53 Books That Will Definitely Make You Cry
We recently asked subscribers of the BuzzFeed Books newsletter to tell us about a book that would definitely make us cry. They gave us a lot to choose from, so take your pick — and maybe grab some tissues, too.
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. Charlie's 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.
(Also recommended by Henar Barandiaran and Michaela Strauther.)
2. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
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 have once again wiggled their way into my heart. And I'm perfectly OK with that.
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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.
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.
Yeah, you're gonna cry. Hard, ugly crying. But you're still gonna love it because it is a fantastic story.
I am still crying. I read it years ago but it still hurts.
4. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
Can I swear here? Because fuckkkk, this book destroyed me. It's one of the most brutal and surreal things I've 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
You think you know where this book is going: It’s just a love story like any other. But that’s 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.
(Also recommended by Skye Dodds, Graham K., and Naomi B.)
6. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
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.
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 couldn't look at my dog the same way again. Do not read in public, you will ugly-cry.
(Also recommended by Susan Burgess, Annie McQualter, Jen Magbanua, and Frank Steele.)
7. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This is a beautiful book detailing a young boy's struggles with his mother's 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 don't think I have ever cried so hard from a book in my life.
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 wasn't as crazy or horrible as I thought. Also, do yourself a favor and buy the illustrated edition — it makes the book.
(Also recommended by Wendy L., Katherine Howett, and Lyndsay Lang.)
8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Without a doubt, A Thousand Splendid Suns is the most heart-wrenching book I've 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.
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.
9. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
There has been only one book that I cried all the way through, and that was My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. It's amazing — Picoult's best for sure. I read it in a night and I'm 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 sobfests.
10. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Tell the Wolves I'm Home is, to date, one of the most poignant and saddest books I have ever read. It's 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 uncle's partner and understand his pain — against her family's 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
The Song of Achilles is the Trojan War told from the point of view of Patroclus, Achilles' 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.
The Song of Achilles made me cry harder than any other book I've read in my whole entire life. It's also so beautifully written. Definitely the worst (best) book EVER.
12. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
As someone who's also lost a loved one too soon, I understand at least part of Jesmyn Ward's struggle in this important memoir. But her family's tale of heartbreak has even more profound repercussions, elucidating the complexities of poverty and race in modern America. Yes, there's much to mourn in Men We Reaped, but even more to learn.
13. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
If you haven't read anything by Isabel Allende yet, this is the perfect place to start. It's 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.
14. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
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 thirtysomething quadriplegic. Their evolving relationship seems predictable at the start, but I never could have forecasted the giant raindrops 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.
(Also recommended by Marine [France], Najia N., Emily Raphael, Stephanie Nand, and Niamh Dunne.)
15. Barefoot to Avalon by David Payne
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 I've ever read. Could. not. stop. crying.
David Payne's Barefoot to Avalon is one of the most rich and compelling memoirs I've ever read. Payne's 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 antidepressants.
—Deborah Booth Summer
(Also recommended by Allegra Jordan, Robert Lowe, Lawrence Kessenich, and Ed Munse.)
16. The Known World by Edward P. Jones
The Known World absolutely blew me away. In mid-19th-century Virginia, Caldonia Townsend, a free black woman, has been left in charge of 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 I've ever read.
17. The Absolutist by John Boyne
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 sobbing during the entire last 30 pages.
18. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
It’s 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. It’s 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!
(Also recommended by Lindsay Greene and Deirdre Driscoll.)
19. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
Here's the thing about This Is How You Lose Her, a collection of short stories about the lives of Dominican immigrants in New Jersey: It's incredibly funny, and it's incredibly vulgar. It's 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.
20. The Stand by Stephen King
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, it’s Stephen King we’re talking about), but there are also so many colorful characters that you come to love — until they get killed off. Let's just say that after one death, it...got really hot and my eyes started sweating profusely.
(Also recommended by Laurenne B.)
21. Room by Emma Donoghue
Room is a very powerful book about a woman and her 5-year-old son trapped in their kidnapper's backyard. The son's perspective and the novel's riveting close brought tears to my eyes. Ten out of ten would recommend.
(Also recommended by Bryony Nelson.)
22. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
It doesn't 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. It's 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 formed between two people who've never met, will never meet but exist in each other's lives through the tenuous threads of time. A lovely and intoxicating read.
23. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
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 it's one that has definitely stuck with me.
(Also recommended by Susan Matthew.)
24. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
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 she'll be back in a few hours. Sixty years later, journalist Julia Jarmond traces her own family's connection back to the horrors of Sarah's past, and is forced to re-evaluate every aspect of her life. This book is seriously amazing; I can't get it out of my head.
—Josephine Yeh, Singapore
25. We the Animals by Justin Torres
I don't know whether it was the youngest brother's pure and poetic narration, or the frantic, frenetic pace of the plot, or just my fragile emotional state right now, but We the 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 don't be fooled — this book is out to break you.
26. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
I HAVE to mention The Invention of Wings. It's the story of two young girls growing up in the early 19th 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
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, New Zealand
28. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
One book that sent the rivers absolutely flowing for me was Clockwork Princess. It's 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.
(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
"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
This makes me cry every time I read it. It's about a boy and his two coonhounds that he trains to hunt. I don't want to give away too much, but it is definitely a tearjerker, especially if you grew up with dogs.
I'm 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 10, I still find this to be one of the more remarkable books in my lifetime. Somehow it remains fresh every time I approach it.
31. Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah
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 Adeline's perseverance.
(Also recommended by Nadine Pascual.)
32. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Eleanor & Park! It makes me cry every time I read it. I don't want to give spoilers, but it's like falling in love for the first time and losing that first love all over again. So many feels!
(Also recommended by Jena G., Zoe T., Elizabeth Bennett, and Leah Van Ert.)
33. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Four sisters tell their stories — from beyond the grave and otherwise — to document their experiences under Trujillo's dictatorial regime in the Dominican Republic. Don't worry — you don't have to be a history buff to enjoy this book. Alvarez's prose is so lyrical, and the tale so agonizingly enchanting, that you won't be able to look away (or stop from tearing up throughout).
34. The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
What if Anne Frank hadn't been killed in the Holocaust — what if she'd survived and made her way to America? The Ghost Writer will make your heart ache.
35. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
A band of boys — the Greasers — are 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.
(Also recommended by Karen Sloan and Shayna P.)
36. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
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.
37. Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
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 roller coaster, 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.
38. Atonement by Ian McEwan
"On a hot summer day in 1935, 13-year-old Briony witnesses a moment’s 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 doesn't make you shed a tear (or a thousand), you just ain't got no soul.
39. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
"A murder...a tragic accident...or just parents behaving badly? What's 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.
40. When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner
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.
41. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
Basically the fictional counterpart to Isabel Wilkerson's 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 it's ultimately, and unflinchingly, a triumph.
42. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
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 India's slums. The prose is so rich and the panorama of life so riveting and raw, I couldn't get this book out of my head — or heart.
43. Feed by Mira Grant
Toward the end, there is the most unexpected and heartbreaking death ever committed to the page. And it's in a bloody zombie novel!
44. Night by Elie Wiesel
This is the only book that's ever really made me cry. There's 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 couldn't pick the book back up for a long while.
45. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
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. It's 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, I was bullied for things I couldn't change about myself, and this book really touched me.
46. Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat
As much as I thought I knew what I was getting into, nothing could really have prepared me for Brother, I'm Dying. This story is all the more devastating because it's true — Danticat's 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 it's far from just an endless sob story, because Brother, I'm Dying has much to teach us about injustice, the immigrant experience, and the inviolable bonds of family.
—Raul M., Detroit
47. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I wept and sobbed through the last 50 pages of The Time Traveler's Wife. I am a voracious reader and have a Ph.D. 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 wouldn't watch it and go through that sadness again. (We exchanged it for something else.) She understood, being a book person herself.
This book made me storm out of a friend's 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 don't get me wrong, you'll love it! To me, this is one of the most beautiful love stories ever written.
(Also recommended by Sharona H.)
48. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
I read The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman just after I had my first child. Let's 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.
49. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
"A.J. Fikry’s 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, it'll 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 I'm not ashamed. :)
50. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
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.
51. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Go ahead, get through the story of Lennie and George's friendship without bawling like a little baby. I dare you.
52. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
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 you'll ever be able to collect all the pieces of your broken heart.
53. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This is one of the only books I've ever read that really gave words to what I felt when my dad passed away from cancer. Green's portrayal of Hazel's grief gives a voice to those of us whom cancer has left behind.
I don't really have to explain this one. I'm not sure how anyone can make it through this one without snotting up a whole box of tissues.
Note: Some entries have been edited for clarity and/or length.