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10 Cry-Worthy Books From My College Years
After I wrote Books That Changed My Childhood, I received a few emails asking me about my other novels, so I am going to continue sharing different types of reads that have affected my life. I’m also adding my favorite quotes! I’ll be honest. I started writing a list of novels that affected my high school years, but it got out of control, so I moved onto my college time only to realize most of the books did, in fact, make me cry.
Yes. That was a warning.
Most – if not all of these – made me cry. And if you’ve never cried at a novel, I recommend these because everyone should cry at a novel at least once in their reading lives.
1. The Art of Racing the Rain by Garth Stein – Yes, this novel is told from a dog’s perspective. And yes, you can take a dog seriously. (If you think you can’t, trust me when I say you must read this book.) A friend recommended this novel to me, and I was hesitant when I picked it up in the bookstore. To my surprise, I read it in one sitting, even when my vision got blurry.
“Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot talk, so I listen very well.”
2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – If you’ve ever though that first-person can’t be taken seriously, then, Ishiguro is here to prove you wrong. There are no other words to describe his prose in this novel. You will begin at childhood and grow into an adult, just like you did in real life. It will remind me of how you learned in life, and it will tear you apart.
“All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma.”
3. The Unmemntioable by Erin Moure – Arguably one my favorite poetry collections if not my favorite. (I can never decide which one is my favorite.) I first read this in my poetry class at the University of Kansas, and I have continued to read it over and over ever since. The exploration of language, history, relationships, and identity is more than enough to cause emotional reflections.
“When there was no one left, it became nowhere. There were no more letters after the w.”
4. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang – Cry-worthy? Debatable. But the emotions are just as strong. The awe could possibly bring tears to your eyes. They sure choked me up. But I mainly added this because it’s the perfect example of a graphic novel that proves all graphic novels can be taken seriously.
“It’s easy to become anything you wish . . . so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul.”
5. When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka – This novel has never left me, perhaps because Otsuka never gives names to her characters. She forces you to become them, delicately and masterfully, before she explores Japanese concentration camps in the United States. This is one of those stories I lent out to someone and deeply regretted it when I didn’t get it back. I will have this book on my shelf again one day.
“He wondered if you could see the same moon in Lordsburg, or London, or even China, where all the men wore little black slippers, and he decided that you could, depending on the clouds. ‘Same moon,’ he whispered to himself, ‘same moon.'”
6. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat – Not for the light-hearted. I first read this memoir after the earthquake in Haiti. I wish I could say more about it, but I fear that I would take away from the exploration of culture and identity if I did.
“Love is like the rain. It comes in a drizzle sometimes. Then it starts pouring, and if you’re not careful, it will drown you.”
7. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah – Again, not for the light-hearted. This is a memoir of a child solider, and it is also one of my favorite books. Right when you think you can handle his prose, he reminds you of his age, and you are torn apart, but you keep reading because his voice coaxes you to.
“We must strive to be like the moon.”
8. One Day by David Nicholls – Maybe the emotions in this novel are a little too close to reality? Meet Dex and Em, two friends who continue to meet on the same day every year for…oh, you know, their whole lives. A definite reminder of how time passes, how much can happen, and how we change because of it all.
“You can live your whole life not realizing that what you’re looking for is right in front of you.”
9. Aimless Love by Billy Collins – Another poetry collection, but this is technically a few of his collections together. If you’re hesitant about poetry, I definitely recommend Collins because he is easy to slip into but complicated over time. You might not cry, but you might have to take a moment to feel like crying after reading a few of his poems.
“No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.”
10. On the Road by Jack Kerouac – Yes. I just admitted this. I cried when I read On the Road. I’m not sure why since it’s not necessarily a “sad” novel, but it was for me. The exploration and exploitation of Dean really brought the sadness out in me. I would get more into detail about how I feel about Dean and the other characters – which were definitely based off of real people – but I don’t want to spoil the story. On the Road is more than just a recount of drugs and sex in the Beat Generation. It’s forcing life when faced with living like you’re already dead.
“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
Oh, just an extra. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I only debated this novel because I technically read it when I was fourteen, but I reread it later on, and I cried. Again. And at the theatre when I saw the adaptation. And when I got home and read it again. And again when I forced my friend to watch the movie.
I don’t purposely read novels that are turned into movies, but it might be interesting to note that these are also movie adaptations now: Never Let Me Go (I cried) and One Day (I almost cried.) On the Road (Okay. So I didn’t cry at this one. But the feels!)
So what novels or poems have brought tears to your eyes? Why? Share them below, and let’s have a cry fest! (A happy, artistic one, of course.) I’ll bring the tissues.
16 thoughts on “10 Cry-Worthy Books From My College Years”
Every so often I stop to think about books that helped shape or solidify my perspective – heady stuff 🙂
It’s a nice reminder I think, but yes, heavy. 🙂 Thank you for reading and commenting.
I’ve only read one of these but I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain!
One of my favorites. :]
I’m probably in an odd camp, but two books that never fail to punch me in the feels are 11/22/63 and It, both by King. Neither would seem, at first glance, to be deeply emotional pieces, but Sadie’s plot arc in ’63 and the general loss of childhood (and self) of the Loser’s Club are both deeply melancholy for me.
I do love King! I will have to check out 11/22/63 since I haven’t read it yet. Thanks for sharing these novels!
When did I last cry over a book? Hm, that’s a toughie! I think it was Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonsong” when I was 16 or 17… decades ago. Maybe what I look for in books is something to make me laugh. Life gives me enough to cry about.
That’s an idea for a list! 10 Books You Can Laugh With. :]
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Never Let Me Go was a powerful read, so chilling.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldron brought me to tears. I fell in love with her characters and felt every heartbreak and moment of happiness they went through.
I’ll have to check Outlander out! Thank you for reading and commenting.
In a rather cruel twist of fats, I was halfway through reading The Art of Racing in the Rain when we lost one of our dogs and to this day I have not been able to find the strength to pick the book back up and finish it.
That is completely understandable! Sorry for your loss. Losing any member of a family is so, so hard!
It’s been a tough time and only recently that we lost our dog so the wounds are still pretty raw at the moment. I will finish that back though….one day…