Most Depressing Books

Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World were bummers for me.

As far as spirtually uplifting, I dunno. Adam’s So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish kinda did that for me, but I don’t think that really qualifies.


“And what is the name of that short story where the little girl on Venus gets locked in a closet during the one hour per seven years that the sun is shining? That’s not a real pick-me-up.”

Jophiel, the story was written by Ray Bradbury and was on TV a while back. (Ray Bradbury Theater?) Really sad.

Two other depressing stories: “The Ox
Bow Incident” and “Incident at Owl Creek Bridge.” Can’t remember the authors though…

Jake: Ambrose Bierce wrote “Incident at Owl Creek’s Bridge.”
The most depressing thing I ever read was not a book, but a story in Harlan Ellison’s collection Strang Wine. I cannot remember the title, but it seems Earth is the paradise of the galaxy – extraterrestials who have done great and noble deeds get to live here for a period because life on Earth is so good compared to everywhere else.
Talk about depressing concepts.

I find the works of John Steinbeck (“The Red Pony”, “The Black Pearl”, and “The Grapes of Wrath”) to be quite depressing.

“Wuthering Heights” also comes to mind as a candidate.

“Flowers for Algernon”…major downer.

Bastard out of Carolina had me depressed for weeks.

For non fiction, how about:

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

for fiction try:

The Plaque Dogs

  • The Cold Equations *

Can’t remember the author. A girl stows away on an emergency starship to see her brother. Problem is, the ship has x fuel, enough to carry y mass for z distance. x fuel will not carry y+the girl mass z distance. So the pilot is forced to throw her out the airlock, or he, she, and the people who need the medicine he’s carrying will die.

Moral: Math and physics don’t give a damn about people.


“All Summer in a Day,” by Ray Bradbury.

Can’t believe nobody has mentioned King Lear yet. Just watched the Laurence Olivier movie and it pretty much ruined my weekend (in a good way, though …)

Let every student of nature take this as a rule – that whatever his mind seizes and dwells upon with peculiar satisfaction is to be held in suspicion.

  • Francis Bacon

I heartily endorse “Lord of the Flies”, and add Joseph Heller’s “Something Happened” to the list.

Reality is for people who can’t handle drugs.

-Tom Waits

The Seventh Level. A novel where a nuclear war has taken place,and because of the radiation,everyone has to live underground. Some people live at the seventh level,7 floors under. No sun ever.No nature. The main character decides he’s rather die than ever see the earth again.

I’m guessing you meant The Plague Dogs, Ivick, and not The Plaque Dogs, although a story about two dogs being hunted for improper dental hygene would be a downer. You’re right though, that book (and the animated film) is a mighty depressing ride.

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

It’s really a drama and not a book per se, but Brian Friel’s Translations absolutely ruined my day. It’s about the British army in the 18th or 19th century going across Ireland anglicizing all the place names, and the British soldier who doesn’t want to do it. I was bawling by the end of it. And I’m sure I need not say it wasn’t a happy ending.

Dear Ai\ Yue- Ha
Tom Godwin wrote The Cold Equations.

A lot of these books y’all mentioned were really depressing. I’d like to add:

“A picture of Dorian Gray” - Oscar Wilde.


“You know how complex women are”

  • Neil Peart, Rush (1993)

You know, I seem to like most depressing books. Several that have been mentioned–Lord of the Flies, On the Beach, Flowers for Algernon–are among my all-time favorites.

BUT, I hated and still hate The Red Pony. Actually, as another poster said, most anything by Steinbeck is depressing. But that book was my first of his read, and its impression was strongest.


I used to think the world was against me. Now I know better. Some of the smaller countries are neutral.

A lot of depressing books buck me up in some odd way…THE GRAPES OF WRATH impressed upon me the essential dignity and humanity of the downtrodden, working poor; FAHRENHEIT 451 celebrates the bravery of a small clique of bookreading nerds in the face of overwheming mediocrity.

Early Knut Hamsun always bugs me: PAN, VICTORIA, MYSTERIES, HUNGER. The utter failure of his characters to communicate, their obstinacy in CONTINUALLY doing the wrong thing to ensure future happiness, never fails to make my skin crawl. I’m always shakin’ my fist at the book and yelling.

“Go and TALK to the chick, man! Don’t let that clerk cut you out…Eat something! No, don’t eat so fast, you’ll puke…ah, MAAAAAN…Whatever you do, don’t shoot your dog and leave it on her doorstep…oh, MAAAAN…”


Boy, some of my favorite stories on this thread. *Bless the Beasts and Children, All Summer in a Day * I loved those, I think because of the intensity, and because they touched a chord in me. I could identify with those kids in some ways. Not that they weren’t depressing. All Summer in a Daystill comes back to me every rainy November day.
Guanolad, thank you! I have heard a lot about how great the Thomas Covenant books were. I read two and a half of them and couldn’t finish the third, it was so awful. Nice to know I’m not alone in that feeling.

The Fools Progress - Edward Abbey
Lolita - Vladamir Nabakov
Shampoo Planet - Douglas Coupland

Just add water, it makes it’s own sauce!

Burn: What depresses you about Shampoo Planet? Apart from being depressed by it, do you like or dislike it? I love that book, along with Microserfs. Now, that one was a bit depressing, but not overwhelmingly so.

Remember, I’m pulling for you; we’re all in this together.
—Red Green

I love Coupland’s works but Shampoo Planet depressed me because it hit a little too close to home for me.

I read Microserfs twice before moving to Redmond.

“She’s nothin but a little lyin’ ass bitch… I know she says she loves you but you know she don’t care…”