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53 Books That Will Definitely Make You Cry

I have all the subtlety of a hand grenade
1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Stephen Chbosky takes both the most unsettling and comforting parts of adolescence and makes something that resonates through adulthood. Charlies voice fits the wallflower experience perfectly from wanting to just fade away to trying to prove yourself to yourself. This novel proves that YA is great because, no matter what age, the juxtaposition of happiness and sadness depicted is something everyone will (or has to) experience.
Kaitlin Joyce
(Also recommended by Henar Barandiaran and Michaela Strauther.)
2. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

HarperCollins

HarperCollins

Rereading this book as an adult left me just as heartbroken as when I was a kid. Why do you do this to me, Sharon Creech? Why?? Sweet Sal, her remarkable story, and the adventure she shares with her wild grandparents has once again wiggled its way into my heart. And Im perfectly OK with that.
Denise K.
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Random House

Random House

Set in Nazi Germany during the second world war, this is a story about a young girl, her love for words, a lemon-haired boy, a Jew in hiding, a new mother, and an accordion-playing man. A heart-wrenching tale of love, loss, and curiosity terribly tragic and perfectly heartbreaking.
Cora E.
As soon as I hit the end, I was legitimately crying. Tears streaming down my face, heaving hiccuped breaths, curled up in the fetal position on my bed. My sister, who shared my room, wanted to go to sleep, so she just turned off the lights and let me cry in the darkness.
Audrey
Yeah, youre gonna cry. Hard, ugly crying. But youre still gonna love it because it is a fantastic story.
Amanda PeQueen
I AM STILL CRYING. I READ IT YEARS AGO BUT IT STILL HURTS.
Dolly M.
4. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Penguin Random House

Ann Billingsley / Penguin Random House

Can I swear here? Because f*ckkkk, this book destroyed me. Its one of the most brutal and surreal things Ive ever read and it actually happened. Sonali Deraniyagala was the lone survivor from her family in the wake of the 2004 tsunami that struck Sri Lanka. She lost everything and everyone, and her raw descriptions of her pain and perseverance will stay with me forever.
Jack Snyder, Albuquerque
5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Penguin Random House

Heather Weston / Penguin Random House

You think you know where this book is going: Its just a love story like any other. But thats what Lockhart wants you to think. Then, it tears your heart out and you have to keep rereading to see if what you think happened actually happened and when you realized it did, you cry.
Rachel Price
(Also recommended by Skye Dodds, Graham K., and Naomi B.)
6. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

HarperCollins

garthstein.com

This book made me cry pretty much from beginning to end. The story is told from the point of view of a dog and starts on his last day of living as he recounts his whole life. It is a story about love, loss, family, and a man fighting for his daughter. Incredibly emotional and very well written.
Carol H.
This one made the tears flow but was also weirdly uplifting. In the opening chapter the dog talks about how badly he wants to be reincarnated as a man, and that his human needs to let him go so he can finally have thumbs and speak. I mean, come on. I couldnt look at my dog the same way again. Do not read in public, you will ugly-cry.
Stephanie DUlisse
(Also recommended by Susan Burgess, Annie McQualter, Jen Magbanua, and Frank Steele.)
7. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Walker Books

patrickness.com

This is a beautiful book detailing a young boys struggles with his mothers cancer and how this manifests in a dark monster that visits him each night. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and the story itself is amazing. I dont think I have ever cried so hard from a book in my life.
Savannah W.
I read A Monster Calls without knowing what it was about. At the time, both my remaining grandparents were in hospital with cancer and it really helped me realize that what was going on in my head actually wasnt as crazy or horrible as I thought. Also, do yourself a favor and buy the illustrated edition it makes the book.
Arnna Rossi
(Also recommended by Wendy L., Katherine Howett, and Lyndsay Lang.)
8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Riverhead Books

Giuseppe Cacace / AFP

Without a doubt, A Thousand Splendid Suns is the most heart-wrenching book Ive ever read. Jodi Picoult has been my go-to author for ~the feels~, but Khaled Hosseini managed to churn the very depths of my soul in this riveting book. His uncanny ability to make the reader feel what his protagonist Mariam Jo feels made me want to reach out and save her, because I was drowning in her sorrow too. Absolutely bewitching.
Neetika Bishwas
A series of events in the life of a young Afghan woman lead to a tragic end. The unexpected turns and tragedies are so, so devastating.
Samyuktha S.
9. My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Simon & Schuster

jodipicoult.com

There has only been one book that I cried all the way through, and that was My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Its amazing, Picoults best for sure. I read it in a night and Im not kidding when I say I was crying consistently from the first chapter to the last sentence and a couple times were straight up scrunched-up-face, ugly, whimpering sob-fests.
Jayne D.
10. Tell the Wolves Im Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Penguin Random House

carolrifkabrunt.com

Tell The Wolves Im Home is, to date, one of the most poignant and saddest books I have ever read. Its a coming-of-age story set in the late 80s, focusing on June, who has just lost her uncle to AIDS. As she struggles to deal with his loss, she gets to know her uncles partner and understand his pain against her familys wishes. The book gets bonus points for having a *satisfying* ending not necessarily happy or sad, but faithful to what the characters needed.
Meghan Rock, Chicago
11. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Ecco

Nina Subin / Via madelinemiller.com-author/

The Song of Achilles is the Trojan War told from the point of view of Patroclus, Achilless closest friend, advisor, and lover. The writing is beautiful, weaving together the right blend of mythology, romance, and action. I cried through nearly every second of it happy tears, tears of pure awe, and, yes, ugly-crying at the end.
Emi Rawn
The Song of Achilles made me cry harder than any other book Ive read in my whole entire life. Its also so beautifully written. Definitely the worst (best) book EVER.
Jacqueline Perez
12. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Bloomsbury USA

Tony Cook

As someone whos also lost a loved one too soon, I understand at least part of Jesmyn Wards struggle in this important memoir. But her familys tale of heartbreak has even more profound repercussions, elucidating the complexities of poverty and race in modern America. Yes, theres much to mourn in Men We Reaped, but even more to learn.
Rosalyn W.
13. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Dial Press

isabelallende.com

If you havent read anything by Isabel Allende yet, this is the perfect place to start. Its the family saga to end all family sagas, spanning four generations and two revolutions, filled with more dark secrets, betrayal, forbidden love, fortune-telling, colorful characters, anachronistic turns, and actual spirits than you could ask for. I fell so hard for some of these characters, it was almost physically painful to let them go.
Marcus K.
14. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Penguin Random House

Stine Heilmann / Penguin Random House

This is the story of Lou, an ex-barista who takes a job as a babysitter for a man, Will, whose thrill-seeking lifestyle left him a cynical 30-something quadriplegic. Their evolving relationship seems predictable at the start, but I never could have forecasted the giant rain drops that fell from my eyeballs at the end of the (single!) day it took me to finish the book. READ IT.
Sarah Gerry, San Diego
It gets your hopes up and then crushes you like an Oreo.
Norma Z.
(Also recommended by Marine (France), Najia N., Emily Raphael, Stephanie Nand, and Niamh Dunne.)
15. Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne

Grove Atlantic

davidpaynebooks.com

Payne perfectly captures the strange, desperate, and frustrating fierceness with which we must love a family member suffering from mental illness. This is the most moving book Ive ever read. Could. not. stop. crying.
Kate Kennedy
David Paynes Barefoot to Avalon is one of the most rich and compelling memoirs Ive ever read. Paynes courage and brutal honesty fly off the page to hit you where it hurts. Somehow he has captured and laid bare those sacred, guarded family myths that churn out of reach through generations. If you read this book without shedding tears, you are either a) a sociopath or b) on too many anti-depressants.
Deborah Booth Summer
(Also recommended by Allegra Jordan, Robert Lowe, Lawrence Kessenich, and Ed Munse.)
16. The Known World by Edward P. Jones

HarperCollins

HarperCollins

The Known World absolutely blew me away. In mid-19th century Virginia, Caldonia Townsend, a free black woman, has been left in charge 33 slaves following the death of her husband. And so she must grapple with circumstances more charged and complex than she could ever have imagined. Edward P. Jones unravels unfathomable hardships with incredible grace, and clinches everything together so perfectly at the end. This is definitely the most satisfying conclusion Ive ever read.
Joliet M.
17. The Absolutist by John Boyne

Other Press

Richard Gilligan

This is a tale of gay love in the trenches of World War I. The main character makes a life-changing decision involving the man he loves that left me literally sobbed during the entire last 30 pages.
Inés Gómez
18. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster

Its a story about a grumpy old man who has to deal with a loud boisterous family that moves in next door, when all he wants is to be left alone. Its both hilarious and gut wrenching, and by the end of the book I had such an ugly-cry going on. I still tear up even now just thinking about it!
Chrissy H.
(Also recommended by Lindsay Greene and Deirdre Driscoll.)
19. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

Riverhead Books

Leonardo Cendamo

Heres the thing about This Is How You Lose Her, a collection of short stories about the lives of Dominican immigrants in New Jersey: Its incredibly funny, and its incredibly vulgar. Its got this swagger to it, this incredible machismo that runs through everything the central character Yunior and all the other men in his life say and do; so much of the book is about men trying to act tough, trying to play it cool. But at those precious moments when the curtain drops a little bit when the heartbreak hiding behind the prose pushes its way out into the open you will be completely wrecked.
Thomas R.
20. The Stand by Stephen King

Anchor

stephenking.com

After a plague has killed off most of the population, humanity is left divided between ranks of good and evil. Yes, this book has plenty of sex and gore, (I mean come on, its Stephen King were talking about) but there are also so many colorful characters that you come to love until they get killed off. Lets just say that, after one death, itgot really hot and my eyes started sweating profusely
Missy Cundiff
(Also recommended by Laurenne B.)
21. Room by Emma Donoghue

Hachette

Hachette

Room is a very powerful book about a woman and her 5-year-old son trapped in their kidnappers backyard. The sons perspective and the novels riveting close brought tears to my eyes. 10/10 would recommend.
Alexis Bradshaw
(Also recommended by Bryony Nelson.)
22. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Penguin Books

Leon Neal / AFP

It doesnt take a lot for a book to make me cry, but the one book that left me in a puddle of tears was A Tale for the Time Being. Its about a writer who finds the diary of a young Japanese girl and slowly becomes entangled in her life. Ozeki so beautifully illustrates the grace of human relationships, and how a connection can be form between two people who never met, will never meet, but exist in each others lives through the tenuous threads of time. A lovely and intoxicating read.
Gwen Moriarty
23. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Penguin Random House

Facebook: CormacMcCarthyAuthor

I have jokingly been accused of not having emotions because I am not affected by much, but The Road by Cormac McCarthy made me cry like a baby. The grim story of a boy and his father traveling by foot in a post-apocalyptic world left me broken at the end. I read this book several years ago, but its one that has definitely stuck with me.
Heather Erwin
(Also recommended by Susan Matthew.)
24. Sarahs Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

St. Martin's Griffin

David Ignaszewski

In 1942, a Jewish family was brutally arrested by the French police to be sent to a concentration camp. In the midst of chaos, 10-year-old Sarah locks her younger brother in a cupboard to protect him, thinking that shell be back in a few hours. Sixty years later, journalist Julia Jarmond traces her own familys connection back to the horrors of Sarahs past, and is forced to reevaluate every aspect of her life. This book is seriously amazing, I cant get it out of my head.
Josephine Yeh, Singapore
25. We The Animals by Justin Torres

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Houghton Mifflic Harcourt

I dont know whether it was the youngest brothers pure and poetic narration, or the frantic, frenetic pace of the plot, or just my fragile emotional state right now, but We Are Animals tore me open like a bag of chips. The premise seems tame enough, right? Three Brooklyn brothers growing up and coming of age in poverty. But dont be fooled this book is out to break you.
Maurice J.
26. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Penguin Books

Roland Scarpa

I HAVE to mention The Invention of Wings. Its the story of two young girls growing up in the early nineteenth century one a white slave owner, Sarah Grimke, and the other her slave, Handful. Monk Kidd creates a striking contrast through the narrative voices and unique heartbreak of her characters. I cried several times during different moments in the book. And I was even further impacted to find that the deeply touching story was actually based on real events and people.
Sarah Rose Lochelt
27. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Random House

Raveendran / AFP

This is the story of Estha and Rahel, 7-year-old fraternal twins growing up with their single mother in India in 1969. Throughout the novel, their wide-eyed innocence and adorable enthusiasm for life is crushed by the brutal reality of the adult world that surrounds them. Somehow, they persevere. This book is so beautiful, and made me contemplate the unfairness of life for days.
Victor Sun, Auckland, NZ
28. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Simon & Schuster

Kelly Campbell / Simon & Schuster

One book that sent the rivers absolutely flowing for me was Clockwork Princess. Its the last book in the Infernal Devices trilogy, which is a historical fantasy series about a girl named Tessa who moves to London and discovers strange things about herself and the world (hint: lots of vampires, demons, and Shadowhunters). In the last book, everything culminates together, and there are happy-cries and sad-cries that ensue. At one point, I had to stop reading because tears were clouding my vision to the point of me not being able to read any of the words.
Ann Zhao
(Also recommended by Arianna Jimenez, C.V.P., Nora O., Julia Fong, Michaela Strauther, and Ariza Abbas.)
29. Of Love And Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez

Vintage

Yuri Cortez / AFP

On her 12th birthday, Sierva Maria is bitten by a rabid dog. Believed to be possessed, she is brought to a convent for observation. And into her cell stumbles Father Cayetano Delaura.
This story actually made me believe in the possibility and happiness of finding true love. The way Gabo writes nearly overwhelmed me with emotion. Such a beautiful book, such a beautiful story everything your heart needs.
Carol Andrea Martínez Arboleda
30. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Random House Kids

Random House Kids

This makes me cry every time I read it. Its about a boy and his two coonhounds that he trains to hunt. I dont want to give away too much but it is definitely a tearjerker, especially if you grew up with dogs.
Emily Hughes
Im 78 years old and have read this four times with grandchildren; each time I am moved to tears. Having read 100 books a year since the age of ten, I still find this to be one of the more remarkable books in my lifetime. Somehow it remains fresh every time I approach it.
Chin August
31. Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

Penguin Random House

Penguin Random House

After her mother dies giving birth to her, Adeline is eternally blamed by her family for the tragedy. All through adolescence, she remains unwanted, emotionally and physically abused. I cried for days for over the injustice, but also tears of joy for Adelines perseverance.
Camila P.
(Also recommended by Nadine Pascual.)
32. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Macmillan

rainbowrowell.com

Eleanor and Park! It makes me cry every time I read it. I dont want to give spoilers, but its like falling in love for the first time and losing that first love all over again. So many feels!
Sarah Rodriguez
(Also recommended by Jena G., Zoe T., Elizabeth Bennett, and Leah Van Ert.)
33. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Algonquin Books

Bill Eichner / Algonquin Books

Four sisters tell their stories from beyond the grave and otherwise to document their experiences under Trujillos dictatorial regime in the Dominican Republic. Dont worry you dont have to be a history buff to enjoy this book. Alvarezs prose is so lyrical, and the tale so agonizingly enchanting, that you wont be able to look away (or stop from tearing up throughout).
R.E. Mills
34. The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth

Vintage

Eric Thayer / Reuters

What if Anne Frank hadnt been killed in the Holocaust what if shed survived and made her way to America? The Ghost Writer will make your heart ache.
Avi F.
35. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Speak

AP

A band of boys the Greasers is constantly at war with their rival group. This book is a true classic, about friendship and family, and finding the gold moments in life before they fade. The first time I read it, I put down the book right in the middle and bawled for half an hour.
Jeneve Wilder
(Also recommended by Karen Sloan and Shayna P.)
36. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Hachette

therumpus.net

The novel follows the lives of a few students, baseball players, and the president of a college in Wisconsin. The characters are extremely well-written and realistic, so the unexpected death of one of them brought me to tears. It is packaged as a baseball story, but the emotions run way deeper.
Carly Spina
37. Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Penguin Random House UK

Penguin Random House UK

In an eye-opening cosmic reversal, this alternative history pits noughts (whites) against crosses (blacks), with the noughts viewed as an inferior race. Herein, Callum and Sephy struggle to maintain their friendship across the violent racial divide. This universe is so fully realized, and the book is a complete emotional rollercoaster, with twists and turns that are hard to see coming. It is hard to say why it made me cry without completely ruining the book for you! So, it is best just to read it and see for yourself.
Gregor
38. Atonement by Ian McEwan

Anchor

Annalena McAfee

On a hot summer day in 1935, 13-year-old Briony witnesses a moments flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner. But Briony s incomplete grasp of adult motive together with her precocious literary gift brings about a crime that will change all their lives and reverberate into the close of the 20th century.
If the heartbreak that shatters the happily ever after twist doesnt make you shed a tear (or a thousand), you just aint got no soul.
Santham Pillay
39. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Berkley

Über Photography

A murdera tragic accidentor just parents behaving badly? Whats indisputable is that someone is dead. Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
The tasteful humor and beautiful prose make this a truly touching read. Impossible to read with dry eyes.
Jake Murray
40. When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner

Anchor

Lewis Glass

I read this book when my dad passed away from skin cancer. I was only 17 when it happened, and this book gave me a lot of comfort through the most difficult time in my life.
Miriam Urquhart
41. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Knopf

Knopf

Basically the fictional counterpart to Isabel Wilkersons The Warmth of Other Suns, this book captures a key (and often overlooked) period of American history through the eyes of one woman and her 12 children. Hattie Shepherd has fled from Georgia to Philadelphia in the Great Migration, seeking a better life further north. But the hardships her family encounters there are even more harrowing. This book will wreck you in so many ways, but its ultimately, and unflinchingly, a triumph.
Renée P.
42. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Penguin Random House

Penguin Random House

A Fine Balance will rock your world in ways both awful and awesome. Rohinton Mistry uses the entangled lives of four strangers a stubborn widow, a naive young student, and two determined laborers fleeing chaos to tell a larger story of squalor, struggle, and the human spirit in Indias slums. The prose is so rich and the panorama of life so riveting and raw, I couldnt get this book out of my head or heart.
Irene Y.
43. Feed by Mira Grant

Orbit

Seanan McGuire

Towards the end, there is the most unexpected and heartbreaking death ever committed to the page. And its in a bloody zombie novel!
Iain Brady
44. Night by Elie Wiesel

Bantam Books

Win McNamee / Getty News

This is the only book thats ever really made me cry. Theres a passage in which a son murders his own father over a piece of bread. The Nazis were so amused by this that they just started throwing bread in the cars to incite more violence. I absolutely wailed after that scene and couldnt pick book back up for a long while.
Amy B.
45. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Vincent Dilio

Wonder follows August, a young boy with a rare genetic condition, as he goes to school for the first time. From multiple perspectives, it shows the vastly different ways in which people are affected by disability. Its definitely for younger kids but has important lessons for everyone about accepting your family and your peers. As a kid (now adult I guess) who grew up with disabilities and was bullied for things I couldnt change about myself, this book really touched me.
Napol W.
46. Brother, Im Dying by Edwidge Danticat

Penguin Random House

Carl Juste / Penguin Random House

As much as I thought I knew what I was getting into, nothing could really have prepared me for Brother, Im Dying. This story is all the more devastating because its true Danticats uncle is left behind as his family seeks refuge in the U.S. Then throat cancer renders him speechless and unable to communicate with them. And when he finally does get the chance to come to America, things turn even more tragic. But its far from just an endless sob story, because Brother, Im Dying has much to teach us about injustice, the immigrant experience, and the inviolable bonds of family.
Raul M., Detroit
47. The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Simon & Schuster

Stephen DeSantis / Simon & Schuster

I wept and sobbed through the last fifty pages of The Time Travelers Wife. I am a voracious reader and a PhD in English, but I rarely cry when I read (though a book may make me feel very sad). This one just tore out my heart. My sister, bless her, knew how much I liked the book, so one Christmas she gave me the DVD of the movie. I had to tell her that I wouldnt watch it and go through that sadness again (we exchanged it for something else). She understood, being a book person herself.
Allyson McGill
This book made me storm out of a friends house in the middle of the night to escape that embarrassment and safely cry my eyes out in the privacy of my room. Even talking about this book with two girlfriends made all three of us cry. But dont get me wrong, youll love it! To me, this is one of the most beautiful love stories ever written.
Erika Batista
(Also recommended by Sharona H.)
48. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Scribner

Annette Porter

I read The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman just after I had my first child. Lets just say that being a mother intensified every emotion that could possibly be packed into this book. From a woman longing to have a child to a mother who has lost her child, if you are on the lookout for a good cry-fest, this book will pull all your mama heartstrings.
Robyn Bardgett
49. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Algonquin Books

Hans Canosa

A.J. Fikrys life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over and see everything anew.
This story is emotionally powerful, thought-provoking, and told in a unique format that keeps the pages turning. Plus, itll resonate with book lovers who are so passionate about books that sometimes they forget people can provide comfort, too. Highly recommended. I cried a handful of times and Im not ashamed. :)
Jill N.
50. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

Picador

Cato Lein

This book was gorgeous. It recounts the events of one fateful summer between friends that would mark them forever. I was so moved by the beautiful descriptions of the Norwegian landscape and the dreamlike way Trond recalls his memories. He does so with all the scattered sights, feelings, and broken events that accompany our recollections in real life. And finally, I loved how Petterson captures the difficulty men often have in expressing their feelings to each other and themselves.
Margaret Carmel
51. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Penguin

Hulton Archive

Go ahead, get through the story of Lennie and Georges friendship without bawling like a little baby. I dare you.
Stephanie K.
52. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Mariner Books

Evan Agostini / Getty Images

Interpreter of Maladies is the kind of book that makes you lie in bed staring quietly at the ceiling for minutes at a time, wondering how youll ever be able to collect all the pieces of your broken heart.
Lauren T.
*drumroll*
53. The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Penguin Random House

Marina Waters / Penguin Random House

This is one of the only books Ive ever read that really gave words to what I felt when my dad passed away from cancer. Greens portrayal of Hazels grief gives a voice to those of us that cancer has left behind.
Mackensie H.
I dont really have to explain this one. Im not sure how anyone can make it through this one without snotting up a whole box of tissues.
Kaci Sublette-Marks

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