I’m so excited about this post! Settling down with a good book is one of the things that I looooooove doing, and I’ve had lots of fun looking through my physical and digital bookshelves and coming up with this list.
There should be something for pretty much everyone here. There are books about long distance relationships, relationship self-help books, memoirs, novels, young adult, and general non-fiction titles on there. There’s even one novel that’s part comic. Most (but not all) of these books feature long distance relationships.
And speaking of long distance relationships, you’ll get something good out of reading any of the books mentioned here. But you’ll get even more if you and your partner both read the same book and then talk about it.
So if you’re looking for something new to do in your long distance relationship, try reading the same book and having a “book club” video date.
Go on, give it a go. You haven’t got a lot to lose. Even if it doesn’t sound like your idea of a “fun night out” it’s good to get into the habit of trying new things in life. Book-Club-For-Two will give you something new to focus on and talk about, and it will help you learn more about how your partner sees the world. Win win!
All the book covers and longer descriptions are below. First, however, a quick guide for those of you who have no idea where to start.
If you want…
- A novel that will stretch you (literally and culturally)… choose Americanah or The Far Pavilions.
- A novel the men should genuinely enjoy… choose Illuminae or Station Eleven.
- A book that will help give you a deeper, richer, perspective on life… choose Tiny Beautiful Things.
- A true and inspiring story about an against-the-odds long distance relationship that worked… choose Love At The Speed Of Email (and you can snag a free copy down below)
- A book to improve your communication and relationship… choose The 5 Love Languages.
- Something to help you think differently about parenting and/or cross-cultural relationships… choose Bringing Up Bebe.
- A book that will help inspire you to live more creatively, passionately, or happily… choose Big Magic or Stumbling On Happiness.
20 Great Books To Read If You’re In A Long Distance Relationship
The Five Love Languages (Gary Chapman)
When I asked my friends and regular readers which relationship book had impacted them most, this best-seller was the book most people mentioned. Dr. Gary Chapman outlines 5 love languages (ways of showing and receiving love) that will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner. If you want to delve more deeply into the topic of love languages, this is the book for you.
The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work (John Gottman and Nan Silver)
John Gottman is a professor of psychology and the founder and director of the Seattle Marital and Family Institute. This highly rated book—based on decades of clinical and research experience—focuses on seven principles for building harmonious and strong relationships. It includes questionnaires and exercises.
The Long Distance Relationship Survival Guide (Chris Bell and Kate Brauer-Bell)
The book outlines eight essential skills for relationship success. It goes into some detail on good communication strategies—offering case studies, example letters, and practical advice about discussing sensitive topics across distance. It was published in 2006 and some of the examples are dated now, but this is still the best general look at long distance relationships around.
Tiny Beautiful Things (Cheryl Strayed)
Cheryl Strayed is better known for her bestselling memoir, Wild, but this is my favorite book of hers. It is a collection of Dear Sugar advice columns covering birth, sex, death, and everything in between. It is honest, incisive, funny, beautifully written, and very powerful. You’ll find lots of things to discuss in this collection!
Committed (Elizabeth Gilbert).
Committed is the follow up to Gilbert’s best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love. It continues Gilbert’s journey after meeting Mr. Right (Felipe) overseas. After U.S. Homeland Security denies Felipe entry to the country, the two realize they must marry or Felipe will never be allowed to enter the U.S. again. While wading through red tape, Elizabeth and Felipe base themselves in Southeast Asia to wait out the process, and Gilbert tries to tame her fears by delving into the history, practice, and meaning of marriage.
Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting: When American journalist Pamela Druckerman had a baby in Paris, she didn’t aspire to become a “French parent.” But she noticed that French children slept through the night by two or three months old. They ate braised leeks. They played by themselves while their parents sipped coffee. And yet French kids were still boisterous, curious, and creative. Why? How? This is a fascinating, funny, and worthwhile read for anyone in a cross cultural long distance relationship, especially for couples who have (or are intending to have) kids. You’re unlikely to walk away without having at least one of your assumptions about how parenting “should” be done deeply challenged.
Love At The Speed Of Email (Lisa McKay)
This award-winning memoir is the story of how I met my husband, Mike, via email while he was a humanitarian worker living in a remote town in Papua New Guinea and I was a jet-setting stress management trainer living in Los Angeles. Underneath the many humorous misadventures and the happily-ever-after, this book is my quest to get a handle on the meaning of “home” and what it really means to commit to a place and a person. (Because I love reading, and because I know some of you–especially my international readers–are on a tight budget, I’ve decided to give my book away here to anyone who’d like a new read. So if that’s you, enter your email below and I’ll send you a free PDF copy of this book.)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows)
Another award-winner, this best-selling novel is set in 1946 and comprised of a series of letters between writer Juliet Ashton and the inhabitants of the island of Guernsey about their experiences during the German occupation. It is a long distance love tale about the importance of finding connection in the most surprising ways. I was particularly impressed that a story set during this era managed to pull off being funny, charming, and romantic.
Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)
Multiple, connected tales unfold in this beautifully-written, suspenseful, stick-with-you novel. Days before civilization is wiped out by a flu pandemic, a famous Hollywood actor collapses and dies onstage. Years afterwards, a small Shakespeare troupe roams the land, striving for more than mere survival. This 2014 National Book Award Finalist will appeal to both men and women.
The Lord Of The Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
An epic story about adventure, darkness and love, this classic novel features heroic quests, long journeys, and lovers torn apart. Everyone in a long distance relationship will find something to identify with in the story of Aragorn and Arwen. (Heads up, this is over 1000 pages long!)
Americanah (Chimamanda Agozi Adichie)
This best-selling novel features two Nigerian teenagers (Ifemelu and Obinze) who fall in love in school in Lagos, only to be separated when Ifemelu flees her increasingly violent homeland and goes to the US to study. Obinze hopes to follow her but—blocked by immigration regulations—finds himself forced to live an undocumented life in London. Powerful, poignant, and inspiring.
Dear John (Nicholas Sparks)
I’m not normally a huge Nicholas Sparks fan, but I picked up this book yesterday because of the LDR plot. I’m not far along, but so far it’s easy reading so far and I’m interested to see where it goes. The plot revolves around a couple–John and Savannah–who are in a long distance relationship and on the verge of a serious commitment in September 2001. After September 11, John re-enlists for another tour of duty in the army. The relationship falls apart while John is away… or does it?
The Far Pavilions (M.M. Kaye)
This sweeping epic of love and war is set in 19th-century India follows a English boy brought up as a Hindu, the British soldier he becomes, and of his passionate and dangerous love for Juli, an Indian princess. Hailed by reviewers as a Gone With The Wind of the North-West Frontier, this doorstop of a novel (960 pages) is for anyone who loves nuanced historical fiction or immersing themselves completely in a very different world.
YOUNG ADULT NOVELS
Illuminae (Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff)
In the morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. In the afternoon, her planet was invaded. The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. This is a fast-paced, harrowing, and clever novel about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
Flat-Out Love (Jessica Park)
Boston transplant and college freshman, Julie, finds herself temporarily homeless and living with old family friends. Julie wasn’t supposed to fall in love with one of the brothers. Especially the one she’s never quite met. But what does that really matter? Finn gets her, like no one ever has before. They have connection. She expected it to be a bit awkward, but she she doesn’t expect her growing attraction to both brothers, especially the one she’s never met. Somehow, the fact she and Finn have only ever connected online doesn’t seem to matter… until it matters a whole lot.
The Geography Of You And Me (Jennifer Smith)
This sweet young-adult novel tells the tale of a chance meeting that changes two lives forever. When Lucy and Owen meet during a blackout, they immediately feel a connection. Once the lights turn back on, however, reality sets in and the two find themselves on opposite sides of the world. A hopeful book about the power of love to triumph over distance.
Stumbling On Happiness (Daniel Gilbert)
At times we all make certain choices that we regret later, whether that’s to overeat, over drink or over spend. And in certain we seem remarkably bad at predicting what will actually make us happy in life. In this smart, fascinating, and funny book, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert looks into the neuroscience behind this.
Outliers: The Story Of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)
In this fascinating and entertaining book, Gladwell argues that superstars are “the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” Along the way he explores sorts of backgrounds that spawn software billionaires, star soccer players, and great rock bands.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) turns her self-deprecating humour and own authentic incisiveness to debunking the myth of the tormented artist. She deftly tackles the unrealistic expectations and unnecessary melodrama often attached the concept of making a living creatively, and offers some straight-talking advice on how to keep fear in proper perspective. This book is light, playful, funny, and encouraging. A great read for anyone creative (which Gilbert would argue is all of us).
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot)
Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine. Henrietta’s cells were named HeLa. They have been sold by the billions and proved vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s story, however, remains virtually unknown, and her surviving family can’t afford health insurance. This New York Times bestseller tells a riveting true story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. Fascinating and surprisingly hard to put down.