Did you ever decide to try out a new book and suddenly found yourself with strong emotions, unable to process what you just read? Your friend finally lended you that book you always wanted to read, but you never expected to sob this much. Sometimes, reading a book like that becomes exactly what you need as a nice refresher in the literary world. Even these stories will bring on some fresh tears, you can’t help but continue to read on.
Read along for the top 10 books that will put you in your feels.
1. The Song of Achilles
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Greek mythology just got a whole lot more tragic (improbable, but not impossible). The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller follows the story of Achilles, starting with his origins, then leading up to his time in the Trojan War. What makes this book so special you say? It’s told from the perspective of Achilles’ true love, Patroclus.
“The book is so good with how descriptive Madeline Miller is. She takes a lot of time in introducing you to this world where you feel very immersed within it,” University of California, Santa Barbara sophomore Andrea Paz said. “The emotional punch really comes in through the details Miller brings to the table. My heart felt like it tore with how tragic the experience was and how personal these events come to feel.”
However, like all Greek tragedies, the prophecies foretold unfortunately must come true. And those prophecies…not always very pretty. Despite the tragic nature of the book, the real story of love and hope shines when the plot gets dark.
2. Crooked Kingdom
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Who doesn’t love a story about teenagers committing crimes and possibly murder? Crooked Kingdom, as part of the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo, continues the story of the Crows who go on a mission to take down one of the most gruelling crime bosses of the Barrel, Jan Van Eck. Their crazy missions happen to coincide with possibly stopping a drug war from endangering Grisha—humans with the ability to wield the power of the small sciences—and saving them from becoming enslaved by these threatening crime bosses. Pretty insane plot, but the characters really do become your own friends in the process. This book becomes completely emotional near the end (fans will know the dreaded chapter 40) when you realize, not everyone might receive a happy ending.
3. Normal People
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Though relatable books may bring on a sense of wariness, it’s also frustratingly amazing. Normal People, by the fantastic Sally Rooney, focuses on the story of Connell and Marianne, two “friends” who continue to discover themselves in college while having an on-and-off relationship. Connell and Marianne’s story often gets frustrating because of their lack of communication, which unfolds into several misunderstandings. However, Rooney perfectly captures our nature as humans to be, well, non-communicative. The waterworks really pertain to the novel’s ending where the audience may not find a clear sense of how Connell’s and Marianne’s future will pan out. Just reading their love and compassion for one another will trigger the water works.
4. The Bluest Eye
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To those who want to delve into some powerful Black literature, Toni Morrison should most definitely place on top of your priority list. The Bluest Eye really drives home the tears with themes such as European beauty standards consistently forced onto Black girls and women and racism’s existence in our society. Pecola Breedlove, our main character, wishes for blue eyes so that others will perceive her as a beautiful girl. Though it may seem right in the moment, these wishes to meet these forced standards bring on dangerous consequences.
“This book was very sad because of how Pecola was wishing to have blue eyes to be apart of white beauty standards and society,” University of California, Los Angeles sophomore Kate Santos said. “Society constantly pushes white beauty standards onto black people and the outcomes are dire. White supremacy does not allow black people to feel beautiful in their skin. I would highly recommend though it’s a heavy read.”
Trigger warning, the book contains some moments that will make your skin crawl, such as intense sexual situations and repeated slurs. It takes a lot of time to digest some of the dialogue and actions these characters commit to. This book, however, deserves every ounce of praise; every person needs to read this classic.
5. A Little Life
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Saddle up for this one, because A Little Life doesn’t cater to the faint of heart. Four lifelong friends embark on their lives together in New York with just enough ambition to get by. However, our deep, dark reality sure does find a way to come crawling back in this novel. Not only does the book dive into themes of friendship, but also hard subjects like addiction and abuse. While this book received amazing reviews and should absolutely go on your list of books to read, keep in mind the kind of emotional toil this book will take you through.
6. The Humans
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Ever thought about an alien trying to fit in on planet Earth? Well, Matt Haig made it possible for you to imagine this scenario. An alien from another planet, posing as professor Dr. Martin, gets sent on a mission to destroy a mathematical equation Dr. Martin happened to discover after years of research. As the alien gets settled into the human world, he finds that human life may not be as disgusting as his alien peers described.
“I read The Humans when I was still discovering myself in life,” University of California, Irvine sophomore Roberto Sanchez said. “It helped me discover the beauty in life when sometimes all I can see is the negativity. I often still find myself going to the advice given by the alien whenever I’m feeling down. It helps me enjoy life.”
The real heart of the story comes from the alien learning about love and loss in a small amount of time. You yourself may even learn a few things or two about humanity that will change your perspective on why living ain’t too bad after all.
7. A Thousand Splendid Suns
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Set in a war-stricken Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns will take you on a journey of heartbreak and a rollercoaster of emotions. The novel centers on the protagonist, Mariam, who finds herself forced into marriage at a young age after she suffers an unbearable tragedy and her father completely out of the picture by choice. Our other female protagonist, Laila, must also marry the same man so he may act as a support system for her unborn child from a previous relationship. Though Mariam and Laila start off in a shaky relationship, they prove to each other that friendship and love will keep them stronger than ever.
8. The Bell Jar
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If The Bell Jar doesn’t ring a bell in your head, what rock do you live under? Sylvia Plath wrote this book to emphasize gender inequality. Especially for the era the novel focuses on, Plath definitely captures the conflict many women faced by not behaving like a stereotypical woman of the 1950’s. What makes this book sad doesn’t just stem from the themes of depression and insanity in the book itself, but also that Plath fought through her own struggles with depression while creating this literary classic. Definitely look at this book for some real insight into Plath’s life while also knocking down a book probably on your “to be read” list.
9. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
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As seen on the ever so helpful BookTok, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo earned the reputation of being quite the emotional read. The story observes the life of a famous Hollywood actress, Evelyn Hugo, who decides to spill the beans on the truth of her entire life story to reporter Monique Grant. Who doesn’t love to gossip and hear about Hollywood glamour? What the readers find out about Hugo and her dramatic life as a starlet and more of the thing she’s hidden from the public eye will bring the need for a tissue box. Though successful in her craft, Hugo never gets the opportunity to present her true identity to the world. This story quickly made itself into a must read, especially while also being a LGBTQ+ story.
10. The Color Purple
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Last, but certainly not at all least, The Color Purple really changed the way we look at literature in its entirety. Celie, the main protagonist, earned the title as one of the strongest and most loving characters in literary history. The abuse and sexual violence Celie recounts in her letters to God really connect to the pain and loneliness she feels. The toxic men in her life cause this sense of sadness in Celie, once again portraying how women often get abused as a sign of power and dominance. Though this book may be a bit of a difficult read, The Color Purple also works as a book of inspiration as you make your way to the end