Top Ten Tuesday: books that make me cry

Text only: top ten TUESDAY

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. Today we’ve got a free pass, so I thought I’d reverse the last prompt I tackled and look at books that brought me to tears…

As regular readers will be aware, I love books that make me cry. I may present as a cold-blooded reptile on Twitter, but I make very little effort to hide my sentimental streak. If a book has me so emotionally engaged it provokes tears, it’s getting a good review. If it makes me cry in public, it’s guaranteed a stellar rating.

So, what makes me cry? Oh look, if you saw me watch tv and movies, you’d think everything does, honestly. But on-screen media (even ads, dammit) have an unfair advantage because I am utterly defenceless before musical manipulation; books have to work an awful lot harder… allegedly.

Sometimes, it’s just about pushing the right buttons. Today I Am Carey and I Still Dream both tapped into my tender spots around memory loss (James Smythe scoring double for daddy issues). The Lost Child of Lychford unstrung me by rewarding my idealism, Lizzy refusing to betray her principles in the face of great provocation.

In The Space Between The Stars, Ann Corlett gave me a protagonist I over-identified with and left her to wrestle with familiar choices, leaving me wide open to all the sympathetic feelings (assume we’re talking broadly here; I’ve not actually hitch hiked across the galaxy during a pandemic). The Tombs of Atuan undid me with Tenar’s arc and Le Guin’s commitment to having her rescue herself – in full knowledge of just how difficult a journey still lies ahead. Yep, nope, sniffling just thinking about it.

Becky Chambers makes me cry every. single. time – hardly surprising as I’m helpless before narratives that reward hope and faith in people making the right choices – but To Be Taught If Fortunate gets a particular nod. I knew I had strong feelings about scientific endeavour, but it was the notion of crowd-funding taking corporate and national interests out of space exploration that had me reaching for the hankies.

Of course, you don’t have to push particular buttons. The other route is simply (ha!) to make me care about your characters. We’re told from the start of The Sparrow that everybody dies, but Mary Doria Russell still made howl when Anne died – for her sake, and for Emilio’s. Maia, the eponymous Goblin Emperor, is simply too good-hearted and too overwhelmed – it was mostly tears of joy and relief on his account. As for James S A Corey, he made me tear up at the inevitable in Tiamat’s Wrath, but provoked out tears just by, erm, having someone be nice to Naomi Nagata. Which sounds stupid, but honestly, EMOTIONAL PAYLOAD. You’ll see.

I know, I know, I’ve only got one space left but I’m cheating. I could tell you why all these books made me cry in the final act, but it would involve honking great spoilers, so I shan’t. People die. People live. Some deliver on all their promises (yep, that can do it for me); all had me over-invested in certain characters.


And then there’s The Time Traveller’s Wife, which we just won’t talk about, okay? Okay.

Have any books made you cry?