All the Feels: The First Book That Made You Cry

A roundup of the hounds and lovers who broke your heart.


Whether or not you're an easy crier, there's usually one book that manages to hit you straight in the feels. For some of us at Early Bird Books, The Fault in Our Stars was the first to bring on serious waterworks (we'll never read John Green on the subway again). For others, it was Bridge to Terabithia or Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass. 

As for our awesome readers, The Red Fern Grows seems to have broken the majority of your little-kid hearts. In fact, other than tragic relationship stories like The Notebook, most of your first-time tearjerkers featured animals of some sort—Charlotte the spider and Old Yeller the dog, for example. And while you probably can't say you enjoyed mourning the deaths of your favorite furry (or eight-legged) friends, those feelings remind us just how powerful books can be.

Like always, we loved reading your answers and hearing your stories! Take a look at some of our favorites below, and then go read something happy, okay? 


Where the Red Fern Grows

By Wilson Rawls

"I don't recall how old I was, probably around 11 or 12, bawled like a baby because I love dogs. Tried to read it again as an adult, got as far as them heading out on that final hunt and I was done, couldn't finish it because I knew what was coming. Even just sitting here, typing this and thinking about it, I can feel the tears wanting to start, that's how much it affects me. Can't read the book, can't watch the movie. I'm almost 50 now, btw." —Cynthia B.

"My mom had even made my favorite dinner that night for an unrelated reason, and I tried to hold it together, but I had just finished the book when she called me to dinner and I absolutely lost it over my shrimp fried rice. Bawling."  —Emily A.

"[The book] traumatized little 10-year-old me so badly I never reread it!" —Aubrey W.

"I was reading it on a plane trip and couldn't stop crying...Ole Dan and Little Anne…" —Sandra Bullis J.

"My daughter read it in middle school. We ended up with two parakeets, Ann and Dan. LOL." —Pam Burkett O.

"I read this book to both of my sons also (10 years age difference). Cried every time and they cried too. They still talk about it. They are now 34 & 44 years old." —Debbie Taylor H.

"The dogs were named Dan and Ann and my dad named our hounds after them. I thought of them in place of the book dogs. My heart was broken." —Deborah Dryden W.


The Outsiders

By S.E. Hinton

"I can remember sitting in class during silent reading time and trying to stifle sobs as I ugly-cried in my seat. The characters were very real for me, and I hung on every word in the book. I recall telling myself that surely the author (S.E. Hinton) wouldn't allow Johnny to die. I truly grieved his loss! I think it was the first book that shook me. —Jody E. F.

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web

By E.B. White

"That is the only time I have ever cried over a spider dying." —Tammy K.

"That it got such a response out of me in 3rd grade made it my favorite children's book. Ever." —Allison M.

"My second grade teacher read to us every day. When Charlotte died, she had every girl and boy in the class blubbering." —Clark H.

"[Charlotte's Web] for me. Uh ohhhhh it's back *sniffles*" —Fiona C.


The First Horror

By R.L. Stine

"I know it's ridiculous, but when I was 10/11, it was The First Horror by R.L. Stine. I was so upset when the house sucked Callie into itself and killed her that at 35 yrs old I still remember her name and what happened. LOL." —Ellena J.


The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls

"I never cried over a book. But as an adult a book that made me cry or at least bring tears to my eyes was The Glass Castle. —Pat S."


The Giving Tree

By Shel Silverstein

"[I cried] when my mom first read to me (6,7?) The Giving Tree. I still cry reading it to my son."  —Soli V.

"I'm now 35, and it still makes me cry!" —Erica M.

"This one didn't make me cry until I became a mother. And now it gets me EVERY time!" —Dawn C.


I Heard the Owl Call My Name

By Margaret Craven

"As a young woman in the 1970's, my husband and I went on a trip to Victoria BC. While at the Royal Museum there, I came upon this book. It really touched my soul. Over the years, whenever I feel a need to be grounded, I go back to that book. It takes me back home. —Nancy P.


The Bridges of Madison County

By Robert James Waller

"I'm not sure it was the first, but the epilogue of the Bridges of Madison County really got me! —Deborah R.

"This one made me bawl like a baby." —Nancy H.


Gone With the Wind

By Margaret Mitchell

"I was 16 and stayed up until 2 to finish it. And then I just bawled and bawled." —Annie S.

"When I was in High School I read Gone With the Wind four times. Cried every time when Melonie died!" —Chris B.

"I was a JR in high school and faked sick to read the end of Gone With the took 5 hours to read the last 120 pages I cried so mom came home.....took one look at me and tried to take me to the Doctor!" —Debbie Boe S.

"...When I was 13, the end of Gone with the Wind when Rhett walked out. That turned out to be a puberty-linked hormonal reaction." —Nikki Klayman D.



By Leon Uris

"The first I ever knew about the Holocaust." —Kathryn Carver



By Johanna Spyri

"Age 5, learned to read using the Bible and Heidi with my grandmother, a retired school teacher. Heidi had its moments. I was tossed between homes (5 years old, 3rd home) and I could relate a little too well."  —Don C.


The Art of Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein

"I'll never forget the time I was proctoring an LSAT exam and came to the end of The Art of Racing in the Rain just seconds before the final buzzer. I'm sure the exam takers wondered why I was so choked up when I told them when they could expect to get their results in the mail." —Rebecca B.


My Sister's Keeper

By Jodi Picoult

"I don't remember the first but Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper had me bawling like a baby at the end of it. The movie chickened out and changed that ending and I'm glad they did because the ending in the book was horrific!" —Lisa Rooks R.


Bridge to Terabithia

By Katherine Paterson

"The first I remember was Rose in Bloom by Alcott. As a teacher during read-aloud, I'd have my best readers flank me so we could hand off Where the Red Fern Grows when we got choked up. We had an all-night read-a-thon in the gym, and I made the mistake of choosing Bridge to Terabithia for my silent reading. Public Tears😭 —Barbara R.

"Bridge to Terabithia. I blubbered like a baby and chucked the book across the room!" —Molly H.


The Notebook

By Nicholas Sparks

"I cried buckets when I read The Notebook." —Marsha Rooney M.

"Man, my wife did too. Was in the bathtub and probably raised the water level with her tears." —Steve F.


Love Story

By Erich Segal

"Bawled my eyes out. Couldn't even see the words!!" —Pamela Robinson F.


Sight Hound

By Pam Houston

"Not the first but the most memorable. Sight Hound by Pam Houston. I was on jury duty while reading it, and I remember embarrassing public bawling as I came to the end of it." —Gwyneth S.


Fellowship of the Ring

By J.R.R. Tolkien

"I was stunned when Gandalf dies in the Fellowship of the Ring. I put the book down for two years before finishing the story." —Jean W.


The Gulag Archipelago

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

"The Gulag Archipelago scared me as a young adult man, and I cried to think that humans could be so cruel to their fellow man, to their countrymen, to their own race." —Maurice H.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis

"That one got me when I read it to my kids. Worse out loud, esp last book." —John B.

"It's one of the first novels I ever remember reading. I cried when the killed Aslan. I didn't realize it was an allegory to Christ's death until years later." —Robb S.

Black Beauty

Black Beauty

By Anna Sewell

"When I was in elementary school I read Black Beauty. It was the first in a long love affair with books that made me cry. 68 years old and still reading and crying!" —Linda H.

Featured photo: Cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein