Sad books: these 85 novels will make you cry

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Break out the tissues, it’s getting emotional! Today we’d like to take a look with you at the 85 saddest novels of all time. The books presented here once again provide us with literary proof that novels are so much more than shallow excursions into fictional scenarios. The moving stories form their own worlds in our minds, in which we can wonderfully lose ourselves – and where we need not be ashamed of the tears in the corners of our eyes. We wish you a lot of fun with our best list!

1st place: John Green – Fate is a rotten traitor

Fate is a lousy traitor (Hanser series)
“Fate is a Lousy Traitor” shows its readers in an incomparable way what an unshakable anchor point love can be in hopeless times of crisis. The novel by the author John Green does not spare any delicate topics.

The romantic relationship between the teenagers Hazel and Augustus is at the center of this heartrending book. The growing love between the protagonists is not comparable to a conventional teen romance since both title characters were already confronted with harsh blows of fate in their younger years. In fact, both Hazel and Augustus are struggling with serious cancer disease. On the one hand, the terrible disease seems like an impenetrable shadow; on the other hand, Hazel and Augustus would not have met at all without this hard blow of life. A touching work of art, which helps us to realize what is really important in life.

2nd place: John Steinbeck – Of Mice and Men

Of mice and men: Novel
John Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men” appeared on the market in 1937 and told us the story of an unequal yet heartwarming friendship. In fact, farmhands Lennie and George couldn’t be more different from each other. While Lennie is mentally retarded, George is characterized by his whip-smart nature. The two friends move together through the countryside to get by as harvest workers. The diverse protagonists are inspired by a common dream: one day, they want to renounce the simple life of a day laborer and enjoy life on their own farm.

“Of Mice and Men” shows us in a depressing way that not every American dream comes true.

3rd place: Susan E. Hinton – The Outsiders

The Outsiders
The gap between rich and poor sometimes takes on frightening proportions. While the “greasers” live in the run-down neighborhoods of a big city, the snooty “socs” enjoy the sunny side of life. Both youth gangs are bound together by sheer hatred, looking with deep contempt on the doings of the others. The feud between the two gangs soon develops into a real war, which soon claims terrible victims.

The author Susan E. Hinton succeeded in giving readers an authentic insight into the social inequality of the United States in her work. The author herself was only 16 years old during the writing process and created her characters based on numerous real-life models from her surroundings. A relentlessly honest novel that frighteningly illustrates the brutal shadows that can form in the souls of lost youths.

4th place: Victor Hugo – The Wretched/Les Misérables

The Wretched / Les Misérables: Novel in five parts
Whether as a novel or a musical, “Les Misérables” is and remains a timeless classic. In the France of the early 19th century. In the early 19th century, Jean Valjean is finally released from his merciless imprisonment. However, the protagonist, who had merely stolen a piece of bread, was subjected to numerous parole conditions. It doesn’t take long before Valjean violates those conditions and rises to become the mayor of a small town under a new identity. While the cold-blooded lawman Javert tries to bring the lawbreaker to justice, fate foresees an unexpected turn for Valjean: Suddenly, the very young Cosette finds herself in the care of the man whose heart has grown so cold as a result of countless blows of fate.

A gripping masterpiece that fascinates with its myriad, equally diverse characters. Thus, not only the personal development of Jean Valjean is at the center of the plot, but also the social revolts that were boiling up in France at that time. The moving novel from 1862 shows us that there can be hope even in the darkest hours.

5th place: George Orwell – 1984

1984
In 1949, George Orwell gave the world a literary masterpiece that has lost none of its extraordinary significance to this day. Within the framework of his dystopian novel, the English writer describes a gloomy future scenario, which is characterized above all by omnipresent surveillance, absolute conformity, and a ruthless regime. The title character of the story is Winston Smith, a low-ranking member of the all-dominant state party. As Winston tries to escape totalitarian surveillance and uncover the world’s undistorted past, he soon falls into the clutches of government string-pullers who brutally brainwash the maverick.

“1984” is a still frighteningly topical novel, which shows the consequences of oppression, surveillance, and absolute dictatorship in movingly described scenes.

6th place: Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird..

To Kill a Mockingbird ..
In light of the horrific events that have occurred in the United States in the recent past, “To Kill a Mockingbird…” by Harper Lee sadly takes on more contemporary relevance than ever before. Published in 1961, the novel deals with the themes of racism and social inequality and their terrible consequences for the actors involved.

In the USA of the 1930s, the cosmopolitan lawyer Atticus is entrusted with the task of defending a black farm worker in court, who is accused of brutally raping a little girl. Against the racist odds of those around him, the lawyer decides to prove his client’s innocence. However, the title character and his family are quickly targeted by the small town’s arch-conservative population. “Whoever Disturbs the Mockingbird…” spreads an oppressive feeling that leaves us stunned time and again.

7th place: Mitch Albom – Tuesdays at Morrie’s: The Lessons of a Lifetime

Tuesdays at Morrie's: The Lesson of a Lifetime
In his work “Tuesdays with Morrie” the author Mitch Albom processes the last common meetings with his former mentor Morrie Schwartz. After Mitch learns that his former university professor Morrie is seriously ill and has only a few months to live, he decides to visit his former teacher every Tuesday. During these meetings, the two men explore numerous philosophical questions about life. The views and wisdom of the terminally ill Morrie sometimes give us completely new views of the world, which inspire us to critically question our own way of life. But the approaching death of the fatherly Morrie is also a central theme of the book, which is why we can’t help but shed a tear or two.

8th place: J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Why we include the seventh and last volume of the world-famous “Harry Potter” series in our list has several reasons. On the one hand, the conclusion of the series represents for all fans a final farewell to that fabled wizarding world that has accompanied countless readers for many years. On the other hand, the content of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” gives us plenty of reason to fall into emotional chaos. Before Harry can face the final duel with the tyrannical Lord Voldemort, some difficult tasks must first be mastered and expendable battles fought. An all-around successful conclusion of the series, which inspires with a lot of courage, love, suspense, and drama.

9th place: Stephen King – The Green Mile

The Green Mile: Novel
Those who are transferred to the infamous “Green Mile” in Cold Mountain State Prison have nothing more to expect from life. The atmosphere on death row is oppressive, as the condemned are just waiting for their final trip to the electric chair. John Coffey also faces his execution as a convicted murderer. However, the hulking convict is more like a gentle giant than a cold-blooded killer. When John begins to protect innocent creatures with the help of some inexplicable power, doubts begin to arise among the prison staff: Was a man who seems so bonafide and selfless really capable of committing a stone-cold murder?

Many of you will almost certainly be familiar with the content of this story from the world-famous film adaptation of the same name, which starred Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan. The novel is in no way inferior to the successful movie adaptation and inspires with its equally touching and frightening character.

10th place: Jojo Moyes – A Whole Six Months

A Whole Six Months (Lou, Volume 1)
The life of 26-year-old Louisa Clark undergoes an unexpected turnaround. After the young woman loses her job, she is forced to work as a caregiver from now on. There the protagonist meets Will, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a terrible traffic accident. Due to this traumatic experience and his hopeless condition, the 35-year-old has lost all courage to face life. While the relationship between Will and Louisa is initially marked by complications, the two eventually grow closer, whereupon Louisa decides to show her paraplegic patient the finer things in life.

“A Whole Six Months” advanced to become the best-selling paperback of 2014 in this country. The stirring story inspired more than two million readers in Germany alone and is one of the most significant literary spin-offs of the recent past.

11th place: Cecelia Ahern – P.S. I love you

P.S. I love you: novel
The now world-famous novel by Cecelia Ahern proves to us that love itself can outlast death. While Gerry is scarred by a serious bout with cancer, he composes several letters for his wife Holly. The content of the messages, in turn, is meant to help Holly return to a normal life after the death of her husband.

The heartbreaking story, which was first published in 2005, transports the grief and pain of the protagonist directly into our hearts. At the same time, the letters give new courage not only to Holly, but also to us readers, and awaken in us the hope that the future can shine in bright light despite the shattering events of the past.

12th place: John Boye – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The boy in the striped pajamas
At the beginning of the 1940s, the Nazi regime terrifies Europe. Little Bruno, however, has no idea of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, as he grows up as the well-protected son of a high-ranking Nazi officer. After Bruno and his family are forced to move from vibrant Berlin to a secluded area, the child protagonist quickly faces insurmountable boredom. In his innocent curiosity, Bruno begins to explore the grounds around his new home. Here the officer’s son soon encounters an unusual fence, behind whose wires and spikes crouch a strange boy in striped clothing.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” gets right under your skin because of its tragic makeup. The very fact that Bruno thinks the prisoner clothes of concentration camp inmates are ordinary pajamas and considers the prisoners normal, equal human beings shows that any kind of prejudice and rejection is inherited.

13th place: Nicholas Sparks – Like a Single Day

Like a Single Day: Novel
Those of you who have ever had the pleasure of an innocent teen romance will surely feast on the sweet memories of the youthful past from time to time. In the case of Allie and Noah, however, the time they spent together as seventeen-year-olds was to leave behind much deeper feelings. Though the opposite lovebirds lose sight of each other for many years after their summer liaison, they never forget the other at any point. Just before Allie walks down the aisle, she decides to visit Noah one last time. However, the reunion of the two protagonists is to brings about numerous emotional complications.

“Like a Single Day” is one of those novels that enrapture our hearts while simultaneously placing countless dumplings in our throats. The emotional roller coaster on which Allie and Noah find themselves during the story is therefore seamlessly transferred to our own soul life.

14th place: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – The Little Prince

The Little Prince (with the author's colored drawings)
“One sees well only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes”. The sweet story of the little prince, who travels to different planets in search of new friends, is bursting with life wisdom. With his philosophical-poetic work, the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry gave the world a milestone in the history of literature in 1943.

At a time when the Second World War was raging on our globe, “The Little Prince” was published as an urgently needed literary plea for humanity and charity, whose teachings are as universal as they are timeless.

15th place: Markus Zusak – The Book Thief

The Book Thief. Novel
In many different representations, the personified death is portrayed as a brutal, heartless being, to which any emotions are foreign. In Markus Zusak’s work “The Book Thief”, however, we learn that even death in the flesh is capable of developing feelings. At the time of the Second World War, little Liesel enjoys unexpected company, as death accompanies the orphan girl wherever she goes without her realizing it. In order to escape from the merciless reality in her thoughts, Liesel begins to steal various books, in whose fantastic worlds she can sink.

A sad and beautiful novel that tells us with unique words the touching story of a brave little heroine in a merciless world.

16th place: Khaled Hosseini – Kite Runner

Kite Runner: Novel
In the 1970s, Amir and Hassin are inseparable. Although the two boys come from completely opposite households, they experience numerous adventures in the winding streets of Kabul that bring them closer together than ever before. While Amir comes from a wealthy family, Hassan ekes out a living as a member of the lower classes. When war breaks out in Afghanistan, Amir and his father make a detour to California. In the metropolises of the Western world, however, the protagonist is quickly caught up by the ghosts of his past.

Surprisingly, “Kite Runner” became an international bestseller. The novel convinces with its multi-layered emotional depth and was filmed in 2007.

17th place: Frank McCourt – The Ashes of My Mother

My Mother's Ashes: Irish Memoir
“My Mother’s Ashes,” tells the story of the odyssey that Irish author Frank McCourt had to go through during his childhood and youth. Thus, the autobiographical novel published in 1996 gives us an unvarnished insight into the lowest quarters, terrible strokes of fate, and family tragedies. It is above all the author’s unique writing style that helped “My Mother’s Ashes” to win the hearts of a fan base numbering in the millions at the first go. Accordingly, we sometimes experience the detailed scenarios from the childlike, naïve eyes of the protagonist, which causes strange emotions to arise while reading, somewhere between humorous and deeply sad.

18th place: Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife: Novel
In her book “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, published in 2003, US author Audrey Niffenegger creates a unique setting in which the character Henry DeTamble is forced to travel uncontrollably through time due to a genetic disease. Naturally, these unforeseen “excursions” put the love relationship of Henry and his wife Claire to severe tests time and again. The mixture of science fiction and love story works wonderfully and shines through its unorthodox starting point.

19th place: Jodi Picoult – On My Sister’s Life

On My Sister's Life: Novel
Kate Fitzgerald is terminally ill. In order to save their daughter’s life, the parents of the girl suffering from leukemia decide to give birth to a second, genetically modified child, who will subsequently provide Kate with important stem cells and bone marrow donations. For Anna, who sees the light of day a short time later, the procedures carried out for this purpose resemble a veritable martyrdom. When the teenage Anna finally refuses to continue serving as a human surrogate for her ailing sister, a great tragedy is bound to occur.

“On My Sister’s Life” is devoted to the truly sensitive subject matter. The ethical dilemma in which the actors find themselves is described in an authentic and captivating way.

20th place: Stephen Chbosky – So This Is My Life

So this is my life: Novel
To conclude the Top 20, we would like to recommend a coming-of-age novel of a somewhat different kind. 16-year-old Charlie struggles with major problems in his personal and school environment. In the turmoil of growing up, the introverted protagonist desperately tries to find his place in the world. The novel deals with some of life’s deepest questions and is wonderfully thought-provoking.

Places 21-85 of the best most emotional and sad books of all time:

Place: Novel: Author: Link to book:
21. All the light we do not see Anthony Doerr
22. The Confession John Grisham
23. All the damn perfect days Jennifer Niven
24. The cottage William P. Young
25. I love you forever Robert N. Munsch
26. In my heaven Alice Sebold
27. Water for the elephants Sara Gruen
28. Fire and stone Diana Gabaldon
29. The train of the orphans Christina Baker Kline
30. A thousand shining suns Khaled Hosseini
31. The nightingale Kristin Hannah
32. Room Emma Donoghue
33. Unbending Laura Hillenbrand
34. Always there for you Kristin Hannah
35. I know why the caged bird sings Maya Angelou
36. Miracle Raquel J. Palacio
37. When I stay Gayle Forman
38. Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes
39. The bee keeper Sue Monk Kidd
40. Daughters of the sky Amy Tan
41. The unbearable lightness of being Milan Kundera
42. Before I go now Paul Kalanithi
43. The five people you will meet in heaven Mitch Albom
44. The road Cormac McCarthy
45. Yours Juliet – Guernsey Friends of Poetry and Potato Peel Casserole Club Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
46. The balance of the world Rohinton Mistry
47. Tuesdays at Morrie’s Mitch Albom
48. Castle of glass Jeannette Walls
49. Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
50. The Color Purple Alice Walker
51. The great trip to yourself: unvarnished advice for love, life, and other disasters Cheryl Strayed
52. A little life Hanya Yanagihara
53. They called me “It Dave Pelzer
54. The Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson
55. Marley & I John Grogan
56. Love is strong Francine Rivers
57. Sarah’s key Tatiana de Rosnay
58. Enzo. The art of being human Garth Stone
59. Owen Meany John Irving
60. The Wondrous Journey of Edward Tulane Kate DiCamillo
61. I am Legend Richard Matheson
62. The night Elie Wiesel
63. One like Alaska John Green
64. Apology Ian McEwan
65. My heart and other black holes Jasmine Warga
66. The year of magical thinking Joan Didion
67. Speak Laurie Halse Anderson
68. The music of the whales Wally Lamb
69. Still Alice: My life without yesterday Lisa Genova
70. Call of the wild Jack London
71. Seven minutes past midnight Patrick Ness
72. On a hot summer night Sandra Brown
73. Survival Piers Paul Read
74. All we had to give Kazuo Ishiguro
75. The improbability of happiness Cynthia Hand
76. As long as we lie E. Lockhart
77. 72 days in hell: how I survived the crash in the Andes Nando Parrado
78. The Fabulous Sisters of the Cooke Family Karen Joy Fowler
79. Dead girls don’t lie Jay Asher
80. The Tributes of Panem – Deadly Games Suzanne Collins
81. Early in the morning the night begins Wally Lamb
82. In every moment of our lives Tom Malmquist
83. The mystery of Mary Magdalene Ki Longfellow
84. The Hate U Give Angie Thomas
85. The Hate List Jennifer Brown

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