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20 Heartrending Books Like “A Little Life” That Will Move You

Explore Novels Filled With Emotional Depth Similar to "A Little Life"
by The Blinkist Team | Apr 9 2024

20 Emotional Books Like A Little Life To Move You Deeply

“A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara is an incredibly powerful novel that delves into the limits of friendship, love, trauma, and the strength of the human spirit to endure in the face of adversity. Its poignant and beautiful exploration of complex emotional terrain has resonated with many readers, leaving them searching for similarly impactful stories.

If you’re one of those readers who is looking for books that offer the same depth of character and emotional intensity as “A Little Life,” then this curated list is for you. Dive into these 20 novels that promise to evoke a range of emotions, just like “A Little Life” does.

Top 20 best books to read if you liked “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara


1. “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

Theo Decker’s journey through grief, guilt, and redemption mirrors the intense, character-driven narrative of “A Little Life.”

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • Deeply drawn character studies.
  • Themes of trauma and recovery.
  • A sprawling, emotionally rich storyline.


2. “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” by John Boyne

Cyril Avery’s life story, from post-war Ireland to Amsterdam and New York, is filled with love, loss, and identity seeking.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • Exploration of friendships and love over decades.
  • Impactful narrative on human suffering and resilience.
  • A character’s lifelong journey of self-discovery.


3. “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro

A tale of love and loss among friends at an English boarding school hides a dark secret about their future.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • The deep bonds between friends facing fate together.
  • A hauntingly beautiful narrative with underlying sadness.
  • Themes of hope, memory, and what it means to be human.


4. “My Absolute Darling” by Gabriel Tallent

Turtle Alveston’s troubling and intense relationship with her father, and her fight for her own identity.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • A powerful, evocative exploration of personal trauma.
  • Struggle for self-discovery and overcoming past abuse.
  • Intense character focus and emotional depth.


5. “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

A group of classics students at an elite college explore morality beyond the boundaries, leading to catastrophic consequences.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • The complexities of friendships and hidden lives.
  • A dark, compelling narrative swirling around a group’s dynamic.
  • Themes of guilt, obsession, and the consequences of ambition.


6. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

The story of Amir’s journey from Afghanistan to the United States and back, seeking redemption for his past betrayals.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • A profound exploration of friendship and betrayal.
  • A narrative filled with emotional highs and lows.
  • Themes of guilt, redemption, and the sins of the past.


7. “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong

A letter from a son to his mother who cannot read, delving into family history, identity, and the struggles of immigrant life.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • Lyrical exploration of pain, love, and hope.
  • Intimate portrayal of characters’ lives and relationships.
  • Unflinching look at personal and familial trauma.


8. “Atonement” by Ian McEwan

A falsehood alters lives forever, entwining love, war, and the quest for forgiveness in this sweeping novel.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • The devastating impact of one action on several lives.
  • Deeply emotional narrative spanning years.
  • Themes of love, guilt, and the desire for atonement.


9. “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

Two sisters face the horrors of World War II in France, each battling in their own way to survive and resist.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • Intense emotional journey through devastating circumstances.
  • Powerful portrayal of human resilience and spirit.
  • Rich, complex characters facing moral dilemmas.


10. “Call Me By Your Name” by André Aciman

The emotional tumult of a summer romance between Elio and Oliver in Italy, chronicling passion, loss, and longing across years.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • Intense, character-driven emotional exploration.
  • Themes of love, desire, and the passage of time.
  • Beautiful, evocative writing capturing deep human connections.


11. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

Liesel’s life in Nazi Germany is transformed by the power of words and writing, amidst loss and the horrors of war.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • A moving tale of human endurance and the impact of relationships.
  • Poignant narrative voice that captures the heart.
  • Themes of loss, friendship, and redemption.


12. “Less” by Andrew Sean Greer

Arthur Less’s journey around the world to avoid an ex-lover’s wedding becomes a comedic exploration of love, aging, and self-acceptance.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • A personal journey intertwined with humor and sadness.
  • Deeply felt narrative on life’s poignant moments.
  • Exploration of love, identity, and human connection.


13. “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

Two young magicians, Celia and Marco, are pitted against each other in a magical duel amidst the enchanting setting of the Night Circus.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • A richly detailed world with deep, emotional undercurrents.
  • Love and sacrifice as central themes.
  • A mesmerizing, beautifully written narrative.


14. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

Sethe’s life, haunted by the ghost of her daughter, unfolds in a narrative that challenges the boundaries of love and the scars left by slavery.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • Complex characters laden with emotional and historical trauma.
  • Themes of memory, identity, and the unbearable weight of the past.
  • Powerful storytelling with deep psychological insights.


15. “We Are Not Ourselves” by Matthew Thomas

Through the life of Eileen Leary, this novel explores the American Dream, and the impacts of ambition, love, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • A sweeping generational saga that delves deep into personal struggles.
  • Strong focus on character development and relationships.
  • A heart-wrenching look at life’s trials and the pursuit of dreams.


16. “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

The parallel stories of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a German soldier, converge in occupied France during WWII.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • Beautifully intertwined narratives of struggle and survival.
  • Rich, evocative prose that captures the human spirit.
  • Complex themes of fate, morality, and the effects of war.


17. “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides

The epic tale of Cal, a hermaphrodite, spans generations, from Greece to Detroit, exploring identity, family secrets, and American culture.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • A multigenerational narrative with a deep focus on character.
  • Exploration of identity, belonging, and transformation.
  • A rich, compelling saga that delves into complex emotional terrains.


18. “What Belongs to You” by Garth Greenwell

An American teacher in Bulgaria navigates desire and detachment in his relationship with Mitko, exploring themes of longing and belonging.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • Intense personal introspection and emotional vulnerability.
  • An unflinching look at the complexities of relationships and identity.
  • Prose that’s both beautiful and deeply moving.


19. “House of Sand and Fog” by Andre Dubus III

The escalating conflict over a bungalow in California exposes the fault lines of the American Dream, leading to a tragic confrontation.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • The devastating impacts of obsession, pride, and desperation.
  • Richly drawn characters embroiled in moral and emotional dilemmas.
  • A gripping narrative that explores themes of justice, longing, and loss.


20. “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders

Set over a single night in a graveyard, this novel blends historical fiction with a poignant exploration of love and loss, centered around President Lincoln and his deceased son.

Elements in common with “A Little Life”:

  • Surreal yet deeply human exploration of grief and loss.
  • An innovative narrative that intertwines humor with deep sadness.
  • Rich, multi-layered characters and themes that resonate long after the story ends.

In conclusion, these novels, like “A Little Life,” explore the depths of human emotions, relationships, and the complexities of life with compelling narratives and unforgettable characters.

Each book offers a unique perspective on love, loss, friendship, and the resilience of the human spirit. So, immerse yourself in these emotional journeys and let them move you, just as “A Little Life” has. Happy reading!


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