The end-of-semester madness has hit the fan. I am currently sitting in the library’s cafe between meetings with students, and eating my lunch (I tried to hold off until at least 12:30, but the stomach wants what the stomach wants). Tomorrow marks a special anniversary for my family, but I’ll touch on that then. For now, though, I’d like to kick off a series of random book-related lists. I always like hearing about what other people read (and why), and thought I’d mix it up a little. The Chancellor just finished The Hunger Games trilogy, which made him quite sad. On that note, I wanted to recount books that made me sad. Like, devastated weeping. I realize the topic is anything but cheerful, but c’mon–we all need a good cry, right? Without further ado, I present: Books That Made Me Cry:
*The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: I am close to my sister. And there is so much betrayal (of family, of self) that really ruined me when I read it. I’ll say, years later, that while the writing is not the best, it shows how one can become whole after tragedy.
*Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Okay, we’ve all read Little Women. I’ve read it so many times, and I bawl every time we get to a certain sister’s demise. Imagine reading it as a child. Death is not something we like to think about, but Alcott makes it a part of her narrative landscape. And somehow, reading it each time makes it new.
*Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: In college, I borrowed this from the library, thinking I needed a good children’s book to take me away from the world of school. The first 100 pages were a delight. The last 25 had me curled up on my bunk bed, sobbing. Katherine Paterson knows how to wrench the knife (if you don’t believe me, read Jacob Have I Loved).
*Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: If you have not read the series to the end, I have no intention of spoiling it for you. I’ll only say that certain plot points were deeply moving.
*The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: Let’s play out a scenario, shall we? Let’s pretend you’re The Chancellor. You are sitting in bed one Saturday evening, reading a book. You look over at your wife, who has suddenly started weeping while reading The Book Thief. What do you do? In this case, he graciously handed me the kleenex box and asked me to tell him about the book. When Death is the narrator, this can’t really end well, can it? And yet, NO ONE warned me that it was going to end up like this. The beauty of this book is that the characters are all so dynamic, you become invested in ALL of them. Which makes the plot twist so unbearable.
*Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery: I think this is honestly Montgomery’s most honest work. She was deeply traumatized by the horrors of WWI, and she conveys the emotion, the loss, and the heartbreak very effectively.
*The Return of the King: This wasn’t exactly a weeper, but the ending did make me teary. It’s a beautiful sentiment, coming back home. Excuse me, I have something in my eye.
*The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: I am still waiting on Book Three before analyzing Rothfuss’s trilogy. His biggest strength is in creating interesting characters. There is a certain event in his protagonist Kvothe’s life that is tragic and made me sniffly for a few minutes.
And, though I didn’t cry, three books that absolutely decimated me for weeks:
*The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis: Lewis’s parallels to the Christian life are stunning. And there is a major plot twist that comes in the last page or two that is achingly beautiful and tragic all at once. To this day, I am haunted by the Susans of the world and hope they can believe in Aslan once more.
*Atonement by Ian McEwan: The epilogue kills me every. time.
*The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam: The ugliness of war is overshadowed only by the ugliness of the human condition here. It is grim, realistic, and unflinching. I have not felt so raw after reading as I have with this book.