Booklist Queen

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24 Books That Make You Cry Like a Baby

I can hear your thoughts. Why would you want to read books that will make you cry? The thing is, it takes special kinds of books that make you cry.

For starters, you need to understand that I’m not really a crier. I didn’t cry when my kids were born – tears of pain do not count. Neither did I cry when my kids went off to school for the first time.

Sometimes it seems like every book I read has a sad ending. Yet, I’m not sitting here weeping after every book. As I said, it takes a special kind of book to bring on the tears.

It’s all about investment. No matter how tragic the story is, if I am not invested in the characters, I’m not going to cry.

Grab your tissues and make sure you are wearing waterproof mascara because I promise these are books to make you cry.

At least, they made me cry.

Psst. If you want some nonfiction books that make you cry, try out these heartbreaking memoirs .

Tearjerker Books about families

book cover by The Light Between Oceans bgy M. L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans

M. l. stedman.

After four years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

The decision to keep the baby as their own sets up one of the most heart-wrenching conflicts I’ve ever read. Throughout the story, all of the characters’ decisions are made out of love for this little girl. That’s what makes the whole scenario so heartbreaking. Reading this book, I was constantly questioning what I would do in this situation. If you want a lively book club discussion, this touching book is the epitome of sad books that will make you cry.

Publication Date: 31 July 2012 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

This was one of my favorites of the bestsellers I read in the last few years. Celeste’s Ng writing is exquisite. As the family struggles with Lydia’s death, the author takes you deeper into the cracks and flaws of this mixed-race family. It is a poignant character study into the dynamics of a family where all the parents’ unfulfilled hopes are pinned on one child, to the detriment of all. By the end, I was in tears for these poor children and the damage that had been done by their parents’ selfishness.

Publication Date: 26 June 2014 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover All the Children Are Home by Patry Francis

All the Children are Home

Patry francis.

Eleven years after they began fostering, Dahlia and Louie consider their family complete, but when the social worker begs them to take a young girl who has been horrifically abused and neglected, they can’t say no. As the years pass and outside forces threaten to tear them apart, the children, now young adults, must find the courage and resilience to save themselves and each other.

In a small town in Massachusetts in the 1960s, Dahlia and Louie Moscatell have finally found a rhythm as long-term foster parents. Then a social worker begs them to take on one more foster child – a six-year-old indigenous girl who will change their family dynamics forever. Patry Francis hits the emotions hard in this powerful story of love and family and the struggles of the foster care system. I cried with their heartaches and rejoiced in their victories, and can emphatically declare this one of the top books that will make you cry.

Publication Date: 13 April 2021 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister’s Keeper

Jodi picoult.

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate—a life and a role that she has never challenged…until now.

This is by far the best of Jodi Picoult’s books. Reading it, you get so invested in the lives of Anna and Kate that when the big twist comes – and it’s Jodi Picoult, so there is always a big twist – you feel so deeply the pain the characters are going through. As Anna makes a literally life-or-death decision, you just feel so torn between Anna’s needs, Kate’s needs, and the love and desperation of their mother. It’s definitely a book that will make you think about how you would react. Hopefully, you will never have to find out.

Publication Date: 1 February 2005 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Gayle Forman

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces – to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make.

I saw this movie at a drive-in theater, and I immediately knew I had to read the book. Mia’s emotions of watching her world change in an instant hit me particularly hard. As Mia decides whether life is worth living if her family might not be there with her, it made me wonder what I would do without my family. Of course, being a mother, just the thought of living without my family always brings me to tears. A great and emotional read perfect if you love young adult books that make you cry.

Publication Date: 2 April 2009 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

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Books That Make You Cry

Heartbreaking Books Perfect for Book Club

book cover Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

Our grandfather was a paraplegic, so this book hit close to home for me. I was in tears at the heartbroken man who felt he had nothing left to live for, not fully understanding that there is always something more. Will brings meaning into Louisa’s life and gets her to reach beyond what she thought she was capable of. In return, Louisa tries to bring meaning back into Will’s life, before it’s too late. I promise, this definitely is one of those emotional books that make you cry big fat ugly tears.

Publication Date: 30 July 2013 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Dear Edward

Ann napolitano.

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them are a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured veteran returning from Afghanistan, a business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.

With split narration between Edward’s post-crash years and the time leading up to the fatal accident, Dear Edward shows that surviving is just the beginning. Napolitano hits the emotions just right in this novel, making you deeply care about Edward’s progress while not turning the story into a full-blown tearjerker. A touching tale, Napolitano perfectly conveys Edward’s complicated coming of age years, giving you hope that even amid such tragedy, joy can be found. Certainly a must-read for books that will make you cry in 2020.

Publication Date: 6 January 2020 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

Book Cover Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice

Lisa genova.

Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away.

Talk about a difficult topic. Lisa Genova writes the most heartbreaking and compelling tale in Still Alice . She left me wracked by her tale of a woman going through early-onset Alzheimer’s. You’ll be left terrified at a disease that can ravage the mind of such a brilliant woman, and angry at her husband’s poor coping. Trust me, your book club will have plenty to talk about as long as you are okay with books that make you cry.

Publication Date: 6 July 2007 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

In Five Years

Rebecca serle.

After nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan. But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. It’s the same night but five years in the future. After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

Lawyer Dannie Cohan knows exactly where she’ll be in five years – until the night of her engagement. In her post-engagement bliss, she has a vision of herself in five years engaged to someone else. She doesn’t think much of it, until years later when she finds he is dating her best friend. While the premise sounds light-hearted, partway through the story, beach read goes out the window and thought-provoking book that will make you cry steps in. You’ll feel compelled to know if the vision came true and surprised at how well Serle counters your expectations.

Publication Date: 10 March 2020 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove

Fredrik backman.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

Ove, a cantankerous old Swede, just wants to be left in peace so he can commit suicide, but his pesky neighbors keep getting in the way. A heartwarming tale that I found downright hilarious will be a book club favorite for years to come. Highlighting our need for connection in the modern world, A Man Called Ove typified how important it is to leave our digital worlds and make sure we check in on our neighbors. Books that make you cry and laugh at the same time are rare, so you won’t want to miss this one.

Publication Date: 15 July 2014 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover The Next Thing You Know by Jessica Strawser

The Next Thing You Know

Jessica strawser.

When Mason Shaylor shows up at her door, Nova doesn’t recognize him as the indie-favorite singer-songwriter who recently vanished from the public eye. She knows only what he’s told her: That life as he knows it is over. His deteriorating condition makes playing his guitar physically impossible―as far as Mason is concerned, he might as well be dead already. Except he doesn’t know how to say goodbye.

As an end-of-life doula, Nova’s job is to help the terminally ill cope with their impending death. Her most challenging client: Mason Shaylor, an up-and-coming indie singer-songwriter, who comes in asking for help to say goodbye after a deteriorating condition that has already caused him to lose his ability to play the guitar. Months later after Mason dies in a car crash, Mason’s mom comes in accusing Nova of assisting Mason’s suicide. Now Nova questions everything she thought she knew about a patient she had become extremely close to. The Next Thing You Know is a top-level tearjerker, expertly drawing you into the characters and perfectly timing revelations to emotionally wrench you.

Publication Date: 22 March 2022 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Marley & Me by John Grogan

Marley & Me

John grogan.

When the Grogan family is ready for a dog, they choose Marley, a yellow furball of a puppy who quickly grows into a large, rowdy Labrador retriever. Marley has a zest for life, and as he grows, so does his enthusiasm. He has an appetite for whatever he can get his paws on—from fine jewelry to underwear—and the one thing he always finds is trouble. Marley even gets kicked out of obedience school! Can this rambunctious pup ever learn how to be a good boy?

I don’t even like dogs, and I love this book enough to suggest that it is one of the books every millennial needs to read . Marley’s antics are absolutely hilarious. I laughed so hard at all the havoc he wreaked upon his family. But the love that springs up between Marley and his owner despite Marley’s many flaws is so touching. And when Marley eventually dies at a ripe old age, I was just in tears thinking of the wonderful life of the “world’s worst dog.” If this is not one of those books that makes you cry, there must be something wrong with you.

Publication Date: 18 October 2005 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

   

book cover The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff

The Only Plane in the Sky

Garrett m. graff.

The first comprehensive oral history of September 11, 2001—a panoramic narrative woven from the voices of Americans on the front lines of an unprecedented national trauma. Award-winning journalist and bestselling historian Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it.

In this outstanding book, Graff compiles quotes from various people to fill out a brilliant oral history of a timeline of that fateful day. Let me tell you, this is a powerful read. I had to digest it in small pieces because I started to cry from the very first page. If I could rate it six stars, I would. With the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, you’ll want to add this to the list of books that made you cry.

Publication Date: 10 September 2019 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon

Daniel keyes.

In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

Here’s another book from my list of the 30 books to read before 30 . It’s fascinating to follow Charlie’s progression through the wording and spelling of his diary entries as he goes from mentally disabled to extremely intelligent. You feel deeply moved by how Charlie is treated at both low and high IQ levels. Then when Algernon’s decline begins, you are in tears for this poor mouse and what it might mean for Charlie. A tear-jerker for sure.

Publication Date: April 1959 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

Join the 2020 Reading Challenge

Young Adult Books That Make You Cry

book cover by We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars

E. lockhart.

A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth.

You will have to settle for a vague description of this book because I don’t dare risk spoiling it for you. As the protagonist Cadence slowly starts regaining her memory and all the details of what happened start becoming clear, half the fun is in trying to figure out what is going on. I really enjoyed trying to piece the mystery of this book together. All I can say is that at some point, this book will make you cry. But that is all the spoiler you will get from me.

Publication Date: 13 May 2014 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

Patrick ness.

The monster in Conor’s backyard is not the one he’s been expecting — the one from the nightmare he’s had every night since his mother started her treatments. This monster is ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

This is the only book on this list of touching books that will make you cry that I read specifically for this post. Which made me wonder, if I know I’m supposed to cry, would that prevent me from crying? Since Conor’s mom is sick, I assumed she would probably die in some tear-invoking way. I won’t tell you if his mother dies or not, but her illness was not what brought me to tears. The part that touched me deepest was Conor’s feelings of invisibility. His desperate need to be seen. If you haven’t read it, please add it to your to-read list.

Publication Date: 7 May 2015 Amazon | Goodreads

book cover The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Two kids with cancer who fall in love. Well, that’s a recipe for tears if I’ve ever heard one. Knowing that she will die someday sooner rather than later, Hazel is afraid to let anyone get close to her. In her selfless way, she wants her death to cause as little pain as possible. The true beauty of this story lies in the ending lines: “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.” If you want an inspiring and emotional read, this book is for you.

Publication Date: 10 January 2012 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief

Markus zusak.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

I’ll be honest, the fact that this book was narrated by Death was a bit off-putting at first. However, this book is amazing. The story is particularly compelling for its look at what it was like for a German child to grow up in Germany during the war. You feel so involved in the life of Liesel and her best friend Rudy that you want to rejoice with them in their triumphs and cry with them in their sorrows.

Publication Date: 14 April 2006 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons

100 Days of Sunlight

Abbie emmons.

When 16-year-old poetry blogger Tessa Dickinson is involved in a car accident and loses her eyesight for 100 days, she feels like her whole world has been turned upside-down. When her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs. Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability.  

A brilliantly sweet and endearing story that I read in one sitting, bawling my eyes out at times. The story is really about Weston – not only how he lost his legs and how he put his life back together but also about his eternal optimism and inner fears. A poignant read, this darling love story is perfect for teens and adults and certainly one of the best books of 2019 .

Publication Date: 7 August 2019 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

Five Feet Apart

Rachael lippincott.

Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.

In the vein of The Fault in Our Stars comes a love story of two teens with Cystic Fibrosis. Living in and out of the hospitals their whole lives, Stella and Will develop a close bond while dealing with the same disease. Because they have Cystic Fibrosis, they must stay six feet apart at all times or risk infecting each other and jeopardizing their chances of a lung transplant. But when your a teen in love, six feet apart seems like an impossible feat. I found this star-crossed teen love story touching and emotional.

Publication Date: 20 November 2018 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

Children’s Books That Will Make You Cry

book cover Wonder by R. J. Palacio

R. J. Palacio

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face.

This story of a boy with a severely deformed face entering public middle school for the first time will make you ponder how you react to people who look differently. This middle-grade phenomenon will be read in classrooms around America for years to come.

Publication Date: 14 February 2012 Amazon | Goodreads | More Info

book cover Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Bridge to Terabithia

Katherine paterson.

Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia.

I was not prepared for this book. It’s a wonderful children’s story – well-written and fun. The friendship between Jess and Leslie is enchanting with all the joys of childhood imagination. Then BAM. Out of nowhere, tragedy strikes. I was completely caught off guard and did not have a tissue in sight. Don’t be like me. Keep the box close. But the beauty of this book is its ability to teach children how to deal with tragedy.

Publication Date: 6 October 2009 Amazon | Goodreads

book cover Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Where the Red Fern Grows

Wilson rawls.

Billy has long dreamt of owning not one, but two, dogs. So when he’s finally able to save up enough money for two pups to call his own—Old Dan and Little Ann—he’s ecstatic. Soon Billy and his hounds become the finest hunting team in the valley. Stories of their great achievements spread throughout the region, and the combination of Old Dan’s brawn, Little Ann’s brains, and Billy’s sheer will seems unbeatable. But tragedy awaits these determined hunters—now friends—and Billy learns that hope can grow out of despair, and that the seeds of the future can come from the scars of the past.

Why do books about dogs always seem to bring me to tears? I’m not even a dog person. As a child, Jaclyn got so upset when she finished this book in class that the teacher had to send her outside so she could get ahold of herself. Also, to stop everyone from staring at her for sobbing during quiet time. Yes, she was a rather emotional child. Still, this deserved belongs among the lists of books that make you cry. Grab the tissues and hug your dog, because this book is so good it can’t be missed.

Publication Date: 1961 Amazon | Goodreads

book cover Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

J. k. rowling.

The war against Voldemort is not going well; even the Muggles have been affected. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses. And yet . . . as with all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Harry receives some extraordinary help in Potions from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. And with Dumbledore’s guidance, he seeks out the full, complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort — and thus finds what may be his only vulnerability.

Honestly, this list of books that make you cry would not be complete with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Since the books and movies are so popular, I don’t really feel like I can really spoil the ending of this book. If you happen to be in the 1% of the population who hasn’t read this book or seen the movie, then look away. Because I absolutely bawled when Dumbledore died at the end of this book. Actually, I cry every single time I read this book … which is a lot because Harry Potter is the series I re-read most often.

Publication Date: 16 July 2005 Amazon | Goodreads

What are your favorite books that make you cry?

Rachael

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Reader Interactions

Rachel @ Never Enough Novels says

January 18, 2020 at 4:56 pm

I was not at all prepared for A Man Called Ove. My goodness. So many tears! Happy tears, sad tears, full on sobbing. It was intense, but I loved it oh so much. I’m glad for the warning about Dear Edward! I’ll make sure I’m reading that somewhere by myself!

Rachael says

January 22, 2020 at 8:39 pm

A Man Called Ove was so good! My book club discussed it this month, and it was the clear favorite. I was amazed at how much everyone had to say about it.

Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins says

January 19, 2020 at 9:21 pm

I must admit, I have a bit of a heart of stone, I don’t often cry in books (unless they, in any way, feature a dog, in which case I’m a complete wreck). I did get a little teary in A Man Called Ove though, which I was not expecting at all! And I think I got something in my eye while I was reading Still Alice, too…

January 22, 2020 at 8:38 pm

Ahaha. Something in your eye. I don’t even like dogs, and dog books always get me. Marley & Me, Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller and The Yearling (I know it’s a deer, but it acts like a dog.)

Terrie says

February 2, 2020 at 8:41 pm

What an interesting list. I’m another non-crier and so every time I find myself with a tear, I’m surprised. I agree about Light Between Oceans – and it was an audio book so I was even more surprised (teary while driving is not a good idea!) A recent teary book for me is The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – a surprising scene had me in tears. Love your lists and think I’ll be starting to add the occasional list to my blog too……it’s hard to figure out how to corral my thoughts and a challenge to find the connections between books sometimes. You’re an inspiration! By the way, I’m working on your reading challenge and each time I complete a category I’m promoting it and you on my blog (sharing the love!)

February 10, 2020 at 9:39 pm

Thanks so much! I will never say no to promotion. I’ll have to keep in mind that The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek might make me cry when I read it.

February 2, 2020 at 8:43 pm

Just remembered another one – you have children’s books here and I read one in January for the Read Harder challenge that brought a tear to my eye: The Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini. Worth getting from the library I think.

March 3, 2020 at 5:30 am

you should add Khaled Hosseini here. A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner made me cry so hard. It will move you. Nevertheless, the books on this list are mind-blowing as well.

March 3, 2020 at 9:18 am

Khaled Hosseini is such a good writer! All of his books are spectacular.

Anonymous says

May 20, 2020 at 6:55 am

You should add alligence on her it made me cry for days after finishing it.

It’s by Veronica Roth

May 20, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Oh, I know exactly what you mean. I definitely did not see that end coming!

Karoline says

May 27, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Definitely should add Kira Kira to the list. I cried even more the second time around

Mia Harper says

September 15, 2020 at 1:23 am

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is probably my favorite book of all time, and it made me sob. Anything by Adam Silvera is good too, although his books are a bit more young-adult oriented.

September 15, 2020 at 11:30 am

I have The Song of Achilles on my to-read list, but I would not have expected it to be a tearjerker. Now I’m curious.

Jenesis P. says

October 8, 2020 at 9:58 am

You should definitely add Midnight Sun by Trish Cook!!! Its a swoon worthy teen romance book.Definitely made me cry:) Loved your list by the way!! The Fault In Our Stars made me bawl !!! Ordering A Man Called Ove right this second……..

Faith L. says

December 4, 2020 at 11:53 pm

You should definitely read All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, I started to sob during the book and didn’t stop until hours later. It still hit me even when rereading the book…

Anonomous says

December 8, 2020 at 6:55 pm

All The Bright Places is by far my favorite book of all time!! I will NEVER recover. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should check it out! They made a lot of changes but I still liked it! Also, I highly recommend Holding Up The Universe, also by Jennifer Niven 🙂

December 8, 2020 at 7:06 pm

i just finished we were liars about a week ago. read it in one sitting, it was so good. but when i tell you i DID NOT see that coming! it was crazyyyyy!!! i cried like a little baby lol. here are some of my personal fav tear jerkers! -this is where it ends by mariek e nijkamp. (TW: it’s about a school shooting, and super intense) -the hate u give by angie thomas -all the bright places by jennifer niven ok that’s it :)) i loved your list btw, i’ll add the ones i haven;t read to my tbr!

Hailey M. says

September 1, 2021 at 12:49 am

I recently read The Hate U Give. It made me cry so much

Carrie @ Season It Already! says

January 19, 2021 at 1:39 pm

I saw the play before I listened to the audiobook. Still cried like a baby listening to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Despite the title (and as much as I love the dogs), the crying has nothing to do with a dog…

Connie says

January 19, 2021 at 9:03 pm

My recent cry book was “Merle’s Door, Lessons from a Free-thinking Dog”, because, well, dog books just are like that. Also, Nicolas Sparks books—“A Walk to Remember”, “The Notebook”, “Message in a Bottle”— I swear the guy has stock in Kleenex! The children’s book list can’t be complete without Old Yeller, “The Yearling”, “Bambi”, and “Charlotte’s Web”. Oh yes, “Little Women”—it’s a wonderful I made it out of childhood without literary trauma!

Arlene says

July 3, 2021 at 7:20 pm

The book that made me cry & that I still think about years later is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I often recommend it, always with the warning that it is beautifully written but gutwrenching. It was a finalist for the National Book Award.

September 17, 2021 at 2:02 am

You should add Second Chance Summer in! It’s the only sad book that actually made me bawl so far. I’m about to order a man called ove right this moment!

Isabelle says

November 12, 2021 at 10:04 pm

Love Me Before You and doesn’t fail to make me cry, no matter how many times I reread it or watch the film (which is probably one of the best book adaptations out there). Love Harry Potter, wouldn’t necessarily say that Half Blood Prince is the saddest in my opinion, definitely cried more during Deathly Hallows or the end of Order of the Phoenix, but hbp still makes me pretty emotional. Dobby’s non-spoiler fate makes me the most emotional, second is Sirius.

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34 Incredibly Sad Books That Make You Cry

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Explore some of the best sad books that make you cry – both tears of joy and tears filled with empathy and heartbreak.

Sometimes we are only in the mood to read fluffy rom-coms and suspenseful thrillers. Other times, we are looking for more thought-provoking books or are on a nonfiction kick.

If you are in the mindset to read sad books that will teach you more, grab the tissue box for this reading list.

Below, uncover books that make you cry both tears of utter sadness as well as tears of joy, especially as our characters and protagonists grow, form friendships, and overcome hardship.

Of course, we’ve included WW2 and animal books that will make you cry as well as a few heartbreaking books about war, miscarriage, sexual assault, mental health, and love lost.

Please note that many of these titles come with trigger warnings.

So, what are the best sad books that make you cry? Let’s get started, and don’t forget to tell us your favorite titles in the comments.

If you enjoy reading powerful stories, explore even more books that make you think more deeply .

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Table of Contents

34 Best Sad Books That Make You Cry

By Tori Curran with additions from Christine

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng book cover with person swimming in water

1. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Is anything worse than the death of a child? Ng piles on the heartbreak after the Lee’s, a mixed-race Chinese-American family, learn that their daughter Lydia has drowned.

They soon discover that while they believed their daughter was popular and excelling in school, she was actually quite lonely and her grades were slipping.

As Lydia’s parents reflect, we learn about the abandonment, resentment, and betrayal that has plagued the family for years – and will continue to haunt them.

Ng beautifully marries her emotionally complex tale with themes of belonging and cultural identity to create this heartbreaking masterpiece.

Sad books about struggle, grief, and burden won’t hit your core any harder than this.

Read Everything I Never Told You : Amazon | Goodreads

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold book cover with white blonde woman's face in glowing blue and yellow clouds

2. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon takes her typical shortcut home from school when she is met by her neighbor, George.

Tragically, she trusts him enough to follow him into a hideout, where he rapes and murders her.

Susie’s spirit ascends to her own personal heaven, where she watches the aftermath of her murder, including what it does to her parents.

One of the most popular heartbreaking books, The Lovely Bones is a beautifully balanced tale of a brutal death and the redemptive power of the afterlife. Read The Lovely Bones : Amazon | Goodreads

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger book cover with stormy weather and boat on ocean

3. The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

Popularized by the film of the same name, The Perfect Storm attempts to narrate the events of a storm in 1991 that claimed a fishing vessel and all on board.

Before reconstructing what likely happened when a nor’easter met a hurricane in the North Atlantic, Junger shares the lives of the men who eventually found themselves aboard the Andrea Gale.

Not just another shipwreck story , The Perfect Storm is one of those gut-wrenching books that make you cry because it’s so incredibly human. Read The Perfect Storm : Amazon | Goodreads

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate book cover with gorilla leaning back to back with another critter in a room

4. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Surprisingly, there are countless children’s books that will make you cry, even as an adult.

One of our favorites, Applegate certainly tugs on our heartstrings with her story of a captured gorilla, Ivan, told from his perspective.

Ivan is a gorilla living in captivity at a mall, alongside his friend, an elephant named Stella. Stella, aging and hurt, tries to open Ivan’s eyes to the quality of life they might find in a zoo.

When Ruby, a baby Elephant, joins them to learn Stella’s tricks, Ivan begins to feel a sense of longing and responsibility.

The Newbery winner is both gentle and eye-opening to the brutality of animals living in captivity. Out of the sad books on this list, The One and Only Ivan is also a great story about the best of friends . Read The One and Only Ivan : Amazon | Goodreads

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini book cover with young boy holding up a kite string and flying a kite

5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Follow Amir, a wealthy young boy from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Hassan, who is the son of his father’s servant.

Set against the backdrop of turmoil and destruction, the novel follows both the tumultuous events in Afghanistan and the unlikely, yet troubled friendship between the boys.

Amir often behaves cowardly and doesn’t help his friend, but Hosseini excels in simultaneously creating sympathy for him, despite numerous betrayals.

For sad books that make you cry, The Kite Runner is also beautifully redemptive. Read The Kite Runner : Amazon | Goodreads

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman book cover with man walking away with back to read wearing a hat, gray slacks, and blue coat

6. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove is known by his neighbors as the bitter neighbor from hell. Irritable, strict, and unfriendly, Ove prefers to keep to himself.

But his world will be flipped upside down when a young couple moves in and accidentally runs over his mailbox.

Outgoing and friendly, Ove’s new neighbor is determined to find out what’s behind the facade of the grumpy old man.

It turns out that sadness and heartbreak have plagued Ove for years. Beneath the rough exterior, is a man in deep pain.

A Man Called Ove is one of those sad books that will make you cry, laugh, smile, and hug the book when finished.

It’s also a 2023 book-to-movie adaptation and a terrific choice if you are looking for books about older people .

If you love A Man Called Ove , try these Swedish books . Or, find more of the best books turned into movies . Read A Man Called Ove : Amazon | Goodreads

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak book cover with dominos on yellow, tan, and brown background

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

You know a book narrated by Death itself is bound to join the ranks of books that make you cry.

The story follows Liesel, a young German girl in Nazi Germany. She steals books and learns to read with the help of her foster father.

As the war raids reign down, she shares her stolen books with neighbors, friends, and the Jewish man her family is hiding.

Liesel hangs onto hope and even begins penning her own story. However, Death is unassailable, and no one is exempt.

Can humanity prevail in the face of evil and death?

For sad books about WW2 for teens and tweens , The Book Thief is a modern classic.

Uncover even more books about the power of books and reading . Read The Book Thief : Amazon | Goodreads | Read More

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou book cover with black bird flying away from sun on orange cover

8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

TW: rape, racism

One of the most emotional books that will make you cry, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings chronicles the traumatic life of Maya from age three through seventeen.

After being abandoned by her parents at a young age, Maya continues to endure more hardship and trauma, including rape, homelessness, and racist oppression.

With themes of identity and voice crafted within, this is also one of the most poignant coming-of-age stories.

Set in Stamps, Arkansas, read even more famous books from all 50 States . Read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings : Amazon | Goodreads

The Color Purple by Alice Walker book cover with purple and pink geometric patterns and icons like envelopes and branches with leaves

9. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

For even more sad books that deal with heavy themes of racism and sexual assault, Walker’s epistolary novel is tragic and heart-wrenching.

Fourteen-year-old African American, Celie, has and will continue to endure more trauma than you thought possible.

Her father both beats and sexually abuses her before being married off to a man who continues the abuse.

Celie begins to seek companionship with the other women around her, but even those relationships aren’t without hardship and sadness.

Another one of those heartbreaking books that make you cry, what’s even more shocking is that it is based, in part, in truth.

If you enjoy The Color Purple , explore even more books set across the South .

Or, on a lighter note, read more books with colors in the title for your next reading challenge. Read The Color Purple by Alice Walker : Amazon | Goodreads | Read More

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay book cover with white woman with brunette shoulder length hair holding a picture above blue ocean in clouds

10. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

There are countless World War 2-based books that will make you cry and yearn for a history not so unjust.

Sarah’s Key is one of those absolutely heartbreaking WWII novels that remind you of how many were robbed of their innocence.

Learn about Sarah Starzynski, who was arrested with her family as part of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup.

Innocently, she locks her brother in a cupboard – hoping to release him later. She doesn’t know she’s bound for Auschwitz with the key in her pocket.

Then, in a parallel story, we hear from Julia, a journalist who learns of Sarah and begins to uncover the family’s history. Read Sarah’s Key : Amazon | Goodreads

Push by Sapphire book cover with red background

11. Push by Sapphire

TW: rape, abuse

One of the most gut-wrenching stories, Push doesn’t just join the ranks of other sad books, it pushes the boundaries of them.

Precious is sixteen, illiterate, and pregnant with her second child – the result of being raped by her father. Her school learns of the pregnancy and suggests that she transfer to a new school.

Precious, along with other girls with troubled pasts, is treated kindly by their teacher. Despite being on an eight-grade academic level, the girls begin to learn and develop a love of writing and journaling.

More trouble is ahead, though, for Precious when she gives birth and ends up on the street. Brace yourself for this one. Read Push : Amazon | Goodreads

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls book cover with black and white image of young girl on white background

12. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls is a master at balancing the heartbreak of a childhood full of unfulfilled promises and reminding us of the redeeming qualities of our parents – their humanity.

Walls grew up nomadic, with parents who evaded financial responsibility. What seemed adventurous to Jeannette as a child became increasingly concerning.

She also woke up to her father’s alcoholism, a fact that compounded her childhood trauma.

Only after Walls is out of their care is she able to reflect. Sensitive and poignant, Walls does a superb job of reminding us that sad books that make you cry can also be beautiful. Read The Glass Castle : Amazon | Goodreads

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

13. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

To put it simply, Doerr’s WWII novel is an epic masterpiece full of emotion, sadness, triumph, and morality.

It follows Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who flees the war to her uncle’s home in Saint-Maro, and Werner, an intelligent German boy who joins the Hitler Youth.

Their paths will eventually cross and Werner, especially, will encounter a moral dilemma.

Doerr’s novel reminds us that the war claimed not just its victims, but the youth and morality of many.

All The Light We Cannot See is one of the best WW2 historical fiction books that will make you cry.

Discover even more bestselling books about and set in France . Read All the Light We Cannot See : Amazon | Goodreads

Marley & Me by John Grogan book cover with white and tan colored puppy with red collar

14. Marley and Me by John Grogan

Of course, sad books tend to include famous fictional dogs , and Marley and Me is equal parts funny and sad.

Marley might be the world’s worst behaved dog. Not only is he destructive, but his behavior creates rifts in the family.

That is until they can learn to accept him just as he is.

The lovable lab carves a place in their home and hearts…but we know that life isn’t forever; the family is faced with immense grief when Marley crosses that rainbow bridge.

Why is it that we’re so attached to animals in stories and movies…even if we know their fate?

The perfect book for dog lovers , have those tissues ready – we warned you. Read Marley and Me : Amazon | Goodreads

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes book cover with white mouse on white background

15. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Charlie, who has an I.Q. of 68, is the first human subject to undergo surgery to increase his intelligence. Previously, the study has been conducted on animals, including Algernon, a lab mouse.

As Charlie’s intelligence increases, he becomes aware of his coworkers’ mistreatment of him and of the ethics of the experiment.

When Algernon’s intelligence begins to decrease, Charlie fears where he is headed and begins frantically researching.

But, will it be too late?

Flowers for Algernon began as a short story and was expanded into a novel to dive more deeply into the themes of the treatment of people with health conditions or impairments as well as the dichotomy between intelligence and emotion.

For touching yet heartbreaking books, many read Flowers for Algernon in high school but gain a better appreciation for the story into adulthood. Read Flowers for Algernon : Amazon | Goodreads

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare pink book cover

16. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

TW: suicide

The Capulets and the Montagues are rival families who will stop at nothing to keep their teenage children, Juliet and Romeo, apart.

The lovers are doomed from the start, but nothing can stop them.

Everyone knows how this Shakespearean tragedy turns out, so while it is not necessarily one of those books that will make you cry, it’s still rather upsetting.

Forbidden love, suicide, and grieving families make for a heavy plot.

Travel across Italy with these books . Read Romeo and Juliet : Amazon | Goodreads

Night by Elie Wiesel book cover with gray images and red barbed wire fence on beige section with title

17. Night by Elie Wiesel

Translated into English by Marion Wiesel

Sad books from WWII – and one of the most famous Polish books – don’t get any more thought-provoking than Elie Wiesel’s Night .

Night chronicles Elie’s experiences as a Jew who survived the terrors of the Holocaust.

He chronicles the horrific and terrorizing details that he and others endured, while also philosophizing the Holocaust.

Elie begs readers to think about how the events will be remembered and to consider our capacity for evil.

One of the biggest takeaways is how personal the story is; it will remind you that while millions were massacred, they are not just a group of people but individuals.

If you learn a lot from Night , check out even more books about Poland and Polish history and culture . Read Night : Amazon | Goodreads

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman with white brunette man and woman touching heads

18. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

TW: miscarriage, stillbirth

Following the First World War, Thomas takes a solitary job as a lighthouse keeper on an isolated Australian island.

He meets Isabel before beginning his job and the two soon marry, despite Thomas’s worry that she will not adjust to life in isolation.

Tragedy befalls them as they struggle to welcome a child into their lives. When a dinghy washes up with a dead man and a baby, Thomas and Isabel are in disagreement about how to handle it.

What follows is one of the most heartbreaking books about family and belonging.

Travel across Australia with this reading list . Read The Light Between Oceans : Amazon | Goodreads

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara book cover with black and white image of person squinting in what looks to be like a painful way or in anguish

19. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

TW: sexual, physical, and psychological abuse, suicide, self-harm, addiction

A Little Life is considered one of the most depressing and disturbing novels ever written.

It follows four college friends and their ever-changing relationships as they each experience success, failures, love, and hardship.

One of the friends, Jude, is central to the plot. Yanagihara shows his dark past through flashbacks that will affect not only Jude but his friends.

For painful books that make you cry, A Little Life is deeply moving, though you may find yourself needing to put it down. Read A Little Life : Amazon | Goodreads

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George book cover

20. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Translated into English by Simon Pare

Jean Perdu runs a bookshop barge on the banks of the Seine River in Paris. With a knack for finding the right book for any emotional hardship, he can fix anyone but himself.

Over twenty years ago, the love of Jean’s life abandoned him, and he has yet to read a single letter left by her.

But, with a newfound sense of adventure and an Italian chef and young author, Jean decides to set sail in search of his long-lost lover.

Equally funny and heartbreaking, sometimes books that make you cry can also make you laugh.

Travel across Paris with these books too. Read The Little Paris Bookshop : Amazon | Goodreads

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21. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

For more sad books to make you cry, laugh, and feel all the feels, Eleanor Oliphant doesn’t disappoint. Plus, it’s one of the best novels set in Glasgow, Scotland .

Eleanor Oliphant is awkward with hardly any social life. She spends her weekends drinking vodka and calling her mother and her lunch breaks doing crosswords to avoid colleagues.

Life for Eleanor is fine. But when she and a coworker, Raymond, help a man in need, a friendship begins to blossom.

Trouble is, Eleanor’s difficult past resurfaces, driving her back toward isolation.

Eleanor’s past is sad, but the promise of friendship – and acceptance – is redeeming. Read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine : Amazon | Goodreads

The Nightingale By Kristin Hannah turquoise book cover

22. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Hannah’s bestselling WWII novel – based on a true story – follows sisters Vianne and Isabelle.

Both wanting to make a difference during the war, Vianne begins sheltering Jewish children (while her home is used for SS officers), and Isabelle heads to Paris to join the resistance.

But while bravery lives in both women, so will tragedy.

Will the sisters ever reunite? And if they do, will the war have changed them for better or worse?

For emotional books that make you cry, The Nightingale is haunting, evocative, and powerful.

Read The Nightingale : Amazon | Goodreads

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson book cover with young children playing one on one side of forest on a tree swing and the other standing on the edge of a small cliff

23. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Some children’s books are so sad that they can rock the world of the most stoic adults.

Bridge to Terabithia is one of those children’s books that will make you cry.

Jesse’s life is changed for the better when he meets Leslie. Previously angry and anxious, Leslie encourages him to come out of his shell.

Together, they create Terabithia, a mythical kingdom in the forest where they rule as king and queen and can forget about their hardships.

But when tragedy strikes, one of the friends must turn to the strength learned during the friendship to cope. Read Bridge to Terabithia : Amazon | Goodreads

Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah book cover with blue night sky with stars and dark trees

24. Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah

Joanna has recently lost her mother and battled breast cancer. Determined to get on with her life, she returns to her graduate work researching birds in rural Illinois.

But soon, a child named Ursa – covered in bruises – shows up at her door, claiming she’s been sent to witness five miracles.

Concerned at first, Joanna and her neighbor realize that Ursa has come with good fortune. As the fifth miracle approaches, though, Ursa’s past follows, revealing secrets.

What begins as a somewhat mythical tale, quickly turns into a haunting mystery. Where the Forest Meets the Stars is surely one of the most unique sad books on this reading list. Read Where the Forest Meets the Stars : Amazon | Goodreads

Spilled Milk by K. L. Randis book cover with young white child with dirty blonde hair and blue eyes

25. Spilled Milk by K. L. Randis

TW: rape and sexual abuse

Brooke Nolan bravely and anonymously dials social services for help with the physical and sexual abuse happening in her home at the hands of her father.

But she’s betrayed by the very system designed to protect her when she is forced to keep her father’s secret.

Ultimately, a glass of spilled milk results in Brook confiding in her boyfriend’s mother and eventually going to counseling.

Raw and gut-wrenching, Spilled Milk is another one of those books that will make you cry and yearn for a system that actually protects our kids. Tragically, it is also autobiographical. Read Spilled Milk : Amazon | Goodreads

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck book cover with grayish landscape and two people from far away walking with tiny house in the distance

26. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men may not have a surprise ending but it’s nonetheless a tearjerker to read.

Lennie and George are two migrant workers looking for their next dollar in California. They dream of one day owning their own piece of land.

Lennie, who is mentally disabled, has a knack for getting the pair into trouble.

Now, their new boss targets Lennie while his promiscuous wife makes things even worse. Plus, George – his friend and protector – may not be able to help this time.

Of Mice and Men is ultimately a tale of true friendship and mercy. For heartbreaking books, this short classic has a deeply moving ending and essential portrayal of the Great Depression. Read Of Mice and Men : Amazon | Goodreads

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer book cover with person walking away down foggy residential alley

27. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

Told in split perspective, Rimmer’s novel follows both Alina and her granddaughter Alice.

Alina is a farm girl from Poland in love with Tomasz. As Germany invades Poland, she endures years of heartache as her life becomes unraveled.

Alice is an American mother struggling with both a special needs and a gifted child. She heads to Poland after her grandmother has suffered a stroke.

With her visit comes the unearthing of a secret held tight for 80 years – a secret that will disrupt all Alice has ever known.

If you enjoy sad books like The Nightingale and Lilac Girls , pick up The Things We Cannot Say . Read The Things We Cannot Say : Amazon | Goodreads

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig book cover with blueish background and gray clouds in rows with yellow title

28. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

When Matt Haig was 24, life as he understood it changed; he felt the world around him caving in.

After three days of not sleeping, he found himself on the edge of a cliff. Feeling as if his life was too full of pain, he decided to end it.

But as he stood there, those he loved came flashing forward.

What follows is a self-examination of acceptance, love, and a deep understanding of depression and anxiety.

Haig is also the author of The Midnight Library – another one of those sad books that make you cry – or break your heart – but also uplifts and teaches you more about living. Read Reasons to Stay Alive : Amazon | Goodreads

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien book cover with black and blue image of soldiers in war

29. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

The Things They Carried is a collection of short stories concerning a platoon of soldiers fighting in Vietnam.

The compilation reads as sad stories of love lost, war trauma, camaraderie, reluctance, and guilt.

While some deal with friendship and humorous encounters, many shine a light on the horrors of the Vietnam War, the pressure and guilt behind killing, and what it was like to lose your fellow man.

One thing is clear; the men of Vietnam carried much more emotionally than physically.

If you are looking for more books like The Things They Carried , be sure to peruse our Vietnam books reading list . Find books about the Vietnam War as well as Vietnamese identity, culture, and everyday life. Read The Things They Carried : Amazon | Goodreads

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer book cover with red hand with words in fingers

30. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Nine-year-old Oskar loses his father in the September 11th attacks. He subsequently finds a key in a vase belonging to him and attempts to find what it unlocks.

With the only clue being the last name Black, he sets out to meet everyone in New York City with the same surname.

It’s one of the most heartbreaking books that will certainly make anyone cry because it reminds us all of the innocence of the children affected by 9-11 and the lack of closure it gave.

But the book transcends the events of 9-11 and touches on family drama, relationships, and loss in general.

Explore even more contemporary books set in New York . Read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close : Amazon | Goodreads

More sad books from Christine

Spinning by Tillie Walden book cover with four women on ice in skates, leotard tops and skirts skating with purple coloring

31. Spinning by Tillie Walden

TW: Bullying, homophobia, bullying, depression, and sexual assault

One of the most gutwrenching graphic novels for young adults – that adults can also appreciate – Spinning will bring you back to high school and into the world of competitive skating.

Tillie hates those early morning wakeups, much of the sport, and the fact that her parents show no interest in her life. The skating moms are just wretched too.

It’s an understatement to say that Tillie is struggling, and the adults in her life are largely failing her.

Not to mention that Tillie and her family have relocated to Texas, and she has not told anyone she is gay – or that someone is bullying her at school.

Can Tillie take charge of her life and find happiness? Can she decide who she wants to be – for herself?

For heartbreaking books and poignant LGBT graphic novels , Walden’s memoir is certainly it. While Tillie’s story ends well enough, it’s one of the more somber titles on this sad books reading list. Read Spinning : Amazon | Goodreads

Independence by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni book cover with three sisters walking through colorful South Asian style arches with backs toward readers

32. Independence by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

TWs for violence, assault, rape, and more

Books that make you cry don’t get any more gut-wrenching when they involve family and love.

One of the most powerful books about sisterhood , Independence is hard-hitting – and new as of 2023 . You’ll feel this one long after closing its final chapters.

Travel to rural Bengal in 1947, a tumultuous time in history with Indian independence from the British and leaders carving up areas based on religion as part of Partition.

We see the effects played out in the three sisters’ lives, following the perspectives and stories’ of Priya, Deepa, and Jamini.

Upon the death of their father, their religion, hearts, and dreams test their bonds and break apart their family.

Is it temporary? And, who will survive the violent fighting?

Will Priya become a doctor? Will Jamini ever find the love she craves? And, will Deepa be able to marry someone of a different religion?

Find even more books set around and about India .

Read Independence : Amazon | Goodreads

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy book cover with white woman with blonde hair and bangs holding pink vase

33. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

TWs for eating disorders, abuse, parental death, and more

One of the most heartbreaking books we read from 2022, I’m Glad My Mom Died will have you feeling upset, mad, sad, and hopeful.

Former   iCarly  and  Sam & Cat actress, Jennette McCurdy, talks about her childhood, which was filled with trauma – abuse she only realizes she suffered at the hands of her mother as she enters adulthood.

An overbearing and manipulative cancer survivor and hoarder, Jennette’s mom forces her to act, dance, and sing to pay for the family’s growing debt.

However, what young girl doesn’t want to please her mother?

Jennette will do anything to see her mom smile, including “calorie restriction,” taking showers with her mom during her teenage years, sleeping on the floor on a mat, and giving up her entire childhood.

When Jennette’s mother dies, she is able to reclaim her life with therapy. The crude, dark-humor cover says it all – and you’ll understand why.

TUL named I’m Glad My Mom Died one of the best books of 2022 . We were not familiar with McCurdy before this memoir, but we fully invested in her resilience and recovery.

You certainly won’t find yourself romanticizing the dead after this.

Read I’m Glad My Mom Died : Amazon | Goodreads

Off the Map by Trish Doller book cover with illustrated man and woman sitting on top of flipped car in field with farm animals holding a yellow umbrella

34. Off the Map by Trish Doller

TWs for parental death and aging (not a spoiler)

For more newer (2023) books that will make you cry – which actually took us by surprise – Off the Map is not-your-average fluffy romance.

There’s so much meaning packed into this one, especially about families, familial expectations, and aging parents.

Part of the Beck Sisters series – but easily read as a standalone (we’ve actually read these out of order with no issues) – Off the Map picks up with a side character we meet in Float Plan , Keane’s brother Eamon.

Yet, the book isn’t about quite Eamon; it’s about Carla Black, Anna’s best friend who is headed from Florida to Ireland for her wedding.

Ever since her mom walked out, Carla and her dad Biggie have been traveling the world together – until he’s diagnosed with dementia, a disease that will ultimately cause him to forget Carla.

Biggie has pushed Carla away to live her life and not witness his decline, and she’s been running ever since – until she meets Eamon.

Instead of heading straight to the wedding, Eamon and Carla take a few detours to check off bucket list items.

In the process, they start falling for each other, but Carla knows it could never work out with her lifestyle.

There is a tipsy bull, dancing in the moonlight, off-roading, somber moments, and lots of steamy lovemaking.

Carla is a strong, direct, and fiery lead, waitressing during snowbird season and traveling the world in the off-season, which we know our readers will appreciate.

Plus, if you enjoy road trip books or Ireland books , Off the Map is a must – just have the tissues ready.

Trish Doller is a go-to contemporary romance author for us with easy-to-digest, engaging stories along with the rescuing of animals.

Read Off the Map : Amazon | Goodreads

Save These Books That Make You Cry For Later:

Books That Will Make You Cry and Heartbreaking Books Pinterest pin with purple box of tissues and book covers for sad books like Everything I Never Told You, Flowers for Algernon, Eleanor Oliphant, Where the Forest Meets the Stars, Reasons to Stay Alive, The Lovely Bones, Sarah's Key, and the Glass Castle

Grab the best sad books that you make you cry for later :

What heartbreaking books do you recommend?

What sad books did you enjoy and recommend? Let us know in the comments.

Tori Curran Explore with Tori white, blonde woman hiking with backpack and young child on back in carrier

Tori Curran

Tori (pronouns: she/her) is a mom to two boys, living in New York but adventuring everywhere, usually with a toddler on her back. She's an avid traveler, nature junkie, and writer, encouraging families to get outside and start exploring the world. When she's not hiking or traveling, you can find her lost in a book, watching Bravo reruns, or obsessively decluttering her home. Tori owns the family and adventure blog, Explore with Tori .

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Christine Frascarelli

Christine (she/her) is the owner, lead editor, and tipsy book sommelier of The Uncorked Librarian LLC, an online literary publication showcasing books and movies to inspire travel and home to the famed Uncorked Reading Challenge.

With a BA in English & History from Smith College, an MLIS from USF-Tampa, and a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship in Christine's back pocket, there isn't a bookstore, library, or winery that can hide from her. Christine loves brewery yoga, adopting all of the kitties, and a glass of oaked Chardonnay. Charcuterie is her favorite food group.

I usually find myself reading one really sad book a year because tbh they really do wipe me out. I guess that means it’s really good writing huh? The tearjerker that I think should be added to this list is – “The Placeholder” by Lynda Wolters ( https://www.lyndawolters.com/ ). At first, I was a little concerned it was going to be your stereotypical “second-chance” love story following a woman, Sera, in her 40s dating after losing everything in a divorce. BUT… I was so wrong. The book focuses on friendship, and hope, and living in the moment because you never know how quickly it all can be taken away. I think the author did a wonderful job at making the characters relatable and I was rooting for Sera from start to finish. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I can assure you that you will be moved to tears when reading this.

Thanks so much for sharing. I have to space out sad books based on my mood. I especially appreciate stories with protagonists who are 40+ – and ones that are portrayed well.

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24 beautifully written books that'll make you cry, from YA classics to bestselling Colleen Hoover novels

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  • Great novels can thrill us, make us laugh, and bring us to tears.
  • Sometimes it feels good to read an emotional novel that makes you want to cry.
  • From historical fiction to YA romance, these are our favorite sad books.

Insider Today

When looking for your next great read, it's easy to gravitate towards romance novels with happy endings or fantasy books with satisfying conclusions. But just as horror fans love a creepy-crawly feeling and sci-fi readers crave the chaos of a good dystopia, it can feel good to experience the raw emotions of a devastating story that makes you want to cry. 

We scoured reader and personal recommendations for the best sad books and found everything from YA classics to gripping new releases. Whether you're looking for a heartbreaking romance or a novel that's equal parts thrilling and tear-jerking, here are the best sad books to make you cry.

The 24 best sad books to read in 2022 :

"reminders of him" by colleen hoover.

books make you cry

"Reminders of Him" by Colleen Hoover, available on Amazon and  Bookshop , from $9.57

Colleen Hoover is known for evoking powerful emotions with bestsellers such as " It Ends With Us " and " Verity ." Her newest novel, "Reminders of Him," continues that trend. When Kenna Rowan returns from her prison sentence to reunite with her daughter, it seems as though everyone is determined to keep them apart, except the local bar owner who has both a link to her child and a growing connection with Kenna. Readers love this book's heart-wrenching, sob-worthy ending. 

"A Woman Is No Man" by Etaf Rum

books make you cry

"A Woman Is No Man" by Etaf Rum, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $13.99

This deeply emotional and profound novel is about the matriarchal generations of 18-year-old Deya's family as her Arabic grandparents search for a suitor against her will, just as they did for her mother years prior. Though Deya was told her parents died in a car accident, a letter makes her question everything as she unravels her family's secrets to learn her mother's truth. 

"On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" by Ocean Vuong

books make you cry

"On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" by Ocean Vuong, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.70

Readers love how "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" emotionally breaks them down and rebuilds them before the final page. This story unearths Little Dog's family history, told in the form of a letter to his mother who cannot read. It is a memorable story of silence, survival, and healing. 

"I Must Betray You" by Ruta Sepetys

books make you cry

"I Must Betray You" by Ruta Sepetys, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $12.99

"I Must Betray You" is a young adult historical fiction novel set in 1989 Romania where 17-year-old Cristian Florescu is blackmailed into becoming an informer as Communist regimes crumble and Nicolae Ceaușescu rules as a dictator. In this powerful read based on Romania's true history, Cristian must define freedom to unmask the truth for the world to see.

"Frankly in Love" by David Yoon

books make you cry

"Frankly in Love" by David Yoon, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.89

Though this may seem like a love story on the surface, "Frankly in Love" is about the generational, racial, and personal challenges Frank Li faces as he falls in love for the first time. As the child of immigrant Korean parents, Frank knows the consequences of defying his parents and finds comfort in a family friend who is in a similar situation. Frank's deeply realistic and relevant hurdles have brought tears to the eyes of more than a few readers. 

"The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green

books make you cry

"The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $6.10

"The Fault in Our Stars" is a bestselling young adult romance novel by John Green about Hazel and Augustus, who meet in a cancer support group as Augustus is in remission and Hazel fights a looming terminal diagnosis. When the two form an immediate connection, they agree to read each other's favorite books in this story that requires a tissue box nearby.

"They Both Die at the End" by Adam Silvera

books make you cry

"They Both Die at the End" by Adam Silvera, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.07

In the science fiction universe of "They Both Die at the End," Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio each receive a phone call just after midnight from Death-Cast, informing them that they will, unfortunately, die that day. Each looking for companionship in their final day of life, Mateo and Rufus find each other and set out to have one final adventure together before their time is up.

"Monday's Not Coming" by Tiffany D. Jackson

books make you cry

"Monday's Not Coming" by Tiffany D. Jackson, available on Amazon, $10.99

Claudia and Monday are as close as sisters, so when Monday doesn't show up for the first day of school, Claudia notices immediately. When it becomes obvious that Monday has disappeared, Claudia realizes that no one can seem to remember the last time they saw her in this emotionally challenging young adult novel.

"All the Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven

books make you cry

"All the Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $7.48

Theodore Finch and Violet Markey meet on the ledge of their school's bell tower, each planning to jump but somehow save each other. When they pair up for a project to discover the natural wonders of Indiana, Theodore and Violet find a safe place in each other in this young adult novel about mental health and friendship. If you're interested in learning more about why we love "All the Bright Places," check out our in-depth review here.

"A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara

books make you cry

"A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $14.82

A finalist for the National Book Award, "A Little Life" follows four friends who move to New York City to make lives for themselves, both together and apart. Following the group through middle age, this novel is mostly centered upon Jude, a lawyer with a terrible past, a broken heart, and deep trauma.

"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini

books make you cry

"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $10.50

Set during escalating tumultuous times in Afghanistan, "The Kite Runner" is about the relationship between a young, wealthy boy named Amir and the son of his father's servant, Hassan, who often fly kites to escape the realities of their lives. When something terrible happens, this novel blooms into a story of guilt, betrayal, and redemption.

"Glorious Boy" by Aimee Liu

books make you cry

"Glorious Boy" by Aimee Liu, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $17.14

As the Japanese army prepares to invade India in 1942, Claire and Shep know they must evacuate with their four-year-old son, Ty, though they will have to leave his friend, Naila, behind. The morning they are due to leave, both children have gone missing and Shep forces Claire to board the ship while he stays behind to find the children in this emotional story of strength, perseverance, and motherhood.  

"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio

books make you cry

"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.72

August Pullman is finally starting mainstream school in 5th grade, having been homeschooled because of a facial difference his entire life. Though most kids can't see past what makes August different, he finds solace in new friends, his sister, her boyfriend, and his family.

"The House of the Spirits" by Isabel Allende

books make you cry

"The House of the Spirits" by Isabel Allende, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $12.79

First published in 1982, "The House of the Spirits" is a beautiful Spanish classic about four generations of the Trueba family. As the story follows the greatest and most challenging moments through the family's lives, it intertwines with political and social unrest to create a stunning novel full of magical realism.

"Dear Edward" by Ann Napolitano

books make you cry

"Dear Edward" by Ann Napolitano, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $10.52

Edward Adler is 12 years old and the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 186 people, including his parents and his older brother. As Edward tries to find a new place for himself in the world, this heart-wrenching story switches between the present and the events leading up to, during, and after the devastating crash.

"Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe" by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

books make you cry

"Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe" by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $10.99

In the summer of 1987, Aristotle meets Dante at a local pool when Dante offers to teach him how to swim. As the boys form an inseparable bond, they explore and learn more about each other, themselves, and the complicated world.

"You've Reached Sam" by Dustin Thao

books make you cry

"You've Reached Sam" by Dustin Thao, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $15.99

When Julie's boyfriend Sam suddenly dies, her world and all her plans for the future are turned upside down. Needing to hear his voice, she calls Sam's phone and finds she can connect to him once again in this young adult romance about heartbreak and grief.

"Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson

books make you cry

"Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Paterson, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $6.99

" Bridge to Terabithia " is a heartbreaking children's book about Jess Aarons and his new classmate, Leslie Burke, who become fast friends and spend their time in the woods, playing in an imaginative land they invented called Terabithia. When Leslie goes to Terabithia one morning without Jess, something terrible happens and Jess's life changes forever.

"A Walk to Remember" by Nicholas Sparks

books make you cry

"A Walk to Remember" by Nicholas Sparks, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.27

Though many of Nicholas Sparks' romance novels bring tears to readers' eyes, "A Walk to Remember" is especially emotional. This is the love story of Landon Carter, who fell for Jamie Sullivan in the 1950s while they were in high school, and whose love for her lasted through the great trials they faced.

"Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes

books make you cry

"Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $7.84

Louisa Clark lived a fairly normal life until she took a job caring for the exceedingly wealthy Will Traynor, who became wheelchair-bound after a terrible accident. As the two form a bond, Louisa learns that Will intends to die by assisted suicide and sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

"Marley and Me" by John Grogan

books make you cry

"Marley and Me" by John Grogan, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $14.49

As John and Jenny began their lives together in a new home, they brought home a little yellow Labrador puppy and named him Marley. This story captures Marley's life, from failed obedience training to meeting his new human siblings to teaching the true meaning of unconditional love. 

"Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes

books make you cry

"Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.49

"Flowers for Algernon" is a short science fiction novel from 1966, told through a series of reports written by Charlie Gordon, the first human subject for a surgery that will increase IQ. Though the same surgery was first successful on a lab mouse named Algernon, when the mouse begins to decline, Charlie fears the same will happen to him.

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

books make you cry

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak, available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $6.99

Set in 1939 Nazi Germany, young Liesel finds a book by her brother's graveside, spurring a passion for books and book thievery, especially from Nazi book-burnings. When Liesel's foster family takes in a Jewish person and hides them in their basement, her world is turned on its head in this historical fiction novel narrated by Death.

"Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher

books make you cry

"Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher, available on Amazon, $8.39

Two weeks after Hannah Baker commits suicide, Clay Jensen comes home from school to find a package with cassettes recorded by Hannah, outlining the 13 reasons why she chose to end her life. As Clay listens to the tapes, he follows Hannah's story around town and uncovers terrible truths.

books make you cry

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51 Books That Will 100% Make You Cry

::adds these (and a value pack of Kleenex) to my Amazon cart::

Maitland Quitmeyer

BuzzFeed Staff

books make you cry

We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales from the links on this page.

We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about their favorite books that always make them cry. Here are the beautiful and moving results:

1. beneath a scarlet sky by mark sullivan is a historical novel based on the true story of an 18-year-old italian man who joins an underground railroad to help jews escape...until a unique opportunity to spy on the nazis presents itself..

books make you cry

It was just released in May of this year, and it's soon to be made into a movie starring Tom Holland!

"I was bawling at the end. I was finishing it and it was really late. I had to cover my mouth so I wouldn't wake my parents up." — tatumc

Get it from Amazon for $8.97 (paperback) or $5.99 ( Kindle ). Also available on Kindle Unlimited .

2. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness combines dark humor with a deeply moving story to tell you about 13-year-old Connor, who wakes up one night and sees a monster outside his window.

books make you cry

"It's about a young boy coming to terms with his mother having cancer. This was recommended to be by my English lecturer, and I have honestly never cried more at a book." — notadisneyprincess

"One of the saddest books I've read. It's about loss and acceptance. About death and about life. The movie is pretty good but definitely the book is better." — stephiiem

"A librarian friend told me how good it was. I sat on my living room floor for an hour and ugly cried the first time I read it, then I got up and drove the book over to my best friend's house because I couldn't even look at it. I would have cried regardless because it's such a good story, but it hit me especially hard the first time because my own mother passed just 4 months before I read it. I still suggest it to people to read, snot-bubble tears and all." — bvaughan07

Get it from Amazon for $9.19 (paperback) or $7.02 ( Kindle ).

3. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller reimagines the story of Homer's The Iliad , complete with all of the action, tragedy, and romance of the original — but as contemporary fiction rather than epic poetry.

books make you cry

"I read it once per year and it never fails: tears and tears." — spookycarrot

"It centers around the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. Trust me, I do not cry easily. But this was just too perfect. Combine that with prior knowledge about The Iliad's plot and the impending doom will have you sobbing for the entire second half of the book." — t4613c7197

Get it from Amazon for $8.59 (paperback) or $8.99 ( Kindle ).

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is composed of letters from the main character, Charlie, as he navigates high school; it might cause you to say "in that moment, I swear we were infinite" — or cause infinite weeping.

books make you cry

"It has me bawling every time I reread it. The plot twist is heartbreaking and makes you feel even closer to the main character, Charlie." — leahm4260456d2

"I've read it maybe five times now and I cry every single time at the ending (because Charlie is just such a damn sweetheart and deserves to be happy)." — katieb486e33426

Get it from Amazon for $10.99 (paperback) or $10.99 ( Kindle ).

5. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt details the unexpected friendship between a fourteen-year-old girl whose uncle has just passed away from AIDS and a stranger who attends his funeral.

books make you cry

"It centers on a young girl in the '80s grieving over the AIDS-related death of her beloved uncle. There's so much more to it, but it turns on the waterworks every time." — mcmolls

"That book had me crying ALL DAY." — shannonnicoler

Get it from Amazon for $11.80 (paperback) or $11.99 ( Kindle ).

6. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a WWII story focusing on two sisters in German-occupied France and narrated by one of the sisters in the present day. But which sister?

books make you cry

"After I finished it I just laid in a puddle on my couch. I literally could not do anything. I called my sister and couldn't get a word out before I burst into tears over the beautiful and tragic story. Hands down the BEST book I've ever read!" — helaynasjoberg

Get it from Amazon for $11.59 (paperback) or $9.99 ( Kindle ).

7. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven details the love story between two teens whose lives intertwine after meeting on the edge of their school's bell tower.

books make you cry

"Theodore Finch managed to do what just about no other book character has before. He brought me to tears. And not just one or two tears slipping out when I'm not paying attention, but full blown sobbing. Like crying so hard that I can't breathe right and I've got makeup streaking down my cheeks. It's an amazing book about mental health, bad pasts, teenage romance, and dealing with/overcoming grief. I I full heartedly recommend that you read this book, just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby." — ellieking99

"This book absolutely tore me to shreds! It's so beautiful and wonderfully written and by the end of it I was a certified mess. The storyline plays out so well and it's just a really poignant, gut-wrenching story. Love it!" — beckyworth18

Get it from Amazon for $8.24 (paperback) or $5.99 ( Kindle ).

8. Holding Up The Universe (also) by Jennifer Niven, centers on two high school students who learn to see each other for who they are, because apparently Niven can't stop making people cry.

books make you cry

If you loved All the Bright Places , you'll love this story about two teens, one grieving the loss of her mother, the other with a secret of his own — he can't recognize other people's faces.

"Oh, my God. That book, though. Ugh. I'm tearing up just thinking about it." — valkyriecain12

Get it from Amazon for $14.86 (hardcover) or $10.99 ( Kindle ).

9. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein tells the story of race car driver Denny Swift — through the eyes of his beloved and steadfast companion — his dog, Enzo.

books make you cry

"Beautifully narrated by a dog named Enzo on the eve of his death (not a spoiler) as he reflects on his life, the life of his owner, and his hopes of being reincarnated as a human. Sounds insane, but it's absolutely heartwarming, funny, and soul-crushing." — mbts

"It's real, it's raw, it's human, and it gets me every damn time." — nikkim490bf1ea4

Get it from Amazon for $10.01 (paperback) or $8.49 ( Kindle ).

10. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera was recently released in January 2017 and chronicles the life of Griffin, whose ex-boyfriend dies in an accident, completely changing the future he's imagined for himself.

books make you cry

"Brilliant but very emotional." — ginah42d0e588d

Get it from Amazon for $11.16 (hardcover) or $1.99 ( Kindle ).

11. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a classic coming-of-age novel focusing on Francie Nolan, who lives in Wililamsburg, Brooklyn at the turn of the century with her second-generation immigrant family.

books make you cry

"I've read it at least 20 times, and it makes me weep every single time." — caircair2

Get it from Amazon for $8.79 (paperback) or $10.74 ( Kindle ).

12. A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara was named one of BuzzFeed's "Books We Loved in 2015" ; it's about a group of male friends who move to New York, how friendships can change over time, and the families we are born into and the families we choose.

books make you cry

"Hands down, one of the best books I've ever read — but also one of the most devastating and heart-wrenching. I spent about two hours trying to finish the last 300 pages, but it was so difficult because I couldn't stop sobbing. Even after I finished it, I was still crying. I was devastated about the ending and devastated that it was over. My boyfriend and I had to go to the store after I finished it, and I remember having to bring a box of tissues with me because the tears wouldn't stop." — meganj45c2b9b47

"Guaranteed to break your heart. Had to take the day of work when I finished, I was way too much of a wreck to be seen in public. Absolutely beautiful book." — hanay3

"Other books have made me weep, but this was on a whole different level, like emotional destruction. I had a hard time reading anything afterwards, my soul was too raw." — geocallie

Get it from Amazon for $10.62 (paperback) or $10.99 ( Kindle ).

13. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira is the story of two sisters, told in letters written to dead celebrities the older sister admired.

books make you cry

"The parallels in the story between the main character and her older sister totally hit home for my younger sister and I. It describes loss and coming of age so well. Equally heartbreaking and heartwarming." — ncverdugo0418

Get it from Amazon for $6.30 (paperback) or $7.09 ( Kindle ).

14. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini follows thirty years of history in Afghanistan and how it affects and shapes the lives of two women and their families.

books make you cry

"I cried so hard my mother threatened to take the book away from me." — meganc42b5a4b93

Get it from Amazon for $11.97 (paperback) or $13.99 ( Kindle ).

15. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is inspired by the author's own experience during WWI, describing German soldier Paul Bäumer as he experiences life in the trenches and is permanently changed by his time there.

books make you cry

"It's interesting that while the character in the book is fictional, the events and descriptions were from the writer's personal experience with World War I. What really makes me cry is the fact that a soldier so young is so utterly broken by the war. As I'm nearly his age as well, I can't imagine what life was like during something as traumatic as that." — angryintrovert

"So well written that you feel what soldiers are going through and feel their pain. That book just broke my heart." — aivas

Get it from Amazon for $6.29 (paperback) or $5.99 ( Kindle ).

16. Every Day by David Levithan tells the story of A, who wakes up every morning in a completely different body and a different life — the only thing that stays the same is that every body A wakes up in is 16 years old.

books make you cry

— beachlover307

Get it from Amazon for $7.99 (paperback) or $7.99 ( Kindle ).

17. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is (of course) the basis of a musical that makes everyone cry, but this unabridged version of the epic novel contains thousands more details about Jean Valjean, Cosette, Eponine, the student revolutionaries, and so much more in 19th-century France.

books make you cry

"I start tearing up when I try to explain the plot of Les Miserables even years after I last read it." — s4afe63229

Get it from Amazon for $8.56 (paperback) or $.99 ( Kindle ). Also available on Kindle Unlimited .

18. Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover details the sexy love story between a nurse and a pilot who only has two rules: "Don't ask about my past, and never expect a future."

books make you cry

"At first it seems like the cliché romance novel (guy is aloof and mysterious, girl wants to break down his walls blah blah blah) but my god it's so much more! Milo (the main male protagonist) has such a heartbreaking past and it will leave you in tears every time! It's a great book and I highly recommend it!" — katieg4a39e845a

Get it from Amazon for $11.64 (paperback) or $7.99 ( Kindle ).

19. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh immerses the reader in the world of English aristocracy in the years after WWI through the eyes of Charles Ryder, who is friends with the wealthy Flytes, the residents of a sprawling mansion called Brideshead.

books make you cry

Get it from Amazon for $9.28 (paperback) or $11.99 ( Kindle ).

20. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is narrated by Death, a surprisingly bittersweet figure who will wring tears from you as he tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl in Nazi Germany with a burgeoning love of books.

books make you cry

"I can't even think about that book without tearing up. I got to the ending and full on sobbed for an hour." — sydtastic28

"Never fails to make me cry. Seriously. Do not read this book in public. I made the mistake of reading it in class after a test and man did those tears flow. It's so wonderfully written and you get so attached to the characters. And then your heart gets ripped out and torn into a million little pieces because happiness does not exist in Germany in the 1940's. I recommend it to anyone I know that likes to read." — ainsleyyk

Get it from Amazon for $5.89 (paperback) or $7.99 ( Kindle ).

21. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman contains the full trilogy ( The Golden Compass , The Subtle Knife , and The Amber Spyglass ) so you can enjoy the entire saga of Lyra, Will, witches, daemons, armored polar bears, connected worlds, and the mysterious substance called Dust.

books make you cry

"Ahhh I'm sad thinking about it. — sydneyd46c3ff1ba

Get a box set of the trilogy from Amazon for $15.53 (paperback) or $19.99 ( Kindle ).

22. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is set in 1986 and tells the tale of two misfits who fall in love — but who also know that first love doesn't last.

books make you cry

"It's such an amazing story and I sobbed for about an hour at the end." — alanar468491290

Get it from Amazon for $12.72 (hardcover) or $9.99 ( Kindle ).

23. Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres details life on the Greek island of Cephallonia during the Italian occupation in World War II — and what happens when an Italian officer falls for the daughter of a local doctor.

books make you cry

"A classic novel that's so beautifully written. The stories of the different people are intertwined in the most gorgeous way. It is absolutely gut-wrenching at times, as it takes place during World War II, as Mussolini's fascist army has occupied Greece. Bound to make you sob but also really beautiful." — maggpie87

Get it from Amazon for $9.82 (paperback) or $11.99 ( Kindle ).

24. Paula by Isabel Allende is an autobiography and family history told in a unique and moving way: it's written by Allende for her daughter, who is in a coma.

books make you cry

"Beautiful but so heartbreaking and gut-wrenching." — tarna

Get it from Amazon for $8.69 (paperback) or $6.99 ( Kindle ).

25. Two Boys Kissing by David Leviathan, based on true events, follows two 17-year-old boys who embark on a 32-hour kissing marathon to set a world record — all narrated by a Greek Chorus of gay men who lost their lives to AIDS.

books make you cry

"It remains one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. The story is told from the point of view of LGBT people who have died and who are watching a younger generation struggle the way they did." — baileyd4d65510f3

Get it from Amazon for $7.97 (paperback) or $9.99 ( Kindle ).

26. The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor is inspired by true events, telling the story of Maggie, an Irish immigrant in steerage on the Titanic , as she leaves her life behind in Ireland and struggles to survive the catastrophic sinking.

books make you cry

"Basically anything Titanic related will get the tears going. This book is no exception." — leahd448ff96cc

Get it from Amazon for $10.92 (paperback) or $1.99 ( Kindle ).

27. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss spans 60 years and follows the intertwining lives of Leo Gursky, an old man and author who is searching for his son and Alma Singer, a young girl, named after one of the characters from his book.

books make you cry

— emmakiranap

Get it from Amazon for $9.49 (paperback) or $8.52 ( Kindle ).

28. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand centers on Lex, a young woman who has locked herself away in grief over her brother's suicide and a secret she's been keeping hidden.

books make you cry

"It's the most heartbreaking, beautifully-written book." — lexiet40977d25d

Get it from Amazon for $7.21 (paperback) or $8.49 ( Kindle ).

29. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy is a classic novel about Jude Fawley, a stonemason who dreams of getting a university education and falls in love with his cousin, a freethinking woman. Tragedies ensue.

books make you cry

"Slays my heart every time." — carrieallanp

Get it from Amazon for $7.60 (paperback) or on Kindle for free !

30. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson follows a pair of inseparable twins, Noah and Jude who, years later, barely speak to each other. Something happened to change them, but what?

books make you cry

"It's such a wonderful book but it definitely ripped my heat out of my chest and left me sobbing all night! You don't even sob for the reasons you expect; you sob from happiness, sadness, and frustration. It is my favorite book to date." — madisons44174ce76

"God, that book. it's my favorite book on the planet, by far. it's the only book I've been able to reread. Makes me happy cry and sad cry. Fuck. I would recommend it to anyone." — poppylaine

Get it from Amazon for $6.70 (paperback) or $9.99 ( Kindle ).

31. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery centers on a trio of brilliant characters who live in a high-end apartment building in Paris; the novel is chock full of philosophical themes, moving details, and allusions to literature and art.

books make you cry

"It made me audibly and full-body sob." — marisam10

Get it from Amazon for $6.99 (paperback) or $11.99 ( Kindle ).

32. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, follows a Lithuanian girl, Lina, after her family is torn apart by Soviet officers — her father sent to a prison camp and she, her mother, and younger brother to a Siberian work camp.

books make you cry

"The dialogue is so vivid. It really makes you feel like you're there. The fact that the story is told by a child, and she's describing all of the terrible things happening to her and her family, makes it especially emotional." — chloekuri

Get it from Amazon for $7.19 (paperback) or $7.99 ( Kindle ).

33. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin tells the story of Riley, who some days identifies as a girl, sometimes as a boy. Riley starts an anonymous blog to let out pent-up feelings, but when the blog goes viral, Riley has to make a difficult decision whether to go public.

books make you cry

"It’s a book about Riley, who is gender fluid, and it not only follows Riley's struggles in public school, but Riley's friends’ as well." — madelynb4e3e38568

Get it from Amazon for $13.59 (hardcover) or $9.99 ( Kindle ).

34. A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole follows two childhood sweethearts, Rune and Poppy, who are separated when Rune moves back to Norway. But why hasn't Poppy kept in touch like she promised?

books make you cry

"Oh my gods, it's the only book that literally had me sobbing for HOURS. SO GOOD BUT SO MUCH UGLY CRYING." — heartsmoney

"It wrecked me for DAYS!!"— reneeh43bbed46b

Get it from Amazon for $11.99 (paperback) or $3.99 ( Kindle ).

35. The Absolutist by John Boyle tells the stories of Tristan Sadler and Will Bancroft, who fight together in the trenches off World War I and details their heroism, jealousy, and the secret that Tristan can no longer keep once the war is over.

books make you cry

"It's a story about two soldiers who form a bond during WWI, so going into it you think you know what the sad outcome might be, but the twist at the end will gut you." — tniendorff

Get it from Amazon for $13.79 (paperback) or $9.99 ( Kindle ).

36. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen is epic novel about the midwestern Berglund family over the course of several decades, especially the marriage between the parents, Patty and Walter.

books make you cry

Bonus: it was a book in Oprah's Book Club in 2010.

"It was one of those books that I finished and cried over long after I was done reading." — laurenk486b7dddf

Get it from Amazon for $10.62 (paperback) or $9.99 ( Kindle ).

37. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman unfolds the life of the titular Ove, a curmudgeon who is cranky and bitter for a reason... but his hidden sadness might come out when a young family moves in next door.

books make you cry

"Made me laugh, then ugly cry, then laugh because I was ugly crying so hard. Beautiful story about love and friendship!" — chrissydhunter

"Had me sobbing by the end of it... Hell, I was sobbing before page 20." — meghand48ba33a48

"It's less a story and more 320 pages of human emotion." — maddieb3

Get it from Amazon for $9.60 (paperback) or $12.99 ( Kindle ).

38. Watership Down by Richaed Adams is an allegorical novel set in idyllic rural England that centers on a band of rabbits who, when man encroaches on their space, must venture forth to a new home and try to survive.

books make you cry

"100%. Just thinking about the scene where Hazel... Jesus, I can't even." —Gloria Haughey, Facebook

Get it from Amazon for $12.31 (paperback) or $11.99 ( Kindle ).

39. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson follows Taylor Edwards, a middle child with a tendency to run away when things get complicated. When her dad gets bad news, Taylor and her family decide to spend the summer together at their lake house...leaving her unable to run away, for once.

books make you cry

"I'm not a huge crier when it comes to books, but this one had me full-on weeping. It's such a captivating story about love, friendship, family, and learning how to deal with your flaws. The characters stay with you, and I still get emotional when I think about the ending." — matildaf

Get it from Amazon for $8.52 (paperback) or $8.99 ( Kindle ).

40. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner tells the story of Dill, son of a preacher involved in a public scandal, Travis, and Lydia, three teens about to graduate high school and who are looking to escape the small town they live in.

books make you cry

"Seems like an innocent coming of age novel. But it has a shock ending that leaves you ugly crying for hours." — percabethico

Get it from Amazon for $4.34 (paperback) or $9.99 ( Kindle ).

41. The Lords Of Discipline by Pat Conroy centers on a cadet at the Carolina Military Institute, who has to endure racism and hazing and avoids the school's secret society — it's inspired by Conroy's own experience at military school.

books make you cry

"Even though i was introduced to the book because it was assigned in high school, its one of my favorites. Super super sad, though; I remember tearing up even when we would read it in class." — kaitlinf43ae92f7d

Get it from Amazon for $7.37 (paperback) or $1.99 ( Kindle ).

42. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz follows two 15-year-old boys (the titular Aristotle and Dante) with nothing in common as they explore their identities, their relationship, and who they want to be.

books make you cry

"This book left me emotionally exhausted in the best way possible." — camilagutierrez029

"There's nothing more real and beautiful than this book. I read it while I was still a teen." — davidmtz11

Get it from Amazon for $8.18 (paperback) or $9.99 ( Kindle ).

43. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is a thriller about the Sinclairs, a wealthy family who gather on their private island every summer. But what happened during the summer that (the protagonist) Cadence can't remember?

books make you cry

"There is a whirlwind of a twist at the end that will break you." — brafeeat

Get it from Amazon for $11.72 (hardcover) or $11.99 ( Kindle ).

44. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger tells the story of Clare, who is married to a man who disappears and reappears in his own timeline at random, making their love story uniquely impossible.

books make you cry

"It's such an amazing, emotional book, I love how the lives of Henry and Clare are joined together. There are so many little heartbreaking moments throughout the book, that my eyes are never fully dry whilst reading it." — alishawaterfallc

"That shit fucks you up." — hannahl470d3d495

Get it from Amazon for $10.26 (paperback) or $8.99 ( Kindle ).

45. By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho centers on a pair of childhood friends who go on a pilgrimage through the Pyrenees and discuss some of the biggest questions of life.

books make you cry

"It's a masterpiece that makes me cry by its sheer beauty regarding love." — vivianas4a9181122

Get it from Amazon for $9.45 (paperback) or $8.99 ( Kindle ).

46. This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl (and her parents) is part biography, part autobiography about Esther, who had terminal cancer and passed away at the age of 16. It's made up of journals, fiction, letter, art, and more to tell her inspiring story.

books make you cry

"John Green does the introduction to the book about her and the whole book made me cry. Esther's courage and tenacity for life are so inspiring despite the immense adversity in her life." — mybrainonpaper78

Get it from Amazon for $11.02 (hardcover) or $8.99 ( Kindle ).

47. If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan centers on two Iranian teen girls in love who face difficult choices in a country where loving each other is a crime.

books make you cry

"I sobbed ugly tears while reading the end in a bathroom stall." — missdior9

Get it from Amazon for $9.87 (paperback) or $6 ( Kindle ).

48. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro is set in post-Arthurian England and details the fantastical story of an elderly couple looking for their son — while somehow losing their memory.

books make you cry

"It's a beautiful story of the journey becoming old together told through a fantastic fantasy story. If you've ever been touched by Alzheimer's (or even if you haven't) it will rip out your heart and sew it back together as a beautiful, damaged tapestry." — beckyl11

Get it from Amazon for $9.52 (paperback) or $11.99 ( Kindle ).

49. The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide is a beautifully-detailed Japanese novel about a cat who comes into the lives of a Tokyo couple and brings new love and joys into their home.

books make you cry

"It's about a couple who start to have problems within their relationship, but then a cat comes along and helps make their lives better, as animals/pets do. By the end of the book, I would have got through quite a few tissues! I think the fact that I have two cats myself, makes the book even more emotional for me." — alishawaterfallc

Get it from Amazon for $9.63 (paperback) or $9.15 ( Kindle ).

50. The Road by Cormac McCarthy focuses on an unnamed man and his son, who are trying to survive in the wake of an unmentioned disaster in a new and post-apocalyptic America.

books make you cry

"The only book that's ever made me cry. The relationship between the man and the boy is so pure. And the way McCarthy writes is so poetic and beautiful that these heart-wrenching scenes become vivid and real. The gruesome reality of the post-apocalyptic world he created made me weep on several occasions throughout the story. I cried a long time after I was finished reading it."

— mpiquette1983

Get it from Amazon for $13.74 (paperback) or $11.99 ( Kindle ).

51. Bright Side by Kim Holden is chock full of likable characters with great chemistry, romance, and secrets — the perfect recipe for a moving love story with a whopping 1,800 five-star reviews on Amazon.

books make you cry

"Full on ugly cry — made worse by listening to it on audiobook during my commute and getting really concerned looks from my fellow drivers." — staceyslimaks

Get it from Amazon for $14.99 (paperback) or $3.99 ( Kindle ). Also available on Kindle Unlimited .

P.S. I wasn't joking about the Kleenex .

books make you cry

Get an 18-pack of boxes from Amazon for $22.77 .

You're gonna need 'em.

Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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Beyond the Bookends

A Book Blog for Women and Moms who Love to Read

21 Extraordinary & Sad Books That Will Make You Cry

books make you cry

If you have known me for a while, you know that when I read books, I am not usually a crier. These books are the exception to that rule. Sometimes you need a good cry and every book on this list will do just that. Grab some tissue and cuddle up because we have 21 books that will make you cry.

*Sad Books That Make You Cry Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.

Table of Contents

Historical Fiction Sad Books That Will Make You Cry

The Women

The Women by Kristin Hannah

Hannah has transported readers to Vietnam where combat nurse, Frankie, is on the frontlines of the Vietnam War. She gives us a searing tale of life as a nurse during and after the war, as Frankie learns how to nurse, bonds with her fellow medical staff, and even falls in love during wartime.

The second half of the book explores what it was like to return home to a country divided over if the war should even be fought. It was shocking to see how people treated returning vets, and how they refused to acknowledge that women were in ‘nam.

Once again, Hannah’s portrayal of PTSD had me gasping and feeling deeply for the characters within the story – particularly Frankie. This fast-paced story had my heart thumping throughout. It did get quite heavy at times and I had to have a lighter book on hand for breaks.

Why We Loved it: The ending had me in tears of happiness, though tears of frustration, anger, and sadness also flowed at various times while I was reading.

Find this book in Books that make you cry ,

Stars in an Italian Sky

Stars in an Italian Sky by Jill Santopolo

Where do I even start with this book? I loved it so much. In Genoa Italy, in 1946 Vincenzo and Giovanna fell in love. But, they belong to two different worlds. She is the daughter of a tailor and she is almost royalty.

In 2017, Cassandra and Luca are in love. When Luca asks Cassandra’s grandmother to be a model for his new painting, with his grandfather, the past and its secrets are revealed.

I cannot say enough about this book that is part contemporary fiction and part historical fiction. It had me absolutely bawling by the end, ugly crying, and I LOVED it. The ending was perfect, fitting, and cathartic. This is one of my favorite books that will make you cry.

This is a perfect pick for books set in Italy and a must for our ultimate beach reads 2023 post.

the kite runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

This book set in the 70s in Afghanistan is one of the most emotional books I’ve ever read. I sobbed for a full 30 minutes after the last chapter. The story of the friendship between a wealthy boy and his servant is one filled with betrayal, tragedy, and heartbreak.

Told against the background of Afganistan’s destruction and the war, this sweeping tale is a must-read if you are looking for books that will make you cry. You can also find this one on our list of books to emotionally wreck you because it is heart-wrenching throughout.

The Light Between Oceans and more isolation books

The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman

A lighthouse keeper and his wife have gotten used to the lonely, isolated life of maintaining the lighthouse on a faraway island. But they are yearning for a baby to keep them company.

When one washes ashore, they quickly claim the child as their own without reporting it to the authorities. On a rare outing in town 2 years later, they bring their daughter along and realize the impact of what they have done.

This was a heartbreaking but beautiful read. The movie adaptation was excellent as well. This is a five-star pick from books that will make you cry.

Contemporary Fiction Books That Will Make You Cry

Remarkably Bright Creatures and more family drama books

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

May 2022 read with jenna book club pick.

I haven’t read a novel with as much heart as this one in quite some time.

Elderly, recently widowed Tova loves her job cleaning the aquarium in town in the quiet of the night, especially because of her fondness for Marcellus, the octopus. She finds solace in the aquarium as it makes her feel closer to her son, Erik – a marine life lover – who disappeared on a boat when he was 18.

But when she hurts herself and is unable to return to work at full capacity, she grows close with her replacement, Cameron, a young man who newly arrived in town looking for his birth mother.

Meanwhile, Marcellus knows what really happened to Erik and he wants to help Tova find the closure she needs. His narration is interspersed with Tova and Cameron’s for a story that is compelling, heartwarming, and utterly unique.

I will be shoving this book into the hands of everyone who asks for a book recommendation because it’s my favorite book of 2022 and my pick as one of the best audiobooks of 2022. And if you are looking for more family drama books like this, check out the Ultimate List of Feel-Good Books to Brighten Your Day . This contemporary fiction book is a 5-star read from books that will make you cry.

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

GET READY TO UGLY CRY. This book wrecked me. This is the story of 17-year-old Lenni, who has terminal cancer, and her art partner, 83-year-old heart patient Margot. This is one of the books that make you cry, laugh, and love every page.

They connect at the end of Lenni’s life in the hospital art therapy room where they decided to paint a picture for every year of their combined 100 years.

While painting their picture, we get to learn about their lives before their illnesses and witness an incredible bond form. The ripple effects of their bond and friendship took my breath away numerous times.

Truly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. This one needs to go on our list of books to emotionally wreck you.

dear edward

Dear Edward by Anne Napolitano

January 2020 Read with Jenna Book Club Pick

The minute I read the first page, I was immediately captured. I love the way this book was written. 

It is about one boy who survives a plane crash within the first few pages of the book.  But the book moves back and forth between the plane flight and the aftermath so that you get to know the people on the flight and their stories. This is a sad book, but it is a beautiful story.

in five years

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

What a refreshing contemporary fiction book about the power of love and friendship.  I sat down and read this book in one sitting easily.  It is captivating from the first sentence and had me until the last page. 

Dannie is an ambitious lawyer with a plan.  She has her life planned out until she falls asleep and spends one hour in the future. Nothing is familiar- not her house, the ring on her finger, or the man by her side.  When she wakes, she cannot get the images out of her head. 

I loved this time travel book it was unexpected, unconventional, and a delight to read. Although this is a sad book, it is also a beautiful story about the power or love.

A man called ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Mr. Backman has a beautiful way of capturing the reader’s interest with wonderful characters that find themselves in hilarious situations.

I laughed out loud many times while reading. The book A Man Called Ove does indeed start with Ove trying to take his life and continuously being interrupted by his new neighbors and he mourns the loss of his spouse.

But, this story is so much more than that. As it progresses, Ove is able to have a profound impact on the life of everyone he meets, and at its heart, it is a book about friendship.

If you love this contemporary fiction book about grief, check out Books Like A Man Called Ove. But don’t let the description throw you off. At its heart, this is one of the best feel-good books and one of my all-time favorite books ! If you have not read it, it is definitely one of the best book club books.

paris bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

This is probably one of our favorite books on this list of books set in Paris and we recommend it all the time. The story features a floating book apothecary whose owner can meet you and give you a story meant for your soul.

When he needs to help his own soul, he sets his boat adrift on the Seine to see where it will take him. I loved every minute of this lovely contemporary fiction book and it is one of our favorites from the list of books set in France. As books for book clubs go, this one is at the top of our list. However, be aware this is one of the books that will make you cry while reading it!

Romance Books That Make You Cry

the light we lost

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

February 2018 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

A warm and yet sad story about an intense love that ends. The story goes from good to excellent when we see how the former lovers support each other over the years in their future relationships and how their own relationship evolves.

Be prepared with a box of tissues when you read this one. I was bawling like a baby by the end.

Always in December

Always, in December by Emily Stone

I was blown away by this tear-jerking story. It was a romance story for the first 30% of the book, but then it becomes something much deeper.

Josie mails a letter to her deceased parents every Christmas, but this Christmas she accidentally hits a stranger named Max with her bike on the way to the post box.

As she explored the holiday season with Max her feelings start to grow, but when he leaves unexpectedly, she’s left to deal with the aftermath of the impact he had on her heart. But fate isn’t done with their story yet as they bump into each other throughout the year.

Probably my favorite Christmas book of 2021, this one is a tear-jerker for sure. I sobbed for the entire last 10% of the book and it will most likely, emotionally wreck you. At the very least, this is one of the books that will make you cry. This book is a testament to the healing power of love and the kind of impact each of us can make on each other.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you are looking for a Christmas book that ends with a bow and smile, you may want to look elsewhere.

Nocture and more February 2023 book releases

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

I absolutely adored this book that is pure magic at its best. What starts as a historical fiction set in Chicago in the 1930s transforms into a beautiful fantasy about a ballerina, her violin, and the kingdom of death.

When Grace becomes the prima ballerina at The Near North Ballet Company, she is overjoyed that her dream has come true. In accepting this position, she has become a patron of Master LaRosa and must move into his mansion.

This Beauty and the Beast retelling is perfect for a list of books like ACOTAR . It is beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking. The writing is lyrical and I savored every minute, but fair warning, the ending of this book is heartbreaking. This is one of the books that will make you cry. It is perfect for anyone who loves to read books like The Night Circus . You will obsess over this haunting pick from ultimate beach reads 2023.

The Time Traveler's Wife and other books about libraries

The Time Traveler’s Wife By Audrey Niffenegger

Clare and Henry have an unusual love story. They’ve known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six but got married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry was thirty-one. You see, Henry is an adventurous librarian who inadvertently travels through time.  

I adore how this story explores very real challenges that any couple faces. With the added time travel element, it becomes an unforgettable pick from our list of romance books. The way that they fight for their love gives this book its clear spot on our list of best romance novels of all time. But be warned, this is a sad book that may emotionally wreck you.

While I realize there is only the loose librarian connection to this book list, Henry and Clare’s story is one of my all-time favorites and it shouldn’t be missed. You can find more books like this on our list of 23 of the Best Time Travel Books Like the Time Traveler’s Wife .

Non-Fiction Sad Books That Will Make You Cry

Night

Night by Elie Weisel

I have a personal story about this book.  My husband’s grandmother grew up in the same town as Elie Weisel.  She knew both him and his wife.  This was the first thing that she told me when I met her (My husband’s name is also Elie but this is purely coincidental). 

This is a must-read non-fiction book about the Holocaust written by the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.  It is a short but very powerful book that will emotionally wreck you. For more amazing Oprah’s Book Club Picks , you can see the full list.

from scratch

From Scratch by Tembi Locke

May 2019 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

I knew what this book was about before reading it and I was still not prepared for the heartbreak and beauty within the pages. This memoir is truly a love letter to Tembi’s husband who died from cancer. This is an incredibly sad book that had me in tears.

The descriptions of the food, the people, and the love she had for her husband are unlike anything that I have read before. This is a five-star book about grief if you can read through heartache. It’s one of the Netflix book adaptations I’m planning on watching.

The only plane in the sky

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff

Wow. It is hard to put the power of this book into words. Graff crafted the day of 9/11 from hour to hour and I had a hard time listening to it.  The 45-person full cast audiobook recreates the day with heart-stopping detail.

Like everyone, I remember exactly where I was on that day. Hearing the oral history told by first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and families is unlike anything I have ever seen and should be required for every student in the country. This book is the perfect example of how full cast audiobooks can transform a book into something greater than the sum of the individual parts. This is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read and while it is a sad book, it is one that is a must-read.

Im glad my mom died

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jeannette Mccurdy

Jeanette Mccurdy, star of the show iCarly and Sam and Cat, has written her heartbreaking memoir. Forced into acting at 6 years old by a mentally ill and unstable mother, Jeanette lived her life trying to make her mother happy. The result was an eating disorder, addiction, and abuse. This is a profound pick in our list of books about mental illness .

I listened to this coming-of-age book and found it hard to put down while also finding it extremely difficult to listen to at times because it is such a sad book. This is an amazing pick from our books about mothers.

Middle Grade/ YA Books That Will Make You Cry

wonder

Wonder by R.J Palacio

A must-read realistic fiction story for kids in middle school, this is an amazing book about embracing differences, kindness, and being yourself.  However, this would also be a wonderful read-aloud book for a younger audience. CW: This is one of the books that will make you cry.

August Pullman is a boy with an extraordinary facial difference.  He has been homeschooled his entire life and is starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep.  This book for 11-year-olds is amazing and has a lesson about love and acceptance that everyone needs to read.

the war that saved my life

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I read this book   in a few hours and immediately ordered the sequel  The War I Finally Won .   Ada is a 10-year-old girl who lives in a one-room world gazing at the world from one window.  She was born with a club foot and teaches herself to walk in secret.  When the children who lived in London were evacuated to go to the country at the start of WW2, Ada escapes her abusive mother and leaves London with her little brother.

There is so much depth to this book.  It is a Newbury Honor book and the Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award for middle grade. This middle-grade historical fiction is a story of love and survival in the face of overwhelming obstacles.

Do not be fooled that it is written for middle grades. It is emotionally crafted and brilliantly written. This is one of the books that will make you cry and then want to pick it up and read it all again.

one and only ivan

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Based on the true story of Ivan, a gorilla trapped in a shopping mall, this feel-good story is one of the best family audiobooks for any road trip.

Stella, a young girl gets Ivan to start painting again and she realizes how lonely he is. Bob, a stray dog, works to help Ivan and Ruby, a baby elephant, garner the attention they need to be sent to a better home.

Why We Love This Book:   This book will touch your heart. Even though it is partially a sad book, the ending will make it worthwhile. This is one of the best animal fiction books for middle grade and adults. Appropriate for ages  8-10 Find this book in books for 9-year-olds , zoo books, family audiobooks , animal novels

Far from the Tree and more books for 12-year-olds

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

This novel for tweens is the winner of the National Book Award for good reason.  I adored this middle grade fiction book.  I spent half of it crying and the other half smiling.  This is such a wonderful story about Grace who is adopted at birth. 

When she finds herself pregnant, she puts her daughter up for adoption.  This prompts her to look for her biological mother.  What she finds are two siblings that she never knew about. This is an amazing story told from multiple points of view. Even though we included it in books that make you cry, you will love every moment.

Which of these books that make you cry is your favorite?

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Jackie is the mother of three children and a Speech-Language Pathologist who uses her love of books to create language-based learning opportunities in her speech therapy practice and with her own children. Her 20+ years of experience in regular and special education classrooms ensures the website content is relevant and informative. She started this website with Kirsten to share their passion for literacy with other moms and kids.

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books make you cry

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Stirring Audiobooks Guaranteed to Make You Cry

January 11, 2021

When life gets overwhelming, there’s nothing I find more comforting than losing myself in an emotional listen and having a good cry. Whether a novel or a memoir, listens that make you cry are always a good thing: it means you’ve connected with the characters, become invested in the story, and truly feel the feelings—heartache, regret, betrayal, grief—the author intended to convey. Has it been a while since you listened to an audiobook that left you teary-eyed? Then look no further, and listen in to one of these audiobooks that will leave you reaching for the tissues. 

Never Let Me Go

Author Kazuo Ishiguro is known for writing heartfelt stories that bring listeners to tears, but when I really want to get lost in my feelings, Never Let Me Go is the Ishiguro listen I always return to. This is the story of a peculiar English boarding school called Hailsham, where the students are told they are special and have a purpose...and it isn’t until much later that they discover what that horrifying purpose is. The story centers around three friends, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, as they are raised together at Hailsham, separated from the outside world, and eventually grow into adults who have to accept their fate. Rosalyn Landor’s narration of this audiobook truly captures the listlessness of our main character, Kathy. Her reading of this story will certainly bring you to tears.

The Time Traveler's Wife

Once you listen to The Time Traveler’s Wife , you’ll never be able to get this unique and heartbreaking love story out of your mind. Henry is one of the first diagnosed cases of Chrono-Displacement Disorder, meaning he lives outside of time. When he first meets the love of his life, Clare, she claims she’s met him before, several times, although he can’t remember meeting her at all. When Clare first meets Henry, she is a young girl, only six years old, and Henry is 36. They marry when Clare is 23 and Henry is 31. Trying to have a successful romance that exists outside of time has its challenges and is confusing at first, but it’s impossible to not get swept away in this story of love in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Clare and Henry’s story is beautifully brought to life by Phoebe Strole and Fred Berman.

The Death of Vivek Oji

Akwaeke Emezi’s The Death of Vivek Oji begins in tragedy. In a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her door to find the dead body of her son, Vivek Oji, wrapped in colorful fabric, on her doorstep. As the tragic story continues, the people who loved Vivek look back at his life and try to make sense of his heartbreaking death. Emezi’s novel is a story of family, friendship, and loss that will have you in tears from beginning to end. Audible listeners have praised the dual narrators, Yetide Badaki and Chukwudi Iwuji, for breathing life into the unforgettable characters and evoking the deep emotions that this engaging story so rightfully deserves.

The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye is one of Toni Morrison’s most beloved novels of all time, but that’s not because it's an easy listen. Morrison tackles incredibly difficult subject matters in her first novel, including racism, self-loathing, sexual assault, and child abuse. This is the story of Pecola Breedlove, an 11-year-old Black girl living in America who wants nothing more than to have blue eyes. If only she could have beautiful blue eyes, Pecola is certain that her whole life would be different. Morrison herself reads her deeply moving story with a melodic narration that brings out the beauty and poetry of her words, even as the story itself becomes dark and unsettling.

A Little Life

In this widely adored audiobook, acclaimed voice actor and narrator Oliver Wyman (winner of five Audie and 19 Earphones Awards) reads Hanya Yanagihara’s devastating novel with heart-wrenching emotion. A Little Life is the story of four college friends who move to New York City full of dreams, ambitions, and hopes for the future. There’s Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, an artist; Malcolm, an architect; and Jude, an attorney. But Jude’s life hasn’t been easy, and he is haunted by a dark past that he can’t seem to escape. This novel has been named one of the Audible Essentials, and when it inevitably brings you to tears, you’ll see why.

The Light Between Oceans

M.L. Stedman’s debut novel is a tragic story of love, family, and the difficult decisions people are often forced to make. Set in Australia in 1918, The Light Between Oceans focuses on Tom Sherbourne, a young man who returns from the war to take a job as a lighthouse keeper on the remote Janus Rock. He soon marries and brings his wife, Isabel, to the island to live with him. The two begin their life together deeply in love and excited to start a family—but after several miscarriages, Isabel is becoming despondent, and Tom is losing hope. So when a boat washes up ashore holding a dead man and a living baby, the couple feel an immediate attachment to the young child. Defying protocol, and against Tom’s better judgement, they decide not to report the baby and raise her as their own. But back on the mainland, a distraught mother is searching for her lost child. Narrator Noah Tyler really made this story for me when I listened to it. His gentle and understated narration fits the somber mood of this beautiful story.

Everything I Never Told You

While Celeste Ng’s sophomore novel  Little Fires Everywhere  has been receiving a lot of attention as of late, it’s her debut,  Everything I Never Told You , that will really have you in tears. The listen begins, as so many tragic stories do, with a death: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet…” Lydia is the teenage daughter of Marilyn and James Lee. Her parents have many expectations for Lydia: she should be smart and popular. She should study hard and be a doctor all while being the life of every party. But there’s so much about Lydia that no one in her family fully understood. As these characters learn more about Lydia’s death, they also uncover surprising truths about her life. This novel is narrated by Cassandra Campbell, winner of five Audie Awards and a 2018 inductee in Audible’s Narrator Hall of Fame.

The Lovely Bones

Stories about tragic deaths at a young age are never easy to hear, and Alice Sebold’s  The Lovely Bones  is no exception. In a unique look at loss, the late Susie Salmon, the novel’s protagonist, tells the story of those she left behind as they try to come to terms with her tragic death. Her father spends his day searching for her killer, her sister and brother try to be stronger for their family, and her mother completely disappears into her grief. The author herself narrates this tear-jerker of a novel, and she gives an exclusive interview at the end. This audiobook is also available in a Booktrack Edition , which adds music and sound effects to enhance the listening experience.

Norwegian Wood

Haruki Murakami’s novels often go to surreal and strange places; however, Norwegian Wood is something entirely different. This novel takes an unflinching look at reality and all its tragedies. Toru is a college student living in Tokyo, and he’s completely obsessed with Naoko, a beautiful girl who shares in his pain after the tragic loss of their best friend. But Toru feels Naoko slipping away from him, similarly to how his friend disappeared into his emotions years earlier. And he feels helpless to stop it. This deeply sad and introspective novel is read by award-winning narrator John Chancer.

On one unbearably hot summer day in 1935, three children lose their innocence after one event has significant and devastating consequences. 13-year-old Briony Tallis lets her imagination get the better of her when she sees her sister Cecilia with the housekeeper’s son, Robby Turner. Briony proceeds to make a mistake that will change her life and her family forever, and it will consume her with guilt that she carries for the rest of her life. Jill Tanner narrates this unabridged audio version of Atonement , reading Ian McEwan’s beautiful, heartbreaking prose with nuance and passion.

Bridge to Terabithia

If you read Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia as a child, then you will probably remember how this story destroyed you. And if you haven’t listened to this audiobook yet, be prepared for a good cry. This Newbery Medal-winning novel is the story of two young friends who uplift one another as they play in the magical world of Terabithia together. But the magic of imagination ultimately can’t save them from tragedy. This version of the audiobook is narrated by Robert Sean Leonard, whose performance has earned rave reviews from listeners and critics alike.

Where the Red Fern Grows

Speaking of childhood classics that wrecked you emotionally, who can forget Where the Red Fern Grows ? Wilson Rawls’s iconic novel is about Billy and his two dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann. This is a heat-warming story of adventure, friendship, and yes, tragedy that we have to face, even at a young age. Anthony Heald’s moving narration of this unabridged production breathes fresh life and fresh emotions into an enduring classic.

The Sun Is Also a Star

Confession: I didn’t start this audiobook thinking that I was going to be so moved by it. But by the time I made it to the end of Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star , I had tears running down my face. Natasha is a girl who believes in science and facts. She certainly doesn’t believe in love, especially not when her family is about to be deported to Jamaica. Then she meets Daniel, a boy who is a self-proclaimed romantic and poet, and he’s determined to change her mind. This is an emotional story about love and, more importantly, how all of our lives are intricately connected in ways we can’t fully understand. This book is narrated by Hall of Fame narrator Bahni Turpin, one of my personal favorites, with the help of Raymond Lee and Dominic Hoffman.

How to Be a Girl

A warm and deeply personal listen, How to Be a Girl will seize your whole heart with a perspective on gender identity we haven’t often heard: that of a mother whose young child has recently come out as transgender. Generous, thoughtful, and full of sensitivity and warmth, Marlo Mack's self-narrated memoir is a gorgeous exploration of family, identity, and unconditional love and acceptance. Deeply meditative on the nature of community and support and lovingly punctuated by the delighted giggles and singsong voice of Mack's daughter, this sincere listen shares a heartfelt story and a necessary lesson in allyship. It’s also, as one Audible listener rightfully says, the single most beautiful and tear jerking thing I have ever come across.

A Monster Calls

Sometimes when we experience something horrible in our own lives, it helps to lose ourselves in fantasy. Such is the case for 13-year-old Conor in A Monster Calls , who wakes to find a monster outside of his bedroom window after his mother begins treatments for her cancer. This book by Patrick Ness is based on an idea from author Siobhan Dowd, who was unable to write this story herself because of her own struggle and eventual death from cancer. Film and television actor Jason Isaacs narrates this novel using a wide range of voices to embody all of the characters flawlessly.

Emily Martin has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi and is a  writer for Book Riot.

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books make you cry

12 Books Guaranteed to Make You Cry

(according to us).

The Lit Hub staff: we’re just like you. We read books. We cry. Sometimes we cry while we read books. We were deeply upset after finishing  A Little Life . We’re still not totally over it. And the worst part is: it’s not only  A Little Life . So if you’re looking for a new book to tug at your heartstrings (and, more importantly, tear ducts), or just want to file away information on how to make us feel bad at a later date, please find below a selection of books that have made the Lit Hub staff cry—or, since not all of us are actually big criers, at least made us really, really sad.

in the darkroom

I have a short enough emotional fuse that a list of the last books that made me cry would likely be a list of whatever books I’d most recently read. In the interest of specificity, I’ll highlight a book that wrecked not only me, but also a friend I lent it to immediately after: I have the tear-stained selfie she sent me to prove it. Susan Faludi’s In the Darkroom , which won the 2016 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, is the kind of complex that resists quick summarization, but I’ll give it a shot: When she was a child, Faludi’s father Steven, a Hungarian immigrant and Holocaust survivor, was aggressive, preoccupied with masculinity, and ultimately violent. Her parents split when she was 16, and her mother obtained a restraining order against her father. Eventually, Steven repatriated to Hungary; when Faludi received an email from Steven in 2004, they hadn’t spoken 27 years. That wasn’t the only surprise—her father revealed that she had undergone gender reassignment surgery in Thailand and now went by Stefánie. Faludi flew to Budapest a few months later, and In the Darkroom is a chronicle of what ensued, a moving, enigmatic reckoning between Susan and Stefánie; between Stefánie and her past as Steven Faludi and, earlier, István Friedman; and between the trauma of the Holocaust and the trauma of gender dysphoria.

–Jess Bergman, Features Editor

books make you cry

Margery Williams,  The Velveteen Rabbit

I would be remiss to not include The Velveteen Rabbit on this list; I have worked myself into tears several times merely explaining the story of the Skin Horse, often to relative strangers. If you are unfamiliar: the abandoned Velveteen Rabbit encounters the Skin Horse in the nursery—the Skin Horse has lived there the longest, and he is all patchy and decrepit. He explains that this is because years ago, he was made Real through love. And once you are Real, even if you are alone and hairless and the person who loved you has long since forgotten you, you can never become unreal again. That really fucks me up. This very story inspired Jess and I to launch a reading series about crying in public entitled Whom Wants to Cry that will maybe, one day, return.

–Blair Beusman, Associate Editor

where the red fern grows

By the third grade, I was already a big reader (thanks Mom and Dad), and my teacher, seeing that my reading comprehension was above the level of the books we were reading in class, assigned me something extra:  Where the Red Fern Grows . Well, as it turned out, my reading comprehension might have been beyond the third grade level, but my emotional comprehension was not . I cried so hard I fell out of my chair. In class. During quiet reading time. That seems like an overreaction now, but look: the one dog dies and then  the other dog dies of sadness . Of sadness! I stand by the falling thing. This book is sadistic. I haven’t cried at a book since, so either this one cured me of the weepies or just destroyed my emotional nerve endings for life. Either way!

–Emily Temple, Senior Editor

books make you cry

Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse

Like Jess Bergman above, I too, am quick to cry, so this was an easy assignment. I’ve already talked about how much I loved  Indian Horse by the late Richard Wagamese (who was Ojibwe, from the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations), and though there’s no shortage in this slim novel of the starkly tragic—Indigenous Canadian children stolen from their families and placed in “Residential Schools,” cold, cruel places in which abuse was rampant and suicide common—it is Wagamese’s conjuring of the joy and kineticism of open-air hockey that brought me to tears: young men with little to hope for carving out a patch of frozen autonomy on the far-flung rinks of the northern prairie. (And if you don’t believe me, we’ll be running one such section this coming Monday, April 23).

–Jonny Diamond, Editor in Chief

woman hollering creek

Lately whole books have been hard as I’ve been teaching and writing, but I have kept reading stories and poems. Two short stories turned on the waterworks lately. “Mexican Movies” by Sandra Cisneros ends with such a beautiful description of falling asleep at a movie theatre and being carried home. You read it and instantly become that age again, the transportable age, when you can fake being asleep. Finishing the story was like waking up and realizing I’d never be that age again. The entirety of Woman Hollering Creek operates like this, be forewarned—Cisneros dunks you so vividly into sensory experiences it feels like loss when you come out of them. The other story which had me reaching for the tissues was actually written by one of my students at NYU, Jerome Blanco. He has this pitch perfect story about a woman going home to Philippines as her mother is dying in a coma. In one scene, the woman starts to speak to her mother and he did it so well, I remembered what that felt like: to beg.

–John Freeman, Executive Editor

barney's version

Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler is not a sad book—the sardonic memoirs of Barney Panofsky are generally funny, if a little dark. But books that make you cry sometimes make you cry because of the circumstances when you read them. One of the winters I was in graduate school (of which there were several) I had moved back in with my parents and commuted uptown and then back to Brooklyn at strange, off-peak hours. An unreliable narrator was somehow perfect company. I finished the last pages of Barney’s Version a few minutes after I got off the train, standing in the middle of an empty station, enjoying a big fat cry for poor Barney, misunderstood misanthrope, unloved father, falsely accused.

–Emily Firetog, Managing Editor

books make you cry

Bough Down , Karen Green

Bough Down is an absolutely heartbreaking and beautiful collection by Karen Green, who was married to David Foster Wallace, about the aftermath of his suicide. In it, she grapples with this devastating loss, feelings of guilt, and the strangeness of mourning very personally a beloved literary icon. This tension is distilled in my favorite poem from the collection, “At Least He” (which caused me to put the book down for a few days):

I want him pissed off at politicians, ill at ease, trying to manipulate me into doing favors for him I would do anyway. I want him looking for his glasses, trying not to come, doing the dumb verb of journaling, getting spinach caught between canine and gum, berating my logorrhea, or my not staying mum. I don’t want him at peace.

the remains of the day

Because I’m dead inside, or perhaps doing books wrong, or both, I don’t think reading has ever moved me to weeping. However, I recently got around to reading the sorrowful masterpiece that is The Remains of the Day and let me tell you, if you’re a crier, this book will wreck your face with tears. Head Butler of Darlington Hall, Mr. Stevens, has spent his professional life in the service of Lord Darlington—a fool who thinks the rising Nazi party can be appeased and befriended if a group of select, blue-blooded aristocrats like himself is allowed to craft British foreign policy behind closed doors. Instead of opening his heart to housekeeper Ms. Kensington, Mr. Stevens doubles down on his misguided professionalism and turns his back on love, and a life beyond the martyrdom of service. Only years later, standing in the rain as Ms. Kensington disappears from his life for the last time, does Mr. Stevens allow himself the admission that inside, his heart is breaking. I was talking about odd, literary Halloween costumes with a friend a few weeks back and he suggested that the most terrifying costume of all might be that of Mr. Stevens’ Regret. Tell that person you love them, guys. Do it now before you too must don this haunted, rain-soaked garb . . . forever.

–Dan Sheehan, Book Marks Editor

goodbye vitamin

In her semi-autobiographical story “Project for a Trip to China,” Susan Sontag, whose father died abroad when she was very young, writes, “I still weep in any movie with a scene in which a father returns home after a long desperate absence, at the moment when he hugs his child.” Loath as I am to compare myself to Sontag in any way, I share a similar, even broader weakness: a homecoming of any kind between fathers and daughters will make me cry, occasionally against my better judgment (I’m looking at you, Interstellar ). In Goodbye, Vitamin , a daughter, Ruth, moves back in with her parents after a devastating breakup and the news that her father has begun displaying signs of memory loss. I read the novel in a single hysterical sitting, crying intermittently throughout but never so hard as during the sections told in the form of a journal Ruth’s father kept when she was very young. One particularly tender entry has stayed with me, and more likely than not reduce will to me tears again now as I attempt to reproduce it:

Today, after I took my socks off, you touched my ankles—the impression that had been left.

Today you put my hand on the impression left by your sock. My hand could circle your whole miniature ankle.

donna reed book

Without trying to sound boastful (it’s just the usual Boston Irish reserve, nothing special), I can honestly say I don’t remember ever crying, though annually I come close watching It’s a Wonderful Life , in particular the scene at the end when Mary comes into the crowded house with the sack full of money, looking pleased. So if I were to cry reading a book, logic suggests it would be a book like In Search of Donna Reed , by Jay Fultz, the only biography of Donna Reed I could find in ten minutes of Googling, which also led me to a 2009 New York Times article about the correspondence Reed kept up with young soldiers serving in WWII, including a B-29 gunner who’d asked her to dance at a USO canteen in 1943. In that article there was a picture of Reed at what appears to be a USO canteen, trying food off a soldier’s plate, looking almost exactly like she did coming into the house in Bedford Falls with that sack of money she’d begged off her friends and neighbors. Jesus, I gotta step outta the room a minute, grab a beer or something, my eyes are itching, must be the goddamn allergies this time of year, what the hell are you looking at?

–Dwyer Murphy, Crime Reads Senior Editor

out stealing horses

At 67, Trond Sander is settling into a life of quiet solitude in the forests of Norway. While the premise seems peaceful enough, Trond’s retirement is riddled with melancholy. The first few chapters in the book deliver blow after blow: a neighbor recounts the time he had to shoot his dog, Trond has a childhood memory of his friend Jon showing him a bird’s next only to crush the eggs, that same friend lost a younger brother. After Jon leaves a loaded gun in the house, his twin brothers begin playing with it, resulting in a shot to his twin’s head. There’s a tension between the evil and innocent, something that only continues to grow as Trond unearths dark childhood memories. But Trond’s present day is equally somber. As the story continues, his true reason for isolation is revealed: within one week he lost his sister to cancer and his wife to a fatal car crash. This harrowing story left me feeling weighed down for weeks.

–Alicia Kroell, Editorial Fellow

darkness at noon

I don’t consider a book to have made a significant impression on me unless it makes me cry (I’m an emotional junkie, what can I say?) so I’m going to put down the book that’s made me cry the most times: Darkness at Noon , by Arthur Koestler. After narrowly escaping Stalinist purges, Koestler wrote this book against the backdrop of the show trials of the 1930s, wherein many of the most powerful figures of the Russian Revolution were tortured into falsely confessing to sabotage and other crimes against the Soviet state as Stalin brutally consolidated his power. Koestler wondered at how these Old Bolsheviks, so renowned for their commitment to principal, could have been convinced to falsely confess to crimes they did not commit. Beyond torture—which many of the men on trial had previously endured in their revolutionary youth—Koestler wanted to portray how someone could be convinced that the best thing for the Soviet state would be for them to confess, and Darkness at Noon shares the same horrifying mental gymnastics on the part of the imprisoned as 1984 .

Maybe the reason I’ve cried so many times after finishing this book, yet continue to return to it, is that it’s a narrative of extreme disappointment—a warning against utopians like me. At the same time, it’s a defense of that same utopianism—it’s the realities of Stalinism, not communism, that have caused the figures in this book to behave the way they do. Or maybe I feel so sad after finishing this book because everyone in this story is trying so hard, and making so many compromises, that it’s able to reflect the human side of historical monstrosity in a way that few works achieve. One of the saddest characters to fill the pages of this very sad work is a revolutionary who is released from prison under the Tsar, only to be soon enough re-imprisoned under Stalin. He maintains his cheer by refusing to believe the revolution has happened at all. The protagonist has a more grim outlook—the revolution has disappointed him, but he has also dissapointed his version of the revolution, allowing his lover to be arrested without protest, and abandoning vulnerable German communists to their fate under the Nazis. For those who think Graham Greene’s Catholic novels have the monopoly on quietly expressed guilt, Darkness at Noon will quickly prove them wrong. Also, if you’re still not crying by the end of this book, look up Arthur Koestler’s biography. Adding to the tragedy of his early life, Arthur Koestler had a bizarre life as an assisted suicide activist post-WWII and ended up committing double suicide with his wife as an act of protest.

–Molly Odintz, Crime Reads Associate Editor

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12 Books to Make You Ugly Cry

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Susie Dumond

Susie (she/her) is a queer writer originally from Little Rock, now living in Washington, DC. She is the author of QUEERLY BELOVED and the forthcoming LOOKING FOR A SIGN from Dial Press/Random House. You can find her on Instagram @susiedoom.

View All posts by Susie Dumond

Hello, my name is Susie, and I’m obsessed with books that completely emotionally wreck me. Some people seek out books with uplifting themes and tidy, happy endings. I seek out books about death and grief and loss and heartbreak and tragedy. I don’t know why I’m like this. But if you also can’t resist a cathartic crying session through a devastatingly beautiful book, then I see you, I feel you, and, well, I’ve got some recommendations. While I can’t make any guarantees — after all, people find themselves moved by very different things — this list is full of books to make you ugly cry. We’re not talking a dainty little tear here. We’re talking red faced, snotty, better make sure you have a second box of tissues kind of crying.

Beware of reading these books in public, because you might catch some weird looks. Although crying over a book in front of strangers isn’t always a bad thing. I finished A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara on a plane. This book is so emotionally crushing that it’s been called trauma porn, and you better believe I was downright sobbing at 30,000 feet. But the flight attendant either thought I was really going through something or had read A Little Life herself, because she gave me free drinks for the duration of the flight. Consider this a free tip from me to you: crying over books in public might get you sympathy drinks.

Fiction Books to Make You Ugly Cry

cover of Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng; image of a bird's feather slowly disintegrating into several little birds

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

Twelve year old Bird has limited memories of his mother, a Chinese American poet who went missing three years ago. But he’s not the only person wondering what happened to a loved one after a law was passed encouraging Americans to report their neighbors for “unpatriotic ideas,” particularly those of Asian descent. When Bird receives a curious drawing he believes is from his mother, he goes on a dangerous journey to find her. Children being separated from their parents during political upheaval is some surefire crying material for me. The last few chapters of this book have some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking writing I’ve read in a decade.

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune book cover

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

When readers start Under the Whispering Door , its protagonist, Wallace Price, is already dead. The worst is over, yes? No. Wallace wasn’t such a great person in life, but as two strangers escort him to a strange tea shop where he’ll cross over to the other side, he sees he might have a chance to do better in death. Wallace has seven days to learn that there’s more to life than money and success. This book’s reflections on life, death, loss, and purpose are incredibly moving and will quite possibly make you ugly cry. But the good news is that it’s ultimately a hopeful, sweet, and uplifting story that won’t leave you miserable.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous book cover

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Leave it to poets to get readers all up in their feels. Ocean Vuong’s poetry is stunning and also liable to make you cry (see Time is a Mother ), but his debut novel is what we’re crying over here today. This alone is enough to get you started: the story is told through a series of letters from a son called Little Dog to his mother who can’t read. In shifting timelines, Little Dog explores his youth, his family history rooted in Vietnam, his queer identity, and so much more. It’s hard to describe this book, but trust me, it’s absolutely stunning and will break your heart before sewing it right back together.

Book cover of The School for Good Mothers

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Thanks to an unsatisfying career and a cheating husband, Frida is having a rough time. The only bright spot is her daughter Harriet, who sees Frida as perfect. But a government program on the lookout for bad mothers disagrees. One bad day could lead to Harriet being taken to a reform school while Frida is taken into custody until she proves she can be a good mother. Yet again, children being forcibly separated from their parents and parents being made to feel inadequate hits hard. This may be set in a dystopian world, but it’s going to turn you into a human puddle in this world right here.

Light from Uncommon Stars cover

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

You might think a sci-fi/fantasy novel about violins and a donut shop owned by an intergalactic spaceship captain couldn’t possibly make you cry. But if you give it a read, you’ll probably prove yourself wrong. In order to save herself from eternal damnation, Shizuka made a deal with the devil to deliver the souls of seven other violin prodigies. She only needs one more, and she’s certain a young trans runaway named Katrina Nguyen is her key to breaking her curse. But Shizuka’s plans go awry when she’s charmed by retired starship captain Lan. Light from Uncommon Stars is a delightful and unexpected adventure, but it’s also a moving tale of finding belonging in a hostile world. Pick up an extra box of tissues before you settle down to read it, is all I’m saying.

cover of Memphis by Tara Stringfellow, abstract-style illustration of several Black women sitting on a front porch in front of a yellow door

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow

The women of the North family have had more than their share of tragedy — violent men, racism, and lynching, to name a few. But they also have incredible gifts. Some can heal through nursing. August has a singing voice that can blow people away. And Joan’s paintings might just change the world. Following three generations of the North family, this book is a love letter to Memphis and to the resilience and passion of Black women. And if you thought you were crying before, wait until you realize this novel is based on the author’s real family history.

Book cover of Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Antonia Vega expects peace and quiet after retiring from her job as an English professor. But then her husband dies, her sister disappears, and a pregnant, undocumented teen shows up on her doorstep. In an increasingly distrustful world, Antonia’s plight explores what we owe to our families, and how wide the net of family extends. Who is Antonia without her beloved? How can she gather the pieces of her life without him? How can she grapple with the mental illness of someone she loves? This book had a stop-drop-and-cry moment for me, where I had to put it down to let out all the tears. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Nonfiction Books to Make You Ugly Cry

From Scratch book cover

From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke

This book gets the prize for quickest start-to-crying time. I think I was audibly sobbing by, like, page 30. Actress Tembi Locke met her husband, professional chef Saro, while traveling in Sicily. His family didn’t approve of their marriage, but they built a beautiful life together in Los Angeles anyway and adopted their beloved daughter, Zoela. But then Saro was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that took his life far too quickly. Saro’s death finally brought his parents closer to Tembi. In this memoir, Locke tells the story of their love, Saro’s loss, and her journey to Sicily to introduce Zoela to her father’s family, homeland, and favorite foods. Hot tip: this book is now streaming as a TV series on Netflix starring Zoe Saldaña, so read it and then watch it to cry twice as much!

crying in h mart book cover

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

I mean, come on, crying is right there in the name! This memoir by Michelle Zauner, also known as the musical artist Japanese Breakfast, isn’t your typical musician’s memoir. It talks a little about her music career, but is primarily focused on losing her mother to cancer, her relationship to her Korean heritage, and the food that tied it all together. It’s a vulnerable, emotional, and deeply human story of grief and its impact on identity. Read it and you’ll never look at your old family recipes the same way again.

book cover of diary of a misfit by casey parks

Diary of a Misfit: A Memoir and a Mystery by Casey Parks

“Unwelcome” is an understatement for how Casey Parks felt in her home state of Louisiana after coming out as a lesbian. Not only did her family reject her; her pastor outright asked God to kill her. But then her grandmother pulled her aside with a fascinating secret: “I grew up across the street from a woman who lived as a man.” He sang country music under the name Roy Hudgins. Casey’s questions about Roy brought her back to rural Louisiana for a decade of research about him. In this nuanced memoir and journalistic exploration of Roy Hudgins’s life, Casey Parks examines how her acceptance of her own queer identity became wrapped up in the story of a stranger. It’s a beautiful tale of family, belonging, and self-acceptance.

Savor by Fatima Ali book cover

Savor: A Chef’s Hunger for More by Fatima Ali

It’s probably pretty obvious that the biography of someone who died of cancer at the age of 29 will be a tearjerker. But Pakistani chef Fatima Ali’s story is so much more than just her death, and the stunning way her story is told here had me downright sobbing. Top Chef fan favorite Fatima Ali’s star was only beginning to rise when she was given a terminal cancer diagnosis. She was determined to complete her bucket list in her last year, traveling the world and eating all the delicious food she’d always dreamed of trying. This memoir includes writing by Ali, writer Tarajia Morrell who she hired to help record her story, and interludes by her mother. The way their voices are woven together creates a complex and poignant portrait of a beautiful life cut far too short.

This is Not a Pity Memoir book cover

This is Not a Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan

Abi Morgan may not be asking for pity, but her story will likely give you some very big feelings. Abi Morgan’s life was upended one day when she found her partner Jacob unconscious in their home. She spent a hellish six months trying to hold their family together as Jacob was in a coma, with doctors desperately trying to find out what had gone wrong and how to save him. When Jacob finally woke up, it seemed like their family had been granted a second chance — until they realized Jacob didn’t recognize Abi and was convinced she was an imposter.

We hope this list of books to make you ugly cry helped provide you a little catharsis! If you’re looking for more emotional reads to kickstart the waterworks, check out these lists:

The Books That Made Us Sob

13 LGBT Books That Will Make You Cry

11 Books With Sad Endings to Devastate You

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Books guaranteed to make you cry

In need of a good cry? Here are the books that never fail to make us sob.

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What is our never-ending fascination with sad books? Whether it’s a doomed romance or a shock main character death, we delight in picking up novels that we know will absolutely destroy us, and can’t wait to pass them on to our friends so that we can revel in our despair together.

From weepy classics that have been passed down for generations to tear-jerkers which have garnered cult followings and caused nearly all of us to sob into our hands, we all know we love to put ourselves through it. It's safe to say that the sad novel is going absolutely nowhere, so buckle up and prepare for the ultimate heart-rending and sob-inducing list of books that will have you ugly crying right up until the final page.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)

We couldn’t possibly write this list without mentioning the mother of all sad books, which has broken the hearts of millions worldwide. The story follows four best friends as they arrive in New York, having met years earlier at university. Each is intent on making his own way in the world, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that it is the secretive Jude, the centre of their group, whose mysterious past threatens to overwhelm him. A Little Life is about people who deserve more, and how we may or may not be able to overcome the hand that life has dealt us. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about this one.

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15 Gorgeous Books That Make You Cry

books make you cry

Do you love a good tearjerker? There’s something so emotionally satisfying and cathartic about reading an emotional book that gets the tears going–and they don’t necessarily have to be sad books, either! The following are a nice mix of sad books for teens, sad romance books that make you cry, and heart-wrenching novels full of big emotions that will make you feel all the feels, and yes, probably give your tear ducts a workout!

The Summer I Turned Pretty  by Jenny Han

This heart wrenching trilogy is about Belly, a teen girl who spends every summer at her mom’s best friend’s summer house. This year, she finds herself pulled romantically between two brothers, but before she can decide who is the right one for her, tragedy strikes that will change all of their lives forever.

Cemetery Boys  by Aiden Thomas

When Yadriel, a trans boy, becomes determined to prove himself as a brujo to his conservative family, he inadvertently summons a ghost that won’t leave until Yadriel helps him resolve the issues he left behind in life. And doing so will challenge Yadriel in unexpected and heartrending ways.

The Heart Principle  by Helen Hoang

Anna Sun is struggling with burnout when her boyfriend delivers a shocking blow: he wants an open relationship. Angry, she agrees and soon finds herself embarking on and failing at this open relationship thing when she meets Quan. Quan is amazing and accepts her in a way no one ever has, and she can’t stop seeing him. But then a family tragedy rocks Anna’s world, and leads her to wonder what she really wants out of life.

The Guncle  by Steven Rowley

Gay Uncle Patrick loves being uncle to his niece and nephew, Maisie and Grant. But when their mom dies unexpectedly and Patrick’s brother finds himself facing his own health crisis that leaves him unable to care for his kids, Patrick takes in the kids and finds that there’s a big difference between being the fun Guncle and being the guardian these kids need.

Jellicoe Road  by Melina Marchetta

Taylor was abandoned by her mom when she was just a kid, and now she’s a student at a boarding school that faces a tough turf war each year. Taylor is named the leader of the students as they wage war against the townies and the cadets who arrive from Sydney each year, and this year one of the cadet leaders is the boy who betrayed her a few years earlier. As they try to come to a truce, Taylor’s guardian goes missing and she finally discovers clues to her mother’s whereabouts and tragic history.

Honey Girl  by Morgan Rogers

Grace Porter is a recent PhD grad who is uncertain about her future, and things get complicated when she goes to Vegas and accidentally marries a strange woman. Instead of figuring out her life, she abandons all responsibility to move to Brooklyn for the summer and get to know her new wife. But romance and adventure can’t distract Grace from her problems and her issues, and she’s forced to face her painful past once and for all.

Beach Read  by Emily Henry

January, a romance novelist, is reeling from the death of her dad and a horrible betrayal that she discovered after his death when she arrives at his secret Lake Michigan house for the summer. She’s got a summer to write a book and pack up the house in order to sell it, and she’s horrified to find that her neighbor for the summer is Gus, her college nemesis. As the two challenge each other to swap genres for the summer, January must confront her pain.

The House in the Cerulean Sea  by T.J. Klune

Linus is a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, and he’s very good at his job. But he’s thrown for a loop when he’s given a special assignment to inspect an unusual orphanage and observe its caretaker, Arthur, for a month. The kids there are suspicious of him, and they’re harboring a giant secret. But as Linus spends more time with them and comes to care for them all, especially Arthur, Linus will find that doing the right thing and following the rules aren’t always the same when it comes to these kids.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe  by Benjamin Alire Saenz

In this award-winner, Aristotle is angry at the world and struggling to make sense of the injustices and the wrongs he sees. Dante is calm and quick to smile with a unique perspective on the world. Their friendship is instantaneous but soon they find that maybe they could be something more, if only they’re brave enough to take that step.

The Half-Orphan’s Handbook  by Joan F. Smith

Lila lost her father to suicide, and as a result her coping mechanism is to not love or trust anyone new. But when she’s sent to a grief camp for teens who’ve lost an immediate family member, she’s forced to confront her grief head on…and soon learns that there’s more to her father’s death than she knows.

If You Could Be Mine   by Sara Farizan

Sahar has been in love with her best friend Nasrin for years, but they live in Iran where being queer is illegal. However, when Nasrin’s parents announce her engagement, Sahar becomes desperate. It may be illegal to be queer, but it’s not illegal to be transgender. If Sahar transitions, she could be with her love…but does she have the courage to make such a drastic change when she’s not trans, in order to be with the girl she loves?

Early Departures   by Justin A. Reynolds

Jamal’s best friend Q is dead, but when a new technology allows him to come back for just a few weeks (but without knowing about his impending death), Jamal is determined to bring him back in order to make up for all of his mistakes. But with only a few weeks, can Jamal really make things right between them without telling him the whole truth?

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All   by Laura Ruby

Frankie and her sister weren’t supposed to be at the orphanage for long–their father was supposed to come back for them. But when he heads out west with a new woman and no intentions of collecting them, Frankie must find the strength within her to build a life for herself and her sister and not lose hope.

We Are Okay  by Nina LaCour

Marin lost her grandfather at the end of senior year and, unable to face her grief, left for college without saying goodbye to anyone. Now it’s the holiday break and her best friend Mabel is coming to visit. Marin both can’t wait and is dreading facing her best friend, knowing that doing so will force her to confront the secrets and the hurt she’s been avoiding.

The Astonishing Color of After  by Emily X.R. Pan

Leigh is wracked with guilt–while she was having her first kiss, her mother was dying by suicide. Now in the dark depths of grief, Leigh asks her dad if she can travel to Taiwan to meet the grandparents she doesn’t know and try and make sense of her mother’s life. While there, she encounters a gorgeous bird that Leigh is convinced is her mother. And her mother is trying to tell her something–but what?

Want more great reads or books that make you cry? Check out our  best LGBTQ+ YA book recommendations , and our  best recommendations for dark academia . And if you still want more great tearjerkers, sign up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations!

TBR is a personalized book recommendation service that sends you books you’ll love to read. Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as books that will make you cry–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Bibliologist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers in the mail in about three to four weeks.  Learn more and sign up now!

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books make you cry

8 Touching Books That Will Make You Cry Like a Baby

books make you cry

Yes, there are those books that completely shatter you and have you throwing them across the room. But sometimes a good tearjerking novel is just what the book gods have ordered. We asked you via our Instagram stories about the last book that made you cry like a baby and we’re sharing your picks with the world! Read these books and have a good cry, you deserve it.

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Family, legacy, and buried secrets wrapped in gorgeous moving language—SING, UNBURIED, SING has all the ingredients for a misty-eyed read. Thirteen-year-old Jojo and his younger sister accompany their mother on a trip through Mississippi to pick up their father from the state penitentiary. This evocative family saga examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds.

Read the full review of SING, UNBURIED, SING .

books make you cry

WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

A finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and a New York Times bestseller, this majestic, stirring, and widely praised novel from two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, the story of a family on a journey through rural Mississippi, is a “tour de force” ( O, The Oprah Magazine ) and a timeless work of fiction that is destined to become a classic.

Jesmyn Ward’s historic second National Book Award–winner is “perfectly poised for the moment” ( The New York Times ), an intimate portrait of three generations of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. “Ward’s writing throbs with life, grief, and love… this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it” ( Buzzfeed ).

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic and unforgettable family story and “an odyssey through rural Mississippi’s past and present” ( The Philadelphia Inquirer ).

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The Great Believers

More than one of our Instagram readers picked THE GREAT BELIEVERS as the last book that made them cry . . . and we totally agree with you. Rebecca Makkai’s dazzling novel is about a circle of artistic friends consumed by the AIDS epidemic in 1985 Chicago and the few survivors who reunite thirty years later in Paris. The two stories—past and present—intertwine and take us through the heartbreak of the 80s and the chaos of the modern world as these incredible characters seek out goodness.

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The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini’s unforgettable and heartbreaking debut novel will enlighten you, sadden you, and challenge your idea of what it means to be good. Set against the backdrop of tumultuous, war-torn Afghanistan, this sweeping story of friendship, family, and redemption has become a beloved classic.

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Set against the backdrop of tumultuous, war-torn Afghanistan, THE KITE RUNNER is an unforgettable and heartbreaking story of friendship, family, and redemption.

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles

You wouldn’t think that a stories collection from the mind behind BoJack Horseman would be on a list of tearjerking reads. And yet, here we are. SOMEONE WHO WILL LOVE YOU IN ALL YOUR DAMAGED GLORY is an offbeat collection about love in its highest, lowest, and weirdest forms. Perhaps the relatable part might make you cry but the dark humor will definitely make you laugh.

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An Invisible Thread

When Lauren Schroff encounters an eleven-year-old panhandler on the street she doesn’t plan to stop. But then she changes her mind and gives him spare change. She does this every day for the next three decades. AN INVISIBLE THREAD is the story of an unexpected lifelong friendship between a busy sales rep and a disadvantaged young boy. If this story of friendship and kindness doesn’t make you cry, we don’t know what will.

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A Man Called Ove

Ove is a lonely and cranky old man with staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. When an annoyingly friendly couple and their two children move in next door, Ove finds himself with several unexpected new friends, an unkempt cat, and a new outlook on life.

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“If you like to laugh AND feel moved AND have your heart applaud wildly for fictional characters, you will certainly fall for the grumpy but lovable Ove (it’s pronounced “Oo-vuh,” if you were wondering).”

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Paula

A personal and moving memoir, PAULA is titled after Isabel Allende’s daughter who fell gravely ill in 1991 and passed away thereafter. PAULA is filled with the words Allende wished to tell her daughter and written as a letter to her—about the events that unfolded during her coma, Allende’s childhood and bitter memories, of secrets, and of their curious ancestors.

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Bookworm Era

Bookworm Era

Books That Will Make You Cry: A Rollercoaster of Emotions

Posted: November 15, 2023 | Last updated: November 15, 2023

<p>Books have a unique power to touch our hearts and move us to tears. Whether it’s through heart-wrenching stories or beautifully written prose, these books have a way of evoking powerful emotions. Here are 15 titles, classics, and contemporary gems known to tug at heartstrings and leave readers reaching for the tissues.</p>

Books have a unique power to touch our hearts and move us to tears. Whether it’s through heart-wrenching stories or beautifully written prose, these books have a way of evoking powerful emotions. Here are 15 titles, classics, and contemporary gems known to tug at heartstrings and leave readers reaching for the tissues.

<p>Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” weaves a poignant tale of friendship, betrayal, and redemption set against the backdrop of war-torn Afghanistan. Through its powerful storytelling, readers are confronted with its characters’ raw and complex emotions, making it a deeply moving experience.</p>

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” weaves a poignant tale of friendship, betrayal, and redemption set against the backdrop of war-torn Afghanistan. Through its powerful storytelling, readers are confronted with its characters’ raw and complex emotions, making it a deeply moving experience.

<p>Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life” explores friendship and trauma emotionally intensely. This novel delves into the lives of four friends, focusing on Jude, a man haunted by a painful past. The emotional depth and realism of the characters’ struggles are bound to leave readers teary-eyed.</p>

“A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihara’s “A Little Life” explores friendship and trauma emotionally intensely. This novel delves into the lives of four friends, focusing on Jude, a man haunted by a painful past. The emotional depth and realism of the characters’ struggles are bound to leave readers teary-eyed.

<p>John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” is a modern classic that tackles love, loss, and the human condition in the face of terminal illness. The heartrending journey of Hazel and Gus as they navigate the complexities of young love while battling cancer has resonated deeply with readers worldwide.</p>

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” is a modern classic that tackles love, loss, and the human condition in the face of terminal illness. The heartrending journey of Hazel and Gus as they navigate the complexities of young love while battling cancer has resonated deeply with readers worldwide.

<p>Fredrik Backman’s “A Man Called Ove” introduces readers to a grumpy yet endearing character who discovers unexpected connections and purpose in the most unlikely places. This touching tale of love, loss, and the human capacity for change is guaranteed to elicit both tears and laughter.</p>

“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman’s “A Man Called Ove” introduces readers to a grumpy yet endearing character who discovers unexpected connections and purpose in the most unlikely places. This touching tale of love, loss, and the human capacity for change is guaranteed to elicit both tears and laughter.

<p>Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief” is narrated by Death and follows the life of Liesel Meminger in Nazi Germany. Through Death’s perspective, readers witness the profound impact of Liesel’s story and her enduring love for books. The novel’s beautifully crafted prose and heartrending moments make it a true tearjerker.</p>

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief” is narrated by Death and follows the life of Liesel Meminger in Nazi Germany. Through Death’s perspective, readers witness the profound impact of Liesel’s story and her enduring love for books. The novel’s beautifully crafted prose and heartrending moments make it a true tearjerker.

<p>Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” is a poignant dystopian novel exploring love, mortality, and the human soul. Set in a world where human clones exist solely for organ donation, juxtaposed with its devastating premise, the novel’s gentle prose creates a deeply emotional reading experience.</p>

“Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” is a poignant dystopian novel exploring love, mortality, and the human soul. Set in a world where human clones exist solely for organ donation, juxtaposed with its devastating premise, the novel’s gentle prose creates a deeply emotional reading experience.

<p>M.L. Stedman’s “The Light Between Oceans” is a tale of moral dilemmas, heartbreak, and the enduring power of love. Set against a remote Australian lighthouse backdrop, the novel explores the consequences of one couple’s fateful decision. Its exploration of grief and redemption is sure to leave readers moved.</p>

“The Light Between Oceans” by M.L. Stedman

M.L. Stedman’s “The Light Between Oceans” is a tale of moral dilemmas, heartbreak, and the enduring power of love. Set against a remote Australian lighthouse backdrop, the novel explores the consequences of one couple’s fateful decision. Its exploration of grief and redemption is sure to leave readers moved.

<p>Jennifer Niven’s “All the Bright Places” follows the unlikely bond between Violet and Finch, two teenagers struggling with their own inner demons. Through their poignant journey, the novel addresses mental health issues with sensitivity and authenticity, making it a powerful and emotionally resonant read.</p>

“All the Bright Places” by Jennifer Niven

Jennifer Niven’s “All the Bright Places” follows the unlikely bond between Violet and Finch, two teenagers struggling with their own inner demons. Through their poignant journey, the novel addresses mental health issues with sensitivity and authenticity, making it a powerful and emotionally resonant read.

<p>Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale” is a sweeping historical novel that follows the lives of two sisters in Nazi-occupied France. As they navigate love, sacrifice, and resistance, the novel highlights the extraordinary strength of women during wartime. The heartrending sacrifices the characters make will surely leave readers in tears.</p>

“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale” is a sweeping historical novel that follows the lives of two sisters in Nazi-occupied France. As they navigate love, sacrifice, and resistance, the novel highlights the extraordinary strength of women during wartime. The heartrending sacrifices the characters make will surely leave readers in tears.

<p>Jojo Moyes’ “Me Before You” explores the transformative power of love through the complex relationship between Louisa Clark and Will Traynor. The novel delves into themes of life, choice, and acceptance, ultimately leading to a deeply emotional and thought-provoking conclusion that resonates long after the final page.</p>

“Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes’ “Me Before You” explores the transformative power of love through the complex relationship between Louisa Clark and Will Traynor. The novel delves into themes of life, choice, and acceptance, ultimately leading to a deeply emotional and thought-provoking conclusion that resonates long after the final page.

<p>Renée Carlino’s “Before We Were Strangers” takes readers on a nostalgic journey of lost love and second chances. The novel explores the enduring connection between Grace and Matt through the lens of fate and missed opportunities. The emotional intensity of their reconnection is bound to tug at readers’ heartstrings.</p>

“Before We Were Strangers” by Renée Carlino

Renée Carlino’s “Before We Were Strangers” takes readers on a nostalgic journey of lost love and second chances. The novel explores the enduring connection between Grace and Matt through the lens of fate and missed opportunities. The emotional intensity of their reconnection is bound to tug at readers’ heartstrings.

<p>Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece that follows a father and son’s harrowing journey through a desolate landscape. The novel’s stark prose and unflinching portrayal of survival in a brutal world evoke profound emotions, leaving readers both heartbroken and inspired by the enduring bond between parent and child.</p>

“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece that follows a father and son’s harrowing journey through a desolate landscape. The novel’s stark prose and unflinching portrayal of survival in a brutal world evoke profound emotions, leaving readers both heartbroken and inspired by the enduring bond between parent and child.

<p>Colm Tóibín’s “Brooklyn” is a beautifully crafted novel that explores the immigrant experience through the eyes of Eilis Lacey. Readers are drawn into a tender and emotionally resonant narrative as she navigates love, homesickness, and the complexities of belonging.</p>

“Brooklyn” by Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín’s “Brooklyn” is a beautifully crafted novel that explores the immigrant experience through the eyes of Eilis Lacey. Readers are drawn into a tender and emotionally resonant narrative as she navigates love, homesickness, and the complexities of belonging.

<p>Paul Kalanithi’s poignant memoir, “When Breath Becomes Air,” chronicles his journey from neurosurgeon to terminal cancer patient. Through eloquent reflections on life, death, and the pursuit of meaning, Kalanithi invites readers to contemplate their own mortality with grace and wisdom.</p>

“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi’s poignant memoir, “When Breath Becomes Air,” chronicles his journey from neurosurgeon to terminal cancer patient. Through eloquent reflections on life, death, and the pursuit of meaning, Kalanithi invites readers to contemplate their own mortality with grace and wisdom.

<p>Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones” offers a unique perspective on life after death through the voice of a murdered teenage girl, Susie Salmon. As Susie watches over her family from her personal heaven, the novel explores themes of grief, healing, and the enduring power of love, making it a profoundly moving and unforgettable read.</p>

“The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold

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15 BookTok Recommendations That You'll Read in a Single Sitting . . . Then Sob For Days

Published on 3/30/2021 at 5:55 PM

books make you cry

If you're looking for well-reviewed novels that are guaranteed to make you cry, there's no shortage of recommendations on TikTok. The BookTok community has become a reliable corner of the internet to find must-read books . Certain stories have become notoriously known as tear-jerkers among book TikTok creators and their followers, the videos sharing these stories are often flooded with comments that confirm just how much the book made them cry and encourage you to see for yourself.

From modern love stories to historical fiction to true story memoirs, here are 15 book recommendations that are guaranteed to make you cry.

We Were Liars

We Were Liars

Perhaps the most popular reaction to reading the end of We Were Liars by E. Lockhard is absolute shock. This young-adult novel follows four privileged kids who spend their summers together on a private island. It tells the story of Cadence, a protagonist who is unable to remember the events that took place one summer. Don't be surprised if you finish this book in one sitting.

They Both Die At The End

They Both Die At The End

The title of Adam Silvera's novel pretty much sums up the heartbreaking premise of this novel. They Both Die At The End is about two strangers who find out they are going to die today. In an effort to live a lifetime in a single day, the pair connect through an app and decide to spend an adventurous last day together.

Chinese Cinderella

Chinese Cinderella

In a moving and powerful memoir titled Chinese Cinderella , Adeline Yen Mah tells the true story of her painful childhood. After her mother died giving birth and her father eventually remarries, Adeline is left yearning for love and understanding from her family. The author writes about growing up in China during the 1940s as an unloved stepdaughter.

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles

Madeline Miller has received critical acclaim following the release of her debut novel The Song of Achilles . This novel is retelling of the Iliad told from the perspective of Achilles's best friend, Patroclus. This fresh take features an action-packed adventure and love story twist all in one.

All The Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See

Any story that takes place during the Second World War is presumably a tear-jerker, and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is no exception. This historical fiction novel tells the story of a blind French girl and German boy who meet in occupied Paris. It's a hauntingly-beautiful story with vivid writing that is more than likely to make you cry.

A World Without You

A World Without You

A World Without You written by Beth Revis is about a 17-year-old boy named Bo with time traveling delusions. Bo falls in love with Sofia after being sent to a school for kids with "superpowers." Tragically, Sofia dies of suicide to escape her depression. Because of his time traveling mind, Bo believes she is not actually dead and that it's up to him to save her from the past.

The Way I Used To Be

The Way I Used To Be

In The Way I Used To Be , Eden's simple life is turns upside down after she is sexually assaulted by her brother's best friend. Amber Smith writes about Eden's story in four parts — freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year. The revealing novel explores Eden's reality of trauma while she learns to embrace the power of survival.

Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter written by Gary D. Schmidt is heart-wrenching story that has left many of its readers in tears. It's about a young father named Joseph who has never seen his daughter named Jupiter. He is sent to a foster home in rural Maine after spending time in a juvenile facility. The story of Joseph's efforts to find his baby are narrated by 12-year-old Jack, a boy he meets in foster care.

Life In A Fishbowl

Life In A Fishbowl

After her father is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, 15-year-old Jackie is faced with an odd situation. Her father has put his life up for auction on eBay in an effort to take care of his family financially after he's gone. Life In A Fishbowl by Len Vlahos is a unique story that leaves readers questioning how a tragic and unconventional bidding war will end.

A Little Life

A Little Life

Hanya Yanagihara's novel A Little Lie is a deeply moving story about four college friends who move to New York in search of fame and fortune. The group is held together by Jude who has dealt with a lot of trauma from his childhood. This novel follows the tragedies these four men face in a gripping and deeply moving way of writing.

The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color Of After follows Leigh, a woman who believes her mother turned into a bird after she died by suicide. Emily X.R. Pan writes about the character's grieving process as she journeys to Taiwan with the goal of finding her mother as a bird. The emotional story alternates from the past and present as Leigh uncovers family secrets and forges new relationships with her grandparents.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye

The Last Time We Say Goodbye

In The Last Time We Say Goodbye , Lex is holding onto a secret that's haunting her after the loss of her brother. Before he dies by suicide, Tyler sends Lex a text that could have changed everything. Cynthia Hand's novel is both heart-wrenching and insightful that will stay with you long after you've read its 400 pages.

Like A Love Story

Like A Love Story

Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazemian takes place in New York City in 1989. The story follows three teenagers, one of them being Reza. He's an Iranian boy who knows he is gay but is struggling to embrace his true self because of the media's negative portrayal of gay men. The story also follows an aspiring fashion designer named Judy and her best friend Art, who is their school's only out and proud teen.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns is written by Khaled Hosseini, the author who also gave us The Kite Runner . This story is about two Afghan women from different generations named Mariam and Laila. The women face escalating dangers in their home and in the streets of Kabul. Reviews of the book say it's hard to read, but ultimately worth it because of the love, self-sacrifice and heroism demonstrated throughout.

Angel of Greenwood

Angel of Greenwood

Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink is a historical fiction that's set in Greenwood, Oklahoma known as "Black Wall Street". The novel follows two teenagers named Isaiah and Angel who start spending time together after being offered jobs on a mobile library. Their lives are soon changed forever when mobs of white supremacists attack the city's Black residents and businesses during the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921.

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Authentically Del

Self-Care, Mental Wellness, & Self-Improvement

in Reading , Self-Care · January 3, 2023

11 Emotional Romance Books to Make You Cry

This post may contain affiliate links meaning that, I may make commission if you purchase through my links. Learn More . 

There’s something extra special about reading an emotional romance book that makes you cry because it’s just THAT good…

emotional tear-jerker romance novels

I love a happy rom-com book as much as anyone, but there is something about a romance book that makes you cry that just feels even more powerful.

Emotional romance books have been my FAVORITE books to read this past year.

As someone who never really cried reading books, I have been pleasantly surprised by the emotional romance books I’ve read this past year.

On multiple occasions, I’ve found myself sobbing (like full-on ugly crying) over a romance book. To me, if a romance book makes you cry, that’s a sign that it’s a good one.

When your connection to the characters and storyline is so deeply touching that you feel the emotions of the characters as though they are your own… THAT’S a good romance novel.

Here are 11 emotional romance books that made me cry (and I’m sure they’ll make you cry too!).

books make you cry

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11 Intense Emotional Romance Books to Make You Cry

Ready to shed some tears and get in your feels? Emotionally prepare yourself for these 17 novels that are sure to tug on your heartstrings.

1. If He Had Been with Me by Laura Nowlin

books make you cry

BUY ON AMAZON

Summary: “If he had been with me, everything would have been different…

Autumn and Finn used to be inseparable. But then something changed. Or they changed. Now, they do their best to ignore each other.

Autumn has her boyfriend Jamie, and her close-knit group of friends. And Finn has become that boy at school, the one everyone wants to be around.

That still doesn’t stop the way Autumn feels every time she and Finn cross paths and the growing, nagging thought that maybe things could have been different. Maybe they should be together.

But come August, things will change forever..” (Amazon Summary)

I first discovered this book through one of my favorite book YouTubers, Sara Carolli . This book was described to me as being “heartbreaking”, but that still didn’t prepare me.

This is one of the most emotional romance books I’ve read… and that surprised me since the characters in this book are so young (high school age).

I normally don’t feel so deeply connected to young adult romances, but If He Had Been with Me got me good.

Autumn and Finn’s story had be smiling, laughing, cringing, and, ultimately, SOBBING. Even though I knew what was coming, the ending of this book still had me reaching for the tissues.

If you are looking for a romance book to make you cry, this is a definite must-read.

2. Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover

sad romance books

Summary: “After serving five years in prison for a tragic mistake, Kenna Rowan returns to the town where it all went wrong, hoping to reunite with her four-year-old daughter. But everyone in her daughter’s life is determined to shut Kenna out.

The only person who hasn’t closed the door on her completely is Ledger Ward, a local bar owner and one of the few remaining links to Kenna’s daughter. But if anyone were to discover how Ledger is slowly becoming an important part of Kenna’s life, both would risk losing the trust of everyone important to them.

The two form a connection despite the pressure surrounding them. Kenna must find a way to absolve the mistakes of her past in order to build a future out of hope and healing.” (Amazon Summary)

This is the very first book that made me cry since getting back into reading as an adult… and by “cry”, I mean SOB.

I wasn’t even halfway through this book the first time it made tears fall.

This emotional romance novel is a bit different from the others . It’s not specifically the romance element of this book that makes it emotional (although Kenna and Ledger’s relationship is deeply touching too).

However, it’s the story of a mother/daughter connection that really made this book stand out to me.

In my opinion, this is Colleen Hoover’s best book.

I have never felt so deeply connected to characters, relationships, and a plotline as quickly as I did in this book.

PRINTABLE READING JOURNAL

reading journal printable

3. The Wish by Nicholas Sparks

emotional romance novels

Summary : “1996 was the year that changed everything for Maggie Dawes. Sent away at 16 to live with an aunt she barely knew, she could think only of the friends and family she left behind . . . until she met Bryce Trickett. Handsome, genuine, and new to West Point, Bryce showed her how much there was to love about the beach town—and introduced her to photography, a passion that would define the rest of her life.

By 2019, Maggie is a renowned travel photographer. This year she is grounded over Christmas, struggling to come to terms with a sobering medical diagnosis. Increasingly dependent on a young assistant, she finds herself becoming close to him.

As they count down the last days of the season together, she begins to tell him the story of another Christmas, decades earlier… ” (Amazon Summary)

I read this book at Christmastime, expecting a cute, light, and easy read. Needless to say, I was not prepared for how deeply emotional and intense this book is.

For me, Nicholas Sparks’ novels are really hit or miss. I either love them or hate them.

The Wish was definitely one I LOVED.

There are so many elements to this story that made me feel ALL the feels.

From teen pregnancy, to a break-up, to heartbreak, to terminal illness, to familial relationships and so much more… This book has it all.

If you’re ready for an emotional romance novel that will stick with you for years, this is definitely the book for you.

I STILL think of this book to this day (over a year later).

4. Addicted to You by Krista and Becca Ritchie

romance books to make you cry

Summary : “No one would suspect shy Lily Calloway’s biggest secret. While everyone is dancing at college bars, Lily stays in the bathroom. To get laid. The only person who knows her secret happens to have one of his own.

Loren Hale’s best friend is his bottle of bourbon. Lily comes at a close second. For three years, they’ve pretended to be in a relationship, hiding their addictions from their families…

But as they sink beneath the weight of their addictions, they cling harder to their destructive relationship and wonder if a life together, for real, is better than a lie. Strangers and family begin to infiltrate their guarded lives, and with new challenges, they realize they may not just be addicted to alcohol and sex. Their real vice may be each other.” (Amazon Summary)

Addicted to You is the first book of the full Addicted series. This entire series is an emotional romance must-read.

The Addicted Series:

  • Addicted to You
  • Addicted for Now
  • Addicted After All

For the sake of this book list, I chose to focus on the first book, but know that the full series is a tear-jerking masterpiece.

This series beautifully intertwines the complexity and reality of addiction, complicated family dynamics, friends-to-lovers romance, and the deep pain of the potential to lose someone you love.

In so many ways, this book feels like real life. This is part of what makes this book such a tear-jerker. The connection to Lily and Lowen is so deep that you begin to feel like you know them personally.

Each book in this series has made me cry for many different reasons.

If you haven’t read these books yet, do yourself a favor and pick up Addicted to You to get started.

5. Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan

archer's voice - emotional romance book

Summary : “When Bree Prescott arrives in the sleepy, lakeside town of Pelion, Maine, she hopes against hope that this is the place where she will finally find the peace she so desperately seeks. On her first day there, her life collides with Archer Hale, an isolated man who holds a secret agony of his own. A man no one else sees.

Archer’s Voice  is the story of a woman chained to the memory of one horrifying night and the man whose love is the key to her freedom. It is the story of a silent man who lives with an excruciating wound and the woman who helps him find his voice. It is the story of suffering, fate, and the transformative power of love.” (GoodReads Summary)

This book is equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking .

Archer’s Voice is complex, well-written, and (most of all) EMOTIONAL.

Bree and Archer are both deep, lovable, relatable, and touching characters. This book had me invested within the first 20-ish pages.

If you’re looking for a tragically beautiful romance book to make you cry, pick up Archer’s Voice (and grab the tissues).

6. Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

seven husbands of evelyn hugo - books to make you cry

Summary : “Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

The actress tells her story, from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ambition, friendship, and a great forbidden love. As Evelyn’s story nears its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.”

(Amazon Summary)

I’ll be honest. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books are not always my favorite. Similar to Colleen Hoover ad Nicholas Sparks, I find that I either fall 100% in love with her books or feel they really fell short.

That said, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one of her best books in my opinion.

This book mixes old-school Hollywood, scandal, drama, and romance with messages about growing up, discovering who you are, societal pressures, sexuality, and loss.

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE: AUGUST 2022 READING RECAP

Not to mention, the plot twist at the end of this book had me surprised and completely caught off guard.

The wide range of emotions I felt while reading this is unlike my experience with any other book I’ve read.

This book is definitely worth the hype and worth the read if you’re looking for a deep, intense, emotional romance book that will make you cry.

7. Things We Leave Unfinished by Rebecca Yarros

things we leave unfinished - emotional romance books

Summary : “Twenty-eight-year-old Georgia Stanton has to start over after she gave up almost everything in a brutal divorce—the New York house, the friends, and her pride. Now back home at her late great-grandmother’s estate in Colorado, she finds herself face-to-face with Noah Harrison, the bestselling author of a million books where the cover is always people nearly kissing. He’s just as arrogant in person as in interviews, and she’ll be damned if the good-looking writer of love stories thinks he’s the one to finish her grandmother’s final novel…even if the publisher swears he’s the perfect fit..”

(Read the Full Summary on GoodReads)

This book has two love stories within two timelines unraveling at once. You know what that means… double the emotions ad double the tears.

I normally don’t love stories written in a different time period (I sometimes struggle to connect), but this book is the exception.

One of the love stories takes place in the ’40s, but it had me invested as if it was my own.

This book is tragically beautiful. So good it hurts.

If you want an emotional romance book, this is definitely one to add to your TBR.

8. All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

romance books to make you cry

Summary : “Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?”

I loved that this book overlapped with Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless series. If you read the final book in the Hopeless series, Finding Perfect , you will recognize Quinn and Graham.

( Side note: Hopeless is one of my few 5-star CoHo reads. It’s another romance book that will make you cry…)

When I read All Your Perfects , I truly had to take breaks because I felt so emotionally impacted by the story. It is deep, emotional, painful, and… WOW.

If you’re looking for a tear-jerker, pick up All Your Perfects .

9. Underneath the Sycamore Tree by B. Celeste

underneath the sycamore tree

Summary : “Emery Matterson’s life has been broken for a while. First, she lost her twin sister to an incurable autoimmune disease. Then her father left. Now Emery has been diagnosed with the same disease that killed her sister, and her mother is falling apart. Unable to live under the same roof anymore, the only option for Emery is to move in with a father she hasn’t seen in ten years and try to start over.

Enter Kaiden Monroe, the brooding athlete who has baggage of his own. Kaiden makes Emery feel normal. Hated. Cared for. Loathed. And…loved. Somewhere along the way, Emery finds solace in the guy with the sad eyes.

But everything happens in stages. And nothing good ever lasts.” (Amazon Summary)

Hello, tear-jerker romance.

Illness, loss, tragedy, love, romance, grief, pain, joy… this book has it all at once (and in the most beautiful way).

As someone who has seen loved ones touched by invisible illness, this book felt incredibly raw, authentic, and painfully inspiring.

Illness and grief meet beauty and love – and it had me sobbing on multiple occasions.

This may be the most underrated romance book that will make you cry. Why aren’t more people talking about this one?!

10. Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

ugly love - romance books to make you cry

Summary : “When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she doesn’t think it’s love at first sight. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past. Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Hearts get infiltrated. Promises get broken. Rules get shattered. Love gets ugly.” (Amazon Summary)

If you were to look up “emotional romance book”, I think this book would be the definition.

This “brother’s best friend”, “casual hookup to lovers” romance tugs on the heartstrings.

Read my full review of Ugly Love (& 9 other books) in my July 2022 Reading Recap .

From the outside, Miles seems completely cold and emotionally unavailable.

However, as we learn more about him throughout the book (in alternating chapters sharing his past from his POV), we learn that he has faced immense grief that has made him into the man he is today… independent, isolated, and afraid of love.

Miles’ solo history AND his current love story with Tate had me in tears a few different times.

This was the 3rd Colleen Hoover book I ever read (I’ve read them ALL now!) – and to this day it’s in my top 3 favorites.

11. A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

a thousand boy kisses | sad romance books

Summary : “When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind: Why did the girl who was one-half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation?

Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent.

When he discovers the truth, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.” (Amazon Summary)

Amazon was spot on by labeling this a “young adult tearjerker romance book”.

As I write this, this is the last book I’ve read. I am not exaggerating when I say that this book BROKE MY HEART .

I was only about 40% through this book the first time it made me cry. (The tears didn’t stop there though.)

This childhood-friends-to-lovers romance is complex and deeply, deeply emotional. My heart broke many times while reading this.

This is a book I will never forget.

I think I will go as far as to say this is in my top 5 books ever. (Yes, it’s THAT good.)

What emotional romance books have made you cry?

(Does anyone else think that the books that make you cry are the best books of all?)

If you’ve ever had a romance book make you cry, I need to know. I live for a good cry-worthy romance.

What’s your favorite tearjerker romance book?

Whether it’s on this list or not, leave a comment below sharing your favorite emotional romance novel that made you feel all the feels.

Lastly, if you read any of these books, let me know what you think. I absolutely adored these 11 books and I hope you will too!

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romance books that will make you cry

Hi! I’m Delaney (but you can call me Del)! Welcome to Authentically Del where we discuss all things self-care, productivity, self-improvement, mindset, and more. I'm here to offer authentic tips and advice in hopes that I can help make your life a bit brighter! More About Me...

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Classic Books That Will Make You Cry: 15 Books to Stir Your Emotions

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1. to kill a mockingbird by harper lee, 2. the great gatsby by f. scott fitzgerald.

books make you cry

Francis Cugat , Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

3. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

4. the fault in our stars by john green .

books make you cry

Photo by Yosuke Ota on Unsplash

5. Kite-Runner by Khaled Hosseini

6. all the bright places by jennifer niven, 7. if i stay by gayle forman.

books make you cry

Larry D. Moore , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

8. Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover

9. the perks of being a wallflower by stephen chbosky.

books make you cry

FLC001 , CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

10. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

11. the time traveler’s wife by audrey niffenegger, 12. a thousand splendid suns by khaled hosseini, 13. where the red fern grows by wilson rawls, 14. a man called ove by fredrik backman, 15. all of your perfects by colleen hoover.

books make you cry

M RAHIL 2004 , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

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Adventures in Fantasy Literature

Great books make you cry, wednesday, february 21, 2024 rich horton comments 23 comments.

John Crowley’s Flint and Mirror (Tor, April 2022), Engine Summer (Bantam, December 1983), and The Translator (William Morrow/HarperCollins, April 2002). Covers: unknown, Yvonne Gilbert, Chin-Yee Lai

Recently I mentioned that passages in John Crowley’s Flint and Mirror made me cry… and it was (nicely) hinted that maybe it’s odd for men to cry while reading.

The thing is, I cry often while reading. Sometimes for sad events, sometimes for joy, sometimes for anger, sometimes for wonder, sometimes for sheer beauty.

I mean, Crowley does it to me all the time. The conclusion of Engine Summer makes me tear up just thinking about it. (“Ever after. I promise. Now close your eyes.”) And the same for a few passages in The Translator . I was tearing up just trying to talk about “Great Work of Time” at a panel at Boskone a few years ago.

[Click images for sizes that will make you cry.]

Flying in Place by Susan Palwick (Tor, May 1992), The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (Ballantine Books, 1969,) and Ares Express by Ian McDonald (Pyr, March 2010). Covers by Paul Stinson, Gervasio Gallardo, and Stephan Martiniere

Le Guin does it too — the last paragraph of “The Stars Below” always gets me. (“Stars and gatherings of stars, depth below depth without end, the light.”) And the scene in “Nine Lives” when Kaph finally really sees Pugh “holding out his hand in the dark.”

But lots more. I remember reading Susan Palwick’s Flying in Place over lunch at work, and finishing the book — probably about the whole last half of the book! — in abject tears, at my desk.

The great scene towards the end of Middlemarch , when Dorothea and Rosamond have their talk.

The Sky So Big and Black by John Barnes (Tor, October 2003), Aspects by John M. Ford (Tor, April 2022), and Jem by Frederik Pohl (Bantam, April 1980). Covers by Vince Natale, Marisa Aragón Ware, uncredited

The Last Unicorn , of course. Or the sheer awe in Ian McDonald’s Ares Express . When we realize what has happened to Terpsichore in John Barnes’ The Sky So Big and Black . Passage after beautiful passage in John M. Ford’s Aspects .

For an example of anger making me cry (and throw the book across the room): Jem , by Frederik Pohl. (Not anger at Pohl, but at the stupidity of the human race in that book.)

Maybe I’m just an old softy, but, dang it, that sort of thing is part of what art is supposed to do.

Rich Horton’s last article for us was an obituary for Christopher Priest . His website is Strange at Ecbatan . Rich has written over 200 articles for Black Gate , see them all  here .

guest

For me it’s the end of the chapter “The Siege of Gondor” in The Return of the King. And the final page or so of Watership Down. Just saying the words from memory in my head can set it off. The ending of The Masters of Solitude (where Singer finishes carving the epitaph for his mother that he started years before) is also a candidate.

Rich Horton

Indeed, though my favorite line in The Return of the King is the very last: “Well, I’m back.”

Thomas Parker

Some passages in LOTR get me misty, and though it’s not a sf or fantasy novel, when Septimus Harding died at the end of Trollope’s Last Chronicle of Barset (no spoiler here, the book is 150 years old), I cried like a baby.

I couldn’t agree with you more, Rich – this is what art is supposed to do. Especially as I get older, I less and less want stoic tough guys slo-mo walking away from enormous explosions, or cars flipping end over end through the air, or spandex ciphers belting each other to no purpose other than setting up the next installment in the franchise.

More and more, I find that what I want is just to be moved, to see or read something that will actually make me feel something; I’ve discovered that I like nothing better than having my heart torn out.

We watched the entire John Wick sequence of films at my son’s urging. I can’t deny the technical excellence of much of the filming, but (even though they do try, unlike many action films) I just couldn’t care enough.

If you’ve already seen it, you’ll know why I’m recommending it, and if you haven’t, see it immediately – Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria.

I have not seen it! I will try to get to it. Now that my wife has gotten in the habit of turning subtitles on even for shows in English, she can’t complain if I want to watch a foreign film!

William H. Stoddard

There are several Kipling stories that choked me up when I read them aloud to my wife, including particularly “A Church There Was at Antioch” and “The Miracle of Purun Bhagat.

Oh, Kipling for sure. Add: “The Story of Muhammad Din”, and of course “The Gardener”.

Yves Meynard

Last time I reread Crowley’s _Little, Big_ I dissolved into tears on eight separate occasions; not at sad passages, but at points where I could feel the words go through my soul like a blade.

I am gearing up for a reread of Little, Big! (I got the new special edition, most I’ve ever spent for a book.)

K. Jespersen

–The sweet, sweet, so bitterly sweet and agonizing joy of seeing our friends the Lotus and the White Hole in the last pages of Diane Duane’s “So You Want to Be a Wizard.”

–The fifth book of Timothy Zahn’s Quadrail series, where he spends four.5 books making the Mo’hdri the sort of villain that one relishes detesting, and in the space of a single paragraph metamorphoses the Mo’hdri into someone whom the reader begs a happy ending for (the book sails across the room because I didn’t WANT to root for the Mo’hdri, but of course gets picked up again; it’s so easy for authors to take a character from beloved to loathed in an instant, but no other has ever turned a character from hated to treasured in four sentences– Zahn needs some sort of recognition for that feat), and then the terror and teary hope of watching the conclusion to the Mo’hdri.

–The part in C. S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce” where the wretched, struggling man with the lizard on his shoulder tumbles into such broken defeat and whispers the plea in such dejected desperation, to rise up in the fullness of glory, joy, wonder, and the rarest grace could never be read in full understanding without tears or pacing, or hopping in place.

No. Male, female, habitual, unusual– if the author can make us cry for the right reasons, we all deserve to shed our tears and the author deserves to have provoked them.

Thanks for sharing these small, great moments in books.

I only read the first of the Quadrail books and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t have enough reading time to get to the rest. Maybe I’ll do that soon!

And The Great Divorce is excellent, easily my favorite of Lewis’ works of apologia. (In part, I think, because of the George MacDonald influence, speaking of a writer who could me one cry! (At the Back of the North Wind is just wrenching, and The Golden Key is glorious.)

Others have gotten through book 3 of Quadrail and reached saturation on the setting, so the series may be worth reading spaced well apart. But if you do read through to the end, I hope that you enjoy it– and even more hope to gain a comrade in being torn between throttling and praising Zahn for the Mo’hdri trick.

Thank you for the recommendations for MacDonald. I’ll try those. His only work that I’ve read is “Phantastes,” and I struggled through it. Perhaps a box of tissues and a copy of “The Golden Key” is the order of the day for after work.

“The Golden Key” is quite short, and its available in a nice edition illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I reviewed it, and another MacDonald story illustrated by Sendak, “The Light Princess”, here: https://rrhorton.blogspot.com/2016/05/a-couple-george-macdonald-books-light.html

I too struggled with PHANTASTES. But a great many of his stories ostensibly aimed at children are really wonderful. (THE PRINCESS AND CURDIE and THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN, for two additional examples.)

Phantastes is a MacDonald I Haven’t read (it’s on TBR shelf, naturally), but I thought Lilith was tremendous, achingly deep and beautiful. A good one to go with it is C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, his most MacDonald-like work.

Excellent review, and thank you for pointing me toward it. It was very good to know what I’d get into prior to reading.

Jan Vaněk jr.

I don’t reread novels that often, and can’t remember what have this effect on me (anyway currently I prefer comfort re-reading if I’m to spend hours of my limited time), but I always get blurry-eyed with “The Man Who Lost the Sea”.

Definitely “The Man Who Lost the Sea” does it to me, too!

Eugene R.

I tend to water up with sentimental sections, real heart-string tuggers. Keith Laumer and his too-human Bolos can work the tear ducts on me, like the ending of “The Last Command”, with a long-buried, battered Bolo talking to its aged human commander :

“Command … Unit LNE reports main power cells drained, secondary cells drained; now operating at 0.037 per cent efficiency, using Final Emergency Power. Request advice as to range to be covered before relief maintenance available.” “It’s a long way, Lenny …” Sanders’s voice was a mere whisper. “But I’m coming with you.”

Since we rarely confuse this writing with great prose, I am left to wonder if a book makes you cry because it is good or if a book is good because it makes you cry, akin to the old theological conundrum (“Is it good because God loves it, or does God love it because it is good?”).

Posited: the theological conundrum is invalid as a conundrum, because God not only loves the good, but also loves the could-be-good. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have spent several single-minded millennia making a way for the broken-but-could-be-good humans to become good and get back to him.

Ergo: in writing, perhaps the book is good when we see the good or the could-be-good in it, whether the quantity is great, small, or so-close-to-being-there-but-not-yet. Since we all see the good and could-be-good in different books in different ways, that’s why we have debates over whether a book is good or is literature or not. And, like God, when we see the good and the could-be-good, our response is to cry and love it.

…Also, I read Laumer’s Retief instead of Bolos to avoid tears, but your quotation got me weeping over my sandwich. Dash it all!

If God loves all things, then do the best readers love all books? Hmm.

And I am also a Retief fan, which occasionally leads to tears of laughter.

mdhughes

One that gets me is Ben Bova’s “Stars Won’t You Hide Me”.

Clifford Simak’s “City” brings me to a halt every couple stories.

Joe H.

Yeah, there are some books (Lord of the Rings most definitely among them) where I have to kind of be careful to arrange things so that I’m reading the final few chapters when I’m safely at home by myself and not out in public.

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books make you cry

After Michael Harwell’s wife died of brain cancer two years ago, he learned to embrace the grieving process by relishing 56 years worth of memories from his marriage, and sharing them with friends. These reflections almost always end in tears, he said, followed by an apology for crying.

Harwell, 80, never saw a man cry while growing up in the '50s, so he inevitably viewed the act as a sign of “weakness.” 

Little would Harwell know that, decades later, an overwhelmingly simple website he found stuffed in a newsletter in his email inbox would help him realize just how wrong that thinking was and how right it feels to cry. 

The website, called Cry Once a Week , was designed to help people do just that. A button on the center of the page that reads “click to feel something” directs you to a video clip. You may watch Simba mourn the loss of his father in “The Lion King” or watch Harry profess his love for Sally on New Year’s Eve in “When Harry Met Sally.” 

Johnny Maroney, a 36-year-old multimedia artist in California, created and launched the website in December 2023 after he discovered Japanese academic Hidefumi Yoshida, who calls himself the “ tears teacher .” Yoshida offers “tears workshops” based on the idea that “crying once a week can relieve stress,” and may be a more effective stress reliever than laughing or sleeping. 

Maroney quickly became fascinated with research on the benefits of crying and wondered how technology can help make them more accessible. 

“I just wanted to create a space where people could allow themselves to feel something,” Maroney said. “I'm not saying this website is changing the world, but touching responses have made me realize that this is really helping some people.” 

About 250,000 people from nearly every country, including Antarctica, have visited the website since its inception, Maroney said, 10,000 of which have subscribed for weekly email reminders to cry.

Harwell is one of them. After watching a particularly emotional clip one day, he messaged Maroney with gratitude. 

“I directly relate my wife’s death and the grieving that I’ve gone through since with his idea of having an emotional moment,” Harwell said. “I wanted to let him know that the work he is doing has meaning.”

Mental health experts agree. 

Even though your life and the world at large may already give you enough reasons to cry, resources like this website can give you a rare opportunity to connect with pent-up emotions. 

“Years ago, a website like this would be a joke. Might be sad or useless at the very least. But these days, I think more and more people need a place where they can go to feel, ” said Gina Moffa , a grief and trauma therapist in New York City, and author of the “ Moving On Doesn't Mean Letting Go .” “So many people come into my office and report feeling numb or exhausted, or simply living in a state of survival. We can't emote in a state of survival. We are too busy, well, surviving.”

The benefits of crying 

Although crying once a week may not solve all your problems, most therapists agree that releasing tears in a safe way can help you feel better – regardless of whether it happens naturally. 

Studies suggest that crying activates your parasympathetic nervous system , which eases you out of “fight or flight” and into “rest and digest” mode. Crying also triggers the release of feel-good hormones that help relieve pain and reduce stress. Some researchers have hypothesized that the rhythmic inhalation of cool air when sobbing may have “ mood-improving effects .” 

In many cases, crying is most therapeutic when it’s personally meaningful or relevant because it may elicit empathy and social support from others, said Lauren Bylsma , an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied the effects of crying. (Some researchers have suggested that crying protected our ancestors from violence within their communities by encouraging bonding.)

Crying alone is especially powerful, Bylsma said, because it “forces the person to focus on the situation that induced the tears, which may lead to a new understanding and facilitate processing of emotions or lead to some solution.” 

It’s also OK if you can’t or don’t want to cry. 

“Some people simply don’t experience very strong emotions or a need to cry,” Bylsma said. “This is only really problematic if the person is chronically suppressing or avoiding their feelings, which can lead to unresolved emotions or difficulties connecting emotionally with others.”

Seeing a therapist, in this case, may be more helpful than watching short clips to spark tears, she said. 

Crying can have drawbacks 

Crying can have negative effects if you’re in an environment where you feel embarrassed or ashamed, which depends on many factors. Crying in front of judgmental coworkers, for example, may be less helpful than crying with a supportive family member, Bylsma said.

For those who are depressed or are dealing with an uncontrollable event like a loved one’s death, crying may not elicit any benefits either, research has found.

Shedding tears can take a toll on your body as well, clogging your sinuses and tensing your muscles, Moffa noted.

That said, experts agree that the benefits of crying far outweigh the potential disadvantages. 

“Whatever we resist persists," Moffa said, "so emotions that are not felt or expressed may end up manifesting in our bodies, and this can lead to many more dangerous issues than simply allowing ourselves the space, time and safety to feel our feelings and let ourselves cry.”

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