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7 Tear Jerker Books That Made Me Cry in Public

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Susie Dumond

Senior Contributor

Susie (she/her) is a queer writer originally from Little Rock, now living in Washington, DC. She is the author of QUEERLY BELOVED and the forthcoming LOOKING FOR A SIGN from Dial Press/Random House. You can find her on Instagram @susiedoom.

If you’re an emotional book lover like me, you’ve probably found yourself crying while reading tear jerkers in public. It’s pretty embarrassing, right? There’s nothing like a good cry over a book you’re really invested in, but having to hold back tears or try to hide them in public is the worst.

What Happened by Hillary Rodham ClintonI recently started reading Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new book, What Happened. I work in public policy and my office is a block from the White House, so the election was quite literally close to home for me. While I knew this would be a tough read, it’s at the center of a lot of conversations right now, and I wanted to be the person in those conversations who had actually read the book.

So during my Friday morning bus commute, I pulled up What Happened on my Kindle and started reading. Before I even got five pages into the introduction, I found myself crying. Not only does the book display the pain Hillary went through following the election; it also brings back all of the emotions I experienced during that time. Here I was, already crying in public, and there were 500 pages to go!

In honor of my most recent public reading cry, I’d like to reminisce about some past embarrassing moments and how I got through them.

the fault in our stars

What: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green—This one’s a crying classic. I hope for most of you that you were in the privacy of your own home when you-know-what happened.

Where: On the elliptical at the gym

How I tried to hide it: Pretended my tears were sweat (luckily I had a towel!)



What: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi—I mean, it is about death, so you can’t blame me for this one.

Where: At work

How I tried to hide it: “I must have gotten dust or something in my eye, ouch!”




What: Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay—Gay’s emotions are so raw in this memoir; it’s a tough but important read.

Where: The bus

How I tried to hide it: Faced the window until I pulled myself together




What: Looking for Alaska by John Green—Ugh, John Green just always gets me with the tears! I should have known better; each chapter is literally labeled with a countdown to an unknown traumatic event.

Where: At work

How I tried to hide it: Closed my office door and pretended I was having a phone meeting



What: I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro—Oh man, she’s a comedian, I did not expect to cry on this one!

Where: The train

How I tried to hide it: Opened my eyes really wide so hopefully the tears would just dry up instead of falling (kind of worked but I also looked really alarmed)



What: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas—This one is so full of emotion throughout, I should have known better.

Where: An airplane

How I tried to hide it: Held off tears until most people around me were asleep




What: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg—No words, just tears. Many tears.

Where: Coffee shop

How I tried to hide it: Whatever, let them see me cry.


Wow, this list is longer than I expected it to be when I started out. But I refuse to apologize for getting emotionally invested in a good book. So how about you? Help me feel less alone by sharing what tear jerkers have made you cry in public in the comments!