I consider it a major accomplishment when a book manages to bring tears to my eyes. I think of it as a good thing. A very good thing, for that matter, because it means the writer got me to care deeply about the characters.
As I fiddle in writing stories myself I suppose I can say that I’ve had a small taste of how difficult it can be to write a character that the reader actually cares about. In my head I have the character memorized. They are their own person, I know them backwards and forwards, and love (and hate – more on that in a little bit) their personalities and quirks. I love writing about them.
The problem is, it’s extremely difficult to get that character in my head portrayed properly on the page, even when I (the one who knows them so well) am the one writing the actual words. The villains are equally difficult to write for the same reason. I know them so well in my mind that I forget how many words are needed (or unnecessary) to get across the character not only accurately, but in such a way that they feel real. So that the reader cares about them or hates them. So that the reader laughs when the heroes laugh, feels a stab in the gut when the best friend is wounded, or finds their own fingers curled into fists when the hero is forced to bow before an evil prince. It matters at that point, and it is extremely hard to write, so I must applaud the writers who succeed in this.
The following list of books are ones that achieved the most on that particular scale with me, bringing me to actual tears. Whether it be mournful when tragedy struck, or happy that it all worked out oh-so-beautifully, or any combination in between, I had to blink the tears away.
The Return of the King
A handful of words: epic, friendship, king, battle, quest
Anyone who knows me knows Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is my favorite story so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s the conclusion of the story, and there’s several times I’ve caught myself crying that-is-so-beautiful tears in response to just excellent characters and storytelling. Faramir, Sam, Eowyn, and Aragorn to name just a few. Plus, since the story is such a long one, I think some of my tears were because it was over but also (as I mentioned before) because the story and ending as a whole are oh-so-beautiful. I will always applaud books that can do that. Five stars.
“Well, I’m back.”
The Warden and the Wolf King
A handful of words: dragons, siblings, names, bravery, royalty
I don’t know how many of you reading this have heard of The Wingfeather Saga but if you haven’t, you have now and I highly recommend looking into it! The Warden and the Wolf King is the fourth and final book in the saga after On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or Be Eaten, and The Monster in the Hollows. I will not spoil this book under any circumstances but I was full on sobbing near the end and when I finished it I think I just sat there for a while not sure what to do because I was really unprepared for the amount of emotion this book forced on me. It is an excellent story full of adventures and tough decisions and sacrifice and love (and DRAGONS) and I cannot recommend it enough. Five stars.
“It was as if a strand connected that day with this one and the Maker’s pleasure was coursing through it like blood in a vein.”
A handful of words: love, courage, sacrifice, angels, robots, long-suffering
This book is in my top favorite 5 of all time. The conclusion of The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, it is by far the best of the three books and I was crying long before the end. Let me just say that the characters in this book are phenomenally written. They became real people. So at one point in the book when one of them dies, I’m pretty sure I felt actual grief. Then the epilogue happened which was simultaneously fantastic and devastating because it resolves beautifully, but yet again another character dies, and when I closed the book I was in tears and I mourned for about a week. I have even reread this book a total of three times now and each time it manages to steal my tears, and makes me want to time travel back to London in the 1800s, and gives me unrealistic expectations for teenage boys. It. Is. Beautiful. Five stars.
“You said I am a good man,” he said. “But I am not that good a man. And I am—I am catastrophically in love with you.”
The Fault in Our Stars
A handful of words: purpose, meaning, value, pain, choices, hamster
This is probably a no brainer but in case you haven’t read it and have no clue what this is about I won’t spoil it. I love the way this book is written, (a teenager’s POV that I actually didn’t find annoying) and as a result it restored my faith in the YA genre. Thank you, John Green. If you finish this book without tearing up and/or think it was about cancer, well I’m sorry but you read it wrong. (Almost kidding. If you can read this book without tearing up at least a tiny bit you ARE a tiny bit heartless.) Okay? Okay. Five stars.
“You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.”
The Book Thief
A handful of words: writing, perspective, war, death, color, lemons
Also in my top favorite 5 of all time, this book is wonderful not only because it got me to care about the characters, but because it tells you the end long before you get there, and I still cried a little bit. The style it is written in helped accomplish that I think, very unique and interesting. There’s even some pictures drawn by a character in the story that are really cool to see. I couldn’t put it down. Liesel’s story is beautiful, as is the way it was written. Five stars.
“She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, she would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.”
SO there you have it. Five books, five stars, and five tearful sessions I can blame on collections of paper. These are not in any particular order, and I highly recommend each one of these as well as any of the series/sagas/trilogies they are a part of. The quotes are definitely not the only great ones in each book, just favorites that came to my mind first. I will possibly do a list like this for movies as well, or maybe more 5 star books that perhaps didn’t involve tears. We’ll see. Until then, happy reading!