It’s no secret to anybody who knows me that I’m a soft person, no seriously, I’m the type of person who can well up over a sad advert and I know it’s what the clever company or marketing person behind the ad wants but damn it, I can’t help myself! Anyway, if that wasn’t proof enough that I’m emotional then I don’t know what is. Given that I spend a lot of my time reading and getting super invested in the books I read, it’s no surprise that I’ve read some seriously moving novels which have genuinely stayed with me long after I finish them.
I was thinking of ideas on what to write the other day and I thought hey, why not write a post about books which have really affected me and left a lasting impact? Books and reading, or fiction in general, regardless of the medium are consumed for a variety of reasons, entertainment, education, armchair travelling, to name just a few.
Over time I’ve found that another huge reason or draw to fiction can be for catharsis and healing. Fiction can give word to things we may have experienced in our lives, it can help us release some burdens, or realise that there are others who have shouldered the same ones. Fiction can allow us to see a protagonist overcome their difficulties, whether this be in the form of trauma, complete an arduous journey or even defeat a mythical monster. Fiction can make us feel so much, just through an amalgamation of words on a page and these stories have purpose and power far beyond what we may first believe. I think there’s something truly incredible in that and so I wanted to share some books which have made me feel a lot and made me shed a tear or fifty. So sit down, grab a drink and maybe some tissues (for any residual emotions – some of these books are seriously moving and if you’ve read them you’ll know what I mean)
I hope through this list you find a book/s which will hopefully be as cathartic or emotionally affecting to you. Books which may take you outside of your everyday experience and educate you on other peoples lived realities even. Either way, I hope any one of these books will mean something to somebody as they certainly did to me. This list is in no particular order + any links will take you to the Goodreads pages for these books. I also want to say that some of these books include content which could be triggering, so just a little reminder to take care of yourself first and foremost and protect your wellbeing and energy – please exercise caution and stay safe friends!
I think a lot of people in the book community online and elsewhere have probably heard of this book and how it’s notoriously hard to read as it deals with a lot of very triggering and difficult content and is genuinely one of the most intense reading experiences I’ve ever had. There were times when I quite literally had to put this book down and decompress because there was just so much going on and a lot of it is very tragic and deeply painful. It’s a strange thing to say but while I was utterly invested and cared so much for Jude, I can’t in good conscience recommend this book either because of how harrowing it is and how drained I was after reading. To say I cried reading this book is a vast understatement, I sobbed till I literally had a headache – I’m aware everyones emotional thresholds and lived experiences are different so perhaps this won’t be the same for every reader, but in short; this book is a lot to deal with and even now I can’t bring myself to write a review so please be aware that people aren’t joking when it comes to this book.
Unlike the other books on this list, this was a book that was on the reading list for one of my classes at Uni and while I was intrigued by the synopsis but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. This is the first Kamila Shamsie book I read and since then I’ve read more of her other work and she has such a unique and gorgeous writing style which I just love. Burnt Shadows explores so many issues, like generational trauma, islamaphobia, racism, class division. I think about this book and the characters and it still makes me so emotional whenever I do, because it’s such a sweeping book and the ending is like a gut punch every time.
This book was so impactful and touching at all stages and the friendship between Claudia and Monday is the beating heart of this book. Tiffany D. Jackson doesn’t shy away from exploring the plight of Monday, when she goes missing and in a wider sense speaks to the very real issue in the US and globally of women of colour who go missing at an alarming rate. I think this novel also speaks to the importance of choices and action, of examining what we’re willing to do when we sense something is wrong and who we want to be. I was drawn into this book bit by bit through some clever time jumps and twists, and felt so deeply for these characters, if you’re looking for a gripping and emotional contemporary novel then I would really recommend this one.
I loved this book so much I haven’t been able to write a full review despite reading it a few months ago now, but I still think about it all the time. I would also like to thank my friend Jia for encouraging me to read this book and for always championing this book wherever she can, I’m so grateful that she brought this book in to my life. This book is so incredibly raw and real and beautifully written, I cannot emphasise enough just how moving this book is. I couldn’t possibly do justice to this story but in short; it tells the story of a Palestinian family called the Abulhejas and their experiences following the Nakba in 1948, and spans across many years thereafter, exploring the everyday lives of Palestinians under Israeli occupation, the constant dehumanisation and trauma, but also the unshakeable bond of family, the love between the characters as well as their bond with their homeland, Palestine.
This book, oh this book. It’s the perfect example of two people – Em and Dex- who are simply meant to be together but take forever to do it. This book is just so frustratingly great and I still think about it and that ending all the time. I feel like this one hit me so hard because it really shows the realities of life and all the many ups and downs but ultimately how short it is and how important it is to say how we feel whilst we still can. I also felt something so deeply in that this was such a quiet love story about two people who we get to know over one day over years and years. It also served up some serious best friends to lovers angst and I’m always here for that.
I have such vivid memories of reading this book for the very first time and how seen and heard I felt reading Charlie’s experiences and thoughts in the novels. I felt like I could relate to his feelings of isolation, of anxiety and depression and his disconnect from his peers but desperately wanting to fit in. I’m in my twenties now and I haven’t re-read it recently so perhaps my feelings about this book are tinged with a little nostalgia but it’s a book which definitely had an impact on me and one I still think about from time to time. There’s a line from the novel in fact which I think about a lot, and it’s a line which you’ve undoubtedly seen on tumblr or pinterest somewhere; we accept the love we think we deserve. Teen me thought this was the most profound sentiment ever and while I’m a lot more well read now and have experienced more since I first encountered this line, something in it and the book as a whole still rings true for me.
I think the reputation of this trilogy precedes it because literally everyone on Book Twitter is into this series and rightly so. I think I cried at different points whilst reading all three instalments and for all different reasons; the horror and futility of war, the visceral violence and loss as well as Rin, Kitay and Nezha’s arcs, to name just a few. This trilogy is a powerful and memorable one, and is made even more impactful due to its parallels and heavy inspiration from moments in history, namely the Second Sino-Japanese War. This trilogy isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you’re in the a ‘good’ headspace to read it, it will be one of your favourites and be sure to stay with you.
I read this book this summer and I remember just sitting in the park and being utterly absorbed by this book, I was so moved by Yrsa Daley Wards story and how she weaves it all together, with honesty, perspective and beautiful poetry. The book feels so visceral and the depiction of depression and addiction, race and relationships was just so real. I feel like this book is an exercise in vulnerability and it was definitely painful at times but I’m grateful that this book exists.
What book/s have left an impact on you? Are there any books I simply have to read next? Feel free to chat in the comments, I’m always looking for more recommendations!