revolution. A young girl Tita falls for Pedro, but cannot be with him because of a tradition that says the youngest daughter cannot marry and must take care of her mother until she dies. The story follows her as she struggles to keep her feelings at bay, especially when he marries her older sister.
7. If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
If You Come Softly is a beautiful love story between a young Black boy and Jewish girl who fall in love, despite the rest of the world having other plans for them. This story not only describes the struggles that come from being in an interracial relationship, but it also celebrates the differences that come with diversity.
8. The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel
Rebecca Balcárcel’s The Other Half of Happy is a heart-warming tale of a young Quijana woman who is trying to figure out what it is that makes her feel complete. Along the way, she finds herself crushing on Jayden but can’t find the words to tell him how she feels. If you’re in the mood for young puppy love and strong doses of female empowerment, this is the book for you.
9. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Possibly my favorite book ever: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of those reads that’ll make you feel everything. The Southern love story was published in 1937 but still makes me cry ugly tears in 2020. From topics about race to love to loss, this book has it all.
10. The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
If you love Rumi’s poetry, you’re going to fall in love with the book based on his teachings. The Forty Rules of Love follows two stories: One of Rumi and his spiritual mentor, and the other of Ella Rubenstein. Not only is this book about love, but it’s also but your relationship to others.
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