Are you someone whose emotions get away from you while reading a book? Leah Eggleston Krygowski is, so she spoke to a number of authors about the books that make them laugh and cry…
One of the things I love most about reading is getting emotional about a book. Whether the story leaves me weeping like a baby, laughing out loud in public or furious with a particular character, any book evoking strong emotion in a reader is, in my opinion, a good book.
Ever wonder which books cause fits of uncontrollable giggles or leave puddles of tears at the feet of your favorite authors? I spoke with several writers about the books that have made them laugh and cry. See whether you relate to their responses.
My current book that makes me laugh out loud is Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster. Not just because she is my best friend, and therefore I am in this memoir, but because on a deeper level, reading about some of the insane events from her life is like experiencing them all over again and brings up such wonderful heartwarming memories, and deep deep laughter, as all her books do, but this one especially. I think it is her best yet, and it makes me so proud to know her and have her in my life.
The one that really made me cry was Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand. To read about survival against all odds, to hear firsthand accounts of such inconceivably inhumane treatment and know that Louis Zamperini didn’t just survive his horrific ordeal, but thrived and is still alive today to share his story, I wept like a baby.
I can always count on Jen Lancaster to bring the LOLs. She’s witty and sharp and brutally honest with both herself and her reader. Whenever I’m trying to talk myself into going to the gym, I’ll pick up Such a Pretty Fat and read a few pages. Her descriptions of diet plans and grueling personal training sessions are so hilarious, but also very inspiring. She makes you wish she was trudging away on the treadmill next to you, muttering sarcastic comments under her breath. I just love her voice — it’s so refreshing.
Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat always makes me choke up a bit (in a good way!) The story is a poignant portrait of a marriage in transition, and her characters are so strong but also so vulnerable. The end result is a book that’s both uplifting and heartbreaking.
I’m a cheater and I’m not ashamed. You sigh, and roll your eyes: “she’s picking her own books . . . . boooooring!”). But no! As a book lover, I cannot pick only one book, for any question. A single book that made me laugh and cry? Impossible. So, I’m giving you two different answers to each question.
Some books make me cry because they are so darn good – tightly worded, cleverly written, aptly nailing that feeling you never knew you exactly shared until you read it on the page. This includes everything by David Sedaris, especially Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. As I’m holding my sides laughing, I’m crying because I can only aspire to be that good. With Anna Quindlen, on the other hand, I’m just crying. One True Thing was a heart-wrenching story of life, love, the pain of going home, and everyday acts of mercy. There was not a single false word in the complicated relationship between mother and daughter, childhood memory and adult reality. It moved me to cathartic tears, and I love a good cry. Whenever I reread the old familiar pages of my own books, the scenes I revisit first are the ones that make me cry.
Laughing, I want to do all the time, so I tote Michael Bond’s A Bear Called Paddington everywhere. The misadventures of that lovable bumbling bear always lift my spirits. My dog-eared copy of Paddington has been to college, sailed around the world, lived in Australia and Europe, and witnessed the birth of my son. But Kerry, you ask, wasn’t Paddington Bear written for second graders? Yes. Does he still make me laugh every time? Emphatically, YES. But Kerry, you persist, I want something for grown-ups, that takes longer than thirty minutes, which I can read on the bus without embarrassment. Then you should try The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. I love books that satirize literature itself, and none are slyer or more original than Fforde’s Thursday Next novels. All of his quirky “literary detective” adventures are replete with clever wordplay, bibliowit, and literary inside jokes. (Super extra cheat: Steve Hely’s How I Became A Famous Novelist is fantastic at this as well!). Warning: Fforde is best not read on planes. Fellow travelers will edge nervously away as you laugh maniacally.
The third (super extra infinity cheat) answer? What You Wish For, Leaving Unknown and The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life, by Yours Truly, of course!
Jojo Moyes, author of The Girl You Left Behind
The last book that made me really laugh was Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. It has proper silliness to it, so that quite frequently I was mildly hysterical and couldn’t read it in public.
The only book that has ever made me cry in public was Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, which I read as a proof on the Stansted Express, and was completely overcome by the ending. I knew I looked mad weeping furiously on a packed train, but I couldn’t stop myself reading.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes tells the story of the relationship between Lou Clark and Will Traynor, a quadriplegic, when Lou becomes Will’s caregiver. Lou and Will are opposites in every respect. Will was a high-flyer who had it all – the career, the perfect partner, the lifestyle – until an accident took away his desire to live. Lou has never known anything different from what she grew up with. Lou’s modest background is in total contrast to that of privileged Will’s. Lou is chatty and engaging while Will is distant and sometimes arrogant. But despite their differences, they connect in a way that neither of them have with anyone before and Lou becomes determined to show Will that life is worth living again. It’s a tearjerker for reasons that go deeper than the obvious sadness of Will’s situation. Whether you want to or not, you WILL get emotionally involved in this book. The author makes you care about Lou and Will so deeply that they become real people right before your eyes. The complexity of the relationship between Lou and Will and a huge, life-changing moral dilemma they face is compelling and heartbreaking in equal measure. You’ll want to dive right inside the book and do something, anything, to save them. And from an author’s perspective, you’ll also cry because the book is just so good that you’ll wish you wrote it!
The Commitments by Roddy Doyle is the story of rhythm and blues fan Jimmy Rabbitte, who sets up The Commitments, the “world’s hardest working band,” and sets out to teach his hometown of Barrytown, Dublin a lesson about soul. The band’s twin assault on Motown and Barrytown takes them from the parish hall to immortality on vinyl. But can The Commitments live up to their name? Although it is years since I read this book, to this day I can still remember how badly my ribs hurt from laughing while reading it. Everything about it combines to make it hilarious – the characters, the situations they find themselves in, the dialogue and the honesty in what’s presented to the reader. There is no filter – the interactions are sometimes rude and crude but are all the better for that. They’re real, and damn funny – and although the book was very much of its time, I know I would find it just as funny if I picked it up tomorrow and read it again.
Book that made me laugh: McCarthy’s Bar: a Journey of Discover in Ireland, by Pete McCarthy. A friend of mine recommended I read this before I took a trip to Ireland a couple years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard reading a book. Even if you’ve never been to Ireland, this book will crack you up. Just the picture on the cover makes me laugh. A nun sitting outside a pub drinking a Guinness? Genius.
Book that made me cry: Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls. I read this book way back in sixth grade and still remember sobbing uncontrollably, I mean sobbing, over it. Throughout the years I’ve often thought about giving it another read, but I keep resisting because I’m afraid of getting too sad again. Ha.
If you spot a woman reading Kathryn Stockett’s The Help and she is not crying, it’s safe to assume she is a robot. I’d steer clear of her. Seriously, though, the relationship between Aibileen and Mae Mobley – and Mae Mobley and her mother – pulled like crazy at my heartstrings. I read much of the book with tears in my eyes, and loved every single page.
On the lighter end, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? had me laughing out loud. Her tale of her path to fame is full of self-deprecating wit and smarts – a hilarious, dishy take on a comedy writer’s life in Hollywood.
Leah Eggleston Krygowski is an avid reader, writer and book reviewer for www.chicklitclub.com who would love nothing more than to read, write and discuss books with other bibliophiles all day long. Unfortunately, she needs to keep her pups in kibble and chew toys so by day, she works as an administrative assistant in Boston. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two Cairn Terriers. Leah can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @leahekrygowski.
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