Often, we shy away from the concept of failure in books. But for me, failure is the means by which we learn and sometimes a tragic ending can have more of an impact than a happy one. So, I thought I’d share my list of the most successful books about failure. And what better day than unlucky Friday the Thirteenth to discuss it? 😉
Jude the Obscure– Hardy doesn’t pull his punches with this devastating tome. I can’t think of many other books which have left me so utterly eviscerated emotionally.
The Idiot– Dostoevsky often explores the notion of tragedy and failure in his books, but this is my favourite in that vein. Dubbed a failed book about failure, this may not have the most satisfying of conclusions, but it’s very apt for this list.
Hamlet– I needed at least one Shakespearean tragedy on the list and what I like about this one is that it’s an individual tragedy of a man we can (more or less) respect.
The Great Gatsby– Fitzgerald’s masterpiece about the failure of the American Dream explores both the loss of a dream grander scale and a very personal tragedy. What I like is that this book can be read multiple ways- it’s not just society to blame for Gatsby’s ending, but also the individual (bad) choices along the way.
Never Let Me Go– a more modern/futuristic tragedy, Never Let Me Go doesn’t just examine the way society can rob us of our futures, but also how we can self-sabotage and waste time along the way. For all its dystopic elements, it is ultimately a very human tale.
Mockingjay– I know that some people didn’t love the ending for Hunger Games, but for me it will always be perfect. Dystopias can’t end too happily and thus (despite some of the more positive aspects of the finale) it delivers the intended message well.
Between Shades of Grey– the topic of Soviets sending thousands of people to die in Siberia is not talked about enough. This book does a fantastic job of representing this important issue.
Woman in Black– in a very different vein, this thrilling and captivating ghost story actually holds at its heart darker and more unsettling tragedies.
Game of Thrones- kind of poetic that a lot of people fail in this book given where the show ended up… In all seriousness, this is a significant in the modern fantasy realm because it doesn’t just give us the happily-ever-after good guys triumph over evil we all crave. As hard as it can be to read, we need books that show us a darker reality.
Sadie– I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say this is more representative of a failure in society than with “The Girls”. A part of why I put this on the list is that I think when true crime is discussed, the victims are often ignored. I think this does a great job of starting to redress that balance. Also, if you want to weep buckets, read this book.
Alright, so have I succeeded or failed with this list? And do you have any books to add? Let me know in the comments!