One of the beautiful things about stories is how they can help us process our emotions. The books about grief we have rounded up below are prime examples.
Loss is one of the hardest parts of life. Processing the loss of a loved one can be devastating and difficult, as can knowing your friends are grieving and not knowing what to do.
Reading books about grief can help us connect with our own losses and helps us understand what those facing devastating loss are facing.
The gifted writers we’ve rounded up have beautifully taken us into the painful process of dealing with grief. We are confident you will find yourself examining aspects of loss you hadn’t previously considered when reading these fiction and non-fiction books about grief.
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Books about Grief and Family Loss
Steven Rowley is a writer who has mastered the art of storytelling. With his signature wit and humor, this book tackles love, loss, and growth.
When Patrick’s sister-in-law dies and Patrick’s brother needs to go to rehab, Patrick takes custody of his niece and nephew for 90 days. Patrick is basically David from Schitt’s Creek with snark and sass. He treats the kids like mini-adults in the most delightful way.
I am such a fan of Steven Rowley and each book provides depth and insight into people at their best and worst. While this is a book about grief, you will find yourself laughing out loud multiple times throughout. It’s a poignant reminder of the importance of family. If you have not read this contemporary fiction book yet, what are you waiting for?
This novel about grief reminded me of This is Where I Leave You. It’s about a family that learns a shocking secret at their grandfather’s funeral and must spend the next week coming to terms with what they learned.
Like all good family sagas, each member of the family also has their own life struggles. From pregnancies to struggling marriages, the drama unfolds as the children and grandchildren try to help their matriarch grieve and come to terms with the long-held secret.
When Judd Foxman’s father dies, the entire family must come home to spend seven days under the same roof while sitting shiva.
The family has not been together in years and the reunion is even more awkward due to Judd’s missing wife, Jen. Jen had an affair that was painful and public. The week becomes a time to rehash old grudges and remember what it is like to be a family. If you love family drama books, this one is for you.
February 2023 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick
This story about Maddie, known as Maame to her family, was immersive and beautifully complex. Dealing with friendships, racism, familial obligations, and then grief, this story swept me away. Maddie lives in London as the primary caretaker of her father who has Parkinson’s. Her mother spends most of her time in Ghana.
I felt fiercely protective of Maddie while reading this book. There were times I wanted to swoop in to relieve some of the burdens of this wonderful character with a heart of gold. But it was more rewarding to see Maddie finding her inner strength and learning to prioritize herself and her dreams.
I can’t recommend this coming-of-age book about grief enough – especially as a book for book clubs. It’s one of the best books of 2023 and a great pick for a list of book club books. This is one of the heavier books in our beach reads 2023 post, but the list would not be complete without it. This is also one of the best novels about Africa I have ever read.
September 2020 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick
Covering drug addiction, immigration, racism, and more, this story is as entertaining as it is stimulating. Its discussion of drug addiction’s impact on the larger family unit was reminiscent of Long Bright River.
I also kept having to remind myself that it was a contemporary fiction story and not a memoir because the emotion and knowledge expressed in the book were so believable. This is one of the books about grief that you must-read.
Emily Stone’s last book was my favorite Christmas book of 2021, so I knew I would love her newest book. This story is heartbreaking as well, but not in the same way.
Cassie has relied on her brother, Tom, since they were orphaned when she was 5. Each year, Tom creates a Christmas scavenger hunt for her, but after a sudden accident kills Tom, Cassie is left bereaved and celebrating Christmas without him.
Until she finds his final scavenger hunt. As she begins to solve the clues, her heart begins to heal, and love forms as well. This book is like the Christmas version of P.S. I Love You in the best possible way. I adored this Christmas romance novel about grief.
Novels about Grief and Dying
June 2023 Read With Jenna Book Club Pick
This is a story of friendship that has lasted decades, cemented in stone when one of their best friends died by suicide shortly before college graduation. Never wanting to face the loss of each other or doubts of how much they mean to one another happen again, the friends make a pact.
Whenever any of them is at their lowest, they will call for a living funeral. One that will allow them to see how long they will be missed. It’s been 5 years since the last funeral, and now Jordan has a secret that might change everything.
Steven Rowley writes with wit and humor as we see the lowest point in each character’s life when the previous funerals are reflected on. But he really shines, in the final chapters when these friends help Jordan and his partner grieve. It’s a lovely book about grief and friendship.
GET READY TO UGLY CRY. This book wrecked me. This is the story of 17-year-old Lenni, who has terminal cancer, and her art partner, 83-year-old heart patient Margot.
They connect at the end of Lenni’s life in the hospital art therapy room where they decided to paint a picture for every year of their combined 100 years.
While painting their picture, we get to learn about their lives before their illnesses and witness an incredible bond form. The ripple effects of their bond and friendship took my breath away numerous times.
Truly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. This one needs to go on our list of books to emotionally wreck you.
Me Before You has quickly become a classic story – and a movie to boot. But beware! This is one of the grumpy sunshine romance books that will emotionally wreck you that you don’t want to read in public!
When a young man becomes paralyzed his parents hire a young woman to be his companion. As love blooms, and she tries to convince him that life is still worth living, the reader questions what they would sacrifice to make a loved one happy. This novel about grief deals with grieving before the person has passed.
What would you do if you knew the day that you were going to die? Would want to know? The four Gold children find out the information that will shape their lives in this amazing magical realism book.
Beautifully written, the Immortalists follows Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya through their lives. Ms. Benjamin does a superb job of creating different voices for each of these characters. They are so vivid and unique. This family saga book about grief is un-putdownable and stays with you long after you have finished reading the last page.
If you want to host an Immortalists book club, we have a post that will help you make it spectacular.
Fiction Books about Grief and Losing a Lover or Spouse
November 2022 Good Morning America Book Club Pick.
Wow. This was a searing and emotional look at the grief surrounding the loss of a spouse. Eve opens the book by explaining that her husband, Quentin, has committed suicide and she is picking up the pieces of her own life.
We are taken through the days and months immediately following his death as Eve navigates a mother-in-law from hell, reentering society, and a surprise left behind by Quentin.
Her feelings were all over the map and felt so deeply true to the grief process. I loved Eve’s Nigeran family and how they came together to try to put her back together. This is one book about grief I will recommend over and over again.
Mr. Backman has a beautiful way of capturing the reader’s interest with wonderful characters that find themselves in hilarious situations.
I laughed out loud many times while reading. The book A Man Called Ove does indeed start with Ove trying to take his life and continuously being interrupted by his new neighbors and he mourns the loss of his spouse.
But, this story is so much more than that. As it progresses, Ove is able to have a profound impact on the life of everyone he meets, and at its heart, it is a book about friendship.
If you love this contemporary fiction book about grief, check out Books Like A Man Called Ove. But don’t let the description throw you off. At its heart, this is one of the best feel-good books and one of my all-time favorite books! If you have not read it, it is definitely one of the best book club books.
This is Taylor Jenkins Reid’s debut novel, and while it is good, it’s clear that she has grown her craft a great deal from this book. In the story, told in a dual-timeline narrative, newly married Elsie loses her husband of 9 days.
As her timeline as a widow moves forward, we also get to see her romance with Ben unfold in the previous narrative. As she struggles to overcome her grief, Elsie connects with Ben’s mother who was unknown to her prior to the tragedy.
I found the story to be compelling, but it didn’t get me choked up the way TJR books can usually do.
Wow. I wasn’t expecting this book to be such a serious look at life after the loss of a loved one. It was moving in multiple places and I was full-on SOBBING at the end. The concept is fascinating. Lydia’s fiance dies in the first chapter but when she goes to sleep, she is able to live her alternate life by his side.
We see her try to adjust to life without Freddie in one life, and her trying to find her new self, the one that remembers that he isn’t alive, trying to remain who she used to be in her dream life. Don’t go in expecting a romance. It’s a raw look at grief and how it changes us.
If you read The two Lives of Lydia Bird, then the premise of this book – a recent widower who gets to see her deceased husband again – may sound familiar…..but the execution on the two novels could not be more different.
Where Lydia Bird was poignant and sorrowful, Come Again had me outright giggling. I don’t normally associate depression and widowhood with romantic comedy, but this story was lighthearted and lovely!
Come Again finds Kate at the bottom, widowed and contemplating suicide. But then she goes back in time to 1992 for a chance to save her husband from his slow-growing cancer to hysterical results. Her whole 2020 woman trapped in her 18-year-old body was funny and endearing. As she attempts to save the man she loves, she puzzles over whether she can even fall in love with him again.
Non-Fiction Books about Grief
I’m still reeling from the revelations and truths woven throughout Prince Harry’s narrative. His candor in taking us from the death of his mother to the death of Queen was refreshingly real and often poetic, no doubt thanks to the incredible skills of his ghostwriter.
I was struck by how much I had believed the press’s story of his life; accurate or not. To think that an entire family’s stories could be so fabricated or twisted into untruth was astonishing.
In revealing his own truths, however, he illuminated the dreadful antics of his family. Wills, Charles, Camilla, and the courtiers do not come out of this book without tarnish – and with good reason. There is so much to talk about, this is our book club book for next month.
At the end of the day, it’s hard not to judge everyone for lack of compassion but it’s a generational cycle that needs to be broken. I felt proud to see Harry putting in the work to make sure his own children don’t go through what he did.
This is a must for fans of books about the royal family and stories about royalty. This book about grief is also a perfect pick from beach reads. Even if you don’t usually read memoirs, this is one of the best non-fiction books I have read in a long time.
May 2019 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
I knew what this book was about before reading it and I was still not prepared for the heartbreak and beauty within the pages. This memoir is truly a love letter to Tembi’s husband who died from cancer. This is an incredibly sad book that had me in tears.
The descriptions of the food, the people, and the love she had for her husband are unlike anything that I have read before. This is a five-star book about grief if you can read through heartache. It’s one of the Netflix book adaptations I’m planning on watching.
More Novels about Grief
This book will make you cry but it will also make you laugh. Ted is a lonely, middle-aged, gay man whose love for his wiener dog Lily knows no bounds.
I mean, who spends hours playing Monopoly with their dog while imagining the dog’s side of a conversation? However, I think every dog owner can relate just enough to find it hilarious. This book about grief around the death of a pet is just lovely.
Rebecca Serle has done it again with this book set in Italy. Katy’s mother, Carol, has died and left Katy to take their trip to Positano alone. When Katy leaves she is uncertain about everything and whether she will return to her marriage.
Then, the impossible happens, and Carol appears at Katy’s hotel. She is in perfect health and thirty years old. She is not the woman Katy thought she knew. As she gets to know her mother, she realizes more about herself.
This beautiful contemporary fiction book set in Italy is well-written and a must-read book about grief. However, the touch of magic in this book puts in on our best magical realism books as well. This is one of our favorite books about mothers and it is a perfect book club book. Can you tell we love this book?
Fiction Books About Grief for Teens
Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic and counts down the days until her father comes to visit every year from New York City.
Yahaira Rios lives in New York City and her life changes forever the day she finds out her father has been killed in a plane crash on his way to the Dominican Republic for his summer trip. This is one of the most emotional and poignant books about grief and the bonds of sisters.
This book for a 13-year-old takes place over the course of a 60-second elevator ride, 15-year-old Will is taking on his way to shoot his brother’s killer.
Visited by spirits at each level as he descends, he needs to decide if he should continue the cycle of street violence or let his brother’s death go unavenged. This moving book about grief is perfect for teens.