Posted in Reviews

Review: How to be Married by Jo Piazza (nonfiction!)

How to Be Married: What I Learned from Real Women on Five Continents about Building a Happy Marriage by Jo Piazza

Recommended: absolutely
for people who do or do not want to get married, for people who are already married, for people who are interested in people, for good advice on creating healthy and loving long term relationships of any kind, for a really lovely read about love around the world and from different people


At age thirty-four, Jo Piazza got her romantic-comedy ending when she met the man of her dreams on a boat in the Galapagos Islands and was engaged three months later. But before long, Jo found herself riddled with questions. How do you make a marriage work in a world where you no longer need to be married? How does an independent, strong-willed feminist become someone’s partner–all the time?

In the tradition of writers such as Nora Ephron and Elizabeth Gilbert, award-winning journalist and nationally bestselling author Jo Piazza writes a provocative memoir of a real first year of marriage that will forever change the way we look at matrimony.

A travel editor constantly on the move, Jo journeys to twenty countries on five continents to figure out what modern marriage means. Throughout this stunning, funny, warm, and wise personal narrative, she gleans wisdom from matrilineal tribeswomen, French ladies who lunch, Orthodox Jewish moms, Swedish stay-at-home dads, polygamous warriors, and Dutch prostitutes.

Written with refreshing candor, elegant prose, astute reporting, and hilarious insight into the human psyche, How to Be Married offers an honest portrait of an utterly charming couple. When life throws more at them than they ever expected–a terrifying health diagnosis, sick parents to care for, unemployment–they ultimately create a fresh understanding of what it means to be equal partners during the good and bad times.


For perspective, I don’t want to get married. I’m in a long term relationship and plan to stay with this person, but as for marriage? I’m not interested, and I’d say I’m even somewhat against it (for myself). One of the biggest reasons for that was always a bit hard for me to express properly, but this book put it into simple concise words for me:

There was something appealing about actively choosing your partner again and again.

This whole book is full of a huge variety of perspectives on marriage and a lot of what comes with it: parenthood, caregiving, conflict, communication, pain, money, and of course (hopefully) love. It had a lot of really practical advice, and to that end it truly does live up to it’s title in a way. It’s certainly a lot more of suggestions and looks at how other people are in their relationships than those lists of musts and requirements. It’s like a pick and choose what works, and take things into consideration. It’s a look at what other people have managed to make work for them. I adored it so much.

There’s got to be no surprise that a lot of this focuses around love and intimacy. Being immersed in that so much during the book is like a big warm hug. I guess, it felt a bit like a conversation with a trusted older person about some of the hardest, scariest, or strangest things about being in a long relationship. It felt like the conversation I always wanted to have and never realized I wanted to have.

It’s also worth noting that there’s a narrative thread of the author’s life and a health event that really changes her expectations of her future. One of the scariest things is to have a life-changing or life-threatening health problem, but so is having to see your partner go through that as well. Anyway, there’s some honest and painful insight about how Jo and her husband Nick deal with it when it comes for them. So while this is a book about love, that inherently includes fear and pain and loss, and her narrative covers a lot of those at various points.

Y’all, look, read this book. It’s got advice from people all over the world and it ranges so much. This might be my most ever highlighted/noted book with 25 highlights. And honestly, I’ll probably read it again and highlight even more!

Side note: just finished this review and realized I READ THIS TWO YEARS AGO from when I’m writing this review?! And I still remember it so well! That’s usually my biggest test of a how good a book is: the length of time I remember it for.


Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

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