The Saddest Reads

Today’s Booking Through Thursday carries on with the ‘recent theme’ and asks us “What’s the saddest book you’ve read recently?” I have had to really wrack my brains about this one as I don’t think I have read any particularly sad books of late. Though I will admit to having read a lot of books that I have been sad to close the final page on and could quite happily read again, but that’s not the sort of sadness we are after.

I don’t tend to hunt a sad book down. Which makes me wonder why do we read sad fiction? I think if I know a book is sad then it looses some of the effect that the author had intended, forewarned is forearmed as they say. It tends to be the books that surprise me by their sadness or shocking events that hit home the hardest.

A few books have disturbed me slightly and a few have made me ask a lot of questions about how people can behave in a negative way but nothing particularly sad. I am always banging on about this book, but the last book that actually made me cry was ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote. That was because there was one scene that was shocking but written with such directness yet filled with emotion it set me over the edge and I had a good old cry. I don’t think a chapter of a book has moved me that much in a very long time or made me feel so wrought with emotion. The one before that was ‘The Book Thief’ by Marcus Zusack back in the pre-blogging days.

I do have some sad books on the TBR though and thought that I would share those with you. I have them quite high up but because they all share the same theme (war) I think I will be reading them with quite a gap in between. They are…


  • Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally – The film made me cry, very recently, like I have never cried at a  film before so this could be quite the reading experience.
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – I think almost everyone knows the story and the ending of this book, I am yet to read it though which is a surprise as its been on my must read list for quite some time.
  • Sophie’s Choice by William Styron – I have no idea what happens in this one (no plot spoilers please) but have heard that it’s incredibly sad. I also have the movie at home; it was free in one of the Sunday papers once, but even though I love Meryl Streep am holding off until have read the book first.

What are your saddest reads recently? Why do we read sad books? Have you read any of the above and did they move you? Has any book actually reduced you to tears, not because it was so dire or frustrating, because it was so moving or emotional?


Filed under Book Thoughts

30 responses to “The Saddest Reads

  1. That reminds me. I finished In Cold Blood Some time ago and simply forgot to write a review!

    And I can relate about the sad part for all these books.

    Booking through Sad Ones

  2. Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski was the last sad book I read; it was almost unbearably sad, crushing, devastating, and also bloody brilliant! The Glass Room was also quite sad. I love bleak and heartbreaking books!

    In Cold Blood is an amazing nonfiction novel.

    I have read 2/3 of the ones on your TBR and have Sophie’s Choice on mine; I think I know what happens and I think it is going to tear my soul out.

    • Oh no tearing your soul out doesnt sound like I am going to be able to cope with that one, maybe I should read it soon and just get it out of the way and make sure I have one of the new Bloomsbury re-releases or a Mitford book ready and waiting after?

      I have Little Boy Lost from the library (thank you… as that has reminded me I need to renew all my books) so that will be being read very soon!

  3. Generally, the WWII books would all classify, eh? I’ve not read Sophie’s Choice, but I’ve seen the movie, and THAT would classify as one of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen. I almost can’t even bear saying the name. No spoilers, but there is no sadness, to me, that would compare with that one.

  4. Jo

    I agree anything to do with war is sad, especially WWII, as that seems to be written about most. I read Anne Franks Diary in school and bawle my eyes out, so good luck with that!

    • I think though WWII was a tragic event it inspired so many great novels its quite remarkable. In fact actually tragic things seem to bring out the best and most prolific prose in authors isnt that odd?

      Anne Frank I am pretty sure will very much upset me.

  5. I like Capote but for some reason I’ve never got round to this one. I’ll have to read it sometime.

  6. Yes, Little Boy Lost would probably have to be my saddest recent read. Very emotional! The Time Traveller’s Wife also made me sob my heart out because I am very sentimental! Revolutionary Road was also very depressingly, relentlessly sad but not in a way that made me cry, just in a way that made me feel terribly sorry for the characters and everyone like them who has had their dreams thwarted.

    Anne Frank is really poignant, you’re going to have to prepare yourself for that one! Box of tissues at the ready! I’ve never heard of Sophie’s Choice, I’m off to look on amazon now…

    • Revolutionary Road is definitely sad in the way it shows tragic misunderstandings in romantic relationships. There’s a danger in the way spouses can try to manipulate each other and miscommunicate what they really feel when so much is left unsaid. Also how we delude ourselves into believing that we are grander than what we actually are.

    • Oh I think I might be spending a lot of this autumn and Winter crying as I have Revolutionary Road, Little Boy Lost and Anne Frank (plus Sophie’s Choice) coming this way. I think am going to have definate S.A.D

  7. I think we read sad books for a sort of relief (in a cathartic way) for some underlying feelings of alienation, loss and/or sadness that we have constantly on a subliminal level. Walker Percy said that we need Kafka because we feel all feel so horrible a lot of the time but don’t say so.

    The saddest book I’ve read that immediately comes to mind is Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking. Her journalistic approach to understanding grief and the sudden loss of her husband is so moving and sad. More recently, David Plante’s amazingly beautiful and slight memoir called The Pure Lover is a similarly profound meditation on grief.

    There’s a scene in Nabokov’s novel The Defense which has always struck me as almost unbearably sad. From what I remember, in it a mother is preparing some food for her young boy who is severely introverted and partially autistic. Nabokov describes her trying to care for the boy so tenderly, wanting the best for him and investing all her hope and energy in him. Abruptly he screams, upturns the food throwing it over the floor and runs from the room. Quietly she cleans it up and it’s so touchingly sad how no matter how devoted and loving she is, her boy is troubled and fated to living a solitary miserable existence. Somehow in this one moment you are able to see in a compacted form a lifetime of struggle and fruitless unreciprocated love of a parent.

    • Year of Magical Thinking is one book that I have been meaning to hunt down for quite a while so thanks for mentioning that one Eric.

      The Defencse sounds incredibly compelling, another book to look up!

  8. Not out of sadness, but out of sheer joy, the last book that had me properly crying was ‘Girl Meets Boy’ by Ali Smith. There is not a word out of place. That combined with the joyous ending to the story had me sobbing big fat tears.

  9. I used to read sad books to make me feel better. i.e by comparison real life isn’t that bad. Once I hit 40, I discovered that as a strategm, it no longer worked. So I won’t be reading Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure again.

    By miles the saddest book of 2009 has been Michael Kimball’s “Dear Everybody” – reviewed here:

  10. novelinsights

    I don’t tend to home in on ‘sad’ books either, (hence I find I unintentionally avoid WWII settings) but it can be very rewarding when you find one that moves you.

    • I think I had a phase of reading too many WWII books and that put me off for quite a while but sooooo much fiction is set in that time its hard to avoid. You are spot on though if one takes you with it its incredibly moving.

  11. I didn’t read “In Cold Blood” but I know the story, and it is a sad one. I don’t really like to read sad books myself. Crying on the subway is not a good thing.

  12. In Cold Blood is definitely disturbing and sad. Your other books look interesting too.

  13. I’ve been a sucker of tear-jerker, both books and movies. I’ve got Marley and Me and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I have never read In Cold Blood (Pssstt….) even though I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird a few times. Anne Frank diary is just heart-rending. Great choices there!

    PS. I’m dashing into the store to buy Armadale!!!! 🙂

  14. Marley and Me I just dont think I could read frankly I would just bawl, I can’t pretend otherwise. To Kill A Mockingbird is genius and you liked In The Garden of Good and Evil so think you would like In Cold Blood.

    Armadale… hard start but sooo, sooo worth it more on that this weekend.

  15. I love sad books…of course, these days, just about anything makes me cry. *g*

    I’ve never read Sophie’s Choice, but the film is fabulous (and gut-wrenching). I read Anne Frank’s diary as a kid…and it’s a fantastic book. When we visited Holland and her hiding place it was an incredibly moving experience.
    I like to have a good cry; we have to get it out of our system somehow, right. I have favourite TV episodes that I can slip into the dvd player if I’m really in need…

    Other books that have made me bawl like a baby:

    The Time Traveler’s Wife (of course). I could barely see the last 50 pages, I was crying so hard.

    I should be ashamed to admit it, but Bridges of Madison County….sobbed. And it’s a crap book, too. It just really hit me…the choices people make, how personal happiness must sometimes be sacrificed.

    Books that have knotted my heart without necessarily making me cry include:

    Standing Still by Kelly Simmons

    Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

    Sweet Ruin by Cathi Hanauer

    Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

    Losing the Moon by Patti Callahan Henry

    The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison

    Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb

    The Lake Dreams the Sky by Swain Wolf

    Breakheart Hill by Thomas H. Cook

    The Truth About Celia by Kevin Brockmeier

    The Gardens of Kyoto by Kate Walbert

    I’d also have to add Carolyn Slaughter’s novels Magdalene and Relations to this list.

    Geesh- I read a lot of sad books, eh?!

  16. Sophie’s Choice – when I discovered what her choice was I got up and left the cinema as I found it unbearable. have never been able to read the book after that.

    Little Boy Lost has been mentioned above and, oddly enough, this title came up in my reading group and we are as one in that it is heartbreaking and wonderful, and the final sentence in the book reduced me to floods of tears as I read it at 1 am tucked up in bed.

    On a different level entirely, Marly and Me had me in tears and even though you know the ending is inevitable it still reduced me to mush.

    The Book Thief – this is one of those books you either love or loathe. I loved it and, again, tears dripping off my chin at the end.

    Then of course, there is Beth dying in Little Women which never fails to make me cry, Matthew’s death in Anne of Green Gables, the chapter in A Little Princess when Sarah is on her own in the attic and oh dear…I have better stop.

    • I havent ever been compelled to read Little Women and I don’t know why. I am sure the urge will compell me at some point! I think accidentally seeing some of the film put me off. Marley and Me will just leave me an emotional wreck so am avioding that one!

      Little Boy Lost is on my hitlist at the moment as obviously Sophie’s choice. The Book Theif I utterly loved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s