Share 11 Books That Will Make You Ugly Cry

11 Books That Will Make You Ugly Cry

Taylor Noel started working for Scribner’s publicity department in 2015. She interned at Algonquin Books and Folio Literary Management while completing her studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Taylor tends to read mostly literary fiction and memoirs, but will also dabble in upmarket commercial fiction with historical, transcultural, or apocalyptic settings, as well as popular young adult. You can find her on Instagram @books_with_taylor.

Sometimes I just need a good cry. You know, the kind of ugly crying where you can’t really breathe and you start hiccupping and you can no longer differentiate snot from tears. It’s cathartic, I swear. Nothing gets my waterworks going like heart-wrenching (but not sappy) books with doomed characters or hopeless situations. Have tissues at the ready, readers, because these 11 books will make you cry (in a good way).

A Little Life
by Hanya Yanagihara

I’m not exaggerating at all when I say I cried for 700 pages of this 832-page masterpiece. I have never loved a character more deeply than I love Jude, the main character in this ode to male friendship, who is scarred and broken from an unspeakable trauma. Reading about Jude’s ever-changing relationships with his three best friends from college was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a reader—and certainly as a crier.

Read the review of A LITTLE LIFE.

Me Before You
by JoJo Moyes

Will Traynor is an attractive but brooding young man grieving the life he lived before the terrible accident that left him paralyzed. Louisa Clark is the quirky and charming young woman that Will’s parents hire to cheer him up and remind him that life is worth living. You will fall as hard and deeply in love with Will as Louisa does.

Read the review of ME BEFORE YOU and AFTER YOU.

The Art Of Racing In The Rain
by Garth Stein
My tendency to shed tears does not end with human characters—I really blubber over canines, too. Told from the perspective of Ezno, a Lab-terrier mix plucked from a farm by a race car driver, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is a heart-wrenching, funny, and ultimately uplifting story of one family and the wonders of human life.

When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi

A profoundly moving and exquisitely written memoir by a 36-year-old neurosurgeon dying of lung cancer, WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR chronicles Paul Kalanithi’s transformation from naive medical student to renowned neurosurgeon to patient. It’s impossible not to tear up as Kalanithi honestly and directly questions what makes life worth living as a doctor, as a dad, and as a person.

Read the review of WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR.

Oh My Stars
by Lorna Landvik
As if growing up during the Great Depression wasn’t enough, Violet Mathers is also abandoned by her mother, mistreated by her father, teased by her schoolmates, and seriously injured in a terrible accident. When her bus to a new life in California breaks down in North Dakota, Violet thinks Fate is having another cruel laugh, but it may actually deliver her to two kindhearted musicians and a chance for real happiness. I first read this book as a teen and thought my sobs were puberty-related, but I read the book again as an adult and the emotional impact was even stronger.

Brother, I'm Dying
by Edwidge Danticat
BROTHER, I’M DYING is Edwidge Danticat’s astonishing and intimate memoir about growing up in Haiti with her uncle and then being uprooted to join her parents and youngest brothers in New York City. All the while, Haiti faced a deteriorating political situation. Danticat’s writing intimately envelops readers into her true-life story; it feels like you are experiencing it yourself.

Flowers for Algernon
by Daniel Keyes
I never thought I’d cry over a mouse until I read this book. Doctors perform an experimental surgery on a lab mouse, Algernon, to increase his intelligence artificially and then Charlie, a 32-year-old man with an IQ of 68, has the same surgery. Both operations are initially successful, but as Charlie’s IQ increases, his relationships with people depreciate. And as Charlie continues to observe Algernon, he notices a crucial flaw in the science and witnesses Algernon’s sudden, unexpected decline. Will the same happen to Charlie?

The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd

Lily Owens’s life is shaped around the blurry memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. Tired of life with her punitive father and unanswered questions, Lily journeys down South to find the town that holds the secret to her mother’s troubled past. She ends up finding so much more in a trio of three black beekeepers, but she also learns the devastating truth about her past. I needed a wailing wall (the stone wall one of the beekeepers uses to grieve) of my own while reading this book.

Read the review of THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES.

by Alice Sebold
LUCKY is Alice Sebold’s powerful account of being sexually assaulted at the age of 18 and the harrowing trial that followed. With searing candor and wit, Sebold illuminates the experience of trauma victims and imparts hard-won wisdom that is more important today than ever before. Sebold’s raw and emotional writing will break your heart.

The Animators
by Kayla Rae Whitaker
THE ANIMATORS is about two female filmmakers desperately trying to succeed and the burdens we all carry through coming-of-age. I’m not entirely sure why I found myself bawling at the end of this electric novel. Perhaps it’s because Mel and Sharon are such vividly portrayed characters that I instantly fell in love with them and was devastated when their friendship started to crack. Or perhaps it’s because both women share their own trauma in the art they create. Or maybe it was the final reckoning which neither woman saw coming.

Milk and Honey
by Rupi Kaur

MILK AND HONEY is a collection of poetry and prose grounded in the everyday experiences of women and bears witness to both the beautiful and the brutal sides womanhood. Every word feels genuine and evokes such strong feeling. I sobbed on the subway reading this collection for the first time.

Read the review of MILK AND HONEY.

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