Sunday, 8 August 2010

Re: When Books Make You Sad...

So Amanda-Lee over at Story Wings wrote a post about why we read books that make us sad (using Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma as an example) and I was commenting but the comment got so long I decided to write the reply in a post instead. You should go read her post before you read this, so it'll make more sense.

"Why do we read books that make us sad? Why do we read books that make us question what we believe, bawl our eyes out or make us so angry that we are tempted to throw the book across the room?" -- Story Wings

After reading Forbidden (my review is here) it felt as if my emotions had been put through a shredder and it made me really think about what I believe in when it comes to such a taboo subject...

But I think maybe that's why people read books like that... well, that's why I read them.

Most of the time, books are an escape and I just want to get caught up in someone elses world for a while instead of thinking about my own or I'll read them because the subject matter interests me...

But sometimes... sometimes I read them because I want to find something I can relate to. I want to read something and see the words on the page explain something I've experienced or felt better than I ever could because seeing it written down makes me understand it better -- makes me understand myself better.

It's the same thing with making you think and question your beliefs... you learn more about yourself through that (for example: if someone thinks of themselves as open minded and that they're okay with homosexuality but they can't read a book about it or would be grossed out by it then maybe they're not as okay with it as they thought -- or maybe it would make someone who was against it or didn't know where they stood on the issue understand it better and realise it's not as wrong as they thought it was).

Good books make you feel... but the really amazing books are the ones that can make you feel like your emotions have been put through a paper shredder and the characters and their stories and the bad things that happen to them get stuck in your head and under your skin and you just know that those feelings are going to linger long after you finish the last page.

Most of the time, I would prefer it if the ending of a book was all rainbows and butterflies and even if the characters have their ups and downs, I still get to read a happy ending and be left with that warm fuzzy feeling and dorky happy smile on my face... but sometimes I want a book that will make me cry.

It's like the same reason I watch sad movies sometimes, they give me an excuse to cry and sometimes a person just needs that and with books that are sad, the feeling is just more intense, I think.

Plus, another thing I've found is that even the sad books tend to have a sense of hope about them -- even if the characters lose everything, even if they go through abuse or loss of a loved one or an addiction or illness, the point is they usually get through it... and it's not easy and it's not supposed to be and it reminds me that life is the same. Bad things happen, we just have to get through it and seeing characters do that and being able to get inside their head and experience that with them, it's kind of inspiring. Like the end of Forbidden.

And really, sometimes we don't know how much a book is going to affect us unless we know it's about a subject that pushes our buttons or we know what is going to happen... but even then, our reactions can be unpredictable. I went into Forbidden knowing what it was about and I knew how it was going to end (because I read the last chapter/pages first *spoiler addict*), but I didn't know it was going to make me feel as strongly as it did.

So yeah, basically, although reading is often just an escape, sometimes I just want a book that will make me feel--whether it's good or bad--and I like how books can help me figure myself out a bit better... no one knows me completely, not even myself, but when I read books that push my limits and have me questioning what I believe in or rethinking things, it helps me know more about myself.

...Plus, I also have this weird childlike mentality when watching sad movies or reading sad books -- even if I know how it's going to end, a small part of me is always hoping that somehow it'll end differently and the characters will get a happy ending. Never happens of course and logically I know it never will, but it doesn't stop me from hoping every time I watch Titanic or Pearl Harbour or Keith or every time I read certain Harry Potter books or Looking for Alaska that I'll get a different ending.

Anyway, I'll shut up now... what are your thoughts? Why do you read sad books?



  1. I always thought it was strange that i loved reading sad books but i don't think i could have put it better, at times there is no reason apart from the fact that maybe we just need a good cry we need to apprentice how good we have it by seeing what the character is going through.

  2. Catharsis. I want a book that moves me and takes me to a different place than I was before--always preferable to feelgood entertainment where you close the book and can't remember a thing about it!

    Scott Nicholson

  3. that's a very good explanation.

    i think what your saying is extremely true...knowing that someone else can get through it means that we might be able to aswell...

    but then again...lochie what does that say about the fact that if we get arrested..will we kill ourselves as well?


    this stuff really makes you think

  4. But really, he didn't die because he got arrested, he died to protect Maya and the kids... it's the fact that Maya didn't give up that was inspiring, really, Maya had it the most difficult -- dying is the easy way out, she has to live every day with the pain of losing him.

  5. I read sad books to sort of remind me of the reality of things. There are thousands of books out there that are all fluff and happy endings. But life isn't always like that. What about that family who's mother died of cancer? What about that man who lost his wife in 9/11? What about that single mother who lost her son in a car wreck? Sure, we read books so we can enter a world other that the one we live in, but if we only read books with completely happy endings won't we forget about the realness of life? And anyway, you know the book was amazing if it made you cry :)



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