Sometimes—for whatever reason—you want to read a book that will make you cry. These stories will definitely make you shed a few tears.
Let’s face it: sometimes we all need a good cry. Sobbing over fictional characters every once in awhile can be good for the soul. If you find yourself feeling down and want to read about someone that feels your pain or you're looking for an excuse to get all misty-eyed, here are a few books guaranteed to make you shed a few tears.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
Mariam and Laila were born a generation apart. They grew up with wildly different notions about love, family, and the correct way to live. War and loss force them together, however, and the two women form an unshakable bond while living in the house of the same abusive man. A Thousand Splendid Suns spans more than 30 years of Afghan history, focusing on the women whose stories are rarely told. It’s a devastating book, as well as a stunning testament to the strength of female friendships in even the darkest of circumstances.
To buy: $7, amazon.com.
Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward
In this unflinching memoir, Ward (who has won two National Book Awards) recounts five losses over the course of five years. These five young men in her life were lost to drugs, accidents, and suicide, but their cause of death is not so easily explained. As she grappled with her own grief, Ward began to realize that racism and poverty played a part in every single one of these avoidable deaths. Men We Reaped is both a gorgeously written account of personal tragedy and a harrowing story of oppression in America.
To buy: $6, amazon.com.
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
If you’re not crying by the end of The Fault in Our Stars, I honestly don’t know what book to recommend to you. Hazel, our hero, is a teenager with terminal cancer, which is a fairly heart-wrenching place to start. Hazel, however, refuses to be blandly inspirational, or ethereal, or wise beyond her years. She’s just an ordinary teenager, with a lot of quippy one-liners and a crush on a pretentious boy she met at her support group. As their romance unfolds, Green manages to defy all the cliches of a typical “Cancer Book,” while still crushing your heart into a million tiny pieces.
To buy: $8, amazon.com.
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were children together at Hailsham, a boarding school in the remote English countryside. In many ways, they had normal childhoods. They learned and played and fostered petty resentments together. But now that the trio has grown up, they will be forced to face the “destiny” designed for them by the state. Never Let Me Go is all at once bleak and beautiful, slowly transforming from a simple schoolyard romance into a complex exploration of love and mortality.
To buy: $11, amazon.com.
Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala
In 2004, a tsunami hit the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in one traumatizing day. Wave is her memoir and it is, of course, tragic. But Deraniyagala does not let herself be defined by tragedy: Wave is about grief, yes, but it is also about keeping the happy memories alive even as you’re drowning in sadness. It’s about surviving through the worst pain imaginable, and Deraniyagala’s writing is beautifully raw in this unsentimental account of loss.
To buy: $13, amazon.com.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
It’s hard not to cry while reading a book set in Nazi Germany and narrated by Death himself. The Book Thief captures the minute joys and terrors in the life of young Liesel, a German school girl coming of age during World War II. She is silently watched by our narrator, Death, who wants to understand the lives of the humans he observes. As the world around her grows increasingly grim, Liesel’s one escape is the world of books. Only the written word can save her from the constant horror that her reality has become.
To buy: $11, amazon.com.
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar has an unfair reputation for being a bummer of a book. Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel is not a downer, however: it’s a brutally real depiction of depression and of successful treatment for depression. Plath’s protagonist, Esther, is funny and relatable. She hates her summer internship, she’s worried about her future, and she’s frustrated with men. She also wants to die. The story of Esther’s mental breakdown will most certainly make you cry, but it will also make you believe that recovery is always possible, and that no situation is every truly hopeless.
To buy: $13, amazon.com.
My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
By age 13, Anna has undergone countless surgeries, shots, and various transfusions. Anna’s not sick, though. She was born to be the ideal donor for her older sister, Kate, who’s been battling leukemia since early childhood. Anna never questioned this role before…but now that her status as a donor might threaten her own life, Anna is forced to choose between the love she has for her sister and her desire to be her own person. Picoult doesn’t shy away from the thorny issues of ethics and family in this tense, heartbreaking novel.
To buy: $9, amazon.com.