Novels About Anxiety or Fear

These novels have characters who are afraid or anxious, whether from a real physical threat or only a perceived one.

See also War | Military

Subject: Anxiety or Fear

Giants in the Earth | O. E. Rolvaag

Per Hansa is leading his family over the Dakota plains. They’ve been separated from their travelling party. They need to get to Spring Creek to register a section of land they can farm. The community deals with all the trials of the plains such as land disputes, losing animals, long journeys for supplies, and the weather, among other things.

Read “Giants in the Earth”

Don Quixote | Miguel de Cervantes

Influenced by books of chivalry, a man decides to become a knight. He finds a squire and sets out to fight injustice and uphold what’s right. His imagination runs wild as it fills in the gaps in his adventures and often leads him to make absurd decisions and misread situations.

“…just this once I shall take your advice and keep my distance from the fury that so frightens you, but on one condition: never, in life or in death, will you tell anyone that I retreated from this peril out of fear…”

Read “Don Quixote”

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden | Joanne Greenberg

Deborah Blau is being taken by her parents to a mental hospital. She has created the imaginary Kingdom of Yr to escape from the tensions of life. Deborah adjusts to the routine of the hospital. She has many sessions with Dr. Fried, a psychologist renowned for her ability to speak to the mentally ill.

Herzog | Saul Bellow

Moses Herzog is at his country house writing letters to people–family; friends; and historical figures, living and dead–because he’s struggling with mental instability. He was a teacher and scholar before his marriage went bad. He eventually gets news that his daughter needs him, so he goes to a lawyer, Simkin, for advice on how to get custody of her.

Cry, the Beloved Country | Alan Paton

In Book I, Stephen Kumalo, a priest from a small South African community, gets a letter saying his sister is ill. He sets off for Johannesburg to help, and also to look for his son, Absalom. Book II presents some of the same events from the perspective of James Jarvis, a man who receives sad news and then heads for Johannesburg. Book III is told from the points of view of Kumalo and Jarvis.

Robinson Crusoe | Daniel Defoe

Young Robinson Crusoe sneaks away to sea, against the wishes of his parents. On one of his expeditions, a terrible storm shipwrecks him on a deserted island. He tries to ensure he has sufficient food and shelter. He wonders if there is anyone else on the island, and what their reaction to him might be.

“Thus, fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself.”

Read “Robinson Crusoe”

Monster | Walter Dean Myers

Steve Harmon is in jail and on trial for a robbery and murder. He records the events of the crime and the trial thru journal entries and a screenplay he has written.

The Contender | Robert Lipsyte

Alfred Brooks, seventeen, lives in Harlem and has dropped out of high school. He is growing apart from his best friend James, who seems to be getting in with a dangerous crowd. The gang James hangs out with decides to rob the grocery store where Alfred works. Alfred wants to become a boxer, and goes to the local gym where Mr. Donatelli, the owner, has trained many fighters.


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