Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sob stories

by Rachel

During my last semester of college, I took a “filler class” to complete the philosophy credits of my degree. Philosophy of Art was the name of the course, and topics such as expressionism, moral and aesthetic value, and artistic taste were studied. One question that continually arose during the course was what we really meant when we said a work of art was “good”. Some students agreed that a work of art was “good”, or held significant value, if it was simply aesthetically pleasing. Other students believed that emotion needed to be play a part when art was being evaluated. “Good art,” it was argued, held significant value if it moved an audience.

In Philosophy, there never seems to be a “right” answer to any argument, but I finished the course believing that the emotional connection we have with a masterpiece—the feelings we take away with us after watching a play, looking at a painting, or reading a book—is what gives significant value to art. That’s not to say that aesthetic value is overlooked, but in my opinion, what separates the extraordinary from the average is that extraordinary work has the ability to move us and change our ways of thinking.

Many times have I found myself sobbing like a baby while reading a tragic novel. I remember finding a copy of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood in the back of my brother’s car and reading it from start to finish with tears for every alternate chapter. Murakami was able to help the reader dive into an anxious and uneasy world by way of his young characters and touch on topics such as lost love, mental illness, and death. Other sad and memorable novels I love are The Awakening by Kate Chopin (the last page left me distraught for days), and of course, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Time and again I’ve tried to read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, but this novel seems to be a little too depressing for me to finish. My favorite writers are those who are able to lure me into their fictional worlds, usually by writing books that make me cry!

Over at the Huffington Post, Jason Pinter gave us the responses from a question he asked on Twitter about books that made readers cry. And although I complain that some novels may be too emotionally-charged to read, I love a good tear jerker and would love to hear what books moved you and had you reaching for the tissues.


  1. I will cry every time I read Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls.

  2. Emily, just this morning I was talking about how that book makes me cry every time. Niagara Falls!

    I also cry every time I read She's Come Undone. Talk about a big sob-fest!

  3. A swag of books! Top Sobbers are:
    Swimming - Nicola Keegan (my husband said I should stop reading it if it made me that sad - he doesn't read a lot of fiction).
    The Gathering - Anne Enright.
    The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver.
    All of Murakami's novels.
    Carol Shield's novels.
    I could go on - I can always reread Wuthering Heights if I need a moment.

  4. The Alphabet Sisters by Monica McInerney

    I sobbed so hard in the last 60 pages I had to keep putting the book down, wipe my eyes and take a deep breath before I could continue. Any book that can do that is awesome in my world.

  5. It was repped by your agency, actually: THE SPARROW, by Mary Doria Russell.

  6. When I wrote Ella's Dance, there were many times when I cried. I know that it's sad, but it's also happy. And isn't that how life is? I think if novels make us feel and think, love and hate, cry and laugh that's great. But I also need hope, hope that despite all the bad stuff there is good. When I read Alice Sebold's Lovely Bones, I couldn't stop crying. I don't think I ever read a novel that made me feel so much grief and hate. The emotions it was pulling from me were so great that I had to remind myself that it was just a novel, it wasn't true. Thank you for your post today, Rachel. Blessings, Buffy

  7. Recently, Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy. Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns had me bawling my eyes out to the point that I refuse to read The Kite Runner. I don't like crying when I read. It's okay if it's a little bit, but I cried through the last half of A Thousand Splendid Suns.

    I much prefer books that make me laugh. Janeine Frost's Night Huntress series comes to mind. Or Terry Pratchett's books. Adventure, action and laughter for me please.

    I'm the same with movies. If it made me cry, good luck getting me to watch it again. Even if I loved it.

  8. Oops. I misspelled Jeaniene Frost's name.

  9. Christina F.15/9/10 10:57 AM

    Anne of Green Gables and Little Women both make me cry every time I read them, even though I've read them both so many times I can almost recite them.

  10. The first time I read "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" I cried from beginning to end. When my nieces asked me to read it to them, I decided I had to buck up and try not to choke up too bad. I did Okay. But they always look at me like I'm looney when I read them "The Giving Tree" because I just cry and cry every time.

  11. The Grapes of Wrath, both the book and the movie.

  12. I wasn't such a big fan of Anna Karenina. By page 700 I was like, just throw yourself on the tracks already. It has lead me to coin the phrase 'the Anna Karenina effect' which is when the story drags, and it's enough already, let's have the conclusion! But that's just me!

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  14. Jan, that may be the actual reason why I can't finish Anna Karenina. It does tend to drag on. Maybe it's not that it's a sad book, but rather that it goes on for a zillion pages!

    ~ Rachel


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