Top Ten Tuesday- The Hard Stuff

This week The Broke and the Bookish ask us to list our top ten books dealing with personally  difficult subjects, something I found disturbingly easy. I think it's fascinating that while we often use reading as means to escape, it's also reassuring when we can find something uncomfortable to relate to. My picks:

[Edited to add: have fun psychoanalyzing me...]

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Issue: Bipolar Disorder
My father suffered from this mental illness until it was too much to handle- he took his own life when I was in high school. I'm so happy that people are more vocal about the condition and that there are so many more treatment options available now. 

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Issue: Fertility, women's health, living forever
I think this is a sensitive topic for most women- how long will our bodies last? 

Fathermucker by Greg Olear
Issue: Autism
As a teacher I've seen what autism can do to students and parents, and the toll it can take on families. 

Marley and Me by John Grogan
Issue: Pet's death
My dogs are both in good health, but I know that one day they won't be. It's a proactive cathartic read.

Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas
Issue: Unemployment 
The fear of job loss has always been a monkey on my back- I was terrified growing up that my parents would lose their jobs. As an adult I was pink-slipped when I taught elementary school, although I was lucky enough to never actually be without a employment.

Readacide by Kelly Gallagher
Issue: Kids hating reading
I know this may seem a bit trivial amongst mental health and unemployment, but I believe that the lack of interest in literacy amongst kids and teens is a grave problem.

A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton
Issue: Feeling responsible for the death of your child
As someone who hopes to one day have children the idea of losing one is incredibly sad and disturbing. There are so many risks that come with parenthood.

My Abandonment by Peter Rock
Issue: Homelessness
When I was little I was also very, very worried about being homeless (as well as about my house burning down, and armed robbery... I was an anxious little thing). I think people take shelter for granted- living on the streets without the security a home offers is painful to even think about.

Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle
Issue: Illegal immigration
I rave about this book all the time, but I think Boyle does an amazing job offering a different perspective on immigration in Southern California. 

White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Issue: Foster children 
I haven't read this book since it came out in 2000, but I remember being deeply moved by the main character's experience in the foster care system. I've seen my students have both positive and negative experiences in homes and know that the right foster parent can make all the difference. 


  1. Soooo many good boooooks! Must read them ALL.
    I haven't read ANY of these on your list, actually. You've previously recommended The Tortilla Curtain and State of Wonder, but now the others are on my list too. I've watched the film adaptation of Marley and Me - absolutely heartbreaking. My brother and I cry every time.

  2. What you said at the top about reading to escape but also reading about things we relate to is spot on. The last three books I've read all deal with death. I didn't even realize it until afterwards that I was reading dark book after dark book. After I finish Killing Kennedy, it'll be time for something a little happier.

  3. I've watched the movie Marley & Me and it made me cry. I have a dog and while he's as energetic as ever, it really scares me to think one day he won't even be here.

  4. Several of these are really great. I love The Marriage Plot and White Oleander. I have State of Wonder on my shelf at home and have not picked it up yet, glad to knows it's good!

  5. Ok there are a ton of books on here that I really want to read now.. so I can't really psychoanalyze you since I'm a little worried about my own fascination right now. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  6. I was thinking of Old Yeller, but Marley and Me covers this awful topic, too.

    Thanks for visiting!
    Stephanie (Go Flash Go) @ Read, Rinse, Repeat

  7. Ooo, I didn't think of White Oleander. A great pick to add to this list!

  8. Love Tortilla Curtain too, and right now I'm listening to State of Wonder as I drive around town. Thanks for the shout out to Readacide too: as a fellow teacher, I share your concerns about the future of reading. I might try My Abandonment next.