From heartbreak to adultery and dealing with grief, 10 books to guide you through each chapter of life

Posted by
Cathy Rentzenbrink
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The world is full of both joy and woe and one of the few certain things about it all is that whatever is going on in your life, someone will have written a book about it.

I find reading profoundly comforting and am always reassured to find that other people have travelled the road before me.

Here are a few suggestions of books to keep you company through the peaks and troughs of the game of life. 

  • On being an odd and/or sad kid

    Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling

    There are oodles of things to love about the Harry Potter series - the imagined world, the linguistic joy, the helpful depression metaphors - but it is first and foremost about an unloved child finding his way in the world.

    Buy it here

  • On graduating - or at any point when thinking about how to live

    Congratulations by the Way by George Saunders

    A transcript of the graduation address Saunders gave to Syracuse University that is both beautifully written and full of gentle wisdom about kindness, love and what really matters.

    Buy it here

  • How to think about how you look

    Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes

    It took me years to twig that you can be interested in lipstick and important things at the same time, and that self-care is both a worthwhile and satisfying endeavor. Sali Hughes is like the knowing yet kind sister you always wished you had, and this book is a delight for all ages.

    Buy it here

  • First love and beyond

    The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

    Linda and Fanny can’t wait to be grown up enough to find love, but Linda chooses wrongly and ends up sitting sobbing on her suitcase at the Gare du Nord. Enter Fabrice, a rich Duke…

    Buy it here

  • For heartbreak

    Heartburn by Nora Ephron

    When the author’s husband left her when she was seven months pregnant with their second child, she turned her agony into this thinly disguised hilarious story that comes with recipes, including reflections on potatoes and love.

    Buy it here

  • For finding yourself

    Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

    After a messy divorce and a horrendous rebound love affair, Gilbert set off to travel Italy, India and Indonesia in search of herself. Funny and honest about being a woman in crisis.

    Buy it here

  • On committing adultery

    Riders by Jilly Cooper

    Should you be inclined to infidelity, Jilly is the author for you. Literature in general punishes unfaithful women with death or disgrace but Cooper’s novels are full of joyous, romantic trysts that go unpunished and practical tips on how to get away with it.

    Buy it here

  • For coping with depression

    Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

    Of course, I hope you don’t ever need this, but if you or someone you love experiences depression, then this will be a helpful friend. Magically, it is informative, makes you feel less alone, and offers a great message of hope.

    Buy it here

  • On being bereaved

    A Grief Observed by C S Lewis

    Grief is the price of love and so will come to anyone who loves, in time. This beautiful and slender book comprises the notes made by the author after the death of his wife as he wrestles with how to navigate his sorrow and live on.

    Buy it here

  • On nearing death

    When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

    The only certain thing in life is death. Paul Kalanithi was a surgeon who had always wanted to write and so that’s what he did when he was diagnosed with lung cancer and knew he only had a few months of life left. The result is invigorating and essential.

    Buy it here