Pop Culture

5 Books to Break Your Heart

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Raych Krueger

Staff Writer

Raych has so many kids (like, two, but they’re super young, which makes it seem like there are more of them) and this really cuts into her reading time. She’s using her degrees in Early Childhood Education and English Literature to teach the toddler to read to the baby so she can get back to her trashy Victorian sensation novel, or whatever. She’s also teaching her kids to travel and eat broadly, mostly through example (Do As I Do is super important, you guys), and hasn’t gone a year without hopping on a plane since she was a teenager. She recently moved from the Canadian coast to the Canadian prairies, where it gets hella cold, and if not for the internet, she’d surely be dead. Blog: Books I Done Read Twitter: @raychraych

Winter is coming and winter is terrible and November is almost worse than winter because winter is coming. And the sky is grey and the weather is lousy, not cosy but lousy and chill and damp and I just, ugh. Everything.


At least until May.

Some people cope with the mopes by reading something lighthearted, but sometimes the way out of the doldrums is THROUGH THEM, which I why I love a good heartwrenching read in the late fall. Very rarely it’s the dog dying (Manchee, nooooooo!); mostly it’s just people making small but fatal mistakes, humans humaning and then paying for it, and I love getting REALLY EMOTIONALLY INVESTED in a character and then they die, or they do something dumb and then people they love die. I find it richly cathartic.


Or this month, I honestly don’t know what’s happening.

Here are my best, saddest, Novemberest reads.

Doomsday Book – Connie Willis

I mean, anything Connie Willis, she’s like George R R Martin of ruthlessness but way better at building loveable, mournable characters. Doomsday Book is my watermark Book About The Plague Where A Bunch Of Them Die, and it also involves TIME TRAVEL and MISCOMMUNICATION and RESCUE and FAILURE TO RESCUE and it just slays me dead.


Like I’m maybe not even being hyperbolic this time.

The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

This is a book about faith and the loss of faith and space travel and aliens and basically like everyone dying. And you know that from like the fourth page where Emilio Sandez is the only member of a space mission to come back alive, but what you don’t know is how much, even if you aren’t a religious person, Sandez’s horrible conviction that either God doesn’t exist, or he does and he orchestrated every part of this mission where things went so absurdly right and then so terribly wrong, how much that will wreck you. It is eviscerating.

Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein

I like novels that have a MASSIVE! REVEAL! in the middle and then you have to go back and reevaluate everything you thought you learned in the first half. This is that, and it’s also strong female friendship and ladyspies and ladypilots doing badass ladyshit in WWII. ‘Verity’ has been captured by the Germans and is being tortured and revealing all kinds of privileged information but she is the most deliberately unreliable narrator and then some other stuff happens and then near the end, you cry.


Kiss me, Hardy!

The Time-Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

Ugh I knowwwwwwwww. I know. I never saw the movie because the trailer looked so, so romcommy and the book isn’t like that. I mean, it’s a romance. But it’s mostly about how much it SUCKS being married to a time-traveller, who just disappears on you like whenever and it’s not his fault but boy are you angry, and the stretch of novel where they’re trying to get pregnant but the fetuses just keep, like, time-travelling out of the womb (and presumably dying, obvs) were some of the hardest to read pages of my life. Also the ending is mega sad.

Teeth – Hannah Moskowitz

I don’t know what it is about this book. I’m very pro same-sex friendships in books right now – gimmie all your recs for friendship books in the comments – and people being very blasé and brave about their horrible situations MURDERS me in my heart. So this novel about a guy who moves to an island with magical fish that can cure people who eat them, including his little brother (who has Cystic Fibrosis), but then befriends a merman (not like sexy merman but like half-boy half-fish scrappy little dude) and as their friendship grows, it’s like, HEY WHO DESERVES TO LIVE MORE, YOUR SICK LITTLE BROTHER OR MY LITTLE FISH-BROTHERS WHOM YOUR BROTHER HAS TO EAT TO LIVE, like who out ranks whom, and this funny little heartbreaking novel just BROKE MY FUCKING HEART.

Plenty of November left. What novels give you best beloved friends, only to rip them away from you and/or do horrible things to them.