Books That Make Me Cry


Last night I read something that had a profound effect on me. It didn’t just move me deeply on an intellectual level; it straight up made me cry. I am not talking quiet, polite, considerate, understated crying, the kind you don’t mind other people watching. No, I’m talking about flat-out sobbing, weeping uncontrollably because I was so overwhelmed with emotion and sadness. 

The passage that moved me to tears involved a man of brutality and violence, a villain with evil in his very soul coming to terms with the unrelenting, inexorable ugliness and horror of our contemporary world while simultaneously finding meaning, purpose and a reason to go on not in religion or politics but rather in relationships, or rather one particular relationship so beautiful, and so pure, and so soul-enriching that it makes a brutal world seem bearable, even lovely. 

It was a beautiful piece of literature about a hard, complicated, conflicted man looking at a world of hideousness and deprivation and finding life-affirming solace in his beautiful bond with his only child, a boy who embodies all that is good and right with the world. 

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. The complicated man of brutality and violence is not, technically speaking, a man. Rather, he is a cartoon cat named Petey. And the “son” who brings out the best in him and makes the world seem like a worthwhile and kind place after all is actually a clone he created to assist him in doing evil that ended up being a creature of pure good. 


The part of this book that moved me to tears involves Petey contemplating the world’s inexorable horror while walking through the city with his progeny. “You wanna know something kid?” Petey asks his inadvertently kind and pure progeny, “The world has a lot of problems…but it could never be a horrible place because you’re in it.”

This passage fucking wrecked me because Dav Pikey’s Dog Man, a spin-off of the Captain Underpants is unusually deep and rich for a series about a cop with the face of a dog and the body of a police officer. But it also moved me to tears because I could relate to it on an almost painful level. 

The world most assuredly has a lot of problems. It often feels like a horrible place but like Petey the evil anthropomorphic cat it could never be a horrible place with creatures of light as pure as my sons Declan and Harris. 

It’s not terribly unusual for me to be so moved by a book I’m reading Declan that I get choked up and it becomes difficult for me to continue and finish. 

The following things almost invariably make me cry: 

Children’s books about friendships between unlikely people or animals 

Children’s books about illness

Children’s books about children growing older and becoming adults 

Children’s books about loneliness 

Needless to say, I cannot read The Giving Tree without weeping uncontrollably pretty much from start to finish. 


Bear in mind, I almost never cry during non-children’s literature. Middlebrow entertainment tends to have no effect on me whatsoever. No, the literature that absolutely wrecks me, that makes me contemplate life’s fragility and almost incalculable worth is almost invariably meant for readers kindergarten age and younger. 

I will miss so many things about being the father of small boys. I will miss reading to them tremendously but I will most assuredly not miss crying in front of my boys. 

Children’s entertainment makes me feel things deeply. They make me feel things too deeply, to the point where I cannot control my emotions and feel overwhelmed and vulnerable. I don’t like feeling that way and the books I read to my sons have an unusually direct line to the place in my subconscious where the tears begin.


I don’t think I’ll miss it, but not so deep down I’m such s softie that I will probably someday feel a nostalgic yearning for the days when I would regularly get choked up and need to suppress tears reading a fairly broad cross-section of intentionally and unintentionally tearjerking fare aimed at the 5 and under set because I’ll look back longingly at this magical stage in their development (Harris is about fifteen months, Declan will soon turn five) and all of the happiness, and yes, tears, that came with it.

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The Big WhoopNathan Rabin