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.

Search for books by Mood & Emotion


George Pelecanos

The Tattooed Soldier

Hector Tobar


Ed Trewavas

The Girl from the Chartreuse

Pierre Peju


Courtney Brkic

The Patience Stone

Atiq Rahimi

Shifting Colours

Fiona Sussman

Tokyo Year Zero

David Peace

Miles From Nowhere

Nami Mun

The Vanishing

Tim Krabbe

A Cupboard Full of Coats

Yvette Edwards

White Chrysanthemum

Mary Lynn Bracht

Black Sisters' Street

Chika Unigwe

Welcome To Paradise

Mahi Binebine

Spill Simmer Falter Wither

Sara Baume

Rocks in the Belly

Jon Bauer

Wolf in a White Van

John Darnielle

All Woman and Springtime

B W Jones

A History of Forgetting

Caroline Adderson


Leϊla Slimani

Seeing Double

Patrick Wilmot

The Unquiet Dead

Ausma Zehanat Khan


Anna Hope

Bone China

Roma Tearne


Melissa Harrison

At the Time of Partition

Moniza Alvi

The Boat

Nam Le

A Good Country

Laleh Khadivi

The Gypsy Goddess

Meena Kandasamy

What Belongs to You

Garth Greenwell

New Finnish Grammar

Diego Marani

Dogs at the Perimeter

Madeleine Thien


John Wray

A Way Through the Mountains

Elizabeth McGregor

The Cutting Room

Louise Welsh

An Untouched House

Willem Frederik Hermans

The Blind Rider

Juan Goytisolo


Ian Holding

This Blinding Absence of Light

Tahar Ben Jelloun

The Pearl that Broke its Shell

Nadia Hashimi

The Bishop's Man

Linden MacIntyre

Seven Ways to Kill a Cat

Matias Nespolo

My Name is Mary Sutter

Robin Oliviera

The Shock of the Fall

Nathan Filer

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Jesmyn Ward

Please Look After Mother

Kyung-sook Shin

Out of the Rabbit Hutch

Nanette L Avery

Under the Skin

Michel Faber

Then She Was Born

Cristiano Gentili

Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

Anthony & Ben Holden (eds)