This week’s Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is a freebie, so I get to pick my own topic. Having read a few emotional books this year, I started thinking about the fact that despite (because of?) how emotionally traumatizing they were, these are the books that I remember most vividly and recommend most fervently. So this week my top ten list is all books that were deliciously tragic, books that hurt me deeply, but that made me grateful for the pain because they were just so damn good.
This is one I finished pretty recently, and my heart still hurts. And yet, my life is better for having spent time getting to know these characters, and this is a book I won’t soon forget. Pain rating: 5/5, but completely worth it.
John Irving’s books are never easy going. They’re full of difficult and uncomfortable situations, and he will always get you emotionally invested. And yet, his writing is worth every bit of squirming. Pain rating: 4/5 but stick with it, his books get better as you read.
Of course. I know a few people who managed to read this without crying, but I’m not entirely sure they’re human. Pain rating: 5/5 but the humour and the pleasure of getting to know these characters will leave you feeling grateful for every tear you shed.
Being an Irish story, no big surprise this book isn’t all sunshine and puppy dogs. Frank’s childhood was one of sparse resources and plenty of family challenges. But, as Frank himself says: “It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while.” Pain rating: about 3/5 but ideal if you’re a fan of family-focused stories, particularly one laced with Irish wit.
If you’ve read any of Márquez’s books, you’ll know how vivid and intense his writing is. This one in particular I remember being full of conflicting emotions, not all bad, but all intense. It’s time for a re-read because I have forgotten a lot of the details, but I do remember having plenty of emotions while reading it! Pain rating: probably around 3/5, but also full of colourful, vibrant characters and a setting that will come to life as you read.
Allende is a mistress of human emotion. Every single one of her books will feel like riding an emotional rollercoaster, and yet you will also feel like her characters have become part of you in a way few others do. Pain rating 4/5 but also full of magic and personal growth and a magnetic writing style that will make you want to read every other book she has written.
This one is not for the faint of heart. After a childhood spent in poverty, Arenas became part of the rebel movement in pre-Castro Cuba. As a homosexual, Castro’s regime brought futher suffering, as Arenas’ writing was suppressed and he was imprisoned. One of the hardest books I’ve ever read, but important and educational. Pain rating: 5/5 but if you are curious about what it was like in Cuba during Castro’s rise to power or are interested in human rights, this heartrending book is well worth the effort.
Unlike the others on this list, The Opposite of Loneliness is here not because of its content, but because of its context. Marina Keegan was a recent Yale graduate who died tragically in a car accident before she had a chance to embark on what promised to be a very successful career as a writer. This book comprises her collected works, and is so brilliant that you’ll be beyond sad that there won’t be more from her. Pain rating: 3/5 – reduced for how grateful you’ll be that even this much of her writing was published.
This book was full of small moments that tugged at my heart strings. And while overall it left me feeling better about the world, there were plenty of moments along the way that gave me feels. Pain rating: 3/5 but balanced out by heartening and inspiring moments.
Of course I could just say the whole series, from start to finish, but these three were extra painful: Sirius, Dobby, Dumbledore, Snape, Lupin, Tonks, Fred…. BRB I need a tissue. Pain rating: 100/5 but I’ve never regretted any of it.
I want to know which books you’ve read that fit this theme – which books tore your heart from your chest but also made you feel that the pain gave you more than it took? Share in the comments!