5.19.2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY | DELICIOUSLY TRAGIC BOOKS


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.


A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara

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.


The Cider House Rules - John Irving

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.


Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt

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.


One Hundred Years of Solitude -  Gabriel García Márquez

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.


The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende

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. 


Before Night Falls - Reinaldo Arenas

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.



If I Fall, If I Die - Michael Christie

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.



**WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!!** 
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!

23 comments :

  1. I was just about to return Little Life to the library and I haven't even tried page one. You've inspired me to give it a try!

    Here's mine: Best Moving-and-Starting-Over Books!

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    1. I'm thrilled but also nervous... It's a book I'm so glad to have read, and yet it was also traumatizing. Tread carefully, and prepare yourself for feels of epic proportions!!

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  2. Oh, you know how to get me right in the feels - I love a deliciously tragic book! Something keeps telling me I need to pick up The Opposite of Loneliness for the same reasons I love Tiny Beautiful Things...but I'm a little nervous I'll love it too much.

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    1. Right?? And they're usually the ones that stick with me long after I've read them. It's like the emotions cement them in my literary memory in a way excellent writing alone just can't. I need that connection, and despite how much pain they cause, I'm always grateful for the books that make me feel. I haven't read Tiny Beautiful Things yet, but it's on my shelf and your recommendation has moved it up the list!

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  3. This list is perfection, my friend! It gets me super pumped to get to Allende this year (as part of 15 to read in 2015 - which I REALLY better get cracking on!). And yes, all the HP feels.

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    1. OMG have you never read any Allende? You are in for SUCH a treat. You may want to clear your TBR just in case you are hit with a sudden and irresistible urge to read every book she's ever written. I'm big on Latin American writers. I love magical realism, and I particularly love Allende. So much power and raw emotion in her worlds, and her characters are as close to living as you can get on the page. Can't wait to hear how you get on with her!

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  4. When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt - that is the one book that I thought was so hard to forget, all that pain and suffering and loss, it's almost too much but I think it's worth while to read it, it makes you humble somehow to know such story.

    hope you have a lovely day.

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    1. That's a brilliant description - and a book I hadn't heard of but have now added to my list, so thank you!

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  5. Harry Potter, of course. But oh my goodness, yes. I am reading the Opposite of Loneliness right now. When I read the first story about the girl whose boyfriend died and she was left behind, I was almost in tears because it was so tragic.
    -Monica @ Tomes Project

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    1. I will never recover from Harry Potter. Oh man, you're in for such a treat - Keegan's writing is amazing, and she manages to write just as convincingly from a wide range of perspectives.

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  6. I sobbed through Fault of Our Stars and Angela's Ashes. I haven't read the others yest but I am excited about The Opposite of Loneliness. Thanks for sharing
    When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books

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    1. Yeah, those two definitely had all the feels! You're in for a treat with The Opposite of Loneliness - a sad treat, but a treat nonetheless!

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  7. Oh man, what a fantastic list! I've only read a few on here, but I completely agree with your ratings. The Cider House Rules hit me straight in my feels, but it's also one of my favorites. I'm hoping to get to One Hundred Years of Solitude soon!

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    1. Wasn't Cider House wonderful? Irving's books all evoke such emotion and yet all stand out as some of the best books I've read. 100 Years is quite slow to get started so you have to have a little patience, but once you're hooked, you're HOOKED. Brilliant book.

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  8. TFIOS and ANGELA'S ASHES for sure. Holocaust stories generally wring me out emotionally as well. So tragic.

    Happy TTT!

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    1. Holocaust stories definitely get me right in the feels - I can't believe I forgot to include Anne Frank on the list - she definitely earns a spot!

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  9. A Little Life is ten feet away from me waiting for the "right" time. I liked The Cider House Rules very much (loved Garp!) but haven't been able to get into much of Irving's since. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a Must since competely enjoying Love in the Time is Cholera. BUT The Opposite of Loneliness broke my heart. So stunning! The second I finished, I longed for more. What a voice!!!

    Great list!

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  10. Ah the pain of the last three Harry Potter books! So sad!
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/top-ten-tuesdays-5/

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  11. A long, long time ago I was reading The Cider House Rules and my then-boyfriend-now-husband kept saying The Cider House RULES! It was both hilarious and annoying, but definitely memorable.

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    1. Well you can tell him thanks, cos now that's what I'll hear in my head every time I think of it too!

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  12. I've got Angela's Ashes in my handbag as I type this waiting for me to start reading on my train commute home this evening. I've never heard of Before Night Falls; it sounds fascinating.

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    1. Ooohhh! I barely remember that one, but I do remember having FEELS. Are you having FEELS? Before Night Falls was brutal and important. I think they made a film out of it too, depending how long you can handle living in that world.

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