The best books to make you cry

The Books I Picked & Why

The House of the Spirits

By Isabel Allende

Book cover of The House of the Spirits

Why this book?

When I first read The House of the Spirits as a teenager, I didn’t realize it was part of a Latin American literary movement called magical realism – a tradition that seamlessly blends the real world with aspects of folklore, fantasy, and the supernatural. And while this multi-generational tale of the Trueba family is often political – for me, it was the love story between Blanca and Pedro that brought tears to my eyes. In the end, is there anything more romantic, or heartbreaking, than impossible love?

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The Neapolitan Novels Boxed Set

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein

Book cover of The Neapolitan Novels Boxed Set

Why this book?

My hands are shaking as I write this. Honestly, I’m not certain I’m up to the task of writing about how brilliant this book is – and how much they mean to me. I’ve never felt more immersed inside a fictional character’s mind in my entire life. This is the epic story of a decades-long female friendship, depicted in compelling, granular detail. By the end of the fourth and final book, the pages were stained with tears. 

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Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Brontë

Book cover of Jane Eyre

Why this book?

Jane Eyre deservedly makes a lot of “best of” lists – and its titular character’s journey is chock full of narrative surprises. But for me, it’s the early part of the novel – when Jane is trapped in an abusive grade school – that moved me to tears. There’s a scene when Jane’s only friend, Helen, is dying in bed. Jane sneaks upstairs to comfort her. While under the covers together, the young Jane begins asking existential questions about the meaning of life and death. And her friend, a believer in God and the afterlife, ironically winds up comforting Jane: By dying young I shall escape great sufferings…I believe; I have faith; I am going to God.”  

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The Lost Wife

By Alyson Richman

Book cover of The Lost Wife

Why this book?

Until I wrote my book I was exclusively a screenwriter. And throughout my career, I’ve been hired to adapt a variety of different novels, mostly love stories and romantic comedies. But nothing I’ve ever worked on has haunted me quite like Alyson Richman’s tale of first love – a love ripped apart by the brutality of the Nazis and their “Final Solution.” And yet, even as the horrors unfold, Richman always manages to find pinpoints of light in the darkness. Her prose is both elegant and poetic – and the tale she weaves will undoubtedly call forth the waterworks.

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Winter’s Tale

By Mark Helprin

Book cover of Winter’s Tale

Why this book?

When writing brings me to tears, it's usually because I’m emotionally connected to the protagonist and his/her struggles. But with Mark Helprin, it’s the writing itself that makes me tear up. Yes, it’s that good. It’s the kind of writing that makes me happy to share the world with artists who can evoke so many emotions, using the same words we all use, every single day. Mark Helprin has written many beautiful books, but this one’s simply unforgettable. 

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