by Regina Kenney
This is not a list of literature to wallow in — that will make you think differently about love, conceptualize your past and find a new strong person within yourself.
No. Breakups suck. They are awful. They are confusing. And sometimes you need a mental break from thinking about love.
I am not saying wallowing is bad. Sometimes you need to seep yourself in the morose and vent frustrations. (Check out anything by Nicholas Sparks to feel that.)
But if you’re anything like me, you hit a point (about a month after the initial break-up) that you just don’t want to hear or think about love. You don’t want to be getting your coffee and suddenly have that Taylor Swift song come over the radio and burst your brain with cliché phrases and cherry-filled memories that leave you sad and empty.
But how do you escape the concept of love? It is in every song, every movie, ads, tweets, books and walking out in front of you on the street with their hands held.
My last break up, I wanted Movies and Books to come with the disclaimer:
WARNING: May contain language that may be disturbing for the heart broken. Some scenes may send your mind down a spiraling path of self-pity and despair.
I kept making dumb reading decisions that committed me to 400+ pages of someone else’s assorted love-life that just made me feel awful about the world (Yeah, Thorn Birds was NOT the right reading choice.).
So here is a list for those with a broken heart, who are just trying to escape into books that won’t leave them checking the ex’s Facebook page and wondering why-oh-why life is the way it is.
We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson
No love here — Just a creepy child with her sister living in a house that their entire family was murdered in.
Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite writers. If you’re thinking ‘I’ve never read her’ – you probably have. Her short story ‘The Lottery’ is one of the most anthologized short stories of all time. She also wrote The Haunting of Hill House which has been made into several movies, including the 1999 film ‘The Haunting’ with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
I cannot recommend We Have Always Lived In The Castle enough. I am just waiting for the day Tim Burton makes the movie.
Creepy, enchanting and a very short read!
Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
Ok – there is a BIT of ‘love’ in this – but its between a heroic mouse and a cute townsie mouse and isn’t central to the plot.
Mice are fighting rats in an epic battle to save the Abbey. It’s the type of book that you can read 50+ pages of and feel like you just sat down to read. It’s fun, moves quickly, won’t give you of any lovelorn thoughts…. And there’s like a ba-zillion books in the series, so if it helps you to escape life you can just keep on reading them.
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
This book is calming.
If you’ve seen the Disney movies, you know the basic plot — but reading it will immerse you in the jungle world Rudyard Kipling created. You will be thinking about animals, the law of the jungle, being free and in nature. There are a lot concepts about the love of friendship and of a parent, which is a much more productive love to focus on after a break-up.
Plus, there is that added Lit-Cred bonus of knocking a classic off your “to-read” list.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Less animal-themed books to come, but holy goodness – this may be my favorite book. A group of bunnies are forced to leave their home and go on an adventure to find a new life.
Between Redwall and The Jungle Book, you’re probably thinking ‘What’s with all the kids books?’ Well, a) Kid books are GREAT if you’re trying to not think about love or relationships but b) this is truly not a kids book. It is gory, frightening, and has undertones of political concepts. With that, it also combines those Jungle Book feelings of nature and calmness that is so pleasant to put your mind in when things aren’t going so great in your personal life.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Not tempted to read anything remotely like the books listed above? Blood Meridian.
Right now, you’re checking your phone, lost in thoughts about what might’ve been, wishing things were different — BAM. Blood. Indians. Fighting. Scalping.
This is the most violent book I have ever read. Dead-baby trees type of violence. But I promise you will forget about What’s-His-Name when reading this book. (It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself and what you’ve ‘lost’ when your mouth is agape with the horror of the atrocities you’re reading).
I am admittedly a very slow reader, and I read 250 pages the first night I started reading. You’ll be thinking about this book when waiting for the bus.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Like Blood Meridian, you will not feel ‘better’ about the world after reading this book. But, there is very little about romantic relationships (except a highschool-type relationship one of the victims is involved with), and it is a fast-paced read about an actual murder.
This is my one “nonfiction” pick for the list (though how much is actually true in the book has been heavily disputed), but on the nonfiction note, if none of the books on this list tickle your fancy, nonfiction is always a great choice to avoid love-concepts.
(Though, HIGHLY recommend NOT reading autobiographies/biographies. Famous people tend to have messed up love lifes — which are extra sad to read because it’s real.)
True Grit by Charles Portis
A 14 year old girl hiring an outlaw to go on a journey to avenge her father’s death. Yee haw.
The central character Mattie Ross is not concerned with boys or relationships (so refreshing from typical books about teenage girls) but is set upon seeking revenge.
Short, funny read. This is the one book where I saw the movie before I read the book and the read is just as quick-paced and entertaining.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
And if you are not into gothic horror, bunnies, blood or Western thrillers, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is a great choice to stop thinking about love.
There is love and relationships in this book, but they are dysfunctional (and not in a relatable dysfunctional – “Oh my god, that’s SO me and X’ way).
Perhaps the funniest novel I have read. I had to stop reading it on the el in Chicago because I was laughing so hard I looked like a crazy person.
Disagree with me? Or have other suggestions? Place in the comments below.