Books are strong containers that use captivating plots and writing styles to let us feel all kinds of emotions, from horror stories that send chills down our spines to romance novels that make us swoon. Though it may seem contradictory to the desire to be unhappy, the sadness we experience as a result of reading a book can help us develop empathy for people or situations we might not otherwise encounter.
The books on this list are either bestsellers, prize winners, or simply fan favorites that readers say are so emotionally charged that they make them cry. Here are some of the finest sad books if you’re seeking a heartbreaking love story or a coming-of-age novel with a catastrophic twist.
“They Both Die at the End” by Adam Silvera
Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio receive a phone call from Death-Cast shortly after midnight in the science fiction universe of “They Both Die at the End,” informing them that they will, tragically, die that day. Mateo and Rufus meet on their penultimate day of life, both yearning for company, and decide to embark on one final trip together before their time is over.
“Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson
Claudia and Monday are as close as sisters, so Claudia notices when Monday doesn’t show up for the first day of school. Claudia finds that no one can remember the last time they saw her when it becomes clear that Monday has vanished in this emotionally demanding young adult story.
“All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven
Violet Markey and Theodore Finch meet on the ledge of their school’s bell tower, each planning to leap but saving the other. In this young adult story on mental health and friendship, Theodore and Violet find a safe place in each other as they pair up for a project to uncover Indiana’s natural beauties. Check out our in-depth review of “All the Bright Places” if you want to understand more about why we adore it.
“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hossein
“The Kite Runner” is a film about a young, privileged kid named Amir and the son of his father’s servant, Hassan, who frequently fly kites to escape the realities of their lives. This tale blossoms into a story of guilt, betrayal, and redemption when something awful happens.
“Glorious Boy” by Aimee Liu
Claire and Shep know they must evacuate with their four-year-old son, Ty, as the Japanese army prepares to invade India in 1942, even though they will have to leave his buddy, Naila, behind. In this heartbreaking narrative of bravery, perseverance, and motherhood, both children go missing the morning they are supposed to leave, and Shep convinces Claire to board the ship while he stays behind to find the children.
“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
John Green’s blockbuster young adult romance novel “The Fault in Our Stars” is about Hazel and Augustus, who meet in a cancer support group while Augustus is in remission and Hazel battles a looming terminal diagnosis. When the two create an instant bond, they agree to read each other’s favorite books in this novella which necessitates the presence of a tissue box.