7 Favorite Books to Make You Ugly Cry

The tight throat, the watering eyes, the tensed face—let’s face it, holding back tears is worse than letting them flow. Sometimes, all we need to reset is a good cry.

Need a boost to unblock the dam? We’ve got the perfect material for the job. Shed some emotional weight with Literai’s best books to read for a tear-jerking time.

#1 Of Women and Salt – Gabriela Garcia

Image Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/30/books/review/of-women-and-salt-by-gabriela-garcia-an-excerpt.html

Five generations of women. Two nations. A bottomless, ferocious love of family that spans across time and distance. A heart-wrenching selection from Roxanne Gay’s Audacious Book Club, Of Salt and Women follows the story of a family matrilineally from a pre-revolutionary Cuba to today’s Miami. The aftershocks of tragedy are passed down like family heirlooms, leaving daughters to struggle and mothers at a loss for how to keep their family together.  

Told from multiple perspectives, this novel will wring out every tear duct. Even the first line, a plea from one character’s mother, is as cutting as a knife to the gut: 

“Jeanette, tell me that you want to live.”

(Whoever is cutting onions in here, can you please quit it?)

Why you’ll love crying over Of Women and Salt: 

  • The complexities of family histories  
  • Navigating mother-daughter relationships 
  • Inheritance of trauma


#2 Men We Reaped—Jesmyn Ward

Image Source: https://www.npr.org/2013/09/17/221024438/in-reaped-5-lives-that-are-far-more-than-just-statistics

In rural Mississippi, five men lost their lives too soon. Some would dismiss their deaths as simple accidents—writer Jesmyn Ward knows better. A leader of our Literati book club Gathering of Voices, Ward brings her cutting prose to another story on southern Black lives—only this time, she pulls from her own life experience. From poverty to societal pressures, Men We Reaped lays an unflinching exposé of the perils faced by Black men that will break your heart and set ablaze your passion for social justice. 

Why you’ll love crying over Men We Reaped:

  • Intersection of class and racial politics
  • Black southern culture upheld and explored
  • Ward’s vivid tales of her Mississippi childhood

#3 A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Image Source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/239717/a-little-life-by-hanya-yanagihara/

Life, in all its mess and muddiness, takes four men in New York by storm in Hanya Yanagihara’s intense novel. Whether dealing with identity crises or buried trauma, each character shares a slice of humanity that only goes deeper with each page. Yes, it’s a tragic tale—but the book’s emotional strength also comes from its belief in friendship. By the end of it, you’ll be crying from its sheer beauty. 

Why you’ll love crying over A Little Life:

  • Deep look at trauma’s lifelong impacts
  • Diverse and richly drawn core characters
  • No sugar-coating or happy endings—it’s real life (pass the tissues)

#4 Stay with Me – Ayobami Adebayo

Image Source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/547389/stay-with-me-by-ayobami-adebayo/

Since marriage, Yejide and Akin were ecstatic to start a family of their own. But when fertility issues dampen their hopes, a new issue enters the home—polygamy. 

Pulling from her Nigerian heritage, Adebagy weaves between husband and wife in this dual-perspective tale. Stay With Me is more than a romance—it’s a brutally honest look at what unites couples in spite of heartbreak and betrayal. With this book, you can take an intimate  look into the inner workings of a marriage, reflect on your own relationships, and shed a tear (or twenty) over loves of your own. 

Why you’ll love crying over Stay With Me:

  • Adebayo’s personal take on Nigerian culture
  • Trials and tribulations of real-life motherhood
  • Partnership equally explored from both sides

#5 If You Could Be Mine – Sara Farizan

Image Source: https://www.workman.com/products/if-you-could-be-mine

As lifelong best friends, Sahar and Nasrin always hid the true nature of their relationship—lesbianism is punishable by death in Iran. But things rapidly change when Nasrin’s parents arrange a marriage for their daughter. 

Layered and brutal, If You Could Be Mine asks if love is worth sacrificing everything, even your personhood. This tear-jerking romance is sure to have you wishing you could give Nasrin and Sahar a big, sniffly hug, and maybe even calling your own dear ones and savoring the sweetness of saying “I love you.” 

Why you’ll love If You Could Be Mine:

  • Farizan’s personal look at Iranian culture
  • Passionate, gut-wrenching romance between women
  • Love vs. personal identity 

#6 A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Image Source: https://patrickness.com/book/a-monster-calls/

Death is often treated as an “adult” subject, too dark for kids to ponder. A Monster Calls begs to differ. Day by day, thirteen-year-old Conor watches illness slowly overtake his mother. At the same time, a shadowy figure begins to haunt his dreams—and soon after, his real life.

Originating from the story of deceased writer Siobhan Dowd (a real-life cancer victim), Patrick Ness writes a singular coming-of-age fantasy novel on facing the scary monsters inside ourselves. This book will make you look at the places where loss has touched your life in irrevocable ways and wonder at the ways the world can be monstrous. 

Why you’ll love crying over A Monster Calls:

  • View of loss through innocent, youthful lens
  • Dowd’s palpable reckonings with death
  • Rich, vivid imagery pulled from mythology

#7 Wave – Sonali Deraniyagala

Image Source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/223103/wave-by-sonali-deraniyagala/

It only takes a moment to change the rest of time. For Sonali Deraniyagala, that moment was a tsunami wave, washing away her family and life as she knew it. 

In Deraniyagala’s own words, Wave captures the shock and devastation that followed a fateful day on Sri Lanka’s beaches. Few books come so close to such pain—and more importantly, the strength to carry on. For those seeking perspective and renewal, pick up this life-changing memoir.

Why you’ll love Wave:

  • Deraniyagala’s intimate, rawly emotional voice
  • Sharp, in-the-moment imagery
  • Proof there’s light for even the darkest of tunnels

Feel All the Feels with More Literati Favorites

Your mom, your teacher, and Sesame Street were right—it’s okay to cry! And with these quality tear-summoning works, you’ll definitely be reaching for a tissue between each page. Let the stories unfold and the teardrops fall.

Looking for a mood boost or fun escape after your crying session? Check out Literati’s Best Book Clubs—our club picks are sure to please a full literary appetite, from wildlife adventures to intimate memoirs. 

On Key

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