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Books that will make me weep?
July 21, 2011 7:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me be sad. Recommend to me depressing, sad, mournful fiction. Books that made you sad and a tad tearful. I just want to access these emotions and be taken away in good writing and wonderful characters. Any genre is acceptable except YA (unless you can prove it is real exceptional YA I suppose). Less cliched angst situations as well.
posted by kanata to Grab Bag (88 answers total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Lovely Bones almost did me in. It was so beautiful and incredibly SAD.
posted by Leezie at 7:23 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, so this is YA, but it is really the most excellent book I've read in a year and I sobbed uncontrollably at the ending and avoid even thinking about the book because it makes me tear up, and it is Plain Kate by Erin Bow.

A Prayer for Owen Meany is also a good tearjerker book.
posted by jeather at 7:25 PM on July 21, 2011


A long, long way by Sebastian Barry. Young Irish boy goes off to world war one. Great prose.

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry.

Sweet Georgia Brown, if these two books don't do the trick, nothing will.
posted by smoke at 7:26 PM on July 21, 2011


The Remains of the Day.
posted by Melismata at 7:27 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Grapes of Wrath. Many sad moments in that book, but the last few pages are unbearably sad.
posted by Houstonian at 7:32 PM on July 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


South of the Border, West of the Sun. Haruki Murakami.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Milan Kundera.
Wittgenstein's Mistress. David Markson.
2666. Roberto Bolano.
The Power and the Glory. Graham Greene.

Switching it up a bit...

Ecclesiastes. Author unknown.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:33 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, and I forgot two Steinbecks that I love: East of Eden and Cannery Row.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:34 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


So Long, See You Tomorrow, by William Maxwell: "My mother's sisters and my father's sisters and my grandmother all watched over us. If they hadn't, I don't know what would have become of us, in that sad house, where nothing ever changed, where life had come to a standstill. My father was all but undone by my mother's death. In the evening after supper he walked the floor and I walked with him, with my arm around his waist. I was ten years old. He would walk from the living room into the front hall, then, turning, past the grandfather's clock and on into the library, and from the library into the living room. Or he would walk from the library into the dining room and then into the living room by another dooway, and back to the front hall. Because he didn't say anything, I didn't either. I only tried to sense, as he was about to turn, which room he was going to next so we wouldn't bump into each other. His eyes were focused on things not in those rooms, and his face was the color of ashes. From conversations that had taken place in front of me I knew he was tormented by the belief that he was responsible for what had happened. If he had only taken this or that precaution ... It wasn't true, any of it."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:35 PM on July 21, 2011


Johnny Got His Gun, Trumbo. Absolutely depressing, but in a different way than sentimentially sad. I read parts of it through tears.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:36 PM on July 21, 2011


Not fiction, but if you want to cry, read Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. You'll laugh, too, lots, and marvel -- it's very broad. But you'll cry like a kid.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:37 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy by Sigrid Undset -- The Wreath, The Wife, The Cross. The best historical fiction I have ever read, and I have read enough that I don't say it lightly. I recommend this book too damned often, because it is a great big chunk of Norwegian sadness that most people can't bear with, but I think you're in the right mood.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:37 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther.
W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:39 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, are you open to film? Ikiru made me bawl like a baby.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:40 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Lovely Bones, as mentioned above, is definitely sad although not in a tearjerker way

Marley and Me made me bawl like a baby towards the end.
posted by radioamy at 7:41 PM on July 21, 2011


Flowers for Algernon absolutely destroyed me, as did Stoner. These are the only two books I can think of that made me cry nonstop for pages and pages during their conclusions. Stoner was especially bad/good.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:43 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seconding Flowers for Algernon and a Prayer for Owen Meany.

...and strangely enough, there is a scene in Stephen King's Pet Sematary made be bawl like a goddamn baby.
posted by msali at 7:47 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a heartbreaking YA work by Sherman Alexie, who doesn't usually write for YA.
posted by CCCC at 7:48 PM on July 21, 2011


Oh man. The end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest killed me. I was equal parts horrified and sad. Also The Color Purple by Alice Walker and A Long Way Down by Nick Hornsby, for different reasons (but I bawled).

Nthing Angela's Ashes, Flowers for Algernon.
posted by smirkette at 7:51 PM on July 21, 2011


The Kite Runner
posted by Gilbert at 7:52 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


A Prayer for Owen Meany and Flowers for Algernon are in my top twenty books so I agree on those.

Movies are out as I'm just looking for books. I'm looking for that feeling of heatbreak and sadness that comes with a well written story.
posted by kanata at 7:52 PM on July 21, 2011


Never Let Me Go made me tear up. (And I almost never cry when I read.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:52 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sophie's Choice by William Styron.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:57 PM on July 21, 2011


Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. If you are a dog person, you will cry your face off. You'll also read this book in about 4hours.
posted by Paleoindian at 7:59 PM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's quite different from the movie, and the ending makes me cry every time.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:00 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Atonement (definitely better than the movie). Lorie Moore's Birds of America (short stories depicting relatively mundane snippets of normal people and everyday lives...beautiful but punch-you-in-the-gut dark at points).
posted by lovableiago at 8:15 PM on July 21, 2011


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.
posted by Nerro at 8:15 PM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Truly exceptional YA fiction. I wept profusely while reading (several times on the subway, but it was so good I couldn't put it down.
posted by kimdog at 8:16 PM on July 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


You want We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It's potent stuff — I think it's the only thing I've ever read that was so sad it frightened me. But it's also good for catharsis the way I imagine Greek tragedy must have been for its original audience. Just shakes you right the fuck up.

Also, on a completely different note, Oscar and Lucinda. Big sprawling plot, awesome characters, and some really great weepy moments. I kept thinking "Oh god, he wouldn't do that to such a wonderful bunch of people" — and then of course he'd go and do it.

And yeah, on preview, Atonement.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:18 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Art of Racing in the Rain. Not great literature, but made me cryyyy. Can't remember I've cried that much from reading a book before.
posted by AwkwardPause at 8:20 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. This was marketed as YA in the US, but not in Australia where it was originally published. Really the only thing that makes this "YA" is that the protagonist is a young girl, otherwise I don't see it as being especially YA. I basically sobbed my way through the last hundred pages or so, and it was absolutely worth it. The best kind of catharsis, I think.

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis left me frankly desolate and seriously upset it was so sad. Long and slowly, grindingly heartbreaking.
posted by yasaman at 8:22 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. I was bummed out for after I finished reading it — just couldn't seem to shake off the depression it caused.

For a more modern example, the Angela Lambert novels I've read have all made me sob in a way I practically never do when reading fiction. Of her books, I've read The Constant Mistress, Kiss and Kin, and Golden Lads and Girls.

Ten Thousand Lovers by Edeet Ravel also made me cry.

posted by orange swan at 8:26 PM on July 21, 2011


The Time Traveler's Wife makes me cry every time I read it.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:27 PM on July 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Borrowed Time, by Paul Monette. It's about the early years of the AIDS crisis on the west coast, told by a man who lost his partner and best friend.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:29 PM on July 21, 2011


My Antonia by Willa Cather

So good so sad, reminds me of Remains of the Day.
posted by sio42 at 8:32 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seconding The Book Thief and Kite Runner, and would add A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Disgrace by JM Coetzee and Imaginings of Sand by Andre Brink are great South African novels from Aparteid era. And The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri are great Indian novels. Also God of Small Things.

Beloved by Toni Morrison (about slavery). Night by Elie Weisel (about the Holocaust)
posted by guster4lovers at 8:34 PM on July 21, 2011


Charlotte's Web, E.B. White
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
posted by holterbarbour at 8:35 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Under The Volcano is pretty much my stock answer to any question about good literature.

Ack, on preview, guster4lovers -- missed it by that much!
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:36 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Happy Prince and Other Stories, by Oscar Wilde

Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey
posted by hot soup girl at 8:44 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Memory of Running
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:45 PM on July 21, 2011


You'd want to read the main Otori trilogy first, which is not really weep-worthy, but the end of The Harsh Cry of the Heron (fourth book, a sort of postquel) made me cry and cry.

So did The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which, while not my favorite, is beloved by many.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:53 PM on July 21, 2011


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See.
posted by tomboko at 9:03 PM on July 21, 2011


For some reason the saddest, saddest stuff is always YA.

Old Yeller
My Friend Flicka
Black Beauty
posted by anaelith at 9:09 PM on July 21, 2011


Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas....warning, read only with super size box of tissue within arms reach.
posted by JujuB at 9:30 PM on July 21, 2011


Another vote for The Book Thief and The Time Traveler's Wife. Both were sob city.

YMMV but Atonement just made me made as hell at the main girl character. I couldn't even finish it I was so pissed off.
posted by grapesaresour at 9:38 PM on July 21, 2011


The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:08 PM on July 21, 2011


The Road.
posted by The Deej at 10:11 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis. I re-read it every couple of years when I want to read something beautiful and heartbreaking.
posted by creepygirl at 10:51 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also not fiction, but reads like a novel:
I'm Proud of You, by Tim Madigan.
A reporter interviews Mister Rogers in the 1990's and ends up developing a friendship with him over the years; helping him deal with depression, marital problems and grief, among other things.
I read lots of fiction but am never usually moved to tears by sad things in novels, even though the sadness registers with me...but this one snuck up on me, and as I read one of Mister Rogers' letters to the depressed author telling him how proud he was of him I found myself sobbing in the bathtub.
posted by chococat at 11:01 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oops that should read "as Rogers helps him deal with his depression, etc..."
It's not about Mister Rogers being depressed, although, ya, that would be really sad.
posted by chococat at 11:04 PM on July 21, 2011


The Kite Runner made me cry buckets. And just when I thought it couldn't get any better (or sadder) I read A Thousand Splendid Suns. Amazingly beautiful and ever so sad.

Also another vote for A Fine Balance, The Namesake, and The Time Traveler's Wife.
posted by katy song at 11:35 PM on July 21, 2011


Of Mice and Men. I cried for hours. :(
posted by kuju at 12:09 AM on July 22, 2011


Moominpappa at Sea

It's not YA, it's a children's book. But, really. Devastating.
posted by Grangousier at 12:14 AM on July 22, 2011


Oscar Wilde's stories, some of Ibsen's and Chekov's plays.
posted by miorita at 2:35 AM on July 22, 2011


A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
posted by backwards guitar at 3:47 AM on July 22, 2011


Houdini Girl by Martyn Bedford. God, that book just gutted me.
posted by 8dot3 at 5:18 AM on July 22, 2011


I cried when I finished John Updike's Rabbit books.
posted by booth at 5:19 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


And Susan Minot's "Monkeys" might do the trick.
posted by booth at 5:21 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I definitely agree with the 'Remains of the Day' suggestion - it is permeated with sadness. Also, 'A Farewell to Arms' by Hemingway (just don't spoil it by reading the ending before you get to it).
posted by Pilly at 5:32 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


You've probably seen the movie, but the short story Brokeback Mountain, by Annie Proulx, makes me bawl.
posted by gaspode at 6:06 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


William Faulkner, Abasalom, Abasalom. It won't be that "hot, crying" sadness, but the "relentless grinding" of depression. It is beautiful and worth the effort.
posted by Classic Diner at 6:17 AM on July 22, 2011


Ethan Frome
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:16 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bel Canto.
posted by mmmbacon at 7:23 AM on July 22, 2011


Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Also later Dickens books like Little Dorrit and Bleak House are incredibly depressing. And Great Expectations, of course.
posted by alittlecloser at 7:57 AM on July 22, 2011


Here's a second for The Road.

Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card made me weep openly. But I'm a dad.
posted by Billiken at 8:17 AM on July 22, 2011


The Wars, Timothy Findley
posted by biscotti at 8:38 AM on July 22, 2011


This is Where I Leave You
posted by jay.eye.elle.elle. at 8:44 AM on July 22, 2011


The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John Le Carre.

Another vote for The Road.
posted by russilwvong at 9:35 AM on July 22, 2011


Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman, in case you would like to spend several hundred pages grappling with the untimely death of the author's young wife (this is labeled a novel but is more like a fictionalized, non-linear memoir).
posted by unsub at 10:00 AM on July 22, 2011


The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams. The narrator's voice was so devastating to me that it took several tries before I could read the whole thing.
posted by workerant at 10:01 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Many of the ones already mentioned, plus:

Watership Down
The Child in Time
Anywhere But Here

P.S. Don't read The Road in public. Unless you're okay with crying your heart out in front of strangers.
posted by methroach at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2011


History of Love by Nicole Krauss
posted by parakeetdog at 11:41 AM on July 22, 2011


I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb.
posted by macadamiaranch at 11:59 AM on July 22, 2011


(YA) Anne of Green Gables. I can't even describe the plot without getting choked up.

And apparently I was the only person not to cry at The Time Traveler's Wife.
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:36 PM on July 22, 2011


And apparently I was the only person not to cry at The Time Traveler's Wife.

I did not cry at The Time Traveler's Wife and in fact found it annoying. Clearly I was doing it wrong.

posted by small_ruminant at 12:39 PM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


If I ever wanted to commit suicide and just didn't have the guts to do it, I'd imagine that "They Shoot Horses Don't They" would get me over that edge.
posted by cross_impact at 12:39 PM on July 22, 2011


I like to refer to "A Farewell to Arms" as "A Farewell to the Will to Live".

Also, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami gets me every time.
posted by telegraph at 1:06 PM on July 22, 2011


Small_ruminant, I didn't cry at the end of Time Travellers Wife either. I also was a little annoyed with it.

Seconding Jodi Piccoult. I've literally read everything she's written and I feel a little guilty about loving her so much.

And Memory Keeper's Daughter is good.

If you're wlling to make the commitment necessary, The Brothers Karamazov is The Book That Changed My Life. Grushenka and the onion still gets me.

This is fun! Now I have lots of books for the end of summer!
posted by guster4lovers at 1:59 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


nthing The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

and adding Stone Fox - if you like dogs. This is definitely a children's book (I think I first read it in 4th grade) but it never fails to make me cry. I don't know if I can prove that it's exceptional but if you subtract time spent crying it'll take like 15 minutes to read.
posted by abitha! at 2:10 PM on July 22, 2011


I recently finished Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien. Quick read, gorgeous writing, and just devastating.
posted by Rora at 4:30 PM on July 22, 2011


As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann.
posted by Nattie at 5:09 PM on July 22, 2011


AS Byatt's Still Life.

Semi-spoiler warning. From the Paris Review, in 2001:
I actually thought up the death of [character] in 1961. I thought, I’ll write a series of books, and I’ll make the death be one of the central consciousnesses, so that the reader will be upset as you are by a real death and not as you are by a fictional death. Every two or three months, I get a letter from somebody saying, How dare you do this to me. I sat and cried all night. You know, you can’t do that in a novel. You have no right to kill people in novels like real people. It’s not fair.
This book left me sobbing helplessly and wiping the tears away because I could hardly see to read; some of the passages at the end about the lived experience of grief are devastating.
posted by jokeefe at 7:43 PM on July 22, 2011


Seconding:
So Long, See You Tomorrow, William Maxwell
and
The Road, Cormac McCarthy

And suggesting:
That Night, Alice McDermott
Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson
The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead
The Reader, Bernhard Schlink
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Pretty much anything by William Trevor and Anita Brookner.
posted by Paris Elk at 3:45 AM on July 23, 2011


The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. Amazing little book.
posted by katiecat at 1:09 PM on July 23, 2011


The Raw Shark Text had me sobbing on a plane. Embarrassing.
posted by bq at 7:56 PM on July 23, 2011


Also, A.S. Byatt's newest, The Children's Book. She is ruthless and fantastic.
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 11:05 AM on July 25, 2011


The Painted Bird is unremittingly sad and depressing. Actually, anything by Kosinski will do.
posted by Philemon at 9:47 PM on July 27, 2011


An equal music by Vikram Seth
posted by dhruva at 10:54 AM on July 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


YMMV but Atonement just made me made as hell at the main girl character. I couldn't even finish it I was so pissed off.

I think that's a feature and not a bug. (Well, the "pissed off" part and not the "unable to finish" part.) It's basically a book about the suffering that self-righteous idiots can cause — and how difficult and rare it is for someone who's gone down that path to give up being a self-righteous idiot and turn into a reasonable human being.

Yes, bits of the story are told from her perspective. But that doesn't mean she's meant to be the hero. You're not meant to like her or sympathize with her. It's just that the plot depends so heavily on her (warped, selfish) point of view that it wouldn't work if you couldn't see inside her head.

posted by nebulawindphone at 11:11 AM on July 28, 2011


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