31 Enormously Sad Books That Will Break Your Heart

Sometimes you cannot beat a good cry, and there’s nothing better than a sad book to get those tears flowing. When you bottle up emotions for a prolonged period, it can be difficult to let those feelings out.

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31 Enormously Sad Books That Will Break Your Heart

But in my experience, a good book with a sad plot is an excellent way to reset your emotions, and give you a good reason to cry. In this guide, I’ve compiled a list of 31 enormously sad books that will break your heart.

So, if you’re looking for a novel that will make you sob, you are in the right place. Read on to find out more.

31 Sad Books That Will Break Your Heart

The Song Of Achilles – Madeline Miller

Song of Achilles, The

If you search for a novel that is guaranteed to break your heart, then The Song of Achilles is one that many people will recommend. This novel is a story of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart.

With themes of friendship, fate, and fury, it is really difficult to discuss the plot of this breathtaking novel without giving anything away. But it is essentially Madeline Miller’s take on Homer’s masterwork, The Iliad.

Anybody who has read this novel will tell you that you need a box of tissues by your side when you read this. So be sure to keep this in mind when reading this heartbreaking book.


  • Beautifully written.
  • A breathtaking spin on a classic work.
  • Good ending.


  • Longer novel, exceeding 400 pages.

Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven tells the story of Libby Sprout, the girl who was once dubbed “America’s fattest teen”. In this novel of grief, growth, self-discovery, and re-invention, the reader follows Libby’s story after her mother’s death.

Libby has been fixing herself in the privacy of her own home, and now she’s ready for new beginnings – for high school, for new friends, for love, and for everything that life has to offer.

Holding Up the Universe will have the reader attached to Libby immediately, and that is why her journey will make you cry throughout this novel.


  • A romance novel with a twist.
  • Characters you connect to.
  • The novel takes you on a journey.


  • Longer novel, exceeds 400 pages.

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air

A great novel to check out if you want a non-fiction book that will break your heart is When Breath Becomes Air. This novel tells the story of Paul Kalanithi’s life. At 36 years old, this neurosurgeon was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

One day he was a doctor treating the critically ill, the next he was critically ill and being treated by doctors.

Written by Paul Kalanithi, this autobiography tells the heartbreaking true story of how the author’s future got taken away from him, and his life got turned upside down by that diagnosis.


  • Incredibly raw.
  • Heartbreaking true story.
  • A short novel, just over 200 pages in length.


  • Sudden ending.

They Both Die At The End – Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End (They Both Die at the End Series, 1)

Another brilliant novel to check out if you want to have your heart broken in two is They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. Adam Silvera is insanely talented at writing heartbreaking novels, and this is an excellent example of his talents.

In an alternate universe when people are alerted on the day that they die that it will be their last day on earth, Mateo and Rufus meet on their death day.

What follows is a bittersweet story of two boys who are total strangers, but become friends on their last day. You know how this story ends, but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.


  • Interesting plot.
  • Beautifully written.
  • Excellent length – around 400 pages.


  • Aimed at younger readers.

Reminders Of Him – Colleen Hoover

Reminders of Him: A Novel

Colleen Hoover is well-known for writing novels that pull on your heartstrings, and Reminders of Him is easily one of her best books.

Reminders of Him follows a mother’s plight to reunite with her daughter, and rebuild her life after a tragic accident lead to her serving 5 years in prison.

It is absolutely heartbreaking, and from the very start, this novel has you rooting for the main character. It will take you on an emotional rollercoaster, so don’t forget to grab the tissues.


  • Very well written.
  • Easy to follow.
  • Characters you connect to.


  • Leaves you wanting more.

Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why

If you’ve watched the TV adaptation of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, you already know that this book will have you in tears. Clay Jensen returns home to find a box of tapes laying on his porch.

The tapes were recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush – who committed suicide two weeks previously. The tapes tell the tale of 13 reasons why Hannah decided to end her life, and Clay’s name is on one of the tapes.

As Clay listens to the tape, he learns more about his classmates than he ever thought possible, and this tragic tale will break your heart in the process.


  • Shorter read – under 300 pages.
  • Wraps the story up well.
  • Contains important themes.


  • Aimed at younger readers.

The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale: A Novel

If you want a historical fiction novel that will break your heart, then you should check out The Nightingale. This novel is based in France at the start of the Second World War, and it follows a variety of characters and their journey throughout the war.

It is totally heartbreaking, and a lot of this comes from the fact that it focuses on the women’s war that occurred in World War 2. I can guarantee this book will get the tears flowing.


  • Historical fiction.
  • Beautifully written.
  • Inspired by true events.


  • Over 600 pages in length.

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones is another novel that is well-known for being absolutely heartbreaking, so if you want to cry, you should give this book a read. This novel follows Susie Salmon who is adjusting to her life in heaven.

Susie was 14 years old when she was murdered, and this book follows her journey of watching life unfold on Earth without her. As her killer tries to cover his tracks and her family reel from their loss, all she can do is watch on.

The Lovely Bones is incredibly sad, so you will definitely be crying by the end of this novel!


  • Interesting plot.
  • Well narrated.
  • Excellently written.


  • Covers some darker themes.

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

The Color Purple: A Novel

If you haven’t read The Color Purple yet, then you really need to add it to your TBR. This novel depicts the lives of African American women living in Georgia in the early 20th century.

It is told through a series of letters and covers lots of different themes and topics. It is a very important read that you should read in your lifetime. You will instantly connect with these characters, and before you know it, you’ll be crying as you read this novel.


  • Interesting format.
  • Beautifully written.
  • Covers essential themes and topics.


  • Part of a series.

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenger

The Time Traveler's Wife

Everybody knows that The Time Traveler’s Wife is a heartbreaking story. So, if you are searching for a sad book that will break your heart, this is the one to read.

This love story follows a Librarian and an artist that embark on an ambitious affair that takes them on adventures across a sea of time and captures them in a romantic trap.

It is difficult to explain the plot of this book, which is why you need to read it. This novel is beautifully written and absolutely heartbreaking, which is why you really need to give it a read.


  • Beautifully written.
  • A romance novel.
  • An interesting plot.


  • A long novel, nearly 600 pages in length.

My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult

My Sister's Keeper: A Novel (Wsp Readers Club)

If you have heard of My Sister’s Keeper, then you will know that this is a novel that will break your heart.

My Sister’s Keeper is a tragic novel about Anna – a girl who is not sick but may as well be as she has gone through countless procedures to save her sister’s life.

Her sister has leukemia, and Anna was conceived purely as a bone marrow match for her older sister.

Through this novel, the reader is taken on a journey of discovery as Anna realizes she has a life independent of her older sister, and that she deserves to live that life.


  • Heartbreaking novel.
  • Characters you connect with.
  • Beautifully written.


  • Longer novel, around 450 pages in length.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

There is nothing quite like a coming-of-age novel to get the tears flowing, and that’s exactly what you get from The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This novel follows the main character – Charlie – as he navigates his way from adolescence through to adulthood, with all the challenges that life throws at him.

It is incredibly touching, and a novel that you will really benefit from reading. For any fans of coming of ages novels, this book is an absolute must-read.


  • A touching novel.
  • Takes the reader on a journey.
  • Aimed at teens.


  • Short novel, just over 200 pages in length.

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

The Fault in Our Stars

When John Green published The Fault in Our Stars it was met with immense popularity. This novel broke the heart of many teens, and this was only furthered by the release of the movie adaptation.

The Fault In Our Stars tells the story of Hazel, a teenager who has terminal cancer. She knows that she is dying, and she has accepted that.

But, when she meets Augustus at a Cancer Kid Support Group, her story takes a plot twist that she never could have seen coming.

This novel is raw and heartbreaking, and it will have you in tears before you get to the end of the novel. So, if you want to cry, you really need to check out this book.


  • A touching read.
  • Beautifully written.
  • Excellent character development.


  • Aimed at younger readers.

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life

If you are searching for a large book that will break your heart, then look no further than A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. A Little Life follows four college classmates who have moved to New York in search of fame and fortune.

Despite their individual problems and stresses, the four are held together by their shared devotion to Jude – a man scarred by childhood trauma. This novel is enormously popular, and rightly so.

It will take you a while to get through this novel, but don’t forget to grab a box of tissues before you dive in because you will definitely be crying by the end of this book.


  • A tale of friendship.
  • Covers some important themes.
  • Takes you on a journey.


PS, I Love You – Cecelia Ahern

PS, I Love You: A Novel

For a romance novel that will break your heart, you should read PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern. This novel tells the story of childhood sweethearts – Holly and Gerry – who have a perfect love.

However, their perfect life together comes to an abrupt end when Gerry passes away. After his death, as Holly’s 30th birthday looms closer, she gets to reconnect with Gerry with a series of notes that he wrote before his death.

In this story of loss and grief, you will see Holly become stronger than she ever had been before. For anyone who has ever lost somebody they love, this novel is guaranteed to make you cry.


  • A heartbreaking story.
  • Beautifully written.
  • A sequel is available for those wanting more.


  • A long novel – more than 500 pages.

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas – John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

You may wonder how a book as short as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas can break your heart, but I promise you that it will. This story based in World War 2 focuses on Bruno, a boy who is forced to move far away when his father gets a promotion.

In his new home, there is nothing for Bruno to do, except ponder over the high fence that separates him from the people in the distance.

This short story will have you sobbing by the time you finish it, and with important themes throughout, this children’s novel is one that you need to read.


  • Important plot.
  • Heartbreaking story.
  • A quick read.


  • A short novel, just over 200 pages in length.

All Your Perfects – Colleen Hoover

All Your Perfects: A Novel (4) (Hopeless)

Another brilliant novel by Colleen Hoover to read if you want your heart to break is All Your Perfects. This novel tells the story of a couple whose perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage.

The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have made over the years are now tearing them apart, and the only thing that could bring them together is the same thing that could tear them apart forever.

With themes of adultery, infertility, and trauma, this novel tells the sad, yet realistic, story of a troubled message and an old promise that might be able to save it.


  • Important themes.
  • Beautifully written.
  • Characters you connect to.


  • Leaves you wanting more.

A Thousand Pleasant Suns – Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini is an incredibly talented author, and one of the best novels by this author is A Thousand Pleasant Suns. This novel tells the story of how war can bring two women of different generations together.

As the surrounding dangers escalate they form a bond that makes them sisters and ties them together for the rest of their lives.

Throughout this novel, some intense themes are addressed, and it will have you crying at parts. With a huge focus on love, I’m sure you’ll love this book.


  • Touching plot.
  • Characters you connect with.
  • Beautifully written.


  • Longer novel – exceeding 400 pages.

The Secret Life Of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees is based in the 1960s and tells the story of a girl whose life has been shaped by the blurred memories of her mother being killed.

These blurred memories take the main character on a journey, and through this story of healing, and the transforming power of love, the reader will be taken with her.

This book is breathtakingly beautiful, and I can guarantee that it will break your heart as you read.


  • Beautifully written.
  • An important storyline.
  • Excellent length – around 350 pages.


  • Only suitable for those aged 18+.

Atonement – Ian McEwan

Atonement: A Novel

Atonement by Ian McEwan is well-known for being a heartbreaking novel, and it is perfect for anybody who is searching for a book that will make them cry.

This novel tells the story of 13-year-old Briony who sees a moment of flirtation between her older sister and the son of a servant.

But her lack of adult knowledge sets about a crime that will change all their lives, and the repercussions stretch through World War 2 and further into the twentieth century.

Atonement takes the reader on a heartbreaking journey of love, war, class, and guilt, and I can guarantee it will make you sob.


  • Takes you on a journey.
  • Excellent length – 350 pages.
  • Beautifully written.


  • A very intense read.

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Me Before You (Me Before You Trilogy)

If you are looking for a novel that will make you sob, you need to check out the Me Before You trilogy.

This novel tells the story of Louisa Clark, and how her ordinary life is changed when she accepts a job as a carer for Will Traynor – whose life was changed when an accident left him wheelchair-bound.

That job changes both of their lives, and when Louisa learns of Will’s plans, she sets out to show him that life is worth living.  But in this heartbreaking novel, will Louisa be able to change Will’s mind? Or will she lose him forever?


  • Excellent length – 369 pages.
  • Heartbreaking plot.
  • The start of an excellent trilogy.


  • A bittersweet ending.

A Man Called Ove – Frederik Backman

A Man Called Ove: A Novel

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman has recently been made into a movie titled “A Man Called Otto”, starring Tom Hanks. If you loved the film, you’ll adore A Man Called Ove.

This novel tells the story of Ove – an elderly gentleman who has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse.

Ove is known as the “neighbor from hell”, but when a young couple with two young children moves in beside him, they start to see the sad story behind Ove’s harsh exterior.

This novel takes the reader on a journey, and as more is revealed about Ove, the more enthralled by this story you will become. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will break your heart. That is why you need to check out this novel!


  • A heartwarming story.
  • Equally funny and sad.
  • Different from the other novels in this list.


  • A little repetitive at times.

History Is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera

History Is All You Left Me (Deluxe Edition)

As I said earlier, Adam Silvera is incredibly talented at writing novels that break your heart, and History is All You Left Me is another great example of this.

In this novel, Griffin’s life is turned upside down when his ex-boyfriend and first love, Theo, dies in a tragic accident.

Despite their split, Griffin had always believed Theo would come back to him, but now his future is turned upside down, and the only person who can understand how he feels is Theo’s current boyfriend, Jackson.

Theo might have died in a tragic drowning accident, but in this novel, it is Griffin who is drowning in his grief.

As he spirals into obsessive compulsions and destructive choices brought on by the secrets he was keeping, Griffin must address the past if he wants any hope of a future.


  • Heartbreaking from the very start.
  • Excellent length – just over 300 pages.
  • Takes the reader on a journey.


  • Aimed at younger readers.

Forever Interrupted – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Forever, Interrupted: A Novel

Taylor Jenkins Reid is probably most famous for her novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but if you are looking for a novel that will make you cry, you should read Forever Interrupted instead. 

This novel focuses on a girl called Elsie Porter whose life changed forever on New Year’s Eve when she met the man of her dreams at a pizza shop. They hit it off immediately, and within a matter of months, they had eloped. 

Unfortunately, 9 days after their elopement, Elsie’s life would change forever once more when her new husband is hit by a truck and killed instantly.

Suddenly she’s in the hospital where she must face her new mother-in-law, a woman who still doesn’t know she exists.

Through interweaving chapters about Elsie and her husband, and Elsie and her mother-in-law, the reader is taken on a heartbreaking journey of love and loss.


  • Extremely talented author.
  • A dual timeline brings a lot of background information.
  • Characters you connect with instantly.


  • Leaves you wanting more.

Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing: Reese's Book Club (A Novel)

Another heartbreaking novel filled with important themes is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. This novel was also recently made into a movie starring Daisy Edgar-Jones.

This novel focuses on Kya, a girl known locally as the “marsh girl”. Kya has had a difficult life and from a young age, she had to bring herself up after being abandoned by her parents and siblings.

The townspeople have spread all sorts of rumors about Kya, so when a local man – Chase Andrews – is found dead, they instantly point the finger at Kya.

In this novel of secrets, neglect, discrimination, and love, the reader is taken on a heartbreaking journey with Kya, as the mystery of who killed Chase unfolds.


  • Beautifully written.
  • A twisty novel that leaves you guessing.
  • Heartbreaking themes throughout.


  • A longer novel – 400 pages.

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is perfect for any fans of historical fiction that want their hearts broken.

Following two young children, living in different countries, but both disadvantaged, All the Lights We Cannot See tells the story of how their lives are changed during World War 2.

Through the novel, the lives of these two individuals crossover, and in a heartbreaking tale, the plight of those living through World War 2 is really revealed.

This novel is guaranteed to have you sobbing, so don’t forget to grab the tissues before you start reading!


  • Perfect for fans of historical fiction.
  • Dual storyline.
  • Heartbreaking throughout.


  • A long novel – exceeding 500 pages.

The Bright Side Running Club – Josie Lloyd

The Bright Side Running Club: A novel of breast cancer, best friends, and jogging for your life.

The Bright Side Running Club by Josie Lloyd is guaranteed to make you cry. This novel tells the story of Keira who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Straight after her diagnosis, she meets two women who will change her life, and she joins their running club. Blindsided by her diagnosis, Keira’s life is turned upside down as she doesn’t want to tell her family or leave her job.

But through all the darkness, it is the running club that brings her hope. Based on the author’s own experience with breast cancer, this novel is touching and heartbreaking.

At times, you’ll be laughing, at others, you’ll be sobbing, and that is what makes it such a good book!


  • Themes of friendship, love, and strength.
  • Good length – around 350 pages.
  • Equally heartbreaking and funny.


  • Includes potentially triggering themes – cancer, adultery, etc.

We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We Were Liars

If you are looking for a teen or young adult novel that will break your heart, you should check out We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This story remains a mystery until you read it, and that is part of what makes it so good.

With themes of friendship, romance, and family drama sprinkled throughout this novel, there is something for everyone in this novel.

Until the end of this book, it will keep you guessing, and I can guarantee it will break your heart. If you don’t believe me, just give it a read!


  • Around 300 pages in length.
  • Aimed at teens/young adults.
  • Thrilling plot.


  • Part of a series.

Marley And Me – John Grogan

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog

By now, you’ve probably already heard of Marley and Me, so you probably don’t need me to tell you how sad this novel is. 

Ever since it was made into a movie in 2008, this novel has been renowned for its heartbreaking plot all about man’s best friend. This novel is a touching tribute to the dogs that we share our lives with and a great reminder of how special they are. 

Marley and Me will have you laughing and crying, and it will take you on a journey of how one dog changed a couple’s life forever. If you loved the movie, then you’ll adore the book!



  • Contains outdated dog training practices.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner

If you are searching for a story about friendship that will make you cry, then you need to read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

This novel transports readers to Afghanistan at a crucial point in history and tells the story of a wealthy boy who becomes friends with the son of his father’s servant. In a plot that covers different social classes, this novel will get you hooked immediately.

With themes of power, betrayal, and redemption, this novel takes you on a journey, and I bet it’ll have you crying in no time!


  • Covers real-life events.
  • Aimed at younger readers.
  • A powerful story of friendship.


  • First published in 2003.

In Five Years – Rebecca Serle

In Five Years: A Novel

Another great novel about friendship and love that will break your heart is In Five Years by Rebecca Serle. Dannie lives her life by numbers and is the total opposite of her lifelong friend, Bella.

In one fell swoop, Dannie is suddenly living her dream life – accepting her dream job offer and a proposal from her long-term boyfriend in a single day, before falling into a peaceful sleep.

But when she wakes up, she’s in a different apartment with a different man, and she spends an hour five years in the future, before returning to her real life.

But that dream turned her world upside down, and it set into motion a sequence of events that you never would have seen coming. For a love story that you never would have imagined, that is guaranteed to break your heart, check out this novel.


  • Short novel – below 300 pages.
  • Not the love story you would expect.
  • Realistic plot with important themes throughout.


  • Ends quite suddenly.

Best Sad Books Buyer’s Guide

Fiction Vs Nonfiction

The first thing that you need to consider when buying a book that will make you cry is whether you want to read a fiction novel or nonfiction.

Often, fiction novels will be more heartbreaking as they will develop characters and make you attached to them. Only to break your heart in the events of your novel.

However, non-fiction novels can also be incredibly upsetting, as the events that occur in that book have actually happened to the author, or the individual that the novel is about.


Another thing that you need to consider is what genre of book you are interested in reading. There are lots of different genres that can break your heart, and we’ve explored a lot of them in this guide.

Romance novels are always a good choice if you want a book to break your heart. There is always a certain amount of angst in a romance novel, and that is a great way to get the tears flowing.

Likewise, historical fiction and fantasy novels are also a good choice, as they will often have heartbreaking storylines as part of the plot.

Length Of Novel

Finally, you need to consider the length of the novel. Do you want a longer novel that will make you attached to the characters, then rip your heart out? Or do you want a shorter novel that will make you cry?

Generally, the length of novels that people prefer will come down to personal preference. So bear this in mind when looking for a sad book that will break your heart.


In conclusion, there are lots of sad novels out there that are guaranteed to make you cry when you read them. In this guide, I’ve told you all about 31 of the best options.

So, if you are looking for a novel that will make you cry and allow you to reset your emotions, be sure to check out one of the books in this guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Healthy To Read Sad Books?

Yes, sad books can help prepare the reader for hardships that they may experience in the future in their own life.

They can also help them relate their sad experiences to the characters in the novel. Both of these things can help readers manage their emotions.

Why Do I Cry When Reading Sad Books?

Reading sad books can be incredibly cathartic, and it can help the reader work through their emotions.

No matter whether you relate to the characters in the novel, sometimes reading a sad book is a great way to let your emotions out and reset the way that you feel.

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Noah Burton