Why do people read sad books?

“The song of Achilles”, one of the saddest books I’ve read.

Dear reader, have you ever wondered what it is about sad books that make them special? Personally I’ve always been a big fan of those sob stories.

There are many reasons behind that comforting feeling we get by reading sad books.

Relating to the sadness we read

Any bookworm will tell you that they experience almost every emotion they read about in books. They live the role of the main character, they pretend to own every aspect of their life, even their emotions.
Once the reader finds himself diving into the story, he will feel a connection with his real-life emotions.
Keep in mind that those readers love the feeling of empathy and being understood.

Experiencing sadness without anxiety

While sadness is a natural emotion, experiencing it may bring along anxiety, stress, and fear. People tend to run away from these feelings. That’s why some people choose to read their sadness instead of experiencing it.

Indeed, recalling a sad or tragic event while reading can be easier to tolerate than experiencing it.
Knowing that a sad event in the book might have a happy ending will clear the person’s thoughts from negativity and help them focus on the brighter side there is to see.

In addition, experiencing sad emotions from books is temporary, it could last a couple of hours, or a few days. However, this sadness isn’t directly related to life events and will wear off eventually.

Dealing with catharsis and apathy

While catharsis and apathy are two different extremes, they can somehow meet when there is a need for emotions. Reading deeply emotional books like “A Little Life” can help bring back those feelings by immersing them in intense emotional experiences. This is a safe way to reach back and reconnect with lost emotions without triggering any real-life painful experiences.

Catharsis is for people who tend to feel too much and want a way out of these emotions. “Othello”, written by Shakespeare, illustrates catharsis in the last scene, where the protagonist, discovers his lover’s manipulation and betrayal and ends up taking his own life. The poem in itself is very tragic and heartbreaking.

Othello’s speech before taking his own life

Feeling grateful because of sadness

While some people might be grateful for what they have, they still need to learn the value of those things.

When reading a story about the death of a loved one (If He Had Been with Me), or the illness of one (Reasons to Stay Alive), people tend to appreciate more what they have,
They will appreciate their loved ones being healthy and alive.
They will appreciate the moments they spend with them and enjoy the memories, because they know through books that those moments might not last.
Being moved by sadness, or wanting to uncover deeper truths will help the reader elaborate thoughts and feelings inspired by the experience.

It is normal to seek such books at certain times and let your emotions flow in you. If you want to cry your eyes out, here’s a list of the saddest books you can read! 
And now, what about you? What’s the saddest book you’ve read? Would you recommend it to others?

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24 réflexions au sujet de « Why do people read sad books? »

  1. Sometimes when I ready sad books, I feel grateful. Grateful for where I am in life, the people I got, the love and support surrounding me at all times. Thank you for this reminder!

    1. You are welcome!
      If you want a way out of your misery, you can always check the link in the article to find books that will make you sob!

  2. It captures the comfort and understanding we find in sad books, making us experience emotions without the anxiety or tension that usually comes with them. I love how it talks about catharsis and how reading sad stories can help us reconnect with our emotions in a safe way.

    1. I think we feel more anxiety with our real life emotions, and while we might experience it with books, we know that it’s only temporary, making our real life situation easier to handle.

  3. I agree!! Something about reading sad books, your emotions, makes it easier to deal with them. It’s certainly an escape from reality and a beneficial one as well!

    1. I think most people tend to find ways to escape reality, especially escaping their feelings.
      Do you usually escape through books? or do you have other ways to escape?

  4. I completely agree!!! Reading sad books can indeed be incredibly cathartic. It’s like experiencing a release of emotions that helps one process and understand their own feelings better. I recently experienced this when my father passed away, and it helped me immensely!

    1. I’m sorry for you loss.
      I know that when we go through though times and we want to let go of our emotions, relating our experiences to others makes it easier on us, as we feel less alone.
      I recently lost my grandmother and couldn’t process the grief until I read something that let my emotions out.

  5. This is an interesting and insightful discourse, and more so when you see that many people tend to experience sad media in order to give them the temporary vulnerable sensations which they might be addicted to/lived with in a daily basis…

    1. Don’t you think that people try to escape those vulnerable feeling when reading about them? It would be easier to take in knowing other relate, thus feeling less vulnerable.

  6. I personally don’t like to read sad books but I love every single sad book I’ve read! Sad stories are harder to forget, they stay with you forever because you don’t reach the satisfaction you wanted.

    1. But don’t you think that sad books can be satisfying in some way?
      They could have an emotional satisfaction aside from the story.

    1. I think we love sad things because most of the time they express things we often try to hide. Movies and sad books or anything that sparks our emotions are things we might not want to speak about but just find other that relate to us.

  7. I’m really interested and I like to read sad books. Reading sad books can offer us a profound insights into the human experience and foster empathy.
    Great job Fatima.

  8. Very nice article! As a fellow bookworm, I agree with all of this. Something about experiencing emotions while in front of you can be eye opening and touching.

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