Hi everyone! I know I haven’t posted one of these in a couple of weeks but I’ve been busy what with Uni and going to Amsterdam over the weekend. But I’m back now with another Jo Talks post for you and this week, I’m going to be talking about sad books. Specifically, why do we like books which are incredibly depressing? This post came out of a realisation about myself, a lot of my favourite books are really sad. I mean, The Book Thief, Noughts and Crosses, Black Beauty, Thirteen Reasons Why, My Sisters Keeper, Harry Potter (I could go on but I won’t), they’re all really sad books. Why is this? Do I just enjoy being depressed? Well I’m not going to lie, I have wondered that sometimes, but I don’t think that’s it. After all, it’s not like I just read simply sad books, I read funny books and happy books sometimes too, and not all books make you feel one specific emotion. So why is it then? Why do I enjoy sad books?
Well for one thing, sad books make you FEEL. Like hard. And as a bookworm, that’s one of my favourite things. It’s so amazing that this pieces of dead trees with words printed on them (which is essentially what a book is) can make you feel so much and whilst all books make you feel something, sad books make you feel especially hard, so hard that they hurt your heart and the fact that sad books make your heart hurt shows that you truly care about the characters and what happens to them. That’s not to say that a happy book can’t make me engaged in and care about the characters (after all I love funny books and they don’t tend to make me sad) but I do tend to be more emotionally invested in a sad book. It’s a more intense reading experience which is one reason why it’s very enjoyable to read a sad book (it’s also very stressful, so the sad books definitely need to be broken up with happier ones, lest you want to be a bookworm curled under a desk crying.*totally hasn’t happened*).
Sad books are also enjoyable because they’re relatable. We have all been through pain in our lives, and granted, it might not be something huge like going through The Hunger Games like Katniss but we have all experienced some kind of pain in our lives. We’ve lost people close to us, we’ve had things not work out the way we’ve wanted, we’ve experienced physical pain, and heartache, so when we see characters who are experiencing the same pain that we have, we can relate to what they’re going through and we feel connected to them. It also reminds us that however bad our lives are, fictional characters have it worse! (this is known as the Tradgedy Paradox, it was originally applied to movies but I think it could work for books too, whereby sad movies make you feel better about yourself because you realize that other people have it worse than you do, I think the same thing applies to books). Plus as many (not all but many) of us bookworms are also writers, we understand that it’s fun to twist our readers hearts and then stomp on them when we’re done. Sad books also feel more realistic, because life is not sunshine and rainbows. We have pain in our lives and we want the books we read to reflect this.
Sad books stay with us for longer, I think because they make you feel so deeply (they also tend to make you think really deeply as well) and also because I’ve found that the writing in sad books tends to be really beautiful (not that a book has to be sad to have lovely writing, it’s just something I have found) and there always tends to be really profound quotes that stick with you for a long time.
Reading sad books can also be a form of catharsis, a way of releasing our emotions. We all have things that get us down sometimes and I’ve found that reading sad books actually really helps me with those things because it’s a way for you to release all of your pent up sad energy.
We also need sad books. The whole point of books is to learn. To learn about people, about cultures, about experiences, about ourselves, but most importantly to learn about life. If all the books we ever read were happy, then we’d be missing out on an integral part of the human experience which is one of the reasons people read sad books in the first place.
Overall, yes us bookworms could just be weird (okay well all of us bookworms are wonderfully weird, that’s a given, but that’s a different issue!) and enjoy being caused pain, but I think it’s more likely that we like sad stories because we can empathize, relate and feel and emotional connection to the characters so well in those kinds of stories (not that we can’t in other stories but there’s just something about sad stories that I feel gives you a deeper connection with the characters) and as readers we want that. We want the feels. Sure we may flail at authors causing us pain and crushing our feels but we want the crushed feels. We want the pain. Because caring so much about fictional characters and stories that it causes you pain is incredible. It’s incredible that words and ideas and thoughts on a page can make you feel so deeply. It’s part of the magic of reading. And that’s why I think we as readers enjoy feel-crushing books.
Over to you. Do you like sad books? Why? What’s the best feel-crushing book that you’ve ever read? Let me know in the comments.
I’m hoping to get another October discussion post up next week (I’ll be back at home for my uni’s half term break), but in the meantime, I have two book reviews (Empire of Storms and Challenger Deep) and my recap of the Sarah J Maas event that I went to last week to write, so you’ll be getting a lot more new content soon!