Sad books from wistful to heartsick

Often the saddest lives deliver the most powerful reading experiences. Sometimes we want sombre books because we are in low spirits and there is a sense of comfort and belonging of living amongst other heartsick souls for the duration of the novel. Other times, life is good and we feel able to cope with the melancholy or even downright despair of others, knowing we will be deeply touched by their experiences and their stories will leave a lasting impression. Whether you prefer books set in a world yet to come or firmly in the here and now, sorrow has no borders, bereavement no year or century. Enjoy browsing this selection – from the wistful to the disconsolate – and remember, other people feel sad too and knowing that can make you feel better.

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Benjamin Myers

Shadow without a Name

Ignacio Padilla

The Children's Hospital

Chris Adrian

Mr Shivers

Robert Jackson Bennett

An Untouched House

Willem Frederik Hermans

Kelly and Victor

Niall Griffiths

The Bishop's Man

Linden MacIntyre

The Prison House

John King

Wolf in a White Van

John Darnielle

Then She Was Born

Cristiano Gentili

Someone to Watch Over Me

Paul Wilson

The Treatment

Mo Hayder


Courtney Brkic

My Name is Mary Sutter

Robin Oliviera

The Ministry of Pain

Dubravka Ugresic

The Hungry and the Fat

Timur Vermes


Bill Broady

The Vanishing

Tim Krabbe

So It Is

Liam Murray Bell

Welcome To Paradise

Mahi Binebine

The Attack

Yasmina Khadra

The Lovely Bones

Alice Sebold

A Cupboard Full of Coats

Yvette Edwards

The Shock of the Fall

Nathan Filer


Dan Simmons

Shifting Colours

Fiona Sussman

The Sympathizer

Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Girl from the Chartreuse

Pierre Peju

The Tattooed Soldier

Hector Tobar

Rocks in the Belly

Jon Bauer

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Jesmyn Ward

The Law of Dreams

Peter Behrens

Death in Danzig

Stefan Chwin

The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy

Kaddish for an Unborn Child

Imre Kertesz

A History of Forgetting

Caroline Adderson

Out of the Rabbit Hutch

Nanette L Avery

The Thief

Fuminori Nakamura

Skylark Farm

Antonia Arslan

Monster Love

Carol Topolski

His Bloody Project

Graeme Macrae Burnet

The Spare Room

Helen Garner

See What I Have Done

Sarah Schmidt

The Passage

Justin Cronin


Imre Kertesz

The Wisdom of Crocodiles

Paul Hoffman

The Vagrants

Yiyun Li

Black Sisters' Street

Chika Unigwe

Schrodinger's Baby

H R McGregor


Jaspreet Singh