I am an anxious person.
Anyone who deals with anxiety knows that the best way to not be anxious is to AVOID ALL THE THINGS.
Anyone who deals with anxiety in this way also knows that this does not make for the most exciting life.
At some point we all come to realise that we will not die of anxiety (or whatever the thing was that we were anxious about. As it turns out, not being able to see into the future is a normal human thing rather than an indicator of impending demise).
I bring all this up because being an anxious person also makes you the sort of person who is really really good at hiding from your own feelings. That’s why, for me at least, when someone tells me a book is sad and I say yeah I’ll totally read that I am LYING.
So when I read a sad book it’s usually by accident. Or because John Green wrote it.
Whenever I read sad books, once I’ve gotten over the initial heartbreak and post-cry head ache, I always think: I feel so alive right now. And then I tell everyone in my immediate vicinity that I LOVE THEM SO MUCH OMG.
Sometimes it’s good to break your heart a bit to remind yourself that you one.
Here are some books that will break you.
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green
Was the most obvious choice I could have made? Yes. I don’t care.
TFIOS is a book about dying teenagers. And falling in love. It’s a heart breaking combination.
Sometimes when I read this I’m like LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL as I weep. Other times I’m like LIFE IS FUTILE.
It really depends on the day.
Suffice to say I totally did not think through the implications of the title of this book.
It’s about two girls, Grace and Tippi, who are conjoined twins. It raises questions about what individuality even is. And then it shatters your heart into a thousand pieces.
We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
I have mentioned a few times before that I am terrified of flying. I really want to travel, and almost all the places that I want to go will require me to get on a plane. Even though I have no money and therefore can currently go nowhere, I keep waking up at 3am freaking out about planes.
I read this book in an airport in Barcelona a couple summers ago. My friend and I had arrived several hours early because preparedness and because my friend thought that it would have some great duty free shopping. It did not. As a result I had to spend many hours in an airport watching planes take off.
This did nothing to soothe my anxieties.
So, it’s impressive that, by the time I got on the plane, I felt worse about the events in We Were Liars (which I had finished during the aforementioned hours of waiting) than I did about all the plane-related worst case scenarios that I was playing in my head.
A lot of books are described as ‘unforgettable’ when in reality actually aren’t. This one kind of is. You don’t forget that sort of trauma in a hurry.
A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness
Anyone who ever read about Manchee the dog knows that Patrick Ness is an expert in emotional torture.
Honestly I think he derives some sick sort of joy out of the process of chipping away at the existing cracks in our hard working hearts.
The instrument of torture in this story is Conor, who comes to terms with his mother’s terminal cancer through having visions of a terrifying monster.
What makes it even sadder is that it’s based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, a wonderful YA author who herself died of cancer before being able to write the book.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
Oskar’s dad died in 9/11.
Oskar had to kind of dad who liked to send him on Reconnaissance Expeditions. Oskar loved to solve his dad’s cleverly woven mysteries.
A couple years after his death, Oskar finds a key. To Oskar, this was the Reconnaissance Expedition his father left behind. He makes it his mission to discover which lock in New York the key opens.
There is something uniquely heart wrenching in reading tragedy from the point of view of a child. Between the lines you read all the things in Oskar’s life that he isn’t yet old enough to understand. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a book about a boy learning to navigate a wound that will never truly heal.
I actually read this years ago but it’s one of those stories that’s stuck with me. Writing this has made me realise it’s time to reread it.
What was the last book you read that made you weep like a baby?