15 Beautifully Written Sad Books That Will Have You Running For Tissues By Page 100
If you're looking for a downright gorgeous novel that will make you cry heaps of tears, these 15 beautifully written, sad books are for you. These books will tear out your heart, burn it, and dance in the ashes, but they'll also compel you to share them with every book-lover you know.
Whether we're talking about Animal Farm, Anna Karenina, or A Series of Unfortunate Events, one this is for certain — my favorite books are tragedies. If I'm feeling sad, or caught up in a depressive episode, the last thing I want to read about is something funny, silly, or otherwise frivolous. Give me more trauma and agony, please, if only so I don't feel alone in my painful state.
Obviously, YMMV. I think we can all agree, however, that some of the best books have some truly terrible, tearjerking moments between their covers. Sometimes, I don't even notice how sad a sad book is, just because it is so wonderfully written, and then I catch a ton of flack from the people to whom I recommend books — usually my book nerd of a mother — who went running for the tissues by page 100.
Check out my recommendations below:
'Bury What We Cannot Take' by Kirstin Chen
After he reports his grandmother's act of political rebellion to the authorities, 12-year-old Ah Liam's family must flee China for Hong Kong. But in order to secure visas for passage, the family must choose one of their children — Ah Liam or his 9-year-old sister, San San — to leave behind.
'Like Water for Chocolate' by Laura Esquivel
When her mother's family tradition prevents Tita from being with the man she loves, she must stand by as he marries her older sister instead. The consequences of her mother's refusal to allow Tita to marry ripple through this powerful novel.
'Pachinko' by Min Jin Lee
When a misguided affair with a married man leaves her unwed and pregnant, Korean teenager Sunja enters into a marriage of convenience with Isak, who takes her to his family's home in Japan. They attempt to build a life together with their two sons, but the reappearance of Sunja's ex-lover brings new complications for the little family.
'Goodbye, Vitamin' by Rachel Khong
This California Book Award winner centers on 30-year-old Ruth, who moves back in with her parents after her life gets messy, only to learn that her father, a respected history professor, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
'Anna Karenina' by Leo Tolstoy
The tragic heroine of this 19th century Russian novel leaves her husband for a dashing officer, only to find herself in a hopelessly complicated position on social, legal, and ethical fronts.
'The Mothers' by Brit Bennett
When her preacher's-son boyfriend leaves her in the lurch at an abortion clinic, Nadia moves on, going off to college and trying to live her best life. But when she finally returns to her hometown, she discovers that her high school best friend is engaged to marry her ex, and has no idea what transpired between him and Nadia all those years ago.
'The House of the Spirits' by Isabel Allende
Set in pre-Pinochet Chile, The House of the Spirits follows the Trueba family across several generations, as an act of cruelty and violence by the family patriarch comes to bear decades later.
'Tell the Wolves I'm Home' by Carol Rifka Brunt
In Tell the Wolves I'm Home, after Finn dies due to AIDS-related complications, his 14-year-old niece and goddaughter, June, connects with the lover he left behind: a man named Toby, who might be able to understand her the way Finn could.
'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro
After reconnecting with her old friends, Kathy reminisces on their days at an elite boarding school, and how she, Ruth, and Tommy learned that they were different from other people.
'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy
Growing up in Kerala in the late 20th century, twins Esta and Rahel's lives are shaped by legislation and cultural mores — known collectively as the "love laws" — which prevent certain people from loving one another.
'My Sister's Keeper' by Jodi Picoult
Anna has never been able to play sports, eat junk food, or do anything that might threaten her health, because she must always be available as a donor to her older sister, Kate, who has a rare form of leukemia. Now, at age 11, Anna has hired a lawyer to prevent her parents from making her go through with another surgery to save her sister.
'Fruit of the Drunken Tree' by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
A gated, Bogotá community keeps Chula safe and sheltered from the realities of Pablo Escobar's Colombia. She becomes fascinated with Petrona, her family's new maid, who hails from the city's slums. But both girls, rich and poor, will have their worlds upended by circumstances they cannot control, and will find themselves in danger and intrigue they do not fully comprehend.
'The Virgin Suicides' by Jeffrey Eugenides
After the youngest dies by suicide, the four remaining Lisbon sisters begin to spiral out of control as their parents attempt to isolate them in order to prevent further tragedy.
'Human Acts' by Han Kang
Set in the midst of the Gwangju Uprising in 1980 South Korea, the seven stories in Han Kang's Human Acts weave their way through the lives — and afterlives — of the event's victims.
'The Light Between Oceans' by M.L. Stedman
Reeling from a series of miscarriages, a childless couple is overjoyed when a live baby mysteriously washes up on the shore near their lighthouse. When a rare trip back to the mainland reveals that their adopted daughter's biological mother is alive and grieving, the new parents agonize over whether to give her back.