I am an emotional reader. I’ve been known to bawl over a book and accidentally spill tears on the pages. I’ve been so emotionally invested in a character that I’ve lost sleep over it. Yes, this is probably not the healthiest way to relate to books, but it’s also the only way I know how.
Each time I open a book, I want to go on a journey. I want to be taken out of my world and pulled into another. I want to forget myself and fall wholly into someone else’s shoes. But to fall wholly for me, I have to fall emotionally. I have to feel what the characters are feeling: their joys and their pains. I have to care about what is happening to them and because most books are not a commentary on how easy life is, it is inevitable that I will be experiencing some amount of pain.
The books I enjoy the most are the ones whose characters make me feel something. If an author can move me emotionally, make me care about their characters (both the likable and the unlikable) and their well-being, then I won’t just be reading a book, I’ll be experiencing it. And it is these books that leave a deeper mark on the reader, these are the ones I remember and love and want to inflict on other readers (I’m only half-serious).
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I don’t make it a secret that books make me cry. In fact, everyone in my life has seen me at one time or another get emotional over a book. I used to get “It’s just a book” all the time and if I wasn’t so emotional wrought, I might have lashed out and declared, “It most certain is NOT just a book.” Now the usual response is “Are you crying? Oh, you’re reading.” I feel like I get more out of a book if it distresses me than if I care next to nothing for its characters. I do realize I’m asking to suffer emotionally and I probably wouldn’t be the first in line if in real life someone was asking for volunteers to endure emotional agony, but pain is an undeniable component to life and without it, books feel less real and less important.
I was recently talking to my sister-in-law about a really sad book she had just finished and she remarked regrettably, “I wish I could cry more.” Crying and being emotional over a book can be cathartic. It is an opportunity to release that gnawing lump in your throat, to let go of the overwhelming feeling of trepidation (which can sometimes feel worse than the actual crying itself). But crying isn’t the only way to emotionally experience a book. Sometimes I can spend a whole day skipping around, elated beyond measure, because a book has made me infinitely happy.
My affection for fictional characters is directly related to how they make me feel. Do they make me laugh? Do they make me sigh wistfully? Do they tear my heart straight out of my chest and stomp on it, leaving behind a pathetic version of myself that ends up crying in a corner with a profound sense of loss and hopelessness? If the answer is yes, then the author has done her or his job properly.
Some Notable Books That Make Me Quite Emotional (but is really only a small sampling of the books that have made me cry):
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
What kind of reader are you? Do you cry over books? Which books have you read that are emotionally trying?