Let’s face it: sometimes you need to cry it out. Sometimes you’re in the mood for a lighthearted beach-read, and that’s all well and good, but there are other times when you’re looking for a deep story that can really get you going and start the tears flowing. Then again, even if you’re not the kind of person who cries a lot (there are some who express their emotions in other ways, to be sure), then at the very least, we can all but guarantee you’ll find yourself moved by the following titles.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Set in Nazi Germany, it sadly makes sense that this story would take on the figure of Death as its unusual narrator. Through this dark narrator’s eyes, the reader follows the story of a young girl enamored with words, a Jewish boy in hiding, a new mother, and an accordion-playing man as they fight for safety and survival during WWII.
When a book basically opens with the line “you’re going to die…” you can bet it will either be scary or moving—in this case, the latter.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
This novel is told from the point of view of a dog, so you can assume right off the bat that it’s going to be open, honest, and probably bittersweet. The story starts on the last day of our furry protagonist’s life, and we are treated to the recollections of his life.
It’s a story of love, loss, family, and a man fighting for his daughter. Undoubtedly, it’s a sad story, but all the same it’s strangely very uplifting. A must-read for dog lovers anywhere and everywhere.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
By the same author who brought us The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns is about a young, Afghani woman named Mariam. Mariam, like so many living in troubled areas, is struck with one hardship after another: an abusive father who marries her to an abusive man more than twenty years her senior and an invasion by the Soviet Army, to name a couple.
A realistic portrayal of pain and strength, this novel is bound to make you empathize not only with Mariam, but also feel empowered by her strength through all she faces.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
If you want a story about some complicated family issues, then this is the story for you.
Thirteen-year-old Anna Fitzgerald is born into impossible circumstances: her older sister is dying of advanced leukemia, and it has become more and more painfully clear that Anna was conceived with the intent of being a genetic match for her sister, so that she can provide transplant organs. Of course, it isn’t that cut-and-dried, and when Anna seeks medical emancipation from her parents, the entire family is forced to look into their values and determine what really matters.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyer
*Chances are, you’ve seen some previews for the new movie adaptation of this one*
Lou, a former barista, finds work as a caretaker for a recently disabled, extraordinarily wealthy man. As one could imagine, the two eventually form a bond, falling in love through a series of moving encounters. Basically, as you read, you think the evolution of their romance is predictable, until all of a sudden it isn’t. The two must struggle through an impossible decision, the results of which will lead to unhappiness for one of them.
As Buzzfeed reader NormaZ says, “It gets your hopes up and then it crushes you like an Oreo.”
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Set in a tumultuous period of American history, readers get more than a glimpse into the facets of slavery and slave “ownership.” Though Jones follows the lives of multiple characters, the story’s primary focus is on Henry Townsend, a former slave turned slave owner who believes he would be a much better master than the white man… Until he becomes one.
We the Animals by Justin Torres
We the Animals, though a novel, reads somewhat like a collection of short stories, with each section focusing on a different animalistic metaphor for the characters’ family dynamic and providing a glimpse into the life of the narrator.
The story centers on three brothers living with their Puerto Rican father and white mother as they struggle through poverty. An amazing coming-of-age story, we watch as the boys grow and learn the difference between wanting more and achieving more.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Two fraternal twin boys, raised by a single mother in an India rife with conflict, The God of Small Things first breaks down its characters and its readers with a string of events leading to the characters’ disenchantment with life. The boys, once optimistic and in love with the world that surrounded them, find themselves facing cruel, life-changing realities and must find a way to make their peace once again.
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
Following the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka, the author and protagonist, Sonali, discovered that her entire family, their home, and all of their belongings had been lost in the tragedy. While the story is heart-wrenching and emotional all on its own, Deraniyagala’s telling is full of imagery and written in a raw voice guaranteed to make you feel the loss and eventual recovery she went through.
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez
Always one to take on the surreal, Márquez lives up to his reputation with a simultaneous look into medicine and religious beliefs and ritual as wielded by the 19th century Catholic Church.
A young girl begins acting strangely and violently and is believed by her family to be suffering from demonic possession brought about by a dog bite. The young priest sent to perform the girl’s exorcism finds himself in love, in spite of her behavioral abnormalities.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
*Personal Review: I love this book*
An unusual love story, Where the Red Fern Grows is a tale about a boy who loves his dogs as members of the family. After saving money for years, the youth purchases his pups, Old Dan and Little Ann, and trains them to be some of the best raccoon hunters in the county. It’s a story of inspiration, perseverance, family, and a boy and his beloved dogs.
It’s hard to write too much about this story and what makes it so poignant without giving away the story, but if you like dogs, you will love this book.
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Historical fiction at its finest, In the Time of the Butterflies is a fictional account of the true story of the Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic. In the 1960s, the sisters were powerful activists, members of the underground movement opposing dictator Raphael Trujillo. The sisters were eventually found to have been ambushed and assassinated in their car, thus darkly emphasizing their political influence in the activists’ movement.
If you’re interested in history and political upheaval, this is a book for you.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
A realistic, gritty story of what life in a street gang was like during the 1960s in the United States.
We are allowed into the lives of “the Greasers” and their conflict with a rival gang over the course of just a couple of days. In that brief period, we are made privy to murder, extortion, loyalty, and friendship in the most unlikely of places.
Night by Elie Wiesel
Another tale of WWII, Night provides an unflinching look into the concentration camps and the sadistic tendencies of Nazis and their supporters.
The book is an autobiographical account by Wiesel, detailing his survival as a teenager in a Nazi death camp. Readers feel the fear and dread of everyday torment, perversions, and hopelessness that plagued the inhabitants of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
It’s a horribly upsetting story, but that in no way makes it any less worth reading.
Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
Another autobiographical account, this book is about the life of a girl living with her uncle in Haiti, waiting for her parents in the United States to send for her. Over time, she becomes greatly attached to her uncle, a local preacher, and when he is diagnosed with throat cancer, she is understandably distraught and searches for a way to save his life.
After determining that his best hope lies in American medical care, Edwidge and her family do their best to negotiate everyone into the country. What follows is a story of familial devotion and unfortunate government oppression.