There are some days when you need to have a good cry. While we hope it’s not all that often that melancholy strikes, we do know that a good book can be just the right type of cathartic medicine. Mark Haddon’s collection of short stories, Pier Falls, is just that kind of collection. His stories are dark and unafraid to probe the most painful parts of human experience, but are not without a good dose of empathy and a little dash of hope.
We’ve gathered together a list of books that are unafraid to dig their heels into the toughest parts of life. Whether it’s Hanya Yanagihara’s A Litte Life, a tearjerker of a beautiful novel about friendship or David Nicholls’s absolutely heartbreaking story of love in One Day, all of these books are certain to give you the feels. All the feels.
Pier Falls by Mark Haddon
“A descriptive tour de force. . . . Superbly gripping stories.” —The Sunday Times (UK)
Mark Haddon, author of the international bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, returns with a collection of unsparing short stories. Cut with lean prose and drawing inventively from history, myth, fairy tales and, above all, a deep well of empathy, The Pier Falls reveals a previously unseen side of the celebrated author.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
“Deeply moving. . . . A wrenching portrait of the enduring grace of friendship.” —NPR
A Little Life follows four college classmates—broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition—as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. A masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves.
“Beautifully crafted . . . a remarkable and deeply troubling book.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Hailed as a masterpiece of realistic fiction and as the most evocative portrayal of the opulent desolation of the American suburbs since its publication in 1961, Revolutionary Road is the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple who have lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner.
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
“Poignant, honest and triumphantly funny . . . [a] compelling and heartbreaking story.” —Susan Cheever, The New York Times Book Review
In 1967, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital renowned for its famous clientele. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
“So charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry.”—The New York Times
It is the story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove—a black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others—who prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
“One of McCarthy’s best novels, probably his most moving and perhaps his most personal.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
The Road boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which a father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.
Tiny, Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
“Emotionally charged reading (translation: be prepared to bawl) that leaves you significantly wiser for the experience.”—Leigh Newman, Oprah.com
This bestselling book from the author of Wild collects the best of The Rumpus’s Dear Sugar advice columns plus never-before-published pieces. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.
One Day by David Nicholls
“A great, funny, and heartbreaking read.” —The Early Show (CBS)
It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about each other. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.