World Book Day 2024: These Novels Will Certainly Make Readers Cry

As World Book Day (7th March) approaches, readers worldwide prepare to delve into the world of literature. 41% of UK adults are now reading more than before the pandemic and TikTok has boosted this phenomenon even further, with the #BookTok community hosting over 60 billion videos.

Despite its sad ending, the Netflix adaptation of the novel ‘One Day’ has soared in popularity, becoming the most-watched series globally during the week of 12 February, with 9.9 million views. But why do we love sad stories? 

With this in mind, we have worked with to uncover which books have the highest odds of making readers cry. To do so, their experts compiled a seedlist of ‘sad’ books and used a pre-trained DistilBERT model, to obtain the average percentage of sadness for each review, average book review and percentage of readers unable to finish the book.

Key findings:

  • ‘A Little Life’, by Hanya Yanagihara, is the book with the highest odds of making readers cry (90% chance)
  • Thirteen Reasons Why’ by Jay Asher is joint tenth place, alongside ‘All the Bright Places’ by Jennifer Niven (76% chance)
  • The ‘fiction romance’ genre is has the highest odds of making readers cry
  • Books published in the 2020’s are most likely to make readers cry than any other decade analysed (54% chance)

The results: The 10 saddest book endings

RankBookAuthorYear PublishedNumber of reviews analysedAverage % of reviews that are sadAverage Review Score (/5)% chance the readers will cry 
1.A Little LifeHanya Yanagihara20152,03628%4.390%
2.WaveSonali Deraniyagala20132,06941%3.889%
3.I Fell in Love with HopeLancali20222,07028%3.982%
4.A Thousand Boy KissesTillie Cole20162,06629%481%
=5.Tears of a TigerSharon M. Draper19942,36038%4.280%
=5.Men We ReapedJesmyn Ward20132,04032%4.380%
=5.Blood SistersVanessa Lillie202336226%3.980%
8.Girl in PiecesKathleen Glasgow20162,06826%479%
9.NightElie Wiesel19562,07031%4.478%
=10.Thirteen Reasons WhyJay Asher20072,06728%3.976%
=10.All The Bright PlacesJennifer Niven20152,06927%4.176%

‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara is most likely to make readers cry

The book with the highest odds of making readers cry is ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara with a 90% chance. ‘A Little Life’, published in 2015,  is a contemporary fiction novel based on the lives of four friends living in New York City. Themes of friendship, trauma and abuse are explored while delving into the life of Jude St. Francis, a mysterious tormented character. With an average review of 4.3 out of 5, and over one in four (28%) sad online reviews, this book has a high chance of making readers cry due to its emotional intensity and vivid characterisation.

Wave’ by Sonali Deraniyagala places second, with an 89% chance of making readers cry. This Nonfiction book has the highest percentage of sad reviews, with 41% of reviews containing sad sentiment. 

‘Wave’ is a powerful memoir that explores loss, resilience, and courage in the face of tragedy. Deraniyagala’s raw narrative offers readers a deeply personal glimpse into the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami and the profound impact it had on her life. As many as 1.1% of readers were unable to finish the book due to the sadness it evoked.

In third place is ‘I Fell in Love with Hope’ by Lancali, with an 82% chance of readers crying when reading this book. “I Fell in Love with Hope”, dubbed a ‘TikTok sensation, is a fiction novel about a group of terminally ill patients who vow to live the rest of their lives to the fullest. Through the protagonist’s journey, the novel explores themes of resilience, optimism, and the transformative power of hope. With an average review of 3.9 out of 5, and over one in four (28%) online reviews for this book being sad, ‘I Fell in Love with Hope’ has a high chance of making readers emotional.

Books published in the 2020’s are most likely to make readers cry

Decade Average % of reviews that are sadAverage % of reviews mentioning failure to finish the book Average Review Score (/5)% chance the reader will cry 

We can reveal that books published in the 2020’s have the highest odds of making readers cry, with a 54% chance. Although sad books from the 2020’s on average have the lowest review score (4 out of 5), they do, however, have the highest percentage of reviews containing sad sentiment (21.7%). Books released in the 1980’s are least likely to make readers cry out of all decades analysed, with just a 29% chance of readers crying.

As readers immerse themselves in books, their brains naturally empathise with the characters, amplifying emotional resonance with the storyline. This deep engagement often leads to an adrenaline-fueled anticipation of the narrative’s resolution. 

Romance genres, with their captivating language and portrayal of love’s nuances, frequently elicit tears from readers. As protagonists navigate the complexities of love, readers too experience a parallel emotional journey, swept up in the characters’ affections.

This underscores the remarkable impact of literature and skilled authors in eliciting profound emotional reactions and forging meaningful connections with readers, often leaving them moved to tears.

Charlotte Giver

Charlotte is the founder and editor-in-chief at Your Coffee Break magazine. She studied English Literature at Fairfield University in Connecticut whilst taking evening classes in journalism at MediaBistro in NYC. She then pursued a BA degree in Public Relations at Bournemouth University in the UK. With a background working in the PR industry in Los Angeles, Barcelona and London, Charlotte then moved on to launching Your Coffee Break from the YCB HQ in London’s Covent Garden and has been running the online magazine for the past 10 years. She is a mother, an avid reader, runner and puts a bit too much effort into perfecting her morning brew.