Crying Over Books: Beauty, Envy, and the Blues (Plus Animals)

cryreadingThis week we’ve been talking about books that make us cry. I racked my brain, trying to remember if I’ve ever cried because of a book … Lori’s Monday post reminded me of several books that feature animals. Don’t get me started — I can’t go there. Besides, Lori already covered that topic.

And then there was Natalia’s ugly crying on Tuesday. OK, I’ve never done that over a book. I can’t think of a one. And I’ve never read the books Susan and Heather describe, so now I’m just feeling weird about this whole bloody topic.

I’m thinking, WHAT. IS. WRONG. WITH. ME? Then I remember, Oh yeah, I was the kid who read mysteries and horror. Not exactly fodder for crying.

However, now that I’m actually writing this post, a few books do come to mind. Dang, and they have to do with animals. A pox on you, oh books with animals. Why do you make me cry so? Charlotte’s Web — what a shocker. That was my first chapter book and to have Charlotte die! Come on!

And then in high school there was The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams. Oh, jeez. I had to go there — bring up dogs. I vowed I wasn’t going to do that. Oh, double-jeez, Marley & Me just popped into my head too … But the very first book to make me cry? The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Not about a dog, but doesn’t matter, it got to me. And what about Black Beauty?

Now look what’s happened. The floodgates have burst. I’m a sap at heart, it seems.

Let’s move on to books that get us crying in the metaphorical sense. Books that string you up alive with their beauty. Or books that render you weak with envy, sobbing because you wished you’d written them. Or books that sing to a maudlin place inside you because you’re going through a phase (or is that just me?). Here are my winners for each category:

crescentThe String-You-Up-Alive Award: Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber

This is one of those plot-less literary novels that is so beautifully written you don’t mind that there’s no plot. Diana Abu-Jaber is the mistress of succulent, sensual foodie writing. Sidenote: Abu-Jaber went on to write a mystery. Why? Because, as she said, “I needed to get me one of those, a plot.” Truth is, plot-less literary is her milieu.

Atonement_(novel)The Render-You-Weak-With-Envy Award: Atonement by Ian McEwan

This is the closest thing to a perfect novel I’ve ever read. I don’t know what more to say about this book. It blew me away.



belljarThe Sing-to-a-Maudlin-Place Award: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

This was the perfect novel at the perfect time: my first year out of college, living in South America, working my first (so-called) career job. Oh angst and depression, Plath sings your praises! Nah, but the symbolism of the bell jar meant something to me. Meant as in meant, as in I totally got it, man, because I was deep and I was full of the blues.

Who are your winners in my three categories? Can you remember the very first book that made you cry?

Author: Lisa Alber

Lisa Alber is the author of KILMOON, A COUNTY CLARE MYSTERY (March 2014). Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging at Lisa Alber's Words at Play round out her distractions. Visit her at

7 Replies to “Crying Over Books: Beauty, Envy, and the Blues (Plus Animals)”

  1. I remember reading the Bell Jar when I was in college (not for a class…I just wanted to read it) and feeling like it totally made sense, too.

    And a plot! “I need to get me one of those” best. line. ever.

    1. I heard Diana Abu-Jaber speak at a local event — she was so funny and honest as she spoke about her need for a plot. She admitted that since she was literary, she’d pooh-poohed writing mysteries, only to realize how hard plots and mysteries in particular are to write! She said her agent sent back her first attempt, telling Abu-Jaber that, Uhm, in mysteries you can’t know who did it until near the end. 🙂

  2. Lisa, thank you for introducing me to new books to read. I am still waiting for your book at my library. One of the books that made me cry was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I do not want to spoil the story.
    Have a great weekend,

    1. I hope your library orders KILMOON!

      Oh, Little Women, definitely. How could I forget that tear-jerker! That was one of the few books I read twice as a kid.

  3. First one I remember is Where the Redfern Grows. Why do they read those dogs-gotta-die books to kids? The whole class was weeping, even the boys.
    Strung up Alive- Beloved by Toni Morrison. I almost quite writing over how unworthy I felt after reading this book.
    Weak with Envy- Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Beautiful writing, funny as hell, a tear jerker AND I was cursed with a fairly normal, middle-class upbringing. No fair!
    Sings to a maudlin place- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because I was so obsessed with escapist fantasy in my tween years it actually made me cry when it ended and I had no wardrobe to escape into.

  4. Lisa, another great blog. It got me thinking and I honestly don’t remember ever crying in a book…cowboy books in my very early years, then on to mostly dark and mysterious books. When something sad happens to an animal (especially a dog) I will skip it, that’s how much of a coward I am. I don’t look at the ads for shelter animals, because just hearing the song makes me cry.
    I have read books that played in my head like a movie for days afterwards or I dream about them, but cry, no…
    What’s wrong with me? Nothing, I guess, just my choice of books – murder, mayhem and finding the culprit. Or history books, now there’s a lot of murder and mayhem for you!

    1. Thanks, Hannelore!

      Oh, animal shelter commercials and ads — those slay me, truly slay me. I have to mute the television and walk away when they come on.

      Nothing wrong with you! 🙂

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