The Saddest Book You Ever Read

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I want to throw the new Eggers on the list, its not soul crushing necessarily but it is depressingly poignant. :( Also, a pretty good read (Eggers) and a fast read, you can probably do it in an afternoon.
 

Arella Mathara

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I cry alot when I read so this is a hard one. The saddest I've read lately is "And every morning the way home gets longer and longer" by Fredrik Backman. It's about a man suffering from dementia. He tries to keep his most precious memories while his family is struggling to let him go. It's 80 heart wrenching pages.
 

Dnae Ila

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Oof, I don't know if I could handle that.
 
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The Road by Cormac McCarthy is also pretty depressing.
 

Juliya Karisu

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I tear up generally from books but I really stay away from most tragic ones (my heart can't take it).

Something that made me bawl my eyes out was the manga Orange by Ichigo Takano. It's about a group of friends who receive letters from their future selves trying to prevent one of their friends from committing suicide.
 
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Well, this isn't a book, it's a short story - but it is the saddest thing I've ever read. Or rather, I've never felt so sad after reading something.
It's from a Swedish journalist, poet and author: Stig Dagerman.
It’s a peaceful day as sunlight settles onto the fields of the plain. Soon bells will be ringing, because today is Sunday. Between fields of rye, two children have just come upon a footpath that they have never taken before, and in the three villages along the plain, window panes glisten in the sun. Men shave before mirrors propped on kitchen tables, women hum as they slice up cinnamon bread for the morning meal, and children sit on kitchen floors, buttoning the fronts of their shirts. This is the pleasant morning of an evil day, because on this day a child will be killed in the third village by a cheerful man. Yet the child still sits on the kitchen floor, buttoning his shirt. And the man who is still shaving talks of the day ahead, of their rowing trip down the creek. And still humming, the woman places the freshly cut bread on a blue plate.

No shadows pass over the kitchen, and yet even now the man who will kill the child stands near a red gas pump in the first village. He’s a cheerful man, looking through the view-finder of his camera, framing a shot of a small blue car and a young woman who stands beside it, laughing. As the woman laughs and the man snaps the charming picture, the attendant screws their gas cap on tightly. He tells them it looks like a good day for a drive. The woman gets into the car, and the man who will kill the child pulls out his wallet. He tells the attendant they’re driving to the sea. He says when they reach the sea they’ll rent a boat and row far, far out. Through her open window, the woman in the front seat hears his words. She settles back and closes her eyes. And with her eyes closed she sees the sea and the man sitting beside her in a boat. He’s not an evil man. He’s carefree and cheerful. Before he climbs into the car, he stands for a moment in front of the grille, which gleams in the sun, and he enjoys the mixed aroma of gasoline and lilacs. No shadows fall over the car, and its shiny bumper has no dents, nor is it red with blood.

But as the man in the first village climbs into his car and slams the door shut, just as he is reaching down to pull out the choke, the woman in the third village opens her kitchen cupboard and finds that she has no sugar. The child, who has finished buttoning his shirt and has tied his shoes, kneels on a couch and sees the stream winding between the alders, pictures the black rowboat pulled up into the tall grass of the bank. The man who will lose his child has finished shaving and is just now closing his portable mirror. Coffee cups, cinnamon bread, cream, and flies each have a place on the table. Only the sugar is missing. And so the mother tells her child to run over to the Larssons’ to borrow a little. As the child opens the door, the man calls after him, urging him to hurry, because the boat lies waiting for them on the bank of the creek, and today they will row much, much further than they ever have before. Running through the yard, the child can think of nothing else but the stream and the boat and the fish that jump from the water. And no one whispers to the child that he has only eight minutes to live and that the boat will lie where it is today and for many days to come.

It isn’t far to the Larssons’. It’s only across the road. And just as the child is crossing that road, the small blue car is speeding through the second village. It’s a tiny village, with humble red houses and newly awakened people who sit in their kitchens with raised coffee cups. They look out over their hedges and see the car rush past, a large cloud of dust rising behind it. The car moves fast, and from behind the steering wheel the man catches glimpses of apple trees and newly tarred telephone poles slipping past like gray shadows. Summer breathes through their open windows, and as they rush out of the second village their car hugs the road, riding safely, surely, in the middle. They are alone on this road — so far. It’s a peaceful thing, to drive completely alone on a broad road. And as they move out onto the open plain, that feeling of peace settles deeper. The man is strong and contented, and with his right elbow he can feel the woman’s body. He’s not a bad man. He’s in a hurry to get to the sea. He wouldn’t hurt even the simplest creature, and yet, still, he will soon kill a child. As they rush on towards the third village, the woman again shuts her eyes, pretending those eyes will not open again until they can look on the sea. In time with the car’s gentle swaying, she dreams about the calm, lapping tide, the peaceful, mirrored surface of the water.

Because life is constructed in such a merciless fashion, even one minute before a cheerful man kills a child he can still feel entirely at ease, and only one minute before a woman screams out in horror she can close her eyes and dream of the sea, and during the last minute of that child’s life his parents can sit in a kitchen waiting for sugar, talking casually about the child’s white teeth and the rowing trip they have planned, and that child himself can close a gate and begin to cross a road, holding in his right hand a few cubes of sugar wrapped up in white paper, and for the whole of that minute he can see nothing but a clear stream with big fish and a wide-bottomed boat with silent oars.

Afterward everything is too late. Afterward there is a blue car stopped sideways in the road, and a screaming woman takes her hand from her mouth, and it’s red with blood. Afterward a man opens a car door and tries to stand on his legs, even though he has a pit of horror within him. Afterward a few sugar cubes are strewn meaninglessly about in the blood and gravel, and a child lies motionless on its stomach, its face pressed heavily against the road. Afterward two pale people, who have not yet had their coffee, come running through a gate to see a sight in the road they will never forget. Because it’s not true that time heals all wounds. Time does not heal the wounds of a dead child, and it heals very poorly the pain of a mother who forgot to buy sugar and who sent her child across the road to borrow some. And it heals just as poorly the anguish of a once cheerful man who has killed a child.

Because the man who has killed a child does not go to the sea. The man who has killed a child drives home slowly, in silence. And beside him sits a mute woman with a bandaged hand. And as they drive back through the villages, they do not see even one friendly face—all shadows, everywhere, are very dark. And when they part, it is in the deepest silence. And the man who has killed a child knows that this silence is his enemy, and that he will need years of his life to conquer it by crying out that it wasn’t his fault. But he also knows that this is a lie. And in the fitful dreams of his nights he will try instead to gain back just a single minute of his life, to somehow make that single minute different.

But life is so merciless to the man who has killed a child that everything afterward is too late.
 

Syera Faelron

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The Assassis Apprentice et Al all trilogies.
When certain characters got killed off,I sniffled.
 

Almira ni'Caldazare

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Fault in Our Stars... Almost anything my John Green is sad! I've read An Abundance of Katherines by John Green and it was actually funny and hopeful. It is one of my favorites.
 

Idril Alfauro

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I can't decide which was saddest, so I'll add a few.

The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Robert Cormier - its about a bunch of terminally ill kids who get tired of waiting to die and take matters into their own hands.

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III - its a slice of life kinda story about a woman who's house is wrongfully taken from her by the county and immediately sold at auction to an immigrant who wants to make money to take care of his family by flipping houses and the whole situation takes a tragic turn.

There was also a short story I read by I think a Vietnamese author about an American family at a US military base and the father is there to root out communism and a lovely old man and young boy are caught up in tragedy and the father starts questioning himself and what he's doing and I can barely speak about this story without tearing up.
 

Leo Kian

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I cried at the very end of The Amber Spyglass, when they are at the bench...I have never finished the rest of the book, I just couldn't.
 

Adina al'Mari

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Where the Red Fern Grows was scarring as a child, I do not recommend it, no matter how well written it is.

More recently, A Man Called Ove (I recommend listening to the audio book if you can!) The Book of Dreams, by Nina George, and the ending of the Broken Earth trilogy were beautifully well crafted and moving.
 

Morgana Arakos

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Tana French's The Secret Place was really rough for me.

Also All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer. Woof. I cried my way through that one.
 

Willow Elbereth

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I read Of Mice & Men when I was a freshman in high school. It was the first story that I read that wasn’t for younger kids. I remember being introduced to themes I’d never read about before, and concepts that made me think about my stance on things. As I was nearing the end of the book, I snuck out of my room I was sharing with my sister and camped out on the bathroom floor to finish the novel. I was completely shocked by the ending! I totally ugly cried alone and upset at 2:00 am with that book. :cry

It was the first time a book evoked such strong feelings in me. There have been others since, (The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, Oliver Twist, The Crucible, Tuesday’s with Morrey, The Hiding Place, Ben Hur, Lord of The Flies, etc.). But you never forget your first one. The one that really opened up that layer within yourself that you didn’t realize existed.

I think for an author to have the ability to create a world where you enter slowly and unknowingly as you forget your own reality, and start to feel as though you are a character in the book yourself, watching everything as it happens, is such great talent. Where would we all be without our imaginations and a good book to harness it?
 

Merena Orithana

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A runner-up: My Abandonment by Peter Rock (short story)
 

Merena Orithana

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@Thaddius al'Guy Sedai - It is really good, but can be quite sad in parts. Highly recommend!
 

Dnae Ila

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I'd forgotten about this thread. It's not a single book, but the Animorphs series is pretty devastating. I cried at probably 35 of the 54 main books.
 
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