I read a lot. Often, when I find myself stuck in my own writing, I turn to books to fuel my need for words and creativity. And books…they have a way of breaking your heart. Even more than that. Tearing it up into little shreds! Yet my favorite books of all time are the ones that have broken my heart into a million pieces – it’s a cathartic kind of release, and it shows the power of words and storytelling.
Warning: there may be minor spoilers below. Here is my list, from least to most heart-breaking (granted, they’re ALL heartbreaking).
21. Mosquito Land by David Arnold. I really enjoyed this story, particularly the reveal at the end of the novel. A great exploration of mental health, grief, and growing up.
20. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I absolutely adore Doerr’s work – I’ve read a lot of his short stories and love how worldly they are. This book was beautifully written and full of feelings – a unique perspective on Europe during WWII.
19. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. When I was in high school, I went through a huge Jodi Picoult phase. I love the raw emotions in her work, but this novel in particular blew me away. Picoult managed to show all sides of a tragic story about a school shooting in the most memorable way…this will always be my favorite Picoult book.
18. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. While Nineteen Minutes it my favorite Picoult novel, My Sister’s Keeper broke my heart into many more pieces. Out of character for me, I saw the movie first. The book is much different, and the twist was so unexpected for me…such a deep and thoughtful novel.
17. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. This is the best novel about a dog that I have ever read, such a deep and powerful insight into human life. And, as everyone knows, dog novels always end up breaking your heart in the end.
16. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. This may be my favorite book about mental health. Such a real and honest look into depression and anxiety. I saw the end coming from miles away, but it still hurt.
15. Sold by Patricia McCormick. This one didn’t make me cry as much as it made me gasp, so much heavier than most novels because it is based on true events. I felt for all of the girls in the novel. EVERYONE should read this book.
14. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Ah, the classic tear-jerker. Even though I was able to predict the ending from pretty early on, I still cried, and I cry every time that I re-read the book or watch the movie.
13. Looking for Alaska by John Green. At first, I really didn’t like the characters, so it was really hard for me to get past the first part. But in the second part, Green provides such a realistic look into how death impacts students and friendships…I cry every time!
12. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand. I read this book after a friend committed suicide. It was the most realistic book about losing a friend to suicide that I’ve read thus far…
11. Pastel Orphans by Gemma Liviero. This may be one of my favorite (next to The Book Thief) books about the Holocaust. I was speechless while finishing it.
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. I bawled after the last movie. Harry Potter was my childhood. The last book will ~always~ get me.
9. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. This book hit home so much for me, because Charlie’s experience with mental health is so similar to mine. Such an amazing novel. I have read it so many times – my copy is fully annotated! This is my favorite book — while it may not be number one on my heartbreak list, it’s number one in my favorites list.
8. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. It took me a while to get into this book, mostly because I don’t know much about planes or war. But the twist at the end of the novel…it was like a lightbulb lit up over my head! I cried so much! Highly recommend everyone read this and stick with it until the end.
7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman. This book will always make me cry – the concept of losing your entire family is so jarring, and the decision Mia had to make haunts me.
6. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. It took me about half-way through to get into this book, as the two different timelines confused me a bit. But once I realized what had happened in the story…wow. This was a book that stuck with me for so much longer after I finished reading. The characters were so profound, it is one of my favorites.
5. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid. Yet another one where I actually watched the movie first, not knowing there was a book. This story amazes me every time, there are so many layers…highly recommend. It deals with loss and grief and mental health in such a beautiful way, as well as dealing with historical trauma, racism, oppression…so well done.
4. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I read this novel shortly after I had lost a friend, unexpectedly, and it was so real, and so shocking…such an amazing book. It impacted me so greatly because I was going through a traumatic loss at the time.
3. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Every time that I read this I sob uncontrollably, in all honestly. The last time I read it I cried for over half the novel, I was a mess! This book hits home especially for me, because a friend of mine was murdered similarly. The way that Sebold describes the family member’s reactions, how they continue with their life…so heartbreaking and real.
2. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. SO GOOD. Even though the narrator (death) literally tells you what’s going to happen, it’s still so heartbreaking!!!
1. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. This will forever be my number one because it was the first book that ever made me cry, and showed me the immense impact of storytelling.