This inconspicuous looking text was the impetus behind a rash of suicides in the late 18th century. Written by Goethe, this epistolary novel followed the sorrows of a young man whose true love is betrothed to another. The book accounts the man’s decent into depression and ultimately suicide.
The book became extremely popular, especially with youth. It was criticized as glorifying suicide and even called “heinous” by one cleric. A rash of suicides by young readers reached its peak after the novel was translated into English, which resulted in its banning.
Read the book at Project Gutenberg.