Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Top Ten Books That 'Got To Me'

This week's top ten topic is "Top Ten Books that Made You Cry", but in the interests of preserving my dignity I am changing it to "Top Ten Books That Got To You".

These aren't the ten most emotion-inducing books I've ever read, just the most notable examples that came to mind. I'm sure there are many more which have stirred me. Tears aren't always borne of sadness, also.

1. The Pigman, Paul Zindel.
Pigman ranks as the first provocative book I ever read. It's the story of John and Lorraine, two bored teenagers who befriended a lonely old man named Mr. Pignatti.  The teenagers and Mr. Pignatti find new life in pursuing a friendship with one another, and together they visit the zoo, roller-skate around his house,  and eat chocolate-covered ants and are all happy. Then Mr. Pignatti goes to visit his sister, John and Lorraine throw a party for some high school acquaintances, and Mr. Pignatti comes home to find the house -- his only connection to his beloved and departed wife -- wrecked. He has a heart attack, and..

...well, things don't end well.

2. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
Charlie Gorden is a mentally impaired man working in a bakery. He's decent and kind, and attends adult education classes in hopes of bettering himself.  When he's selected for an experiment to increase his I.Q. level, Charlie learns to read and gains the ability to really think about things; he sees life in a new way, falls in love, and then...

...and then the effect diminishes and reverses itself, and Charlie is left staring at his old journals, not even able to read what he once wrote.

3. The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
I read a play based on this in eighth grade, and the ending -- Gestapo soldiers pounding on the door, then dragging poor Anne away as she screams for her mother -- terrified me. I bought a copy of the diary later on, and keep it with the rest of my meaningful books. I remember being so sad, and so angry at Anne's mistreatment that I got made at God for the first time and accused him of all manner of things, from negligence to sadism. I was in eighth grade.

4. Sunny, diary three
Some time in seventh grade, I picked up the fictional journal of a guy named Ducky, a 10th grader at Vista High in Palo City, California. (It's fictional. I bought a map of California and tried to find Palo City on the map, because I wanted to leave Alabama and go there.) Ducky was struggling with problems of growing away from his two best friends, and he was likable. Ducky's story was part of a series of fictional journals and diaries called California Diaries, though most of the journal-keepers were girls. Ducky was two years older than them, but the five grew to be fast friends. Everyone had their own issues, and Sunny's....Sunny's was a mom dying slowly and painfully of cancer. Throughout the series she grew isolated from her friends, trying to escape her mom's decline by running away or by losing herself by partying with the cool crowd.

Her mom...doesn't make it. But Sunny does rally, and reunites with her best friend Dawn even though Sunny's behavior has driven them apart.

5. To the Last Man, Jeff Shaara
One of Shaara's viewpoint  characters for the Great War is an airman who's not afraid of being shot, or falling to his death, but dreads the idea of his cockpit catching fire and him with it.

Guess how he dies.

6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire/Half-Blood Prince/Deathly Hallows
Dumbledore's speech to the school following the death of Cedric always makes me teary.  It's mostly a carry-over from the movie.  The funeral of Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince is just as bad, but that line in the final book -- "I'm not worried, Harry. I'm with you."  -- gets me every time.

7. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
I am a big softie when it comes to human redemption.  I love this story of Scrooge being forced to see the consequences of his actions and cold-heartedness, and his desperate hope to be able to change his life.  ("Why show me this, Spirit, if I be past all hope?")

8.  Destiny: Lost Souls, David Mack
The Destiny trilogy is unlike any other Star Trek series I've read, pushing the Federation into an apocalyptic final war with the Borg. Borg fleets literally smashed through thousands of Starfleet, Romulan, and Klingon vessels before beginning to exact genocide -- methodically destroying planets one at a time. The third book unfolds over a half-day, and as the Borg slowly make their way to Earth, there's this feeling that the end is near...and people take it with the quiet dignity befitting human beings. Rather than descend into chaos, the people of Earth gather in public places, enjoying the time they have left together -- drinking to life, drinking to joy despite the nearness of death.

That's tear-invoking enough,  but the end of the book is positively cathartic. I enjoyed it too much to spoil it, even though I doubt most people reading this read Trek literature, but...horror turns to ectasy. And it's not just, "Oh, yay, the end is averted" ectasy, either. It's...jubilation. Redemption.

9. Warpath: David Mack
...hm. David Mack is on here again.  Well. The Mission: Gamma four-part series established the estranged father-daughter relationship of Commander Elias Vaughn and Ensign Prynn Tenmei. Tenmei hates her father, for reasons revealed throughout the series, and just as they approach something resembling an understanding,  it falls apart. In Warpath,  they're still wounded people,  too prideful to communicate...but there's this glorious, wonderful moment in the book's endgame where Vaughn realizes while he can't have his daughter's forgiveness, he can at least save her life.

And it gets better.

10. Captain Hornblower & Lord Hornblower,  C.S. Forester
Where are you, Mr. Bush?

The first, when Hornblower received a letter from Lady Barbara telling him that his wife and children were dead of smallpox, but that his newborn Richard was alive and she was taking care of him; the second, when Mr. Bush didn't make it back. I did so like Mr. Bush. Even now, when someone says 'Bush', I don't think of Dubya but poor Mr. Bush.

I don't think I cried, but I got teary-eyed. In case that's not enough for you, here's a bonus.

11. The Call of the Wild, Jack London.
I first read this as the story of a poor dog who was stolen from his master, and who master died before he could return home, so he had to live in the woods. I missed the whole 'civilization as a thin veneer' angle, but I was eight.


  1. Call of the Wild is a book I definitely need to read. Did not expect it to be sad, though.

    Here's my list:

  2. Gee, I didn't expect that a Star Trek book could make its reader cry. Maybe I finally should try one..

  3. Interesting list! I know exactly what you mean about Anne Frank, and Dumbledore.


  4. I like your name change for today's list! Hehe I've seen Harry Potter on quite a few lists today! You can check out my Top Ten Tuesday here. Have a great day!

  5. I didn't think about Flowers for Algernon but it is so depressing. You can feel Charlie's frustration as the treatment wears off

  6. Thanks for sharing your list - I also cried when reading HP :-)

  7. I don't know why I didn't think of Dickens, because he is expert at making the reader cry...certainly in The Christmas Carol....Nice to discover your blog!

  8. Definitely agree with you on Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank!

  9. Diary of A Young Girl made my list too. So utterly heartbreaking.

  10. I changed the name of this week's list too.

    I haven't read a Star Trek book in years. You've made me want to pick up this trilogy.

  11. Returning to answer your question: The Pact is about a teenage suicide pact. I read it in one day, and cried constantly. Unfortunately, that one day was on my honeymoon, before I realized what the book was about!


  12. Flowers for Algernon made my list as well! Seeing him gradually lose everything he'd gained was very sad. Also love that line from Harry Potter :)

  13. Flowers for Algernon sounds awful :( (in the sad way). I've always wanted to read it, but I hadn't been too sure what it was about. Now...oh man, I'm not sure...

    Deathly Hallows made my list, too. The scene with Harry walking to his death with the Marauders and his mother by his side? Tears every time.

    I remember the California Diarias :o A carry-over from BSB. I didn't read all of them, but wow :(

  14. I'm honored and flattered to see that two of my books made your list. If you're looking for another non-typical Star Trek book that might fall into the same category, allow me to humbly suggest my first novel, Wildfire.

    Anyway, thanks for the kind comments about Warpath and Lost Souls.

  15. @ infinitydog:

    You're quite welcome, though the praise is certainly deserved. Warpath had the advantage of being a recent read, but Destiny is unforgettable. I'm hoping to start reading the Vanguard series next year. Sorry to say the only SCE story I've read popped up in the Dominion War anthology.

    Thanks for stopping by. :)

  16. Oh man, I cried while reading HP7 too. And good choice with Charles Dickens too.

    You can check out my list Here



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