It’s Valentine’s Day, which means romance is everywhere, along with the not-so-subtle message that being in a relationship is the absolute best thing in the world. We wanted to highlight some books that know that’s not the case! We asked our friends at Goodreads to share some of their highest rated books about being single — books that explore the joys of being single; that remind you of your worth; that emphasize the importance of relationships with friends, family, and yourself; and even books that argue loneliness can be fruitful. Below are 13 titles that are particularly well loved.
When author and illustrator Amalia Andrade was hit with a painful heartbreak, she decided to channel her energy into something positive. The result was this “interactive roadmap for getting over someone,” full of inspirational lyrics, recipes, journaling prompts, and tips for exploring and enjoying your freedom.
5-star review: “Honestly needed this after going through a tough breakup with my first and only boyfriend of seven years. I love how the book is laid out — quick reading for when you’re so sad and it’s hard investing energy into reading, the author’s personal handwritten touches and sense of humor. They’re the perfect little reminders and pick-me-ups.” —Sarah
How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even if You Don’t by Lane Moore
Lane Moore has survived toxic relationships of all kinds; because of this — and especially because she spent her childhood essentially parenting herself — she has a lifetime of experience taking care of herself, learning to trust others, and finding ways to feel less alone. She shares her insights here.
5-star review: “I bought this book last week and it has seriously helped me in so many ways. Besides being incredibly entertaining and compelling, I relate so much to so many things written in this book and it has helped me see and feel things that have been true for me for a long time that I couldn’t describe or identify. I’m in the middle of getting divorced, which has impacted my life a lot lately, and this book has helped me reconcile some of those feelings tremendously. I see so much of myself and my relationship in this book, it has made me think about who I am and why I am the way that I am, and that is something that is so helpful to me right now.” —Brendan McGuire
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, hosts of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, chronicle their first decade in each other’s lives, describing the way their Big Friendship — the type of strong bond that survives life’s biggest shifts — helped them get through health scares, career woes, relationship pitfalls, and more.
5-star review: “Big Friendship tackles our cultural issues with giving platonic relationships the care and attention they deserve, both on a personal and an intellectual level. There’s plenty of research and discussion around family dynamics and romantic relationships, but so often friendships get shunted off to the side when it comes to individual and societal introspection. Sow and Friedman tell the story of their own intense Big Friendship™ while masterfully weaving in larger conversations of how our friendships come together and fall apart, taking on everything from the unique struggles of interracial friendships to how friend breakups can often feel more devastating than romantic ones. There’s also just a familiar ease to their writing that makes this an easy read.” —Lily Herman
How to Get Over a Boy by Chidera Eggerue
Consider it the anti–dating advice book: Chidera Eggerue aka The Slumflower reframes the entire notion by explaining why you don’t need to find a man, offering advice for recognizing your own worth first and foremost.
5-star review: “Although this book is called How to Get Over a Boy, I bought this book more as a guide to being a better woman. This book is an amazing way to bring yourself back up and to raise your standards of yourself up to where they should be. It’s a great book not only for advice on how to get over someone, but also how to find out who you are and knowing your worth.” —Kayleigh Kenworthy
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
The result of over a decade of research, All the Single Ladies started as an exploration of the experiences of single American women in the 21st-century, but grew into a historical analysis of the tremendous impact of single women in the US over centuries, spurring progress in social, educational, and political spheres.
5-star review: “All the Single Ladies gives female singlehood the positive attention it rightly deserves, finally. It’s an examination of the varied and surprising benefits single women enjoy. It’s also about the unique power single women wield. The main message is that female singlehood, rather than pitied, should be celebrated, and maybe even envied.” —Caroline
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing
When Olivia Laing moved to New York in her mid-30s, she was confronted with a new and persistent loneliness. Compelled to better understand this universal but often stigmatized experience, she begins an examination of art throughout the city, investigating the ways artists draw from, explore, and portray their loneliness (and alone-ness) and how it affects human connection.
5-star review: “WOW!!! This was an exceptional compilation of artists and how they framed their lives and worked through their loneliness! I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to travel with Laing on this mesmerizing journey through the outsider art of ‘being alone.'” —Meg Tuite
Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Duchess Goldblatt
Dealing with the lingering trauma of a rough childhood and bad heartbreak, a reclusive anonymous writer invents, and creates a Twitter account for, a fictional persona: 81-year-old Duchess Goldblatt. The plan is to lurk and be snarky from a distance, but as her following grows she finds she appreciates the many connections she makes.
5-star review: “A woman who has a fake persona called Duchess Goldblatt on Twitter now has a book?! Hmmm. Thankfully I put aside my misgivings and dove in. Becoming Duchess Goldblatt tells the story of a lonely woman crippled by grief and how she created a fictional internet sensation who brings joy, laughter, and, most importantly, a sense of community to an often negative platform. She sprinkles her tweets throughout the book, often providing the backstory for a particular missive and the responses certain tweets received. Along the way, she befriends Lyle Lovett and numerous others and inspires groups to come together in her name and is there for those who need a helping hand. At times heartbreaking, at times heartwarming, at times hilarious, this book will stay with me for a very long time.” —Cindy Burnett
No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol
Glynnis MacNicol’s memoir follows her 40th year, as she enters into a life largely without a blueprint. How does the single, middle-aged woman live when she’s not relegated to the role of the cautionary tale, the punchline spinster, the wacky aunt whose family suffers her visits out of equal parts love and pity?
5-star review: “I love this courageous, gentle, thoughtful memoir. Determined to avoid the stories and stereotypes so often told about single, childless women (e.g., objects of pity, selfish and spoiled creatures, invisible humans), she sets out to create a new, more empowered narrative. She embarks on a journey of self-discovery and connecting with others that entails family illness and struggle, travels to foreign countries and encounters with men, and embracing old friendships filled with support and shared history. Within this year, MacNicol has numerous insights about love, loneliness, meaning in life, and more, all while recognizing that taking ownership of her choices and her destiny brings about a radical fulfillment outside the confines of a conventional life.” —Thomas
In her late 30s, Leslie Gray Streeter fell madly in love with Scott. Soon after, they married and began the process of adopting their son. Then, at just 44 years old, Scott died of a sudden heart attack. Black Widow is about Streeter’s journey through grief, her unexpected strength, and the people who helped her survive.
5-star review: “What Streeter accomplishes with her debut book is nothing short of profound. In telling the story of her incredible love and loss, adaptation and triumphant adoption, she dives into the wreck and shines a light on all of it.” —Jeff Snow
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Ephron’s classic autobiographical novel follows Rachel Samstat, a cookbook writer who finds out her husband is cheating on her when she’s seven months pregnant. Reeling from this betrayal, Rachel turns to food — her most consistent form of comfort — while ricocheting between wanting her husband back, plotting her revenge against him, and learning to stand on her own two feet.
5-star review: “Nora Ephron manages to make the horror story of her separation and eventual divorce warm and funny while still making it clear what a total jerk her husband was and how devastating the whole experience was for her. I listened to this as an audiobook fabulously narrated by Meryl Streep, whose voice felt like the perfect one for this story.” —Sigrid A
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Described as a “Black Bridget Jones,” Queenie follows 25-year-old Queenie as she navigates romantic entanglements, a frustrating job at a local newspaper, the ongoing tension among her and her white, middle-class peers, and pressure from her Jamaican British family — all the while figuring out who she is and what she wants on her own terms.
5-star review: “This book is about discovery of your own potential, learning what you want from the life, and respecting yourself. It’s about friendship. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about family. Sometimes you hate Queenie; sometimes you feel sorry for her; but mostly you understand her! She’s flawed, she’s broken, and she’s confused, but she’s strong enough to find her way.” —Nilufer Ozmekik
Outlawed by Anna North
In an alternate version of late-1800s America, women who are unable to have children are ostracized by society, and babies are a hot commodity after a flu wiped out much of the population. Ada, a young newlywed, hasn’t gotten pregnant yet, so her only choice is to become an outlaw. She joins up with the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, a group of misfits who refuse to conform to gender or societal norms. But their dream of creating a utopia for outcasts comes with a dangerous plan — one that Ada isn’t sure she can live with.
5-star review: “I was absolutely captivated by Ada’s narration and found myself completely immersed in the dystopian-esque world Anna North created. In fact, I was so enthralled by the story that I couldn’t put it down, and I finished it the same day I started it. I loved the feminist themes and historical details, particularly the insights into early midwifery and medicine. And I adored Ada; a woman who, in a time when women had very few rights, forged her own path and fought for what she believed in.” —Hayley (meet_me_at_the_library)
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
So this one isn’t so much about a great single life as it is about… murdering boyfriends… but if you’re in a particularly angry part of a breakup — or if you want a stark reminder that sometimes relationships are more trouble than they’re worth — this novel might be the one for you. It follows Korede, a nurse who has found herself in a dangerous pattern of abetting her younger sister who can’t seem to stop killing men, and it’s a thrilling, morbidly funny read.
5-star review: “This book takes on and metaphorically eviscerates so many urban modern myths and fantasies. It tackles worldwide patriarchy, family trauma, misogyny, sexism, the concept of beauty, rejection, familial obligations, mental illness, complicity, the malleability of character, self delusions, the slow erosion of self-esteem/respect when coupled with constant disappointment, and much more. It’s a really deep character study that was darkly comical and acerbic, deceptively brief for the depth it contains.” —Monica