Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It Doesn't Take Much

What does it take for a book to make tears spring to your eyes? In my case, not much.  If the writing is real and engaging, I'm primed and ready.  This week, The Broke and The Bookish want to know the Top Ten Books that Made You Cry. This should be an easy list for me: it is not an uncommon occurrence for me to be laughing or crying while engrossed in a book. Problem is, I could convince myself I cried in all the books that touched me...if the writing is there, chances are the tears are also.  If the writing is sub-par, I'll be crying too...just for a different reason.

So I'm going to switch it up. Instead of specific titles, these are the topics that have the potential to put me in a puddle. (of tears. ahem.)

1. When gruff old guys turn teddy bear. Such as Squire Hamley in Wives and Daughters when his wife is dying (played perfectly by Michael Gambon in the BBC adaptation).

Fair and Tender Ladies (Ballantine Reader's Circle)2. When someone surrenders a lifelong dream. Like in Lee Miller's Fair and Tender Ladies, when the harsh realities of life crash in.  Or Fannie Flagg's Standing in the Rainbow.  When we are young we are confidant that we can do anything we purpose to do...seeing dreams die tears me apart.

3. Reflection on life not lived.  Remnants of Glory by Teresa Miller and Clay's Quilt by Silas House both left me like that.  I guess this is tied into the last one, except in reverse.

Clay's Quilt (Ballantine Reader's Circle)4. When a kid's most beloved pet dies. Old Yeller anyone?  Where the Red Fern Grows?  Stone Fox? I'm not even a dog person necessarily, but these things are SAD.  I cried buckets with these guys.

5. A mother being unable to protect her children.  I actually try to avoid some of these books.  I just can't handle it.  They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell and The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan are good examples of books that deal with this without something dreadful happening to the child (and yes, they still put me in tears.)

6. Writing that identifies with a serious internal struggle.  Comfort in numbers and all that?  Some things are so hard to put into words, that the effect is all the stronger when you encounter them.  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, for example, shows such an amazing, clear yet confusing struggle with depression.  The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather is one of my favorites because of how she explains the artist's struggle with his muse, how to get that elusive creativity and imagination out and formed into something tangible...and the sacrifices that go hand in hand with making your art a priority.
They Came Like Swallows

7. Real, lasting, time-tested love.  When fascination and respect still exist after years of hard stuff, I get all misty.  It's like a modern day fairy tale.  Nicholas Sparks is not what I'm talking about--way too mushy-gushy for me.  I'm thinking more like Persuasion by Jane Austen.

8. Girls dealing with hurt and rejection, requiring strength and courage to make it through.  Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck both are this kind of book for me.

Nory Ryan's Song9. The struggling, starving Irish.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.  Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.  Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor.  Nory Ryan's Song by Patricia Reilly Giff.  Oh dear, do these books choke me up.

Ah, well, I can't seem to come up with any other major categories.  But since I mentioned like a gazillion books, I think I'm okay with that list.  


  1. I loved They Came Like Swallows. I have an interests in the influenza epidemic after WWI and this book captures the time so well.
    It's almost a forgotten time in history.

  2. Great angle. The death/hurting of animals gets me everytime. Then I look with teary eyes at my cats and they flash glances to each other saying: "Oh, no - not again. She is going to cuddle us in this despairingly way and making this strange noises! Well, at least we'll get some goddies.." :")
    Btw. I loved WIVES AND DAUGHTERS in the BBC adaptation - though I like most everyone of it.. ;")

  3. I like your categories! Good idea. And I really enjoyed the Wives and Daughters movie :)

  4. Love the format of your list! Animals or children in danger, in pain, or dying -- that is an instant tear-jerker. Like you, I sometimes shy away from these books. Bless you for thinking of Mrs. Gaskell--although I haven't read Wives and Daughters, I did read Mary Barton and North and South (is that the right title?).

  5. NotaSupermom--I love finding books from that era too, as they do seem few and far between. And William Maxwell is fabulous.

    Frl. Irene Palfy--I love cats with personality! Funny. I like pretty much everyone in Wives and Daughters too, but Squire Hamley is my favorite.

    danya--as I was writing the list I realized it was difficult to separate movies from books in some instances. Some adaptations I've seen so many times that they kind of meld into the book. :)

    bibliophiliac--I have an old copy of Cranford which says on the cover that it's by "Mrs. Gaskell" --I love that distinction! I've read W&D, N&S and Cranford. Mary Barton and Ruth are on the massive TBR.

  6. Pets dying will always get me! I refuse to read Old Yeller OR see the movie for that very reason. I bawled through every Lassie movie ever made even though Lassie never dies!

  7. I LOVE this list! The more I think about which books make me cry, the more examples I think of -- so I like your way of categorizing them. I can't believe I forgot WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS! Have you read WALK TWO MOONS? That one recently had me bawling, and I'm not sure if it fits any of your categories. I guess I'd add a category -- when you're crying for the loss of what Might Have Been -- the lover not getting the letter at the right time, the mother dying too soon....

  8. 1girl2manybooks-I know what you mean. I have some books/movies that I avoid too. :)

    Sondy--I haven't read Walk Two Moons yet, but it's a Newbery, so I will at some point. "Might Have Been" is kind of what I was trying to say with "Life Not Lived"...just couldn't think of a way to say it clearly. Thanks for helping me out!

  9. I cannot read any book that involves an animal dying or getting abused. It's the hardest and I get incredibly frustrated if it occurs and I wasn't prepared for it.

  10. Oh dear. I seem to have posted a link to my Wordless Wednesday, and it IS a photo which could make you cry...but not my list of sad books.

    Here's my TT:


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