These are the books that might just help you navigate the weird and wonderful journey of being a single women in a pandemic.
Books always have a way of helping me navigate and make sense of life during tough times.
Admittedly, pandemic anxiety has meant it’s often been hard to concentrate and get stuck into a good book over the last seven months. But I’ve had plenty of romantic reads, award-winning novels, female-penned memoirs and comforting tales to help me get back on track. And with research proving that reading can improve mental health, finding a reading rhythm in lockdown has helped me feel better in many ways.
Now that the tightened lockdown restrictions and short autumn nights are forcing us to stay indoors, it looks like I’m going to be spending many more evenings curled up on the sofa with a blanket, a hot chocolate (with whipped cream, naturally), and a good book. And, as a single woman living in lockdown, there is one book that I have to recommend for others in a similar situation at this point in the pandemic.
Going through a pandemic without a romantic partner has a unique and unpredictable ebb and flow. It’s forced me to do something I’ve put off facing for most of my very single life: really addressing what I want and need from a relationship, and actually going out there to find it. This means that, weirdly, I’ve dated more in the last few months than I have in all the summers that came before. I’ve made romance a new priority, and that has required me to be more vulnerable, more open.
It’s been… an interesting time for me. And with autumn’s so-called “cuffing season” among us, I’m questioning my dating behaviours more than ever before. That’s why I’ve been turning to passages in Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love. I first read it in one gulp three years ago on a 36-hour train journey in India three years ago, and I knew it would give me the comfort, reassurance and laughs that I need when it comes to matters of the heart right now. It also reminds me of how much I love my friends.
When I spoke to my friends, it turned out that a handful of them had actually been revisiting the book too. My flatmate spent a drizzly September Sunday snuggled on the sofa with the book in hand. My best friend WhatsApped me pictures of passages along with strings of love heart emojis. And a new pal in book club said she’d dug it out again.
For anyone who hasn’t read it, Everything I Know About Love is a top five Sunday Times bestseller. Through hilarious and heartbreaking anecdotes, dating columnist and The High Low host Alderton explores the romantic relationships we have with friends, partners and ourselves.
“Reading it in lockdown probably emphasised the feelings of isolation and loss,” Steph explains when I asked why she chose to read it now. “I really missed my best friend and it hones in on the feeling of growing up, if not growing apart. Essentially, the story left me feeling like I wasn’t alone and made me appreciate the bravery of the author writing a book that so beautifully sums up the confusing navigation of all types of love.”
“It had been two years since I first read it, and I knew I’d resonate with it even more now,” Suze tells me. “When I first read it, I’d only been single for a year. So now, when she talks about her friends moving on to different chapters in their lives, and being the drunk and scatty one left behind (which is what I’m experiencing even more now), it makes me feel sad but also seen and heard. It’s not just me that feels like that.”
Of course, there are so many books out there, so I asked members of Stylist team if they’d read anything that helped them navigate coronavrius as a single woman.
“I started reading Queenie by Candice Carty Williams recently,” acting digital commissioning editor Katy Harington shares. “I’ve been single for a few years. I always have someone or two ‘on the books’ but never a steady boyfriend sitch. It suits me well to be honest.
She continues: “Reading Queenie, which is about a loveable and loving but slightly damaged woman trying to figure out what she wants from work, her friends, sex and dating while going through a painful breakup has hit me quite hard. The book has a lovely lightness of touch to it but there are some very dark moments, particularly a description of a sexual encounter that really upset me because I think a lot of women have done that zone out thing when something you are uncomfortable with is happening, and then it hits you after.
“It’s very poignant for anyone who has been messed up and made very bad decisions in the painful wake of a breakup. And actually, now that my 20s (and almost my 30s) are over its made me think about what I want from my sex and dating life after lockdown. I’m still not 100% what I am looking for but I definitely do NOT want what I had before.”
“I’m not really into self-help books or guides,” says beauty editor Lucy Partington. “But after listening to a sex and relationship podcast in lockdown (I hit peak single quite early on, can you tell?) I bought Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, which is essentially a guide to the different attachment styles (anxious, avoidant or secure) and I learned that it’s recommended by therapists.
“In short, it claims to help people delve deeper into their personality and relationship type, and if needed, helps to change behaviours. I am a seasoned pro at getting involved with men who are literally just after one thing or who aren’t right for me, yet I convince myself that every time it’ll be different – and it isn’t.
“So after being inspired by the podcast, I bought the book so I could go on a mission to learn more about myself, and you know I think it helped. I’ve never really read a non-fiction book for fun before, but Attached gave me a new way of thinking, it changed my views on the kind of dating profiles I usually avoid and helped me understand other people a bit more.
“I’m still just about as single as they come, but once we are allowed to step outside our houses again, maybe I won’t be
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