2.8k voters

The Most Heartbreaking Novels Ever Written

Updated October 7, 2020 22.9k votes 2.8k voters 95.7k views117 items

List RulesVote up any good, very sad tearjerker books that make you cry.

This list is about the most heartbreaking novels ever written; it answers the question, “What are the saddest books of all time?” If you’ve ever read one of these tear-jerkers, you know that these sad stories will tug on your heart strings in a way that no other novel can.  The best sad stories like this will warm even the coldest of hearts! We’ve all felt the pain of loss, the agony of heartbreak and the joy of falling in love: we all relate to sad stories. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter provides us with a sense of empathy for an underdog, a woman that is forced to wear her sins on her sleeve for the world to see. Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting pulls on that secret place deep down in each of us that longs for love to never end, but teaches us that what seems like a blessing to us now may be a curse in the future. Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha shows us how life can be in another part of the world, moving us from our self-centered perspectives about life into a compassion for those less fortunate. These stories mold us into who we are and show us where we came from. Most importantly, these novels teach us that we’re not as different as we may think.
  • 1

    Of Mice and Men

    John Steinbeck
    Of Mice and Men is a novella written by Nobel Prize–winning author John Steinbeck. Published...  more

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  • 2
    Where the Red Fern Grows is a 1961 children's novel by Wilson Rawls about a boy who buys and...  more
  • 3

    Old Yeller

    Fred Gipson
    Old Yeller is a 1956 children's novel written by Fred Gipson and illustrated by Carl Burger,...  more
  • 4

    Bridge to Terabithia

    Donna Diamond, Katherine Paterson
    Bridge to Terabithia is a work of children's literature about two lonely children who create a...  more
  • 5

    Les Misérables

    Victor Hugo
    Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is...  more

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  • 6

    The Outsiders

    S. E. Hinton
    The Outsiders is a coming-of-age novel by S. E. Hinton, first published in 1967 by Viking...  more
  • 7
    Flowers for Algernon is a science fiction short story and subsequent novel written by Daniel...  more

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  • 8

    The Kite Runner

    Khaled Hosseini
    The Kite Runner is the first novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini. Published in...  more

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  • 9

    Charlotte's Web

    E. B. White
    Charlotte's Web is a children's novel by American author E. B. White and illustrated by Garth...  more

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  • 10
    Nineteen Eighty-Four, sometimes published as 1984, is a dystopian novel by English author...  more

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  • 11

    The Book Thief

    Markus Zusak
    The Book Thief is a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. First published in 2005, the book...  more

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  • 12
    To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. It was immediately...  more

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  • 13
    The Fault in Our Stars is the sixth novel by author John Green, published in January 2012. The...  more
  • 14

    The Lovely Bones

    Alice Sebold
    The Lovely Bones is a 2002 novel by Alice Sebold. It is the story of a teenage girl who, after...  more

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  • 15

    The Giver

    Lois Lowry
    The Giver is a 1993 American social science fiction children's novel by Lois Lowry. It is set...  more

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  • 16

    My Sister's Keeper

    Jodi Picoult
    My Sister's Keeper is a 2004 novel written by Jodi Picoult. It tells the story of 13-year-old...  more
  • 17

    Black Beauty

    Anna Sewell
    Black Beauty is an 1877 novel by English author Anna Sewell. It was composed in the last years...  more

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  • 18


    William Shakespeare
    The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, often shortened to Hamlet, is a tragedy written by...  more
  • 19

    Lord of the Flies

    William Golding
    Lord of the Flies is a 1954 dystopian novel by Nobel Prize-winning English author William...  more

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  • 20

    Animal Farm

    George Orwell
    Animal Farm is an allegorical and dystopian novella by George Orwell, first published in...  more

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  • 21
    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the seventh and final novel of the Harry Potter...  more

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  • 22

    Jane Eyre

    Charlotte Brontë
    Jane Eyre is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It was published on 16 October 1847...  more

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  • 23

    The Little Prince

    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    The Little Prince, first published in 1943, is a novella and the most famous work of the...  more

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  • 24


    Ian McEwan
    Atonement is a British family saga novel written by author Ian McEwan and published in 2001....  more
  • 25

    The Notebook

    Nicholas Sparks
    The Notebook is a 1996 romantic novel by American novelist Nicholas Sparks, based on a true...  more