Sad Books For A Summer Read

Last week we talked about books that make us happy. For balance, we take up books that make a reader sad, that take the reader into the darkest places of the human experience.  Here are some books that are such an emotionally tough read, they might best be read In the sunny days of summer. 

The Bryant Corner Cafe is a warm and cozy place. The sunshine comes streaming the big south facing windows. Steam rises from fresh baked goods and hot off the grill meals. The world looks pretty good.

We had a nice sunny day, hot coffee, iced tea and a plateful of tasty cookies as we discussed murder, rape, mass shootings, imprisonment, genocide and the disintegration of democracy. You can see why we thought these are books that might lend themselves to a summer read. You could look up from the page every once in a while, feel the sun on your face, listen to a few birds sing, watch the leaves rustle in a cooling breeze.  Take a deep breath.  Tell yourself that it isn't all so tragic. It's summer. Then dive back in.


Here are a few of the books we talked about.


Nancy says “The Honorable Schoolboy,” by John Le Carre just broke her heart. She can’t imagine ever picking it up again.



The Book of Lamentations” is a modern novel by Rosario Castellanos, about the Mayan Spanish conflicts.

The Bedside Book of Bastards,” Dorothy M. Johnson and R.T. Turner, a light tone about the terrible things people do to one another.

Democracy For Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government,” Larry Bartels and Christopher Achen. One reviewer called it brutally depressing.

The novels of Thomas Hardy. His topics are timeless.

“Please Look After Mom,” by Kyung-sook Shin is a novel of Dickensian extremes that had South Korean readers weeping.

King’s Leopold’s Ghost,” by Adam Hochschild.

Spain In Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939,” also by Adam Hochschild. There is a personal connection for Nancy. Her father fought in that war.

To The Power of Three,” by Laura Lippman and “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” by Lionel Shriver. These are two books about school shootings.

My Promised Land The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel” by Ari Shavit.

“Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck,” by Adam Cohen. A sadly revealing history of Eugenics in America.

The Divide,” by Matt Taibbi, is about the gaping divide between the haves and have-nots in America and how that reality affects health, justice and opportunity for all Americans. 

The Last of the Just,” by Andre Schwarz-Bart

Most books by Elie Wiesel

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