One of the things that I miss the most about being single was the freedom to spend the whole day just reading books (OK, many things are better when you’re single). I’m an open and proud bookworm.
When I need an answer to life’s more simple and trivial problems I go straight to Mr Google. “Why is my dog is sniffing me so much?” or “what should I wear on a first date?” (Well, okay, maybe picking your outfit for your first date requires quite a lot more careful consideration). When I’m after deeper emotional connection to what I’m reading however, there’s only one solution. Read a book!
When I was single I used to read a lot about being single. I read novels about single female protagonists, guide books about being single, and even full-fledged essays on the topic.
There’s no question that there is a mountain of advice out there. Some of it is good and some awful. So, to help you cut through the clutter I have made a list of 5 books that, in my opinion, every single woman should read and why.
1) Bridget Jones’s Diary
by Helen Fielding
I know, I know. Bridget Jones is such a predictable pick but it was impossible to leave it off this list. It’s the classic chick-lit.
If you were abducted by aliens 20 years ago and only just arrived back on planet Earth today, Bridget Jones’s Diary is a fictional diary that details a year in the life of a thirty-something single woman. The titular Bridget Jones. You can check it out on Wikipedia and catch up with the rest of us on the the book and movie trilogy.
Reading this book is like seeing your own life flash before your eyes with every flick of the page. Who doesn’t struggle with their weight or feel guilty after over-indulging? Most of all, Bridget is obsessed with her love life… aren’t we all?
Whether you’re fourteen or forty, Italian or Australian, a dog person or a spinster, every single woman (or singleton as Bridget likes to call herself) can relate to Bridget. Who doesn’t have friends who constantly try to set them up? And who hasn’t at some point or another felt the “fear of dying alone and being found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian” as Bridget so delicately puts it.
The book takes you through a journey with Bridget as if she were you in another life. I shed tears with Bridget when her fling with her boss ended so inevitably in tragedy. I was at first annoyed by Mark Darcy, before growing to love him myself.
If you have ever cooked a blue soup or if you simply don’t have it all quite figured out yet, i.e. anyone, then this book is a must read. It helped me realise that I wasn’t the only woman who had messed up or made a bad decision at some point. All women – no exceptions - are far from being perfect. And that’s the beauty of it.
2) The Between Boyfriends Book
A Collection of Cautiously Hopeful Essays by Cindy Chupack
This book was authored by Cindy Chupack, one of the lead writers of Sex and the City... need I say more?
Well since you’re here I guess I should elaborate.
It is a collection of 36 essays which explore the love life of the author (and Emmy award winning writer) Cindy Chupack. You can think of it as a little field manual for what to do when on the front-lines of the dating game.
It’s a short and sweet read. I read it cover-to-cover while I was enjoying a hot bath (I do enjoy VERY lengthy baths however). But since it’s well divided, if you’re not a marathon reader like me, or prefer to take your time and really absorbed the sage advice, you could choose to read it one essay at a time.
The magical thing about this book is that it has the ability to empower single women, cheer them up, make them feel more confident. While I was reading it, I found myself nodding, gasping and laughing out loud. Luckily, I was single at the time so no one thought I was crazy.
The essays cover a myriad of topics. Some discuss why men can’t really break up with women and prefer just to disappear, others cover the infinite diet we all put ourselves on, or warn you to never give a dead relationship a second chance. One essay that struck a chord with me deconstructed the mini panic attack that precedes every date. If you’re anything like me I’m sure you’ll find an essay or 36 you can identify with.
If you are in need of a good laugh or, like countless others, find yourself perpetually “between boyfriends” then this book should take a priority spot in your required readings list.
3) Go Your Own Way
Women Travel the World Solo by Faith Conlon, Ingrid Emerick and Christina Henry de Tessan (Editors)
What’s better than a book written by women for women? A book about travel written by women for women! Here you go, here’s that book!
This is an anthology of 23 anecdotes written by 23 different women who have travelled the world solo. The sad truth is, when you’re travelling around the world with someone else, even agreeing on where to have breakfast can feel like negotiating the Magna Carta (or choosing what to watch on Netflix). Who hasn’t at some point (or a dozen) found themselves being dragged along to some museum or forced to go Go-Karting when all they really want to do is go shopping!
I know that travelling alone (particularly as a woman) can sound daunting, but the women in this book have done it. And so can you!
Exploring Buenos Aires with Lara gave me an itch to sign up for some Tango classes. Casting off the shackles of her carefully planned itinerary to truly discover New York with Julianne taught me that there is often value in not having a plan. Trekking the Himalayas with Aarti was… a bit scary actually.
This is a book that empowers women to embrace their independence. Plus, it’s also packed with great tips about travelling alone. The only downside is that the authors are not professional writers so some of the stories are not necessarily as well written as something by say Virginia Woolf.
WARNING: It is impossible to read even a chapter of this book without being struck by wanderlust. This book can, may and will make you want to randomly pick a point on the map and take off.
4) Better Single Than Sorry
A No-Regrets Guide to Loving Yourself and Never Settling by Jen Schefft
Better Single Than Sorry is another chick-lit #sorrynotsorry but this one is written by Jen Schefft who you might remember from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
But honestly who cares… you’re single. You can have as many trashy books on your bedside table as you like without having to worry about judging eyes. (Don’t forget to shove them under the bed before inviting your date back for coffee however. You don’t want to go to all the trouble of convincing him that you are a cultured and worldly lady over dinner only to get busted a few hours later).
Jen famously rejected all the bachelors in season three of The Bachelorette. An act that is consistent with the moral of her book. Better Single Than Sorry taught me that being single isn’t always such a bad thing. I learnt not to waste your life waiting for someone but at the same time not settle. At the end of the day you don’t need to please anyone by yourself.
Amazon called it an “indispensable guide to thriving as a solo in a couple-obsessed culture.” I wouldn’t put it so grandiosely but it is a light and funny read that can really cheer you up if you’re feeling down about being single.
5) All the Single Ladies
Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
In contrast to some of the previously mentioned chick-lits this is the sort of book you can casually weave into a conversation to make yourself sound smart. You can refer it when explaining to your friends how being single is no longer as stigmatised as it was in the past.
The author, Rebecca Traister, wrote the book in order to try to understand why in the 21st century the proportion of married women in America had dropped to an all-time low (below 50%). Her journey led her to interview over one-hundred academics, social scientists, and prominent single women.
All the Single Ladies is a mix of history and sociology and features a good balance of both interviews and anecdotes from the author’s own life.
Reading this book made me feel accomplished, valued and connected with other women. Traister assures us that there is no particular model that we are obliged to follow. As clichéd as it sounds, we can’t follow anyone else’s recipe for happiness, we must write our own.
BIG PRO: You can leave this book on your bookshelf and be proud of it. Right next to the Stephen Hawking book you gave up on after two pages.
So, there you have it, my list of top books for single women. If you have read any of these books, I am curious to hear your opinion. Also, if you know of any other “must reads” for single women then be sure to let me know in the comments down below as I am always on the hunt for my next good read.
But to close with a far more important question; who would you have gone for? Daniel Cleaver or Mr. Darcy?
Andy’s comment after reading this: you’ve read too many chick-lit books.
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