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5 Books That Made Me Cry

Updated on March 20, 2012

Why would I write a reading list of books that will make you cry? These books have taken me on more powerful emotional journeys than any others I have read. Thy will grab you by the guts and won't let you go until they're good and done. Now that's good writing.


Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

By Harriet Jacobs

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is an autobiography written by a woman born a slave in the deep South who spent her entire life trying to find, steal or earn her freedom. The book was written under the pseudonym Linda Brent in the year 1861. The pseudonym was used to protect Jacobs, and her daughters by a white man, from persecution and the ever-present threat of death, capture or abuse by her former owner. It is one of the most poignant, detailed and honest accounts of the lives and treatment of slaves in America’s deep south. Especially enslaved women. Jacobs doesn’t shy from descriptions of abuse, sexual exploitation and other brutalities that make you want to cry and vomit at the same time.

Although this book was published over 150 years ago it had fallen into obscurity until it was ‘rediscovered’ in the seventies. It has been reprinted many times since then. For many years, and even today, some believe that this book is a fictional narrative. There are many reasons for this, including a sensational account of “Linda” spending many years hiding in the roof of her family’s shed to escape her former owner. In my opinion the main reason this book was discounted as fictional for so many years was simply because it was written by a woman and focuses almost entirely on her family’s escape from slavery. It lacks the daring and adventurous exploits by handsome young men that would apparently make it more believable. Scholars have taken great pains to establish the book’s authenticity, and with the discovery of letters written by Jacobs to many of the leading figures in the civil rights movement the book is now accepted by most as an autobiography.

This book is sickening to read, especially knowing, as we do now, that it is a true account. I believe it is nonetheless very important, especially for young Americans, to read it get an understanding of the horrors and truths of the history of slavery in the Southern United States.


By Elie Weisel

It’s hard not to cry when reading just about anything set in Germany, or the surrounding countries, during the holocaust but Elie Weisel’s survivor’s account of life in the concentration camps is particularly difficult to get through. Weisel was a teenager when he was shipped off to concentration camps in Auschwitz and Buchenwald with his father. He grew up in a world where every aspect of humanity was turned inside out, where he witnessed the death of God inside himself.

The Nobel Prize winning novel is short, novella length, and fragmented in a way that gives it an uncomfortable proximity to the events and the state of mind that the young man was in as he cared for his dying father and grew to care less and less about the world and the people around him.

Phrases like, “They steal your humanity.” are often used when discussing concentration camps and the holocaust but never have I better understood the phrase than while reading Weisel’s gut-wrenching true story.

Originally Weisel had a hard time finding a publisher for his novel, which had started out as a nearly 300 page account in Yiddish. Publishers told him the book was too morbid but luckily someone recognized it’s importance and we have this incredible, yes morbid, yes horrific but more importantly honest, account of the degradation of humanity inside Nazi concentration camps.


The Kite Runner

By Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is the story of a young boy named Amir coming of age in Kabul during the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy, the Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban. Throughout the story, as the young boy grows up we see the stark difference between Amir’s affluent lifestyle and the life of his best friend and servant Hassan. Being a Canadian my perception of Afghanistan’s past has always been from the outside looking in. It was a great experience to see Afghanistan, and all of it’s strife, through the eyes of a young man who called it home.

Amir is very much an anti-hero throughout the novel. He deals with struggles that few of us would respond to gallantly and unlike most heroes he responds to them the way the rest of us might. Watching this brought me face to face with the reality of my own fears and cowardice. It makes it hard to judge Amir when you’re not certain you could find the strength within yourself to do any better.

This, perhaps, is the hardest part of the book. Through Amir’s many demons Hosseini forces us to see our own. There are a few scenes in particularly, especially earlier in the book, that hit me quite hard, but Hosseini doesn’t give you a moment’s respite from heartache and revulsion until you’ve turned the last page. The genius is almost nothing could have made me put that book down.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

By Stieg Larsson

If the theme of this book could be summarized as succinctly as possibly it would be with the phrase, “Sexual violence against women.” In fact, the original Swedish title was, Men Who Hate Women. So, perhaps you can already tell why is was so difficult to get through. Actually, I almost couldn’t. And though I recommend every other book on this list I can’t recommend this one. It is honest and graphic, yes, but I felt more traumatized by the materials therein than by any other book on this list. I could hardly get through it. It actually made me vomit.

The book is certianly well written, it’s incredibly engrossing, it’s all the things that a good book should be. If you can handle the incredibly graphic nature of scenes and descriptions of violence against women then by all means read it. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

By J.K. Rowling

I thought I’d let you go with something a little lighter. Try to attain something like catharsis. Yes, believe it or not the last Harry Potter book made me cry. And so did the movie.

I read the first three or four Harry Potter books when they first came out. I think I was eight when I read The Philosopher’s Stone, which naturally, I loved. By the time I had finished the third book I had moved on to Atwood and Rushdie and just left Harry Potter behind.

Then, last year when my health had me in bed for months I turned to books that felt like old friends. They were fun, adventurous light reads…until about book 5. Then they got really intense. By the time I was reading the seventh book I was so invested in a couple of kids who had become adults with adult problems I felt like I didn’t even know what I was reading anymore. When did Harry Potter get so hardcore?

By the last book the characters are no longer dealing with bullies and school crushes. They are battling with the violent death of friends and families, corrupt politicians, and even suicide. I found myself gripping the book so hard my knuckles were turning white. Then, at that scene near the end, those of you who have read it (or seen the movie I suppose) will most likely know which one I mean, I was balling my eyes out. Poor Harry.

If you, too, gave up after the first few books or were old enough to have dismissed the whole series I would suggest you take a second look. If you stick with them those books offer an emotional punch you may not have expected alongside a couple of teenaged wand-slingers.


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    • ar.colton profile image

      Mikal Smith 5 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Thank you for spreading the word about my FMS articles. I'm glad to know I'm reaching more people!

      As far as the movies version's of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo go, I haven't seen them. I meant it when I said I wish I had never read the book. There's no way I'm seeing the movies.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      ......Hello my friend from lake erie time ontario canada 9:44pm and so very nice to meet you - I love your passion, sensitivity and intellect here in this most arresting and profound labor of love - how did you like the film adaptation of the Girl with the Dragon tattoo (the Swedish or the American remake) ..... you are what I would call a reader's reader and I will most definitely post this wonderful world class hub to my Facebook group called Let's just talk music or cinema ..... and I have a little surprise for you - one of my dear friends online Sannel - she is from Sweden and at Sannel's World (her blog) (locate it on Google) and has fibromyalgia like yourself and I would like the two of you to meet if you can - I have posted your hub profile to Sannel's FB wall and e-mailed Sannel about your hubpage as well - sending you my warm wishes and good energy my fellow Canadian

    • ar.colton profile image

      Mikal Smith 5 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Wow, Dee thanks so much! I'm glad I could share. And yes, the Harry Potter books should definitely be on your list! Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoy the books!

    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 5 years ago

      You made amazing selections....the ones I have not read are Night...I will be recommending it to my book club to read and discuss. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is on the list and will be the next we read... I have not read any of the Harry Potter books but my son keeps telling me I I will.

      I love to get the opinions of others about books to read, which is one of the reasons I enjoy being part of a book read and discuss as a group is great. I voted this up, useful and interesting. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • ar.colton profile image

      Mikal Smith 5 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Glad I could answer your question TM. Thanks for taking a look :)

    • ThoughtMonkey profile image

      ThoughtMonkey 5 years ago from United Kingdon

      ar.colton. Answers my question perfectly. I got a little choked up to the harry potter book too but I dont think I cried.

    • ar.colton profile image

      Mikal Smith 5 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Wow, the Time Traveller's Wife almost made this list. I had to cut it though because I only welled up. But I totally agree. Niffeneger did amazing things with it. If I ever meet her I'll be grovelling. I haven't actually seen the movie. I heard it wasn't great so I never got around to it. The book was definitely enough for me!

      Thanks so much!

    • shesacraftymom profile image

      shesacraftymom 5 years ago

      I'm with you on the last Harry Potter book. The movie choked me up a little, too. I agree about Kite Runner, too. Another book that made me cry - "The Time Traveler's Wife". Not the movie, but the book made me feel like I'd been punched in the stomach after I finished it. Not sure if that's an endorsement or not. Ha! Voted up! Interesting hub!