The Greatest "Marriage, Tragedy" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 315 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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The category of "Marriage" in books encompasses a wide range of literature that explores the institution of marriage, including its joys, challenges, and complexities. These books may delve into the history and cultural significance of marriage, examine the psychological and emotional dynamics of relationships, or offer practical advice and guidance for couples navigating the ups and downs of married life. Whether exploring the intricacies of communication, intimacy, or conflict resolution, books in this category aim to provide insight and support for individuals seeking to build and maintain strong, healthy, and fulfilling marriages.


Tragedy is a genre of literature that explores the darker aspects of human nature and the human experience. It typically involves a protagonist who is faced with a series of challenges and obstacles that ultimately lead to their downfall or demise. Tragic stories often deal with themes of loss, grief, and the struggle to find meaning in a world that can be cruel and unforgiving. Despite their often bleak subject matter, tragic stories can be deeply moving and thought-provoking, offering readers a powerful glimpse into the complexities of the human condition.

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  1. 1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

    Set in 19th-century Russia, this novel revolves around the life of Anna Karenina, a high-society woman who, dissatisfied with her loveless marriage, embarks on a passionate affair with a charming officer named Count Vronsky. This scandalous affair leads to her social downfall, while parallel to this, the novel also explores the rural life and struggles of Levin, a landowner who seeks the meaning of life and true happiness. The book explores themes such as love, marriage, fidelity, societal norms, and the human quest for happiness.

    The 14th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

    Madame Bovary is a tragic novel about a young woman, Emma Bovary, who is married to a dull, but kind-hearted doctor. Dissatisfied with her life, she embarks on a series of extramarital affairs and indulges in a luxurious lifestyle in an attempt to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Her desire for passion and excitement leads her down a path of financial ruin and despair, ultimately resulting in a tragic end.

    The 17th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. Rabbit, Run by John Updike

    The novel follows the life of a 26-year-old former high school basketball star, who is dissatisfied with his current life. He impulsively leaves his wife and son and embarks on a journey in the hopes of finding a more meaningful existence. His decisions, however, lead to a series of tragic events that impact the lives of those around him. This mid-20th-century novel explores themes of freedom, responsibility, and the tragic consequences of impulsive decisions.

    The 134th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

    This novel tells the story of Jude Fawley, a working-class young man who dreams of becoming a scholar. The traditional class structure in 19th-century England prevents him from realizing his dream and his only solace is his love for his cousin, Sue Bridehead. Their scandalous relationship and the tragic events that follow form the heart of the narrative, which explores themes of love, class, religion, and morality.

    The 228th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

    This book is a raw and honest exploration of grief and mourning, written by a woman who lost her husband of 40 years to a heart attack while their only child lay comatose in the hospital. The narrative delves into the year following her husband's death, a year marked by grief, confusion, and a desperate hope for things to return to normal. The author's poignant reflections on death, love, and loss serve as a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

    The 457th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

    Set in the 1930s, this novel explores the disintegration of the marriage of an upper-class English couple, Tony and Brenda Last. Brenda embarks on an affair with a social climber, John Beaver, leading to the demise of her marriage. After their son's tragic death, Brenda demands a divorce and a large portion of Tony's estate. Tony, heartbroken, embarks on an ill-fated expedition to the Brazilian jungle. The novel critically examines the moral decay of British aristocracy and society.

    The 491st Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

    This novel revolves around Frank and April Wheeler, a young couple living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s. Struggling with the banality of their lives, they plan to move to France where they believe they will be able to live more fulfilling and enlightened lives. However, their plans are derailed by a surprise pregnancy and the pressures of societal expectations, leading to a tragic end. The book explores themes of conformity, the search for self-fulfillment, and the disillusionment of the American Dream.

    The 567th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara

    This novel explores the self-destruction of the main character, a successful and respected car dealer, over a three-day span during the Christmas season in 1930. After a series of impulsive and reckless actions, including alienating his friends and family, having an affair, and getting involved with organized crime, the protagonist spirals out of control, leading to his tragic demise. The book offers a critique of the vapid and hypocritical aspects of high society in a small Pennsylvania town during the Great Depression.

    The 1470th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    This novel tells the story of Anthony Patch, a 1920s socialite and presumptive heir to a tycoon's fortune, and his wife Gloria. As they await the inheritance of his grandfather's estate, their reckless marriage deteriorates into a cycle of alcohol, parties, and squabbles, leading to their downfall. The narrative provides an exploration of the themes of greed, status, and the fleeting nature of youth and beauty.

    The 2279th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. The Sea by John Banville

    "The Sea" is a profound exploration of memory, grief, and loss. The novel follows the story of a widower who returns to a seaside town where he spent his childhood summers. His present-day experiences are interwoven with memories of a transformative event from his youth involving a wealthy family he befriended. As he grapples with the loss of his wife to cancer, he also deals with the haunting memories of the past. The narrative is a deep dive into the human psyche, exploring themes of love, loss, and the fluidity of time.

    The 2494th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. A Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins

    "A Novel About My Wife" is a captivating exploration of a marriage on the brink of collapse. Told from the perspective of the husband, the story delves into the complexities of love, desire, and the secrets that can unravel even the strongest of relationships. As the husband grapples with his own insecurities and suspicions, he becomes consumed by the mystery surrounding his wife's past, leading him down a path of self-discovery and ultimately forcing him to confront the truth about their marriage.

    The 10156th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. So Big by Edna Ferber

    "So Big" is a novel that follows the life of Selina Peake De Jong, a woman who moves from Chicago to a rural Dutch community in Illinois after the death of her father. She becomes a school teacher and marries a farmer, living a life of hardship and poverty. Despite the challenges, she instills a love of beauty and art in her son Dirk, who grows up to become a successful architect. The book explores themes of resilience, the American Dream, and the often overlooked value of hard work and artistic integrity.

    The 10950th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow

    This novel tells the story of the Timberlake family, focusing on two sisters, Stanley and Roy. Stanley is a selfish, manipulative woman who abandons her husband for her sister Roy's husband, causing a series of tragic events. Meanwhile, Roy, the more responsible and virtuous sister, must navigate the fallout of Stanley's actions. The book explores themes of family, morality, and the destructive power of selfishness, all set against the backdrop of the American South in the early 20th century.

    The 10950th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.