We have updated our Privacy Policy Please take a moment to review it. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the terms of our updated Privacy Policy.

The Crying Book

On sale

7th November 2019

Price: £9.99

Select a format

Selected: ebook / ISBN-13: 9781472154699

Disclosure: If you buy products using the retailer buttons above, we may earn a commission from the retailers you visit.

‘A deeply felt, and genuinely touching, book’ Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias

‘Spellbinding and propulsive’ Leni Zeumas, author of Red Clocks

The Crying Book is a rigorous and urgent work but it reads like an intimate gift’ Kaveh Akbar, author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf


In this symphonic work of non-fiction, Heather Christle explores the most human of behaviours: crying. What are tears made of? Why do people cry? And why is this common, crucial act so rarely discussed? Christle unpacks the biological reasons for tears and investigates the influence of crying on art, politics, feminism, race and culture, all while opening up the intimate story of her own tears – from the suicide of her close friend to her family’s history of depression, to her pregnancies, both planned and unplanned.

In these pages, we meet a feminist artist who designs a gun that shoots frozen tears. A moth that takes sustenance from feeding on the tears shed by other animals. And beautifully impractical devices for dealing with grief such as the ‘lachrymatory’, an ancient receptacle into which it was hoped ‘a mourner could let fall her hot tears’. While Christle enchants us with poetic snippets on these subjects, a powerful investigation begins to accrue, examining how the history of tears is tied up with racist violence, with the stigma of mental illness, and with the ways in which glib contemporary images of motherhood fail to reckon with how rich and complicated is actually is.

Brilliant, witty and achingly honest, Christle’s book creates a mosaic of science, history, culture and personal experience to find new ways of understanding life and loss. The Crying Book is a deeply intimate tribute to the fascinating strangeness of tears – and the unexpected resilience of joy.

Honest, intelligent, rapturous and surprising, The Crying Book is a poignant, personal tribute to the astonishing strangeness of tears and the startling resilience of joy.


Leni Zeumas, author of Red Clocks
The Crying Book is spellbinding and propulsive - the map of a luminous mind in conversation with books, songs, friends, scientific theories, literary histories, her own jagged joy, and despair. Heather Christle is a visionary writer
Rachel Andrews, Irish Times
Poised and precise . . . [The Crying Book] reminds us - when we need it most - that we move in relationship rather than invidivual adventure, that the tender connections between our tears are all we really have to hold
The New Yorker
[A] nimble nonfiction début . . . a thoughtful, often moving rumination on the expression of emotions beyond the reach of language
Shatteringly beautiful
Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias
In The Crying Book, Heather Christle makes a poignant and piercing examination of the phenomenon of tears - exhaustive, yes, but also open-ended, such that I was left clutching this book to my chest with wonder, asking myself when the last time was that I cried, and why. A deeply felt, and genuinely touching, book.
Chelsea Hodson, author of Tonight I'm Someone Else
This is a wonderful and profound look at the act of crying - something human and yet hidden, common and yet mysterious. I found myself reading with a thirst for the tears Heather Christle collects here - instances within literature, film, history, and the author's own life all add up to a greater understanding of what makes us human.
Hephzibah Anderson, Observer
Luminous . . . A literary lachrymatory, both consoling and surprisingly uplifting
SF Chronicle
"They say perhaps we cry when language fails, when words can no longer adequately convey our hurt," Christle muses. But with The Crying Book, language hasn't failed. Precisely the opposite. She's used her gifts as a poet to get at the heart of why sadness arrives and how it affects us
It's Maggie Nelson's Bluets, but about crying, and it's every bit as dazzling
Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
[An] indelible book . . . [Christle is] fully aware that tears aren't always to be trusted, even though they can come unbidden and unwanted - the reflexive byproduct of overwhelming emotion. She conveys her beliefs and suspicions in discrete paragraphs of text, quoting lines of poetry, personal correspondence, psychological studies . . . She's drawn to metaphor, even though 'it is dangerous to always think one thing is another.' To insist on anything too permanent is to lay a trap. The kind of metaphor Christle seeks is at once truer and more tenuous
The Telegraph
Perfectly formed droplets of prose . . . I closed [The Crying Book] with a smile, though it inevitably ends in tears
The New York Times Book Review
[A] lyrical, moving book: part essay, part memoir, part surprising cultural study
Award-winning poet Christle pushes the boundaries of her genre with this hybrid approach to tears fusing poetry with lyric essay and a significant amount of research . . . fascinating food for thought. A surprisingly hopeful meditation on why we shed tears
Thrillest, 'Best Books of the Year (So Far)'
Lyrical essays are a fascinating and revealing literary form. . . . Heather Christle (The Trees The Trees), an acclaimed poet whose command of language is as extraordinary as her ability to showcase heartfelt emotion in as little as a few words, adds to the new canon with her stunning The Crying Book. . . . The book successfully captures the history as well as the act itself: You'll end up crying while reading it.
Time Magazine, 'Book of the Month'
Poet Heather Christle's book is about more than crying. As she reflects on the loss of a close friend to suicide and her own battle with depression, Christle asks why and how we cry and what it means, especially for women, to do so . . . The author's blend of personal experience and scientific research gives way to broader discussions about motherhood, mental health, grief and art.
People Magazine
Intelligent and compelling
The book's effects are sly and cumulative, relying not so much on any one observation as on associations, echoes, contrasts . . . Christle wants to preserve the particularity of experiences while illuminating what they have in common
New York Times
Facing the birth of her first child and the suicide of a close friend, Christle (the author of four volumes of poetry) began to research the history of crying. The result is this lyrical, moving book: part essay, part memoir, part surprising cultural study
Poet Christle set out to make a map of every place she had cried. Instead, she ended up with this exploration of tears throughout history, in art and literature, and in her own life . . . The cumulative effect hits the mark, and readers are sure to be moved to tears themselves. This is a lovely meditation on life and death through the lens of tears, both those spurred by grief and those by joy
Kaveh Akbar, author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf
This is a book about crying, yes, but secretly it's a book about everything: pain, sleep, joy, despair, birth, art, exile, atrocity, language, weather, fish. Christle's genius - a word I've never before written to describe a living author - is her ability to see the miraculous and strange lines connecting everything to everything: 'neither parallel nor perpendicular,' she writes, but simply 'arcs that momentarily intersect before traveling on. The Crying Book is a rigorous and urgent work, but it reads like an intimate gift