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Posted by Kate, July 28, 2010

Read it and weep: what books make you cry?

Kate was interested to see this article in Publishers Weekly about crying while reading.

The cathartic nature of a good children’s book (or adult book) cry is not to be undervalued, she thinks.

Kate was interested, though, that there’s an emphasis on sad books in the piece. Now, of course, sad books make Kate cry. Her first memory of crying at a children’s book is when her mother read her The Velveteen Rabbit from (how?) a Christmas edition of a woman’s magazine. Later, she remembers Charlotte’s Web (pictured here) made her cry a lot, and the The Snow Goose. And she remembers starting The Diary of Anne Frank aged about 11, and thinking it was fiction, and the enormous sadness of getting to the end, exacerbated, of course, by realising it wasn’t fiction. As a publisher, the sad book that made her cry most was Ways to Live Forever.

However, while sad books make Kate cry, she finds happy endings can be pretty blub-inducing things. She was absolutely fine through the loss of the precious picture and the car accident in A Dog So Small, but the moment that Ben realises that Brown is the dog for him is the part that she can’t type about without a little lump in the throat even now. And what about the return of the father in The Railway Children? As a publisher, the “happy ending” (sort of) that made her cry most was the one in Millions.

As an adult, Kate has discovered that reading aloud presents an even greater challenge than reading silently. She cannot read moving or sad or happy things to anyone without blubbing. This is quite incapacitating, both professionally and parentally. When she left Macmillan, she couldn’t complete her leaving speech because it concluded with a paragraph from the last page of A Gathering Light. She struggled to continue to address an audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival launch of A Little Piece of Ground after reading a quote from it.

And while one of Kate’s children is similarly afflicted, her other child cannot begin to understand why Kate cried when she read The Diddakoi or Once There Were Giants at bedtime, and poked incredulously (and sometimes painfully) at her tears.

Camilla says that the book that generated “uncontrollable sobbing” in her childhood was Jenny and has just admitted that she has to pause when she reads aloud the words, “‘I must not fail’, said the tiny snail,” in The Snail and the Whale.

The normally emotionally robust Imogen says that A Gathering Light, Private Peaceful, My Sister’s Keeper (she acknowledges embarrassing tears on a train), Lovely Bones (a book, by the way, that Kate can’t be doing with so we celebrate reading diversity here at Nosy Crow) and Tess of the D’Urbervilles all make her cry.

Deb nominates Bridge to Terabithia ,Shane and Flowers for Algernon.

Do please comment to tell us what books make you cry.