1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This book will break you in a million tiny ways and leave you a shattered, sobbing mess by the end. The story’s narrated by Death during World War II, and follows Liesel, a little German girl, as she moves in with a foster family. And sure, maybe it’s a bit obvious to choose this book, because Oh a story involving the Holocaust is sad! WHAT A SHOCKER! But it is. And I couldn’t very well make this list without including the book that left me an inconsolable mess for a week straight.
2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
I first read this book in eighth grade, and made the mistake of reading the last few chapters during seventh period Earth Science. Cut to: Awkward Me, hunched over my desk, desperately trying to hide the onslaught of tears that I couldn’t have stopped under any circumstances. There’s a reason so many schools make this required reading, and I think it’s because they revel a bit in seeing us sob in class. Or because the book is really good. That might be it too. Stay gold, Ponyboy. *sobs* Stay gold.
3. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
An odd choice for this list? MAYBE. Appropriate? YUP. This graphic novel will make you cry tears of laughter and sadness, sometimes at the same time. Her humorous depictions of living with depression and anxiety will astound you with how genuine and honest it all feels.
4. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
This book. I read it so recently that it’s still difficult to put into words just how wonderful it is. Ava Lavender was born with wings, just like her mother and grandmother’s before her, and the story follows their lives and loves. It’s magical and strange and impossible to adequately describe, so you should just go ahead and read it.
5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Okay, so this book about a man looking back on his childhood in Afghanistan and attempting to redeem himself for his past mistakes will take you on a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes you’ll hate the main character (okay, a lot of the time), and sometimes you’ll love him. By the time you get to the end of the book, you’ll be exhausted and exhilarated and immediately go out and buy a kite. More than anything, it’s a book that will stick with you for years.
6. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This book is technically considered science fiction, but it goes so far beyond the usual stereotypes connected with the genre. It’s a book that you just need to read and discover for yourself, so let’s just say it’s about love and the human condition… and will make you cry buckets of tears by the end. Then you’ll watch the movie, and cry all over again.
7. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
For a book this short, I never expected to cry as many tears as I did. It’s a true story about Sadako, a young girl who gets Leukemia as a result of radiation from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Through her illness, she attempts to fold one thousand origami cranes to both pass the time, and in accordance with the folklore that suggests doing so will grant her a wish: a wish for good health. Is it a cancer book? Yes. Is it a heart-breaking tale of hope, courage, and perseverance? Yes, so much yes.
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Okay, really I mean to say the entire Harry Potter series. From the fourth book onward, tears are just a part of the process of reading these books. You just sort-of accept it and let the tears stream. In fact, reading this series is how I learned to read through tears. Just keep reading. Just keep sobbing. I’m fine.
9. Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Another children’s book that will make you feel all the feels. It’s a coming of age story about a boy and his two dogs. I remember reading this as a class in fifth grade, and by the end, everyone was crying. Most were sobbing, but there were a few kiddies sporting the silent streams of tears. But everyone was crying. Everyone. If you don’t, you’re probably at least part-robot.