Hey bookworms, we’ve all heard of tear-jerker movies; those films that leave you ugly crying in the theatre, clutching your popcorn. What I find even more emotionally challenging are sad books. It’s not often that a book really makes me cry, but when it happens I always find it oddly cathartic! I don’t know if I’m the only one who openly cries while reading (before you ask, yes this has happened in public places, and yes people around me thought I had serious issues), but I thought I would compile a list of the top five books that really made me sob.
1. Between Shades of Grey
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.
The Moment: This whole book was tragic. I hadn’t know much about the situation in Lithuania before reading this book and it inspired me to do some outside research. Honestly, I would be surprised if anyone could read this with dry eyes.
2. The Book Thief
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
The Moment: Again, the whole book is pretty sad, as it takes place in Germany during the Second World War. There is a particular moment **SPOILER ALERT** when her friend Rudy dies in the bombings and she is standing in the wreckage… I couldn’t hold it together anymore.
3. Life of Pi
Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
The Moment: Really the ending between Pi and Richard Parker really got to me. The movie got to me too, and I will admit to ugly crying in the movie theatre.
4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
It is the middle of the summer, but there is an unseasonal mist pressing against the windowpanes. Harry Potter is waiting nervously in his bedroom at the Dursleys’ house in Privet Drive for a visit from Professor Dumbledore himself. One of the last times he saw the Headmaster was in a fierce one-to-one duel with Lord Voldemort, and Harry can’t quite believe that Professor Dumbledore will actually appear at the Dursleys’ of all places. Why is the Professor coming to visit him now? What is it that cannot wait until Harry returns to Hogwarts in a few weeks’ time? Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts has already got off to an unusual start, as the worlds of Muggle and magic start to intertwine…
The Moment: Ok so I’ll say **SPOILER ALERT** now, but I am hoping you have all read this book so it won’t come as a shock when I say, yes I cried when Dumbledore died. It was such a powerful moment in the series and was truly heartbreaking to lose such an important character.
5. The Knife of Never Letting Go
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.
The Moment: **SPOILER ALERT** when Todd has to leave his dog behind and you just hear the dogs thoughts calling out for him over and over again… My heart couldn’t take it. I mean an animal, alone and scared calling out to his owner, it’s heartbreaking!
What are some of the saddest books you have read? do you agree with my choices? let me know in the comments!