Top Ten Tuesday: A Bookish Death; An Emotional Read.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read (because difficulty of book, subject matter, because it was cringeworthy– however you want to interpret).


I’m going to choose emotional reads because if I find a book difficult to read I usually stop reading it. So the following are books that made me keel over (almost) with all the feels:

  1. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak. You understand right? I don’t have to explain?
  2. Shoot by George Bowering. Listen, there were kids and hanging and hangmen involved. Also dead bodies but the point is, this is a fictionalized version of a true story. It is brutal.
  3. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta. More dead people, this time, an uncle. And how a family falls apart and then pulls itself together. Good times.
  4. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. This deals with incest and as icky as it sounds, the author punched me right in the gut for being a judgemental prig who knows nothing about life. Just. Argh.
  5. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. This one is about a girl who loses herself due to inexplicable acts of extreme violence. What’s left of her isn’t pretty but we do see her harrowing journey as she tries to build herself again and along the way meets a boy who has lost everyone he has ever loved to death. Cheerful times.
  6. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. This one is not sad so much as a reiteration of my own self. It was emotional in very different ways but no less impactful.
  7. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Anne Pitcher. It hurts so bad to see a little boy failed by both his parents.
  8. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. I have this irrational hatred of Wendy, thanks to this book. But it is a good hate. If you know what I mean.
  9. You Don’t Know Me by David Klass. Another book, another kick right in the gut. A story of a boy trying to live with an abusive step-parent.
  10. Small Damages by Beth Kephart. The story of what happens when you become pregnant and very alone in a country not your own.


I’ll go with subject matter. I had better not go with “difficult to get through,” because I have the fortunate facility of forgetting these books. (Or unfortunate; critical theory is hard but worth the effort, and worth remembering.)

  1. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson. The death of a beloved character may be a clean hurt, but it still hurts.
  2. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings for the same reason.
  3. Ibid Where the Red Rern Grows by Wilson Rawls.
  4. Ibid Firewing by Kenneth Oppel. I cried for three hours straight the first time I read Firewing.
  5. Okay, to keep this list from being ALL about animal deaths, any books where a character I really love dies. It isn’t hard to finish the book the first time, but much as I love the story or the series, I will be highly reluctant to reread that particular book. For example, Martin the Warrior and The Long Patrol by Brian Jacques.)
  6. Deerskin by Robin McKinley. The gritty, irredeemably evil wrong of what happens almost overshadows the wonder and beauty of Lissar’s slow healing. In that way, this may be McKinley’s most extraordinary fairy tale revision; certainly the boldest and most stark. Ossian is splendid, imperfect and just right; the final scene is worth reading the first quarter of the book for. Be careful before you decide to read: the evil in this book is deeply troubling. I don’t think anybody can be (or should be) inured to the pain of how dreadful what happens is.
  7. Dogsbody  and The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones, and other tales that end with separation.
  8. Graphic violence or explicit things-going-wrong-with-the-body. Tess Gerritsen‘s murder mysteries are full of suspense and, in some cases, fabulous historical facts/characters. But some of the details leave me squeamish and sick.
  9. Anything with rape, whether or not it happens or is “merely” presented as a threat. Because it’s evil, it happens in real life all the time, and I can’t fix it. I hate that I can’t end violence against women (and against men) right now.
  10. Anything with serious, unresolved or irresolvable injustice. I’ll read the story. But this happens in real life now, and I hate that I can’t fix it on a broad scale. I can do what I can in my own life. I just want to be able to fix everything everywhere, too.


  1. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan: Lots of trigger warnings for this one- child abuse, rape, and violence. *shudder* Set in a fairy tale world that does not exclude the misogyny of our real world. It kind of destroyed me, but the writing was very intelligent.
  2. Skellig by David Almond: Hands down, my favourite middle-grade novel. Heartbreaking and hopeful and magical, ugh, I just love David Almond.
  3. More Than This by Patrick Ness: Seth, man. I just wanted to give him a hug. And the rest of the characters. Which would have been highly inconvenient given the amount of running they have to do. Everyone must read this! Want to know more? Here.
  4. Inside Out and Back Again by Thannha Lai: My first experience with a verse novel. Everything hurt. (But in a good way, because the medium and the storytelling worked so well together.)
  5. The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers: Picturebook. Death. Healing. Tear-stained pages. Yash = Puddle of tears.
  6. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen: It’s … not easy to talk about this one. Not a lot of middle-grade books deal with issues like bullying and suicide, and certainly not from this particular angle, but Nielsen addresses these issues with such humour and grace.
  7. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: It’s officially out! And I loved it as much as I love Aristotle and Dante- which if you know me at all, is saying something.
  8. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: Speaking of Ari and Dante, I recently re-read this book and it is still as good as I remember. You know the feeling you get when you’re about to cry? Burning eyes, closed up throat? Yeah. Brace yourself for that, almost continually through the second half of the book.
  9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (and Ellen Forney): Just. So. Good. And … yup, that should do it. (I love how this is a list of heartbreaking books, but with each book I list, I not-so-secretly hope that someone will read it and understand why!)
  10. Rabbit Ears by Maggie de Vries: Not strictly YA, but definitely crossover. Again, not easy to talk about this one, though I do recommend reading it. Go here for more about this book.


Emotional reads. Hmm.It’s always so hard for me to remember specific titles – Yash and Nafiza seem to have the supernatural ability to recall every word they’ve ever read! Subject matter for me too.

  1. Books that end a whole world – like the ends of series. Return of the King had me crying at the end because… well it was the end!
  2. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and other books where children call upon supernatural coping mechanisms to avoid dealing with really big, scary, real life issues!
  3. The Book Thief and other books where everyone I love dies for good reason (though not a good cause).
  4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen – these kinds of books just get to me. They are heartbreakingly, and often hilariously, down to earth and realistic. Their characters are relatable and so vulnerable and beautiful.
  5. Animal deaths! I’m with Janet on this one – Redwall series, or Plain Kate! Oh my Taggle!
  6. I absolutely cringe when a character suffers incredible and obvious injustice… like they get in trouble when it should clearly be someone else and they could just say something but they don’t because they are all noble, or more accurately, because the plot must move forward. That is cringe worthy.
  7. I also cringe and skim over books where the first person character keeps a secret from us prying readers and then it’s finally revealed and it’s kinda lame.
  8. I find it difficult to read psychological thrillers like The Shining or The Diviners but I absolutely love them.

4 responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: A Bookish Death; An Emotional Read.

  1. For me, Bridge To Terebithia was pretty rough as a kid. And Mick Hart Was Here – oy, deaths of children are rough. Especially when you’re reading them as a kid!

    The ending of The Time Traveler’s Wife also made me cry. You know what’s coming and you can’t stop it. Terrible.

  2. I kept putting off reading The Book Thief because everybody said how it broke their heart. I finally read it a couple of months ago in preparation for the movie. Yep. Heart broken.

    • It’s funny because it’s not a surprise. You KNOW what’s going to happen so you’d think you’d be prepared. Nope. When it happens, it’s like crack, there goes your heart.

  3. Read the Book Thief over the summer and sobbed through it–at the pool, looking like a fool

    And yes, animal deaths are very hard for me to read. Where the Red Fern Grows…

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