Let’s face it: our world is kind of a dumpster fire right now. We have politicians acting like giant babies on social media and natural disasters taking out lush tropical paradises. We basically can’t have nice things anymore and, some days, it’s all you can do to not sit on the floor and ugly cry over a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.
Some days, you just want to curl up on the couch and let the tears flow over a good book. There’s something cathartic and relaxing about having characters we love suffer romantic and tragic indignities so that we can feel better about our lives. #NotAtAllSorryBlackBeauty
I mean, just look at Old Yeller. That big fluff ball has been making us cry for generations and we keep coming back for more. And don’t get me started on Where the Red Fern Grows or Marley and Me. Basically, don’t hand me any animal book and expect that I won’t ugly cry for three days, okay?
My point is that we need books that make us ugly cry in our lives. Fortunately for you, we’ve curated a list of some of the best tearjerkers on the shelves. Fair warning: if you wind up blowing snot rockets into your best hoodie because of this list, we can’t be blamed. We’re still wrecked over A Dog’s Purpose, okay?
My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult
This book is, in a word, a doozy. When I read it a few years ago, I was riveted by Jodi Piccoult’s acclaimed story telling. My Sister’s Keeper is the story of thirteen year old Anna who was conceived for the sole purpose of producing bone marrow for her ailing older sister Kate. I mean, oof. So much to unpack here. Piccoult examines our greatest fears in this book: a dying child and the lengths we would go to save one of our children. And, with a breathless pace, Piccoult leaves us gasping for air with the last chapter. Seriously, you’ve been warned. Again.
The Fault In Our Stars, John Green
Okay, listen: when The Atlantic says, “This is a book that breaks your heart—not by wearing it down, but by making it bigger until it bursts,” I think we can all agree that you should run, not walk, to buy this love story. Yes, it’s young adult fiction and yes, I felt a little silly reading about teens falling in love, too, but I can guarantee you this isn’t your run of the mill teen romance. Far from it. Main characters Hazel and Augustus remind us that there is a whole lot of living involved with dying from cancer and this book is exquisite in its ugly cry delivery. And, it’s a movie, too, so good luck with that.
Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
The odds were not in Rue’s favor and we will never get over it.
Wonder, R. J. Palacio
This book should be required reading. No joke. For anyone who has ever felt out of place or awkward because of their body, this book reminds us that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. August Pullman, affectionately known as Auggie is a 5thgrade boy with a facial deformity who wants to attend school like the other “normal” kids. Lovingly written by Palacio, Auggie has taught me more about being kind to those around me in 320 pages than I’ve learned in a lifetime. Choose Wonder. Choose Kind. Always.
Me Before You, JoJo Moyes
Okay, listen: I’m a sucker for a good old fashioned tragic romance and Me Before You delivers big time. It has everything: the guy who is going through a tough time, the gal who unexpectedly walks into his life and a love that transcends all obstacles in their way. And, of all the books on this list, it’s the one that most people mentioned when I recently polled the Tall Poppy audience on Facebook. So, go grab a econo box of tissues, snuggle into your couch and let the tears flow. Oh, and good news: this one is book one of a trilogy so you can cry thrice. You’re welcome.
A Man Called Ove, Fredrick Backman
We all have that neighbor who no one likes. You know, the one who yells at kids on their way home from the bus stop or the one who never waves when you drive by. Most times, we simply assume those neighbors are jerks and never take the time to find out what’s behind the bitterness, right? But, what if you looked past the crabby exterior and dug deeper into your crabby neighbor’s life? What do you think you’d find? In A Man Called Ove, author Fredrick Backman does just that and, in doing so, he reminds us that people aren’t bitter just because they are crabby.
Henry’s Sisters, Cathy Lamb
Every family has secrets and, the Bonmarito family is no exception. When the family matriarch has a medical emergency, three sisters are called home to help their brother with disabilities run the family bakery. But going home again has a way of forcing open the secrets and hurts that the Bommaritos would rather keep tightly closed. Working together to look after their brother and save their flagging bakery, Isabelle and her sisters begin to find answers to questions they never knew existed, unexpected ways to salve the wounds of their childhoods, and the courage to grasp surprising new chances at happiness. Basically, you can just start crying now.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
Shut up. You cried when Dumbledore died and if you didn’t, you are no Muggle of mine. If you didn’t shed a tear when Dobby died, you deserve the Avada Kedavra curse.
Books that make us cry bring us closer to the human experience and remind us that everyone struggles in some way. And, really, is there anything better than closing a book, wiping your nose and realizing that an author was able to make you ugly cry?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go reread Of Mice and Men…