The best books for a cleansing sob fest

Kristan Higgins Author Of Pack Up the Moon
By Kristan Higgins

The Books I Picked & Why

Where the Crawdads Sing

By Delia Owens

Book cover of Where the Crawdads Sing

Why this book?

This book is quite possibly the most beautifully written story I’ve ever read. And wicked sad! But beautiful! Kya is a little girl when her mother leaves the cabin on the North Carolina marsh where her “swamp trash” family lives. One by one, her siblings leave as well, and finally, her alcoholic father disappears when Kya is eight. Alone, she manages to survive, with only the marsh and its abundant wildlife as her friend and teacher. Sure, she encounters people…and even falls in love…but this love story is between Kya and the marsh, and all that it gives her. The ending is a bit of a shocker in the best possible way. I’ll never forget this book; it’s definitely in the top five of my lifetime, right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird.

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The Color Purple

By Alice Walker

Book cover of The Color Purple

Why this book?

Another epic story of love and loss. You’d have to be carved out of granite not to ugly-cry over this book. Celie and Nettie are sisters, separated as children, but their love transcends decades. Celie lives through the horror of an abusive father, husband, stepchildren and is constantly told she’s worthless. But she believes differently, because Nettie loved her once. Probably the strongest character in literature, Celie gets her reward for years of kindness and grit in the most magnificent ugly-cry scene ever.   

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The Velveteen Rabbit

By Margery Williams, Charles Santore

Book cover of The Velveteen Rabbit

Why this book?

If you have a beating heart, this book will destroy you…but also teach you a lesson that you carry for the rest of your life. (Special shout-out to Booey, my teddy bear, aged 54, sitting next to me at this very moment.) A little boy loves his velveteen rabbit in the singular way only kids can love. When the boy comes down with scarlet fever and nearly dies, the doctor tells his parents that his room needs to be disinfected, and all his toys…burned. For the love of God!

The poor rabbit contemplates his fate and misses his boy, weeping real tears the night before his destruction, when a fairy appears and makes him real. He goes into the woods and meets other rabbits, and sometimes, the boy sees him, not realizing the rabbit was once his cuddle bunny. Lord. I’m crying just writing this. A beautiful book that’s weirdly great for kids, telling them that real love never dies…it just changes.

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The Year of Magical Thinking

By Joan Didion

Book cover of The Year of Magical Thinking

Why this book?

Probably the definitive memoir about grief, guaranteed to strike a chord with everyone who’s ever lost a loved one. Joan’s beloved husband dies of a heart attack while they’re having a perfectly nice dinner. Her only child, Quintana, is gravely ill at the time, and later dies. How can a person survive this kind of loss? With both cool detachment—Ms. Didion is a lifelong writer—and wrenching emotion, she describes the surreal experience of life after loss. It’s unflinching and beautiful and necessary, really, because we’ll all lose someone tragically, and we’re never ready for it.

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Wuthering Heights

By Emily Bronte

Book cover of Wuthering Heights

Why this book?

This book is heartbreaking because it’s the story of what could have been, if only Heathcliff and Catherine could’ve gotten out of their own way. Theirs is love that defines each of them—the wild orphan boy who’s brought home by Cathy’s father, the spirited girl who loves the moors and nature…and Heathcliff. But because they’re both emotionally stupid, they don’t end up together, and watching the devolution of Heathcliff, who loved her so fiercely, as he grapples with her betrayal and eventual death, is devastating.

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