The most recommended tragedy books

Who picked these books? Meet our 28 experts.

28 authors created a book list connected to tragedy, and here are their favorite tragedy books.
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Book cover of Radical Survivor: One Woman's Path Through Life, Love, and Uncharted Tragedy

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.

Who am I?

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?

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has suffered multiple losses of loved ones, whether it be a spouse, family member, or friend. Nancy Saltzman's story will enter into your soul and give you the strength of a woman who lost her husband and two children in a plane crash. She shares her story of love, loss, and rebuilding of a future as a radical survivor of cancer and loss of her family. Her spirit and desire to live life to the fullest are prominent in her story.

By Nancy Saltzman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Radical Survivor" chronicles elementary school principal Nancy Saltzman's extraordinary saga as a two-time cancer survivor who lost her entire family in a small plane crash. Told with honesty, insight and laugh out loud flashes of humor, Radical Survivor traverses the full spectrum of human emotions. Several aspects of this book make it unique among memories. *The book is enriched by letters to the author interwoven with narrative throughout the book. Most of the notes were received after the death of her family, but some are mementos from her husband and entries from her son's journals. *The author has experienced an…


Book cover of The Minute I Saw You

Amy Q. Barker Author Of Rue

From my list on women’s fiction with an unlikely heroine.

Who am I?

I'm a women's fiction novelist with a love for drama without trauma. As an avid reader myself, I write what I know—moving stories written for women and about women. In my books, I sweep you off your feet, lead your heart to a place it's never been before, make you think, make you fall in love, make you yearn for justice, make you aspire and hope and dream. And I promise a happy ending every time, or at least a realistic, thought-provoking tote of warm feelings you can take with you. I hope you enjoy my reading recommendations below! 

Amy's book list on women’s fiction with an unlikely heroine

Amy Q. Barker Why did Amy love this book?

All hail Paige Toon! She is the best of women’s fiction—not too raunchy or over the top or gut-wrenching. Simple, sweet stories with a bit of heat. I recommend her to everyone I know. This particular novel, The Minute I Saw You, touched my heart from the very first page. When we meet Hannah and Sonny, they are both at a crossroads in their lives, not sure which way to turn or how to move on from respective tragedies in their past. I love that Hannah’s history involves something so unexpected that isn’t revealed until halfway through the book and becomes ever more the reason to root for her. And I love that she and Sonny spend so much time working through their demons independently before coming together. It’s a feel-good novel that leaves you with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.  

By Paige Toon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Minute I Saw You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WITH BONUS SHORT STORY AND NEW AUTHOR Q&A EXCLUSIVE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION

Attraction is easy... Falling in love can be hard

When Hannah meets Sonny, she's irresistibly drawn to him: he's sexy and confident, but only in town on holiday. That's fine with Hannah - she doesn't do long-term relationships. And luckily for her, neither does Sonny. But before they can even so much as kiss, Sonny receives some shocking news and commits to making serious life changes - ones that can't and won't include romance.

With even a short fling now off the cards, Hannah and Sonny settle…


Book cover of Macbeth

Kevin McColley Author Of The Other Side: A Novel of the Civil War

From my list on surviving war (or not).

Who am I?

During my twenties I served in the United States Navy, and what I experienced there—next to nothing compared to what the characters in the below-mentioned books experiencewas traumatic enough to leave me wandering for a dozen years, hitchhiking, traveling around the country in search of some way to get a grasp on my experience. The vestiges of that experience still remain, and much of my writing has been an attempt to understand it.

Kevin's book list on surviving war (or not)

Kevin McColley Why did Kevin love this book?

For my money, Shakespeare is the greatest writer who ever lived; anything he has to say will be interesting, profound, and stated as well as anyone can state it. His portrayal of the Macbeths rivals Homer’s portrayal of Achilles in the understanding of trauma. For Macbeth, this is the trauma of military violence. For Lady Macbeth, this is the trauma of the loss of a child.

By William Shakespeare,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Macbeth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The authoritative edition of Macbeth from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers.

In 1603, James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne, becoming James I of England. London was alive with an interest in all things Scottish, and Shakespeare turned to Scottish history for material. He found a spectacle of violence and stories of traitors advised by witches and wizards, echoing James's belief in a connection between treason and witchcraft.

In depicting a man who murders to become king, Macbeth teases us with huge questions. Is Macbeth tempted by fate,…


Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

By Martha Marks,

Book cover of Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

Martha Marks Author Of Rubies of the Viper

New book alert!

Who am I?

I made my first visit to Pompeii at age seven. That day, I told my parents that I had been there before. It was all very familiar. And that sense of déjà vu has never left me. I feel it whenever I go back to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Roman Forum. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but... As an adult, I’ve returned many times to those places and visited others featured in my books: the Etruscan necropolis at Caere, which was already 1,000 years old at the time of my novels; Athens; and the ancient ports of Piraeus in Greece and Itanos in Crete. I earned a Ph.D. at Northwestern University, taught for many years, and enjoyed a million marvelous experiences, but my lifelong love of ancient Rome is the direct result of that long-ago visit to Pompeii with my parents.

Martha's book list on the Roman Empire in 1st Century AD

What is my book about?

Bernard Marks and Martha Alford met by chance. The odds were long that they would hit it off. That wasn’t in the cards they’d been dealt at birth. But, as gamblers in love, they rolled the dice. And then they worked hard, took risks, caught lucky breaks, built satisfying careers, enjoyed terrific travels, and won their own version of the lottery of life. Over four decades, Lady Luck smiled on them, until one day, she didn’t. Out of the blue, Fortune spun her wheel and taught them that no one is immune to tragedy and heartbreak.

Betting on Bernie is Martha Marks’s memoir of their improbable courtship, happy and prosperous marriage, and not-so-golden “golden years.” It will make you think, wonder, laugh, and cry.

Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

By Martha Marks,

What is this book about?

Bernard Marks and Martha Alford met by chance. No real reason for it, just a series of fluky coincidences. The odds were long that they would hit it off. That wasn’t in the cards they’d been dealt at birth. “It’ll never last,” people whispered after they got engaged. “Poor probability of success” was the general consensus when they married. But Bernie and Martha ignored the naysayers. Gamblers in love, they rolled the dice.

And then they worked hard, took even more risks, caught a few lucky breaks, built satisfying careers, enjoyed terrific travels, and won their own version of the…


Book cover of King Lear

Laurie Frankel Author Of One Two Three

From my list on how sisters are great but also a pain in your ass.

Who am I?

I like books about big families, especially unusual ones, but I have only one sister and only one child, so when I set out to write about these families, I read about them first. We place so much importance on how kids are raised, what kind of childhood and home life and family they have growing up, what gifts and what challenges they’re bestowed by genetics, history, identity, society, circumstance. Siblings usually share all or at least most of these markers and yet turn into often wildly different adults. It’s also true that all those fine sibling balances – love/hate, adored/annoyed, admired/appalled, alike/different – are great fun to read and write.

Laurie's book list on how sisters are great but also a pain in your ass

Laurie Frankel Why did Laurie love this book?

When I first sat down to write a novel about three sisters, step one was to reread King Lear which is about exactly that. The three sisters in Lear are quite different from mine. Among other things, they like each other much less. But for that delicate sisterly balance between so-glad-I-have-you-to-share-the-burdens-of-an-aging-parent and I-might-actually-have-to-kill-you, nothing beats King Lear.

By William Shakespeare,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Book cover of Faust: A Tragedy, Parts One and Two

Lenny Cavallaro Author Of Paganini Agitato

From my list on historical fiction about classical musicians.

Who am I?

My doctorate is in music, and although I am now more active as a composer, I was at one time a performer (pianist). Thus, I have both personal ties to the author (my mother) and professional insights into the subject matter. I have also interviewed a number of the world’s leading violinists (Bell, Chase, Markov, Zukerman, and others) and composed two works for the instrument (my Op. 4 and Op. 5, published by Broadbent & Dunn). Moreover, my series, The Passion of Elena Bianchi, also involves classical music and musicians, and echoes Paganini Agitato with concerts, poker, the great love of a child, and elements of the supernatural and/or demonic.

Lenny's book list on historical fiction about classical musicians

Lenny Cavallaro Why did Lenny love this book?

I cannot reasonably recommend Part Two without Part One. If we look at all the ghastly sins with which the eponymous hero has been involved by the end of that first drama, it seems inconceivable that he can possibly be redeemed.

Nevertheless, we have Goethe’s Part Two, completed twenty-four years after the earlier play, and by its conclusion, Faust has (somehow) been saved.

In fact, I sense some echo of Part One when Angelica’s unborn baby strangles on its cord: a far milder outcome for Paganini (who sired the child) than for Faust (whose Gretchen drowns their infant and is condemned to death). However, as the readers will see, Paganini truly loves the son he begets some years later.

By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Martin Greenberg (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Greenberg has accomplished a magnificent literary feat. He has taken a great German work, until now all but inaccessible to English readers, and made it into a sparkling English poem, full of verve and wit. Greenberg's translation lives; it is done in a modern idiom but with respect for the original text; I found it a joy to read."-Irving Howe (on the earlier edition)

A classic of world literature, Goethe's Faust is a philosophical and poetic drama full of satire, irony, humor, and tragedy. Martin Greenberg re-creates not only the text's varied meter and rhyme but also its diverse tones…


Book cover of Twisted Love

Belle Jay James Author Of Hearts Redress Series: Undesirable Book One

From my list on fiction authors that hide the scars of trauma.

Who am I?

As an author I emerged from a divergent path in life. Having navigated a hard childhood, new adulthood, and careers I didn’t love, I found my passion. I want to evoke deep emotions, drawing from the depths of my and others past experiences. Finding myself came with the realization that PTSD was something I didn't have to only suffer from. I wanted to advocate for PTSD. My dream is to continue The Hearts Redress series by taking others' pasts and weaving them into fiction. Giving them a voice they didn't have. Everyone deserves love, belonging, and redemption!

Belle's book list on fiction authors that hide the scars of trauma

Belle Jay James Why did Belle love this book?

For a romance driven by tragedy I would recommend Twisted Love.

Trauma unveils hidden secrets that may or may not threaten to shatter lives. I enjoyed watching how the weight of a haunting past could consume someone with success and vengeance. In the end love and support can change that world forever. 

By Ana Huang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From New York Times bestselling author and BookTok sensation Ana Huang comes a billionaire brother's best friend romance!

He has a heart of ice…but for her, he'd burn the world

A diverse new adult steamy romance from Tiktok sensation and USA Today bestselling author Ana Huang.

Alex Volkov is a devil blessed with the face of an angel and cursed with a past he can't escape.

Driven by a tragedy that has haunted him for most of his life, his ruthless pursuits for success and vengeance leave little room for matters of the heart.

But when he's forced to look…


Book cover of So We Read on: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures

Libby Sternberg Author Of Daisy

From my list on the tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Who am I?

I’ve loved F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories ever since I read The Great Gatsby as a teenager. After that, I devoured all of his works, thanks to a membership in one of those book subscription services where you have to send back monthly book selections if you don’t want them. I read almost all his short stories, all his novels, including the unfinished The Last Tycoon, and everything I could find on him and his wife Zelda. When The Great Gatsby entered the public domain a couple years ago, I started daydreaming of how I'd love to revisit the story from a fresh perspective, which led me to penning Daisy.

Libby's book list on the tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Libby Sternberg Why did Libby love this book?

When I first read this book, I could hear Roberta Flack’s famous song “Killing Me Softly” playing in my head.

I felt as if the author had peered into my own heart and articulated everything I felt about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s greatest work, The Great Gatsby. Corrigan covers an enormous amount of territory—everything from her personal reflections on the novel to how it didn’t sell well at first to how it gained in popularity as GIs read it during WWII as part of a free books program designed just for them up to the four film iterations of the tale.

Along the way, though, she explores why Gatsby still moves so many readers and why it’s considered The Great American Novel.

By Maureen Corrigan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked So We Read on as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The "Fresh Air" book critic investigates the enduring power of The Great Gatsby -- "The Great American Novel we all think we've read, but really haven't."

Conceived nearly a century ago by a man who died believing himself a failure, it's now a revered classic and a rite of passage in the reading lives of millions. But how well do we really know The Great Gatsby? As Maureen Corrigan, Gatsby lover extraordinaire, points out, while Fitzgerald's masterpiece may be one of the most popular novels in America, many of us first read it when we were too young to fully…


Book cover of Life After

Risa Nyman Author Of Complicated Choices

From Risa's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Fairness seeker Wannabe lawyer Fabulous ironer

Risa's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Risa Nyman Why did Risa love this book?

If you like stories that tear your heart into tiny pieces and have you on the edge of your seat wondering if it can ever be put back together, then Life After was written for you.

It isn’t an easy read, but it is a memorable one. What grabbed me the most was the authenticity of the story.

August, a high school senior, never had an easy life, but after the tragic loss of her twin brother, her struggle to cope becomes formidable. Will she make it? I turned the pages hoping things would improve for August, but the author kept it real. There was no quick return from tragedy. The road back can be long, winding, and filled with obstacles.

Bring your tissues, the whole box.

By Genalea Barker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Readers will cheer for August in this gorgeously-written story of hope that will stay with you long after you finish the last page."  (Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be and The Last to Let Go)

Someone once asked August Haiz if twins realize one of them is an accident. Deep down, August knows if anyone was an accident, it wasn't Benny-it was her. Granted, August doesn't mind dancing in the background, letting Benny be the star musician and center of attention. In fact, she prefers is that way.

Abandoned by their mother…


Book cover of Dept. of Speculation

Joshua Gaylord Author Of When We Were Animals

From Joshua's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Fabulist Teacher Gamer Postmodernist

Joshua's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Joshua Gaylord Why did Joshua love this book?

Offill’s book reads like a contemporary John Updike slathered in poetry.

The relationship at the center of the book is something we view through the honeyed distortion of language, but don’t all relationships have their own honeyed distortions? The beginnings of the relationship are beautiful, and so are the endings because every spring and every fall are natural inversions of one another.

As a result, Offill’s version of love is one I find deeply affecting. She whispers secrets to me, telling me that every tragedy contains within it the hope and beauty of some fresh-feathered beginning, a beginning, in fact, that is never very far removed from where we are.

By Jenny Offill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

They used to send each other letters. The return address was always the same: Dept. of Speculation.

They used to be young, brave, and giddy with hopes for their future. They got married, had a child, and skated through all the small calamities of family life. But then, slowly, quietly something changes. As the years rush by, fears creep in and doubts accumulate until finally their life as they know it cracks apart and they find themselves forced to reassess what they have lost, what is left, and what they want now.

Written with the dazzling lucidity of poetry, Dept.…


Book cover of A Sweetness to the Soul

Bruce A. Borders Author Of Over My Dead Body

From my list on entertaining a restless mind.

Who am I?

While the subject matter of the books on my list may vary, the thing that ties them together is the suspenseful tension that builds and keeps the reader on edge. The unexpected twists and turns are the "secret sauce"  that adds flavor and fervor. I like the way each of these books keeps your mind from wandering by combining vivid imagery with a compelling storyline. As an author myself, I am always fascinated by those who make it look so easy and effortless. And as an avid reader, I constantly search for these kind of books; the kind that make you feel as if you just have to keep reading.

Bruce's book list on entertaining a restless mind

Bruce A. Borders Why did Bruce love this book?

This story takes place in the 1800's in the area where I live, so it holds a special connection for me. But beyond that it is an interesting tale of real-life struggles and overcoming those obstacles. The book describes frontier life in an authentic and stirring way. The local author knows the history and facts of the area and weaves them well into the story.

By Jane Kirkpatrick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Sweetness to the Soul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on historical characters and events, A Sweetness to the Soul recounts the captivating story of young, spirited Oregon pioneer Jane Herbert who at the age of twelve faces a tragedy that begins a life-long search for forgiveness and love. In the years that follow, young Jane finds herself involved in an unusual and touching romance with a dreamer sixteen years her senior, struggles to make peace with an emotionally distant mother, and fights to build a family of her own. Filled with heart-warming insight and glimpses of real-life pain, A Sweetness to the Soul paints a brilliant picture of…