The most recommended books for mourning

Who picked these books? Meet our 170 experts.

170 authors created a book list connected to mourning, and here are their favorite mourning books.
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Book cover of Everyday Madness: On Grief, Anger, Loss and Love

Susie Orbach Author Of Bodies

From my list on contemporary memoirs by women.

Why am I passionate about this?

Memoirs have crept up on me as favorites. I could list many more. Please let me! As a psychoanalyst, I listen to the pains and struggles of individuals trying to become more at ease with themselves. They engage with their demons and try to make sense of how to manage the way their personal history has created their worldview and how to expand it enough to enter a present. Memoirs are another way of addressing such struggles. They have an elegance and a universality that emerges out of their individual stories. We learn about the other and we learn about ourselves.

Susie's book list on contemporary memoirs by women

Susie Orbach Why did Susie love this book?

Lisa’s husband dies as he is being treated for cancer. She writes about the first year after in which grief, madness, confusion, isolation, and fury coincide with Britain’s beginning Brexit madness. Nothing can be made sense of and yet we need words to express what’s happening. And then words provide for consoling and managing.

By Lisa Appignanesi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everyday Madness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'You will find all of life in this' Deborah Levy

After the death of her partner of thirty-two years, Lisa Appignanesi was thrust into a state striated by rage and superstition in which sanity felt elusive. Then, too, the cultural and political moment seemed to collude with her condition: everywhere people were dislocated and angry.

In this electrifying and brave examination of an ordinary enough death and its aftermath, Everyday Madness uses all Lisa Appignanesi's evocative and analytic powers to scrutinize her own and our society's experience of grieving. With searing honesty, lashed by humour, she navigates us onto the…


Book cover of Doe

Robert Lunday Author Of Disequilibria: Meditations on Missingness

From my list on using disappearance in innovative ways.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since my stepfather disappeared in 1982, disappearance has been my obsession. In writing Disequilibria, I read everything I could on missing persons. By now, I might be the chief authority on Missingness! – that is, on disappearance as a theoretical construct. I’m especially interested in how, across different sensibilities (in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, but also law, social science, journalism, philosophy, history, and media studies), we can compose a shared language and create shared understanding. My larger goal is to discover creative and redemptive ways of responding to loss, grief, and trauma; to find how disappearance in all its forms creates a framework for understanding what it means to be human.

Robert's book list on using disappearance in innovative ways

Robert Lunday Why did Robert love this book?

Aimee Baker’s Doe is a diptych: poems in the first section focus on missing women, while those in the second section reimagine the lives of unidentified women.

Baker creates recurrent, multiple patterns of imagery that celebrate the beauty and dignity of each woman – in argument, essentially, with the ways true crime sometimes exploits and objectifies victims’ lives. At the same time, Doe is about North America as a captivating space of the imagination: the poet creates a geography by turns intimate and vast, familiar and strange, beautiful and terrible.

The finely-crafted textures of the poems in Doe, as well as the apparent dedication to investigation and research in the work overall, make for a rare combination.

By Aimee Baker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Doe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2018 Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize

Doe began as author Aimée Baker's attempt to understand and process the news coverage of a single unidentified woman whose body was thrown from a car leaving Phoenix, Arizona. It soon grew into a seven-year-long project with the goal to document, mourn, and witness the stories of missing and unidentified women in the United States.


Book cover of The Thing About Jellyfish

Maura Jortner Author Of 102 Days of Lying About Lauren

From my list on kids who make it through tough times.

Why am I passionate about this?

I went through major surgery when I was in eighth grade. The physical pain was bad, but what hurt more was the emotional side. When I returned to school, the friend groups had shifted, shutting me out because of my extended absence. I had to face that time in life alone. Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to works about kids who have to face challenges on their own. When we go through hard times, our true selves come out. They have to; we have no one else. We can’t pretend. We can only try to make it. The books I like show characters that shine through their hardships.

Maura's book list on kids who make it through tough times

Maura Jortner Why did Maura love this book?

This book features a girl named Suzi, who is convinced her friend drowned because of a jellyfish sting. She’s so affected by her friend’s death that she stops talking. I loved seeing Suzi research jellyfish through this book.

I love learning and studying and how she went about it was cool. She was determined and strong. I also appreciated how the plot moves from the present to the past and showed the truth about Suzi’s friendship in the end.

By Ali Benjamin,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Thing About Jellyfish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

It's peculiar how no-words can be better than words. How silence can say more than noise, or a person's absence can occupy even more space than their presence did.

Suzy is twelve when her best friend, Franny, drowns one summer at the beach. It takes two days for the news to reach Suzy, and it's not something that she can accept: Franny has always been a strong swimmer, from the day they met in swim class when they were just five. How can someone all of a sudden, just no longer be there?

Suzy realizes that they must have got…


Book cover of 14 Ways to Die

Erica Damon Author Of According to Plan

From Erica's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Author Artist Equestrian Lover of all things horror

Erica's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Erica Damon Why did Erica love this book?

14 Ways to Die was straight up fun. I haven’t read a lot of YA thrillers, but I loved the way it played with social media use and how we can use various platforms for our own needs.

I also loved the cat-and-mouse aspect with the killer and for as dark as some of the content was, it was fast-paced and had me looking around each corner for the next twist. You can’t go wrong with a good bad-guy and this book definitely nailed it!

By Vincent Ralph,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 14 Ways to Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller!

ONE KILLER. THIRTEEN VICTIMS. A MILLION VIEWS.

A decade ago, Jess lost her mother to the Magpie Man, an infamous serial killer who is still at large and planning to kill again. Now, she's going to use her new platform as the star of a YouTube reality series to catch him. That is, if he doesn't catch her first.

Jess's online show means that everyone is talking about her mother's murder case. But fame comes with its downsides. The whole world is watching her every move. And it's hard to know who she can trust.…


Book cover of Cape

Caroline Kusin Pritchard Author Of Where Is Poppy?

From my list on talking about death and loss with your kids.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a children’s book author who typically centers humor at the heart of my books but who dipped into heartache to tell this specific story. As a former educator with four kiddos of my own, I’ve been able to witness the myriad ways kids cope with grief, everything from hiding out in blanket forts to holding a backyard funeral service for a beloved pet roly-poly. I hope my book, Where is Poppy? offers kids comfort, peace, and preparation for their own unique journeys with loss. I studied creative writing and political science at Stanford University and hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. 

Caroline's book list on talking about death and loss with your kids

Caroline Kusin Pritchard Why did Caroline love this book?

Oof. This book. It’s an absolute treasure. It’s so rare to find a story told from the perspective of a child navigating the day of a funeral that includes the often angry resistance to all that is happening, as well as the deep redemptive power of memory.

I fall straight into the rich, kid-centered illustrations, in part because of the sparse and exactly right prose that allows the images to speak for themselves. Once I pieced together where the titular cape came from and how the child narrator uses it in the story, it was like the best kind of gut punch. 

By Kevin Johnson, Kitt Thomas (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cape as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

When a child loses the person in his life that he loves more than anything, he uses his cape as protection from his grief. On the day of the funeral, he uses it to block out the pictures and stories people share, refusing to acknowledge the memories that keep bubbling up. He won't think about them. He doesn't want to.

He avoids the memories, until he no longer can.

He remembers then. Their laugh, their smile, the moment they gave him the cape. The cape transforms, becoming a source of comfort and strength as the child navigates the sadness and…


Book cover of Guestbook: Ghost Stories

Kevin Brockmeier Author Of The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories

From my list on ghosts.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve written and published one hundred very short ghost stories, plus a handful of longer ones, and have spent a lifetime reading and watching and thinking about stories of ghosts and the afterlife. My expertise, such as it is, involves ghosts as beings of narrative and metaphor. I’ve encountered great numbers of them on the page and on the screen—nowhere else—but I confess that I would love someday (though don’t expect) to encounter them in the flesh. My flesh, that is to say; their fleshlessness.

Kevin's book list on ghosts

Kevin Brockmeier Why did Kevin love this book?

One of the most inventive novels of recent years, Leanne Shapton’s Guestbook uses prose, photographs, and illustrations to find thirty-three ways of approaching the ghost story. The book moves swiftly and exhilaratingly through its pages, which are knit together by a sense of what it means for spirits to fasten themselves unexpectedly to people and what it means for people to feel haunted. Recommended if you like your ghosts both abundantly imagined and abundantly pictured.

By Leanne Shapton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Guestbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Shapton has created a mystical territory - a performance, an exhibition, a guestbook - in which I felt the ghost within myself; the thing that will outlive me. A fearless and exquisite book' Miranda July

Guestbook explores the glimmering, unsettling things that haunt us in the midst of life, combining stories, vignettes and an evocative curiosity cabinet of artifacts and images - found photographs, original paintings, Instagram-style portraits - to transform the traditional ghost story into something else entirely.

'Leanne Shapton has a way of making books entirely new, surreal, and uncanny ... Guestbook contains ghost stories for a world…


Book cover of Different After You: Rediscovering Yourself and Healing After Grief and Trauma

Rachel Blythe Kodanaz Author Of Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time: What to Do with Your and a Loved One's Personal Possessions

From my list on embracing life’s challenges.

Why am I passionate about this?

Rachel is a heart-minded professional specializing in current and relevant approaches in support of individuals and workplaces following a loss or trauma. She is a best-selling author, seasoned keynote speaker, and business consultant. She began her career serving in management of Fortune 500 companies, overcoming her own adversity following the sudden death of her husband while raising a 2-year-old. She was immediately confronted with the see-saw created when personal and professional trajectories collide, giving her the opportunity to provide invaluable insights about loss. Her books include best-selling Living with Loss One Day at a Time, Finding Peace, and Grief in the Workplace: A Comprehensive Guide for Being Prepared.

Rachel's book list on embracing life’s challenges

Rachel Blythe Kodanaz Why did Rachel love this book?

This is an inspiring book of hope after loss. Michele provides readers with current and relevant ideas on how to integrate the love of your past with the pain of the present to find joy in the future.  She shares her personal journey with great vulnerability, emphasizing the self-doubt that occurs while navigating the endless decisions that arise following the loss of a partner. As you read Michele's candid personal stories you will find her words relatable, sharing tears with her as well as great laughter. It is uplifting, practical, and written in a very caring way. 

By Michele Neff Hernandez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Life-Affirming Process That Provides Transformative Support

No one who lives and loves will be immune from grief and trauma. While this suffering is universal, living through a devastating event often leaves people feeling alone and even alienated. Michele Neff Hernandez experienced this when her thirty-nine-year-old husband died after being hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Her most transformative realization was that grief changes us. There is no going back or bucking up. Life is now different.

In Different after You, Michele presents easy-to-digest steps based on her work with thousands of widowed people and her innovative grief…


Book cover of Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die

Wendy Wahman Author Of Don't Lick the Dog: Making Friends with Dogs

From my list on dog books to tug on your heartstrings.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m passionate about animals. When I was starting out in my 20s, I worked as a vet tech and a dog trainer and fully intended to make a career in animals. But along the way my other love, art, joined the dance. It’s only natural I’ve found ways to combine my two loves, like, illustrating a veterinarian's advice column for Family Dog magazine, and writing, Don’t Lick the Dog, and Nanny Paws, both inspired by my own beloved dogs.

Wendy's book list on dog books to tug on your heartstrings

Wendy Wahman Why did Wendy love this book?

I love and grieve hard. Sometimes debilitatingly so. When I lost my first cat, Olif, I couldn’t go in my studio for a year. Without my best boy in there with me, just crossing the threshold triggered a kind of PTSD, and I’d buckle under the grief. I finally saw a therapist and got the help I needed to move forward.

Books can help us with our grief too, and Going Home is one that’s helped me. Glancing through it now, I see I’ve opened straight to the chapter, “Guilt.” Yea, that one’s insidious, isn’t it. Katz covers them all: All the thoughts that needle and jab, all the emotions that drown, then drain us. Maybe, Going Home will help you too. Hold it on your lap where your beloved once was. And I will too.

By Jon Katz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Going Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this invaluable guide and touchstone, New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz addresses the difficult but necessary topic of saying goodbye to a beloved pet. Drawing on personal experiences, stories from fellow pet owners, and philosophical reflections, Katz provides support for those in mourning. By allowing ourselves to grieve honestly and openly, he posits, we can in time celebrate the dogs, cats, and other creatures that have so enriched us. Katz compels us to consider if we gave our pets good lives, if we were their advocates in times of need, and if we used our best judgments in…


Book cover of Lisey's Story

Susannah Marren Author Of Maribelle's Shadow

From my list on sisters, devout or detached.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an author of fiction and nonfiction books, focusing on how women are positioned in society. Under my real name, Susan Shapiro Barash, I have written thirteen nonfiction titles. As a fiction writer, I've published four novels, written under my pen name, Susannah Marren. For more than twenty years I taught in the Writing Department at Marymount Manhattan College and have guest taught creative nonfiction at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. I served as a literary panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts, as a judge for the International Emmys, and as Vice Chair of the Mentoring Committee of the Women’s Leadership Board at the JFK School of Government, Harvard.

Susan's book list on sisters, devout or detached

Susannah Marren Why did Susan love this book?

Lisey Landon, the widow of a well-known author, struggles to know who her husband really was.

In real time, which is one of two storylines, Lisey’s sister, Amanda comes to visit and they search magazines and books to find where Lisey is written up. Amanda is troubled, becomes catatonic and Lisey has to care for her. The other storyline is about Scott Landon, his rough past and how he hovers over Lisey’s life, although he is deceased.

What is striking about this novel is the writing and Lisey’s journey. The reader is drawn in at once. When Lisey is able to enter another world called Boo’ya, as her husband did, she is able to save her sister. And by the end of the novel, Lisey herself is set free of her demons. This novel has stayed with me for years.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lisey's Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Soon to be an Apple TV+ limited series starring Julianne Moore and Clive Owen*

Every marriage has two hearts, one light and one dark.

Lisey knew it when she first fell for Scott. And now he's dead, she knows it for sure.

Lisey was the light to Scott Landon's dark for twenty-five years. As his wife, only she saw the truth behind the public face of the famous author - that he was a haunted man whose bestselling novels were based on a terrifying reality.

Now Scott has gone, Lisey wants to lock herself away with her memories. But the…


Book cover of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

Bobby Palmer Author Of Small Hours

From my list on talking animals for grown ups.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a British author who has always had a fascination with magical realism and novels that blend the serious with the strange. For that reason, though I write literary fiction for adults, I take so much of my inspiration from children’s literature. There’s something so simple about how kids’ books stitch the extraordinary into the every day without having to overexplain things. I now live not far from the forest that inspired A. A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood, and my latest novel is set in and inspired by this part of rural England–with all the mystery and magic that a trip into the woods entails.

Bobby's book list on talking animals for grown ups

Bobby Palmer Why did Bobby love this book?

In this claustrophobic modern classic, a grieving father and Ted Hughes scholar finds himself haunted by an oily, unnerving, anthropomorphic crow.

I’m a fan of anything Porter writes, but his debut is deserving of the indelible mark it’s made upon the modern literary landscape. The crow is a character like no other, and Porter’s poetry brings this strange and beautiful bird to life.

By Max Porter,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Grief Is the Thing with Feathers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A SUNDAY TIMES TOP 100 NOVEL OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Winner of the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize and the Sunday Times/Peter, Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year award and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Goldsmiths Prize.

In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother's sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.

In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow - antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family…