I’ve shared with you all before— I am not a crier. A product of my mother, who I have witnessed cry exactly ONE TIME EVER, I don’t really buy into all that talk about having a “good cry” to “let it all out.” I avoid sicklit (yes, there is now a real genre for love stories of the terminally ill) and stories about dogs at all costs.
That being said, as I finished All the Light We Cannot See last night—and was bawling so loud I was worried I’d wake up my roommate (and entire building)—I began to reminisce about the few-and-far-between books that made me lose it:
1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
...like I was the only kid desperately attempting to stifle my tears during popcorn reading in seventh grade language arts??
2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Full disclosure: I did not think I was going to cry in this book. You see, I was cruising right along enjoying it, but when it finally dawned on me that the two protagonists only met IRL for a couple of HOURS, I felt a tiny bit betrayed: like the entire buildup was for nothing.
...flash forward to page 522, when all of my pent-up grief and sorrow came flooding out.
If you are like me & didn’t read this back when it topped the bestseller list (for a casual two years) because you were also a dumb college student, I’d encourage you to pick it up immediately.
PS: Special thanks to my close friend Ash, who gave me this birthday present I didn’t realize I even needed.
3. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
This is only story on this list that had me sobbing happy tears— hard to believe, given the tragically grim childhood our heroine has to overcome. The novel follows a young girl living in Japan in the decade leading up to WWII, who is plucked from her peasant life in a fishing town and whisked away to work at a geisha house—and eventually become one herself.
If you have ever been curious about traditional geishas, or have a hard time believing they are anything more than glamorized prostitutes, I cannot recommend this book enough: the narrator feels so real you will be questioning if it really is historical fiction after all.
4. Atonement by Ian McEwan
Don’t you love books that have tragic endings?
What about books where the tragedy stems from one single incident that was a misunderstanding in the first place?
I’m being facetious—this novel is a heartbreaking story about how the spiraling consequences of one incident can completely alter the lives of those around us.
5. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Though I can’t write too much about this book without spoiling it, I will say that the further you read, the more you’ll be pulled into Ishiguro’s unsettling world.
Warning: you will ugly-cry a minimum of two times.
6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Before there was the controversial Netflix series, we were introduced to the original & beloved book. However, there is a reason this book turned into a hugely popular television show— the original concept and storyline has that shock factor so rare in YA novels.
I read this book as a seventh grader, probably in my ‘peak’ of being bullied and tormented at yet another new school. Though I never approached the state of mind to even consider suicide as a way out, we’ve all gone down the rabbit hole of wondering what life would be like without us: Would anyone care? Who would come to my funeral? Will they finally feel bad about the way they have treated me?
7. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
I’m only including one Nicholas Sparks book here (you’re welcome) and this is the one I’ve chosen. Though Sparks’ novels have followed a pattern of predictability, they are written with such passion and detail that we can’t help but to fall in love with the characters. The Choice is definitely not the most tragic of all the Sparks collection, and is a great entry point if you’re curious as to what the fuss is all about.
8. One Day by David Nicholls
You probably didn’t see this movie—though it starred Anne Hathaway and that dude from 21; even if you did, you likely are searching all corners of your brain trying to recall it.
You will not have that issue with the book.
It tells the story of two friends on only one day each year for twenty-some years. This infuriatingly genius tactic seems like it wouldn’t work itself out into a novel, but Nicholls gives us glimpses that are enough to fall in love with the characters just in time to destroy them (and then us).
9. If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin
Talk about surprise ending. Didn’t think this seemingly unknown, innocent-enough YA novel would have the power to have me in hysterics. I. Was. Wrong.
10. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I will never forget you, Sydney Carlton.