10 Books That Make You Cry in Public

I had an uncomfortable night out reading when I got to a final chapter in One Day by David Nicholls. This is, by all accounts, not a book that should have you crying but when a certain character died, I was a ridiculous mess. It was an ugly cry, the worst cry of them all.

It reminded me of high school when we had to silently read Call of the Wild in the middle of class. After once again hiding in the bathroom and wishing I had brought make-up, I thought about the other hidden pitfall books. The ones I was grateful for not having read in public. So I made a list of the novels you should avoid while reading on the subway, in a coffee house, or anywhere near another human being.

Warning. There will be spoilers…


10. Bridge to Terabithia

Everything is hunky dory as a young boy named, Jesse (after having trouble making friends) finds a connection with the feisty tomboy, Leslie. They end up creating a magical kingdom for two in the woods which they name, Terabithia. The end totally blindsides you and you WILL wind up in tears.



9. The Color Purple

This one’s not as much about death as it is about sisterly bonds, lost children, and the main character, Celie, getting out of her abusive situation. You won’t cry until the end after having spent the entire book gnashing your teeth with rage. Pick this up if you need a really happy cry.



8. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

No duh, right? Talk about not seeing someone’s death coming although the person who dies knew for years that this was how it would be. Expectio tissues.



7. Sophie’s Choice

This is one of those tearjerkers for smarty pants readers with a soul. You know, the ones who listen to NPR. Just the title lures you in, wondering what Sophie will have to struggle to choose and most parents can’t get through that chapter without losing it.



6. The Green Mile 

I’ll bet you didn’t expect to see Stephen King on the list. If John Coffey or Mr. Jingles or the ending doesn’t make you cry, you might be a sociopath.



5. The Outsiders

Life was already pretty crappy for Ponyboy before he ended up losing his friend. Then all hell breaks loose and you will end up crying as hard as he does. This book has introduced generations to Robert Frost and the terms “socs” and “greaser”.  Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.



4. The Joy Luck Club

Yes, mothers go on and on about how much they care but this novel reveals the horrific struggles and sacrifices made by those in turn of the century, China. These Chinese mothers, stereotypical in this book as “tiger moms” or “cold women”, are exposed as having given up everything so that their children will have a better life. This will give you one of those “I miss my mom” cries.



3. Little Women

This is a tough one. I’m going to commit a literary felony and admit I’m not the biggest Louisa May Alcott fan. I really disliked The Inheritance and Little Women was good but just as overly floral and precious. The best thing about Little Women, I think, is that Alcott makes the characters feel real but the death didn’t do much to me. However, many generations of women can tell you where they were when so-and-so’s death made them cry so approach this one with caution.



2. The Book Thief

It’s pretty bad when a co-worker, proud of his incredible masculinity, is caught blubbering like a baby in the break room just thinking about the chapter he read the night before in The Book Thief. Everyone agrees that this is the book that sends them into a downward spiral so save this one for home. It’s about WWII for goodness sake.



1. Charlotte’s Web

This book is like watching the end of My Girl while listening to “You Are My Sunshine” by Johnny Cash. In the first chapter, the farmer’s young daughter saves the runt of the litter of pigs from the axe and nurses him with a bottle and names him “Wilbur”. Then his best friend Charlotte, the spider, saves his life *spoiler alert* and dies, telling him that he only had to be her friend to make her happy. Then he befriends one of her children…I can’t even. Sure, it’s uplifting and all, but you’ll be out for the count for the next few days. You’ll also probably turn into a vegetarian.


Nicolina Torres
Nicolina Torres

Nikki worked for Barnes & Noble for 15 years, in seven stores. She is the author of This Red Fire, Young Nation, and Girls Who Wear Glasses. She prefers to live in the country and is a new aunt to a potential bookworm.

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