The literature of heartbreak

19:57, Nov 11 2013

We've all encountered heartbreak before, in many guises and forms, from the searing hot iron pain that is the breakup of a romantic relationship, to the slow surrealism that comes with the death of loved ones, the end of a friendship, betrayals of trust, and everything else in between.

So today's post is appropriately about the literature of heartbreak. More specifically, the books that will help you cope with the emotional turmoil that occurs when life unexpectedly comes crashing down.

I've tried to explain why or how I think they can help beneath each title.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven 
I know that Mitch Albom is the Emperor of Cheese, but he does excel at this particular genre of uplifting fiction. This book is good for when you're so, so low and down in the dumps that you can't even muster up the energy for cynicism. It is a book that will make you cry, but you'll want to anyway and this is as good an excuse as any. It will also make a tiny little corner of your heart perk up at the thought that perhaps it is true that nothing is ever forgotten, and that no good deed, no matter how small, goes unnoticed.

The Brief History of the Dead
If you've ever been touched by death, this book will help you make some sense of your grief. It doesn't matter what religious denomination (if any) that you are. I'm largely an atheist, with an agnostic bent, and I took the story to be an allegory about the process of dying. Kevin Brockemeier has an interesting view on the afterlife, but what you'll take away from this is the comforting sense that we are all never truly alone, and that no love is ever in vain.

Man's Search For Meaning
Viktor Frankl should have won a damn Nobel Prize or something for this bite-sized book bursting with soulful insight into the intricacies of human nature. It's a short but relatively slow read. By that, I mean you will want to ponder over Frankl's wisdom for weeks, maybe even months to come. It's best for the kind of heartbreak that comes from endings, whether it's a relationship or friendship. I mean, if these people can survive the horrors of a concentration camp, and still go on to find beauty and meaning in life...


Of all Toni Morrison's books, this is the one that had the most profound effect on me. It's a powerful and profound look at all facets of love, in particular the bond between a mother and her child, but also tells you some painful truths about men and women. This is essentially a story about slavery, not just in the historical sense, but also the emotional prisons we all draw around ourselves. It will make you realise things could be much, much worse, and that whatever you have endured - there's a high chance someone else has endured far, far worse and lived to tell the tale.

A Crack in Forever
Seriously, waaaaaaaaaaaaa. I read this book when I was barely out of my teens and still in my romance novel phase. It left me completely heartbroken and weepy for weeks. It will make you believe that all love is doomed...until it doesn't. Hard to explain, but sometimes a phoenix can rise out of the ashes of sorrowful books. It's both the saddest, and also the happiest story you'll read.

What are some books you'd recommend for the heartbroken?


Speaking of cheering up heartbreak, I have a set of signed copies of all the NZ Book Award winners to give away. Post something on my Facebook page or tweet me to be in to win! Also, if you follow Reading is Bliss and like my blog, you can vote for me for Best Blog in the Netguide Web Awards.