Claire King


Books that make you cry

Posted on: January 13th, 2013 by Claire - 6 Comments

I was sitting on a packed train looking at my smart phone and weeping copiously. I couldn’t help it. I had sunglasses on, but it had gone beyond that and people were staring. It being London, though I was left alone with my pocket tissues and my apparent grief.

But the grief wasn’t real, it had been conjured up in me by the author of the book I was reading. I was slightly embarrassed about the tears, but I couldn’t stop reading, because I had to know what happened next, and because on some level, it felt good to be crying.

Yes really.

Woman reading on train platform.

Sometimes day-to-day life can be routine: Going from one place to the next, dealing with chores and work and the mundane necessities of running a household. Finding time to be interested in and kind to the ones we love. Of course on one level this is great. How lucky I am to be living a life without hunger, suffering or tragedy. And yet it feels good to be reminded of the breadth of feelings that makes me human, and the possible lives that I am not living. It can make me feel more alive to experience something – joy, fear, sadness, anger, the tumultuous experience of falling in love – even if only on behalf of a fictional character. And when I leave the character behind, everything looks a little different. And I count my blessings.

I love books that make me cry. Or laugh, or in fact feel any kind of strong empathetic reaction to the characters. It means I’ve suspended disbelief, it means I care, it means I can have the rush of emotions – and the cocktail of chemicals that accompany them – without any drama in my own actual life.

Ten novels that made me cry (there are many, many more):

1) The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
2) Whatever you love by Louise Doughty
3) The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
4) The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
5) Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
6) Love Story by Erich Segal
7) Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Berni√®res
8) To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
9) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
10) The Help by Kathryn Stockett

And it’s not limited to adult fiction. Since the startling hormonal uprising that is childbirth I’m now floored at their bedtime by:

– The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
– The Ugly Duckling (yes, really)

And in the future we can all look forward to tears over Watership Down and The Little Prince… oh yes.


Photo (c) Moriza via Flickr creative commons

6 Responses

  1. Pete says:

    I’ve never read the book of’ Love Story’ but my Mum and I used to dissolve whenever the film was on TV. It’s one of the things that makes me think of her. Really not sure I can face the book.
    I think I steel myself for difficult books. I try and read them when I’m in the ‘right frame of mind’. I don’t mind crying but sometimes some subjects are a bit close to home.

    • claire says:

      Hi Pete, yes I do also need to be in the right frame of mind. No point living through a fictional dark place if you’re already in one yourself.

  2. Harley May says:

    Another children’s book to add to the list (one I took to my bedside after putting them to sleep) is The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forrester. Lovely list and I agree. It feels good to cry.

  3. fiona says:

    This is a lovely post. I am a great fan of The Velveteen Rabbit, The Book Thief and The Help. As for To Kill A Mockingbird, it’s impact lasts long after it is finished. I never used to cry during films but since childbirth it has been another matter. Great book choices!

    • claire says:

      Thanks Fiona. I thought the tendency to tears would go away once the hormones did, but 5 years late, it seems…not! All I need is the opening notes from the Les Miserables soundtrack and I’m off.

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