Every now and then, there’s nothing better than having a good cry.
Of course, we’re not advocating a 24/7 tear fest, but an occasional session, just to release some emotion, can do you the world of good.
Many of us find it easy to shed a few tears while watching a particularly moving film or TV show – but it’s much rarer when reading a book. It can be an extremely cathartic experience, and you know a novel is powerfully written if it makes you well up.
These are some of the most emotionally charged books you can read.
1. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Loss surrounds Toru Watanabe in Murakami’s heartbreaking 1987 novel. Now in his 30s, Watanabe reflects on his life: the suicide of his best friend when he was 17, and the mental health struggles of the woman he loved, Naoko.
It’s a book of nostalgia – Watanabe recalls his time as a student in the 1960s – while also dealing with issues around mental health. Murakami’s writing is sparse and beautiful; it’s practically impossible to not become attached to the characters, so each new development hits hard.
2. Atonement by Ian McEwan
You might have seen the blockbuster film adaptation starring Keira Knightley, but have you read the original Ian McEwan novel?
Shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize, Atonement is set over various time periods: predominantly on a country estate in the 1930s, where young Briony witnesses something she doesn’t fully understand; and during World War II, where everyone is still dealing with the ramifications of what happened that summer.
It’s a heartbreaking tale of the shockwaves one mistake can have on multiple lives.
3. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Anyone who’s read A Little Life will nod knowingly: it’s a true gut punch of a book. The 2015 novel clocks in at over 700 pages, and is by no means an easy read. It focuses on four friends from university through to middle age – at the centre is Jude, a mysterious character who can’t bring himself to tell his friends about the abuse he endured as a child.
Although the content is dark, you feel emotionally bound to these four men as they navigate some of the worst things life can throw at a person.
4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple needs little introduction. Alice Walker’s novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983, and if you haven’t read it already, it’s definitely one to put on your list.
It’s a devastating look at what it was like to be a black woman in America’s deep south in the early 1900s. Through a series of letters, you learn about various characters – including Celie, who suffered abuse from her father as a child, and Sofia, whose husband treats her poorly. Each woman experiences their own pain and sadness, but there is much beauty to be found in Ms Walker’s writing.
5. Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy
You might not think a novel published in the 1890s would be all that relatable, but the story of Jude The Obscure is timeless.
Stonemason Jude is firmly of the working class, but he dreams above his station: he wants to be an academic and study at the nearby university of Christminster (based on Oxford). However, Jude’s goals are constantly thwarted – he finds himself trapped into marriage by a local girl and events spiral out of control from there.
It’s a sorrowful tale of unrealised dreams, and there’s one particular moment book that will break your heart.
6. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
Anyone who studied Goodnight Mister Tom at school, or was read it as a child, will know what an emotional tale it is. Michelle Magorian’s 1981 novel follows the story of young boy William who, when Britain enters World War II is sent to the countryside to stay with crotchety Mr Tom.
Although a children’s book, it’s filled with tough themes: war, death, abuse – but the growing friendship between Tom and William provides a glimmer of hope and positivity.
Have you read any of these? Do you enjoy having a good cry occasionally? Share the book you would add to the list in the comments section below.
– With PA
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