Hard Topics – yes, you’re uncomfortable, but they’re still important!

This post is a discussion but at the same time its not. It’s more of a post where I’ve got some strong bottled up feelings that I’ve decided to put out into the world.

Over the last few weeks I’ve read some really hard hitting, emotional, and difficult books. Two of them dealing with rape (I Stop Somewhere and Speak) and another one was a family dealing with grief and loss (Everything I Never Told You). It’s made me realize that I enjoy these types of books just as much as I enjoy fantasy and science fiction, but on a different level.

I realize that books dealing with hard topics aren’t for everyone. For those of you who read for pleasure and enjoyment, getting hit with deep and emotional topics can be overwhelming. You might not want to read a book like this because it will made you sad or upset. As they should. These topics aren’t meant to be sunshine and rainbows. They’re meant to teach you something. Take you out of your comfort zone and put you into the situation so you can better understand things. If you’re experiencing anger, discomfort, sadness, and more, that means the book did it’s job! Topics like rape, murder, racism, grief, etc. are terrible realities for some people. Not having experienced these things first hand is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t learn about them.

You might be afraid to read a book that deals with hard topics because it’s going into something you have no personal experience with. You may feel guilty that you can’t relate. All I have to say is DON’T! Consider yourself lucky! But just because you can’t relate to that situation doesn’t mean you can’t read it. Taking yourself out of your safe little bubble and reading about it gives you something important. Knowledge. And knowledge is power! Read and learn! The things you read will help you understand the situation from different angles. It will help you understand how things work, what a victim goes through, how to sympathize, how the vicim thinks, and SO much more. It may help you see signs of things happening around you and either stop them or support the person going through it. It will help you consider your own actions and words. And it will help you grow as a person and maybe be a little more sympathetic and understanding.

There are a lot of harsh realities in the world. Some of the things that people experience are enough to rip your heart out. But as sad as it is, these things happen. And keeping these ‘taboo’ and uncomfortable topics in the open is a step in the right direction to changing things. It doesn’t do anyone any good to just hide all of the uncomfortable things in the world under a rug. We need to be talking about it. We need to be having these conversations. We need to be aware and understanding. I am so very thankful for all the authors out there who are willing to talk about these things. Whether it’s from an “own voices” point of view or not. The point is, people are talking.

I know that a lot of people read for fun. There’s nothing wrong with that! I do too. But don’t limit yourself. Don’t take away these experiences. Give yourself the knowledge. And maybe one day, books like this won’t be necessary. We can hope.

Do you like reading books with hard topics? If so, which ones would you recommend? Here are a few of my own recommendations:

  • I Stop Somewhere by TE Carter
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
  • Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
  • The Diary of Anne Frank

Until next time, happy reading!

 

 

50 Comments Add yours

  1. Ruqs says:

    I understand the importance of raising awareness about these devastating things happening, and an effective way would be through a well-written book, as books have the ability to really yank at people’s heart-strings much more than a plain fact stated, although of course with both, it would be very saddening, but with a book it becomes more personal.

    I understand its good for people to be aware of the horrible horrible things taking place in the world. But I also don’t think it’s good to read too many of these books, because otherwise it will harden your heart to it. You will become too used to such tragic events because you read about them so much, so it numbs you, and won’t have the same effect it should have.

    Personally, I understand the importance of being aware about these things, but as a teenage girl I would prefer not to read about these things in detail, because they frighten and sadden me very much. That doesn’t mean I don’t read all those news articles that hit the headlines concerning these things. It just means I don’t want to incorporate these traumatic themes into my pleasure reading, because I know I won’t enjoy it at all. But I do stay aware of the things taking place in the world, by regular reading of the news every morning.

    However, I also understand how some people would prefer to read about such occurrences in more detail 🙂

    On another note, The Help is one of my most favourite books in the entire world, as it doesn’t contain any traumatic things, but explores racism. I have also read part of The Diary of Anne Frank.

    Great post, Shanah! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So very well said!! I personally read for enjoyment (mostly fantasy and science fiction) and will pick up a hard hitting book here and there to change the pace. Like you said, if you saturate your reading with ONLY books like this then it can become less effective because you’re overwhelming your emotions on the topic.

      Also, very good point on being a teenager. It’s so very important for teenagers to be careful when choosing books like this. There are some books written with vivid detail and, if not prepared, these depictions could harm you. Especially if there are certain triggers. I was a sheltered teen. I live in a small town where not a whole lot happened. And when I matured, real life hit me like a Mac truck. I didn’t realize just how difficult, painful, and horrible things could be in the “real world”. I think that books like this are SO important for teens to become aware of what’s happening in the world and maybe even prepare them for the warning signs of things that could happen to them. But it’s a fine line with teens. It all depends on what they can handle. As the mother of an almost teen and an avid reader, I consider myself lucky to have read so many books and I know which ones would be suitable for my daughter. But you’re so right – not all of them are suitable for her, and not all are suitable for certain age groups. Careful research needs to be done before a teen picks up a book with a hard topic
      The Help is so amazing!! Part of the reason I liked it is because there wasn’t any specific detail on traumatic events but still got the point across of the severity of the situation. It was very well written 🙂

      Thanks so much for your comment. It really made me consider the younger reading audience!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ruqs says:

        Yes thats very true 🙂 In today’s world at this moment, it isn’t as easy to be sheltered what with easy access to the internet and social media, which is then access to the entire world, the goods and the bad.

        To me, it all depends on how the subject is portrayed through the book. A book for teens concerning traumatic subjects would have to be more censored than a book aimed at adults 🙂

        Yes, that’s part of the reason why I love it too! You’re welcome, thank you! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s exactly it. When I was younger, social media didn’t exist so we didn’t have as much access to world wide news. Now, information spreads and people are more aware of the good and bad. It was a bit of a shock for me reading about difficult subjects when I was a kid because I just didn’t know these things actually happened. Yup, I’m old lol

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so true! I totally agree! I read Speak and I loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only read the graphic novel but plan to pick up the actual novel soon. It was a great story!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dalindcy Koolhoven says:

    I love it when contemporary books deal with heavy subjects, like grief, loss, murder etc. I personally seek out books that truly make me feel something, and the reading experience is often not complete for me without it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know a lot of people like that. They choose books with high emotions because it doesn’t feel like a real reading experience without it. I find that a lot of the books that were like that stay with me longer in the end

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pallavi Modi says:

    Completely agree with you. While I love reading for enjoyment, books can and do serve a larger purpose than just being entertaining. I make sure that every month I read atleast one book that deals with some sort of hard reality. Recently finished reading a memoir – The Last Girl. Here are my thoughts on it if you would like to read – https://themrsliterary.com/2018/03/19/women-in-the-time-of-war/ BTW, I love your discussion posts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You and I are a lot alike. I do mainly read for enjoyment but, like you said, books can serve a purpose other than just that. I think that books like this can help us grow as people and give us experiences we might not have understood otherwise. I haven’t heard of that book. I’ll check it out! Thanks 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pallavi Modi says:

        You know what they say about great minds 🤣. I am actually in the middle of a post about why I love reading books and one of the reasons is that they make you more humane and teach empathy. I can’t say you will enjoy The Last Girl because it is Heart Breaking but it will definitely stay with you for a long time. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I really appreciate the recommendation. And I can’t wait for your post 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I personally have a really hard time with violent themes. Holocaust books, for example, wreck me. I was really bothered by the multiple rape sequences in “The Pillars of the Earth”, and I had several nightmares about it. I agree that it’s important to be aware that these things happen, but when they’re too graphic they’re really hard on my mental health. I also think that how much of the book revolves around those things makes a difference. “The Kite Runner”, for example, has some VERY difficult content in it, but it’s not the entire book. I think that makes the difficult scenes more effective, but also allows me to read them without being too disturbed by the book as a whole.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said. Books can sometimes be difficult if they’re descriptive and you aren’t ready for them or able to handle them. They can be very triggering. It’s hard to tell which ones will be mild though which is sad. The Kite Runner was fantastic!! I haven’t read the Pillars of the Earth yet and I didn’t even know that there were scenes like that. I wish there was some way the publishers could warn readers of that content though

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been advocating for content warnings for a long time. Movies, video games, tv, everything else has ratings to warn for adult content, books are the only thing that don’t.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Exactly!! There’s a publishing company called Clean Teen Publishing and they do just that. They have a set list of things to warn of (abuse, language, etc) and they have a 1-5 rating of the severity as well as some examples. It’s the best thing ever! I don’t know why more publishers haven’t followed this example. When I review I will almost always mention if there are triggering things in a book! I would like people to know. But it’s hard when something that doesn’t bother me will bother someone else

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I give a maturity rating to every book I review. and if something gets a 4 or 5 I try to talk about why, whether it’s cursing or sex or violence.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. That’s a fantastic idea! I’ve been leaning towards something like that myself 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Beware Of The Reader says:

    Well Shanah I do love these kinds of books. Not all the time as we need to breathe but still. So much that I Stop Somewhere landed in my mail box yesterday. I bought it after having read your review. I would recommend It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover, Stop by Allyson G Bailey, Exit, Pursued by A Bear by EK Johnston, Beartown by Fredrik Backman, The Silver Cage by Anonymous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thanks for the recommendations! Ive been wanting to read Beartown for the longest time!!
      And you’re totally right, you can’t read books like this all the time. It would wreak your emotions having so much to process. Books like this are something that should be consumed sparingly

      Like

  7. I lean towards books that cover hard topics. It is so important to be understanding and challenge the way we think about certain topics. I can admit to passing judgement in the past because I didn’t understand something. When I read books it helps me understand why I was wrong in my thinking and helps me do better. I think everyone can gain something from hard hitting books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad you said that!!! So many times we take what we think and assume that we are right. Books like this challenge us to think differently and maybe reconstruct our own views. I’m totally fine with admitting I’m wrong! And I love having something make me consider things in a different light 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I totally agree with what you said about not relating! I recently read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which was a letter to his 15 year-old son. And though I couldn’t relate at all, I think it was really important to read and see someone else’s perspective

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That would be hard to relate to but maybe it could shed light on something else in your life either now or in the future. That’s what I love about things we can’t relate to at the time. There are SO many situations I couldn’t even imagine if I tried, but they help me with their perspective and experiences. It’s a great thing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I totally agree about how important it is to read books about hard topics so we can understand what’s going on around us and also to see a different side to what the news tells us. One book that really upset me last year was They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery about the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. A Holocaust book that took me a very long time to complete was The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman. I had to keep putting it down because it was so harrowing but I also needed to finish it because it was compelling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holocaust books usually end with me putting them down a few times. Sometimes the reality and scope of it is just too much to handle. Oh and I’ve never heard of They Can’t Kill Us before…. I’m going to have to look into that. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read The Lilac Girls last month and I’ve decided I need a break from Holocaust books. It seems the older I get the more upset I get :/

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve had that book on my shelf for almost a year but haven’t gotten to it for that reason – I needed a break from it. It was just too much for a while. I hope to get to it soon though.

          Like

  10. Andie @ Andrea's Nirvana says:

    I have all the books you mentioned on my TBR; I haven’t read any of them simply because I always seemed to prioritize one thing or the other- which I know is no excuse. I’m not using it as as excuse. I’m really grateful that 1) these books exist and that 2) I’m unable to relate to most of the things going on. Some books aren’t written for everyone to relate to them- they’re written so people can see why certain events affect victims as much as they do- people aren’t just being over dramatic. This is real.
    A very important and much needed discussion post ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s such a great point. When two people read books like this, I can almost guarantee that they won’t see it in the same way. Our own emotions and experiences shape how we see a book so no two people will feel it in the same way

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Andie @ Andrea's Nirvana says:

        Exactly! And that’s perfectly okay, that’s exactly the beauty in books.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Liv says:

    Wow, this topic was something that was always at the front of my mind when I was reading Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult because it deals with race, specifically African Americans and White people and dealing with privilege and White Supremacy and it made me really realize how the world is and how we deal with things. Very much needed post thank you for writing it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jodi Picolt is the perfect example. Her books are almost always ones that take hard topics and make you think until your brain hurts. I like that she writes with a balance of both sides and let’s the reader decide how they feel in the end. She’s great!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is so true! Reading all of these books really helps you understand or learn about a topic. Just because you’ve never experienced it, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn how it affects people. That’s the best thing about books with hard topics. They teach you things that people experience so you have knowledge about it. Great post, Shanah!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly what I was trying to say! Knowledge is power 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Cindy says:

    Great Post! I loved The Diary of Anne Frank and Salt to the Sea is on my TBR! I’d recommend It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. It’s the only book I’ve ever read from the author but apart from the general cliche romance parts it was so emotional and intense. It centres around grief and abuse and was hard to read at times, but it was such an amazing book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve yet to read a Colleen Hoover book. I need to change that soon. This book in particular has been recommended so many times!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Great post. I strongly believe that reading stories like these can broaden the human perspective and that’s a big deal. I think it helps people relate and understand each other better as well. I admire writers who do it well, #ownvoices or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! And I love how you worded that “broaden the human perspective”. As hard as these topics may be, they help us understand others and maybe be a little more compassionate at the same time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Norrie says:

    I just finished The Fear by C.L. Taylor. That would fit the list well.
    It was hard to read and as you said, not fun, but i just wish more people would read them…

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The Other Weasley says:

    What we Saw Aaron Hartzler
    The Nightingale Kristin Hannah
    The Lilac Girls Martha Hall Kelly
    Before we were Yours Lisa Wingate
    It ends with us Colleen Hoover
    The Things We Keep Sally Hepworth
    My sunshine Away BY M O Walsh

    I think if we avoid books that are uncomfortable, we miss an opportunity to learn and grow. Some of these books break my heart but they all teach me something new and make me think. Although I read to be entertained, I love learning new things and I often find things I know little about to research in really good books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have 3 books you mentioned on this list and haven’t gotten to them yet (the Nightingale, Lilac Girls, and My Sunshine Away) but I’ve heard amazing things about It Ends With Us. Need to pick it up soon!

      Like

      1. The Other Weasley says:

        My Sunshine away was a surprise to me. I hadn’t heard of it before I came across it in the library. The Nightingale and Lilac Girls are excellent. It Ends with us was hard for me and I have read others about domestic violence that were just as important.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve actually never read a domestic violence subject so that’s really interesting! It’s something that is frequently occurring and no one seems to really talk about it

          Like

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