J. Courtney Sullivan's 6 favorite books about marriage

The best-selling author of Commencement recommends works by Nora Ephron and Richard Yates

(Image credit: Michael Lionstar)

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (Modern Library, $16). This exquisite novel details a friendship between two married couples over several decades, as life's changing circumstances test the strength of their bonds. It's a wise and wonderful read.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron (Vintage, $14). Ephron is the funniest writer of all time, even when her topics are infidelity and divorce (and her recipe for the perfect vinaigrette). My copy of this book is dog-eared and underlined on nearly every page.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (Vintage, $16). This tale of a tempestuous marriage in 1950s suburbia contains some of the best and most heartbreaking writing I've ever encountered. It has an amazing momentum. I'm surprised I didn't hyperventilate the first time I read it; I was holding my breath the entire time.

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The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (Mariner, $15). Though this beautiful novel covers many aspects of the experience of Indian immigrants assimilating into American culture, what I remember most are the marriages. The arranged marriage at its center ends more or less in harmony, while the next generation's love matches prove harder to preserve.

A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano (Penguin, $16). Author Flannery O'Connor is the star of this novel, a fictionalization of the great Georgia novelist's final years. But the book begins with an unforgettable pre-wedding night, in which peacocks howl into the wee hours and the bride, one of O'Connor's neighbors, ends up with a black eye. The marriage that follows is just as surprising and complicated.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (Scribner, $15). Wolitzer's novel paints the portrait of a celebrated Great American Novelist as seen through the eyes of his wife. The two meet when she is his student at Smith College in the 1950s. Forty years later, she's decided to leave him. It's a good reminder that one never knows what's going on inside someone else's marriage. A page-turner that doubles as a meditation on gender and the literary world.

J. Courtney Sullivan's third novel, The Engagements, weaves together five tales about love, matrimony, and America's obsession with diamond rings.

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