Because You Read®
Our Customers Recommend the Bleakest Books
A year or so ago, we put together a feature about the top 10 most depressing books. Many of you, our loyal and very well-read customers, scoffed at the list. Emails pounded into our inbox telling us about books that were TRULY depressing – books without hope, books that offer only lingering despair.
There was even a wonderfully named lady called Nancy Bleakley who reminded us of the "grinding poverty" described in Frank McCourt's memoir Angela's Ashes. Thanks, Nancy. The original bleak books list featured nuclear fallout, the Holocaust, government oppression, poverty, mental illness and the savage nature of humanity, but we are positive that this new list of depressing literature takes bleakness to a different level – bleak to bleaker.
It was interesting reading through your suggestions. One formula for a depressing read is a bleak narrative that hints at a possible happy ending, only to have the author end the book with even more pain and suffering.
Enjoy (but we actually mean suffer through) the ‘Bleak Book Club' and thanks to everyone who offered recommendations.
More Bleak Books
by Charles Frazier
"It has a bittersweet end and several tragedies along the way. Animals, men, women, babies, soldiers, all suffer," writes Marla.
Cold Spring Harbor
by Richard Yates
"Yates' books are upsetting because they involve everyday people in common situations," writes Barbara.
The Good Soldier
by Ford Madox Ford
"If you read the novel straight it could drive you to drink, but if read as ironic it is side-splittingly humorous,"
writes B. A.
The Cellist of Sarajevo
by Steven Galloway
"There is no feeling of hope or solace arising out of conflict by the end of the book, as some reviewers claimed," writes Hazel.
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy
"I could not stand it but had to finish it. There has to be a happy ending… oh I guess not. I was depressed for a month," writes Wes.
Bastard Out of Carolina
by Dorothy Allison
"The entire book is depressing, but the end is truly horrendous," writes Carolyn.
by Albert Camus
"I read it in French - the most miserable and depressing story I have ever read," writes Vivien.
by Ninni Holmqvist
"Truly depressing! I can't recommend this book to anyone, and will probably throw my copy away," writes Berta.
by Bernard Malamud
"One of the bleakest books I can remember reading," writes Barb.
by Georges Simenon
"So soul-crushingly bleak that it easily gives The Road a run for its money," writes Robin.
by Jean-Paul Sartre
"I read this as a teenager and was plagued for six months by thoughts about whether life was worth living," writes Lydia.
Johnny Got His Gun
by Dalton Trumbo
"A really depressing book. It starts out in bleakness and just gets worse as more of the story unfolds," writes Rich.
by Nathanael West
"It will leave you shaken for days afterwards, like a terrible, gnawing sorrow. Not for the faint of heart," writes John.
A Fine Balance
by Rohinton Mistry
"Another Oprah selection that should be on your top list of depressing books," write Mae.
by Emile Zola
"Unending misery on unending misery. The blind horses (from living underground all their lives) were the last straw," writes Anne.
by John Hersey
"I read it when I was 12. Now I'm 65. The images of pain and desperation Hersey drew are with me still," writes Seth.
The Painted Bird
by Jerzy Kosinski
"The protagonist is pitched into a cesspool by his unreasoning tormenters. That's about as uplifting as this story gets," writes Lelia.
The Kindly Ones
by Jonathan Littell
"This was extremely hard to get through when the main character is an incestuous Nazi officer involved with the Final Solution," writes Steven.
The Sound of One Hand Clapping
by Richard Flanagan
"The gloom of the setting and the bleakness of the characters' existence overwhelmed me," writes Judy.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
by Victor Hugo
"Poor Quasimodo. I got so angry at Phoebus and Esmeralda - she never saw the beauty in Quasimodo's soul," writes Tina.
by Michel Houellebecq
"It took me a couple of weeks to recover from reading this very bleak art-novel. Big mistake picking it up," writes Chris.
The Island of Doctor Moreau
by H.G. Wells
"A story of vivisection. It gave me nightmares for years," writes Geoff.
New Grub Street
by George Gissing
"Portrait of a struggling novelist. It was required reading when I was at university in the 1960s – our lecturer was a Marxist," writes Frances.
A Song of Stone
by Iain Banks
"Civilization has disintegrated into dog-eat-dog carnage. There is no peace, no love, no hope," writes Francesca.
by Franz Kafka
"One of the most depressing books I've ever read. At least in The Road the protagonist knows why life is so bad," writes Dave.