The best books to get to grips with grief

Who am I?

I'm the author of the best-selling books How to Tell Depression to Piss Off: 40 Ways to Get Your Life BackHow to Tell Anxiety to Sod Off: 40 Ways to Get Your Life Back, The Recovery Letters, and What I Do to Get Through. My sixth book will be, How to Smash Stress: 40 Ways to Manage the Unmanageable.

I wrote...

How to Get to Grips with Grief: 40 Ways to Manage the Unmanageable

By James Withey,

Book cover of How to Get to Grips with Grief: 40 Ways to Manage the Unmanageable

What is my book about?

This book is for anyone who has lost someone. It may have been recently, or it may have been years ago, but still it stings like it was yesterday. I've known the grief beast since I was five, when my dad died, and it has followed me ever since. In my twenty years of supporting people with their own grief, as a counsellor and social care worker, I have helped others work through their despair and reconcile the injustice of grief.

 With humour and warmth, I provide forty ways to help you live with and manage your grief no matter what stage you’re at. It provides comfort for when it all gets too much, ideas for when you feel at a loss for what to do, and more than a laugh or two to balance out the sadness.

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The books I picked & why

A Grief Observed

By C. S. Lewis,

Book cover of A Grief Observed

Why did I love this book?

He talks about the death of his wife in such a relatable way to anyone who has experienced grief. He speaks about his faith which I was less interested in but some people may be as death and spirituality are so closely linked. It describes the pain and emotions we experience with grief in detail and in a way to make us feel less alone

By C. S. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Grief Observed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The perennial classic: this intimate journal chronicling the Narnia author's experience of grief after his wife's death has consoled readers for half a century with its 'sensitive and eloquent' magic (Hilary Mantel)

'An intimate, anguished account of a man grappling with the mysteries of faith and love ... Elegant and raw ... A powerful record of thought and emotion experienced in real time.' Guardian

'Raw and modern ... This unsentimental, even bracing, account of one man's dialogue with despair becomes both compelling and consoling ... A contemporary classic.' Observer

'A source of great consolation ... Lewis deploys his genius for…

Book cover of You Will Be Okay: Find Strength, Stay Hopeful and Get to Grips with Grief

Why did I love this book?

This book is aimed at children who have experienced a bereavement and will be massively helpful to them. I wish I had this book as a child! It's not patronising just clear and I found it very useful as an adult too because some of the techniques are simple but profound and that's often what we need when managing grief. 

By Julie Stokes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Will Be Okay as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Grief is a tricky subject to explain to kids, but this book is a wonderful go-to expert toolkit!" Dr Ranj Singh

The death of a parent, sibling or friend is one of the most traumatic experiences for a child or young person and it can be hard to know how to talk to them about it. In this honest, comforting and strength-building guide Julie Stokes, a clinical psychologist and founder of childhood bereavement charity Winston's Wish, provides readers with the tools they need to navigate this tough and turbulent time.

Readers will discover the stories of other people who have…

Book cover of The Madness of Grief: A Memoir of Love and Loss

Why did I love this book?

He describes the death of his partner from alcoholism and the events leading up to it in an unflinchingly honest and moving way. It's raw and personal but that's what grief is. It's beautiful and respectful and shows how grief is both a shared experience and so completely individual at the same time. 

By Richard Coles,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Madness of Grief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Immensely moving and disarmingly witty' Nigella Lawson
'Such a moving, tough, funny, raw, honest read' Matt Haig
'Beautifully written, moving and gut-wrenching, but also at times very funny' Ian Rankin
'Captures brilliantly, beautifully, bravely the comedy as well as the tragedy of bereavement' The Times
'Will strike a chord with anyone who has grieved' Independent

Whether it is pastoral care for the bereaved, discussions about the afterlife, or being called out to perform the last rites, death is part of the Reverend Richard Coles's life and work. But when his partner the Reverend David Coles died,…

Book cover of Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death, and Surviving

Why did I love this book?

The useful thing about this book is that it breaks down the different types of losses we can experience and examines those. Sibling loss, parental loss, loss of a child, etc. You can connect to your type of grief and learn specifics about how to manage it. It is also filled with compassion and wisdom from one of the grief experts in the world. 

By Julia Samuel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Grief Works as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*** Sunday Times Bestseller ***

'Fascinating. A wise and compassionate book full of insight and understanding that would help anyone experiencing grief, or those surrounding them' Cathy Rentzenbrink

'A wonderfully important and transforming book - lucid, consoling and wise' William Boyd


Grief Works is a compassionate guide that will inform and engage anyone who is grieving, from the 'expected' death of a parent to the sudden unexpected death of a small child, and provide clear advice for those seeking to comfort the bereaved.

Julia Samuel guides you gently through her eight practical pillars of strength - that include the…

Book cover of The Year of Magical Thinking

Why did I love this book?

Joan Didion was a master of nonfiction. In this book, she talks about the death of her husband and the illness of her daughter who predeceased her too. It's about loss but also about the fragility of life, how precarious and precious it is. There is a slight detachment in her writing but there is a huge amount to learn here. 

By Joan Didion,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Year of Magical Thinking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of America's iconic writers, a portrait of a marriage and a life - in good times and bad - that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child. A stunning book of electric honesty and passion.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill. At first they thought it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete sceptic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later - the night before New Year's Eve -the Dunnes were just…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in grief, mourning, and loss?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about grief, mourning, and loss.

Grief Explore 66 books about grief
Mourning Explore 106 books about mourning
Loss Explore 90 books about loss

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Journal of the Plague Year, The Glass Castle, and Olive Kitteridge if you like this list.