Why sad endings are better in books

By Audrey Patterson | Reporter

There are some phrases from books I can quote word for word, and most of them are from sad books. And there’s a reason for that — because they touch your soul unlike any other genre does.

I like that when you read something sad, you’re so engrossed in it for a while that you forget that what you’re reading isn’t reality. You forget that you’re a person huddled on a couch or in a bed, with a complex life, probably ignoring an assignment. Everything fades away except for the picture that the author draws. And for some reason, for me at least, sad endings always paint a more vivid picture.

Dread is a special emotion. If you can make me grieve over a character, even if they’re not dead, you’ve written a good book. I want to be torn apart; I love that feeling. I love being blindsided after trusting in someone. I like the ache and the pain because it feels real. It’s not all sunshine and flowers in life, and I like the books I read to reflect that.

However, I have a habit of being disappointed and dissatisfied with happy endings. I’ve read stories where the main character suffered so much, and I wanted them to have happiness, but I didn’t want it to end happily. In my mind, they weren’t destined for that. The hardships they went through developed their personality to the point where a happy ending wouldn’t be fair to them. I wanted them to have a moment of happiness and the ending to be the final blow of the cumulation of grief.

There is art in words. Making someone so sad that they lie in bed for days, not wanting to do anything but go back to when their favorite character was happy, requires skill.

One of my favorite authors, Aldous Huxley, said, “Words can be like X-rays, if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read, and you’re pierced.”

Sad book recommendations: “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah, “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr and “1984” by George Orwell.