Do You Ever Feel Like The Author Of The Book You Are Reading Is Trying To Kill You?


You know those scenes in the movies where a bomb has just gone off? The ones where everything is distorted and off balance?

Well, that’s where I am. The world around me has just exploded and I am disorientated. I am blinking to clear my vision. Dust cakes my eyelids, my mouth is a sandpit. The ringing in my ears messes with everything. I sway back and forth desperately, wiping at my eyes, trying to find my family. I want to move, I want to get out of this puddle only to realise the puddle is my legs and the only thing moving is the bell tolling in my head.

That’s what John Green did to me. I picked up a slim blue book, The Fault in Our Stars, on Sunday morning. I emerged a few hours later in the above-mentioned state. Bastard.

Emma Donoghue has done a similar thing to me. She, unlike John didn’t just destroy my Sunday, she destroyed an entire holiday. They only thing I could utter for days after reading Room was Fuck. And I sounded like Keanu Reeves when I said it. There have been other books that have caused similar reactions; The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbach, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Rock Orchard by Paula Wall, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, my first Harry Potter, and Tussen Stasies by Irma Joubert.

I am always furious with an author for making me feel like this. I hate it, because for weeks afterwards I can’t read and I certainly can’t write. Because what do you read after a book that just ripped your guts out and handed them back to you? What do you write after reading a book that is so well thought out, so well-written, so beautiful and epic in its scope? What do you do when your world tilts and you can’t get it back up?

The first thing I do is wallow in it. I wallow for days if need be. I reread passages. I look up random facts about the author. I look at other books they have written, but I pass. Nothing can compare. Not yet anyway. And then slowly I will start writing again. I’ll pick up another book, but I know I’ll be left wanting. It’s like Heroin. Once you’ve had it in your system you’re changed forever. (But this is a good kind of heroin, I don’t know much about the other kind. Apologies to any to needle enthusiast I might have offended.)

So I’ll rather say I feel like those hyenas in Lion King. Where the one goes: Mufasa, Mufasa, Mufasa and the other one says: Do it again. Do it again. Do it again. Because I want to feel like that again. I want to find another book that changes my world, or better yet I want to write a book that changes your world.

No pressure.

Feel free to leave a reading suggestion in the comments below. I’m desperate. Again.

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This article has 0 comments

  1. Blair

    Okay, I’m sold. Buy The Fault in Our Stars today. Sounds like a book you need on your shelf, not on your tablet.

  2. Blair

    buying…

  3. xien dc

    I have to say this. I got really depressed for a week after reading the catcher in the rye by J. D. Salinger.

  4. Lady Ri

    Fugitive pieces by Anne Michaels – but ONLY if you haven’t seem the movie.

  5. Alex Tanne

    That has to be the most passionate account of reading a book I’ve ever seen! I can’t read ‘cancer stories’, having suffered it I usually spend too much time nitpicking over factual errors and levels of realism than involving myself in the story, but when I first read The Beach, I had the same sort of reaction. I couldn’t switch off, the ending (and the chapters leading to it) was such an epic mind-fuck that I couldn’t get it out of my head. To this day it’s my favourite book for that reason.

  6. Natalie

    I feel that exquisite pain myself. There are many books that have done that to me over the years. One author who seems to communicate with me mind-to-mind is Robert Fulghum. He has written a little fiction, but his first books, and the ones I am most acquainted with, are his collections of essays. He has seen much of the world and of people and he usually handles even the most serious subjects with a dose of humor. My favorite one of his books (though it’s hard to really pin that down) is Uh-Oh.

  7. Claire

    Ann Bishop – the Black Jewels series … 9 books … be warned number nine is a compilation like number 4 but one of the stories contained within is a big FU to her readers who didn’t follow to her next series, she flat out stated it. Most of us refuse to read that story after the plot was leaked by her editor. Have books 1 through 3 on hand together because you may loose a weekend or more to them … you may want to get book 4 while reading 3 if it takes you more than a day or two to get through a standard novel. Have tissues on hand.

  8. Erin

    Ohh… I can’t handle sad books. I avoid them like the plague, because I don’t just cry, I go into major depression. So yeah… my books are all chipper. Well… they are at the end at least, though the middle is a toss-up. This list told me what to avoid! Though I have respect for those that can write a sad ending and get away with it.

  9. Tiffany

    Mia, if you want to find to find another book series that will mess with your mind & emotions (like you described in the first paragraph) you need to read The Game of Thrones books by George R. R. Martin. There are only five books, two more to come but they are thick books. WORTH READING, even if you have seen the HBO series (hopefully you have not but I do recommend watching the series as well).

  10. just a sad girl

    Skewed Psyche, by Grace-naomi…a memoir. Raw and real, it’s a quick read that will leave you changed. This is a recommendation and a warning!

  11. Matt Sloan

    I’m currently in the same state, having just finished ‘The Fifth Wave’ by Rick Yancey, the first in a new YA Sci-Fi trilogy and already been optioned for a movie. Nothing I’ve tried to read since seems good enough. Everyone shoul read this book, it’s going to be big.

  12. Ceri

    Try the books by Kylie Chan or Traci Harding. Also good is Gail Z Martin. For gut ripping books try “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult, or “The Girl Next Door” by Jack Ketchum. Though a warning with the last one, your kids will be freaked out when you burst into their room in the middle of the night and clutch them to your bosom as you sob. They probably also won’t appreciate being made to sleep all together in one bed with you so you can keep checking on them. But hey, book trauma!

  13. Kai-Anne Clews

    Hi Mia, thank you for your write-up – yes! I understand completely. If you are hungering for something that will leave you in a state of awe-struck Keanu Reevesism – then I know the book for you. Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. Happy Reading! xx

  14. Lyss

    And here I thought I was the only one who went totally fan girl over books like that for a bit after my heart was ripped out and trampled on at the hands of some measly words.

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about John Green, but I think this post pretty much guaranteed that it’s the book I’m buying when I go to the bookstore again. Yes, buying. Not downloading; because this sounds like the kind of book that I want to hold and cry over, and even stare at for a few hours after as I come to terms of whatever just happened.

    Recommendation: Unteachable by Leah Raeder.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17978680-unteachable?from_search=true

    I’m not really a fan for romance, but it was worth it this time. It was a book of epic proportions. This book ruined me for any other book; it was beautiful, harsh and real. It made me question life, perspective, truth, myself, my past and my future. I felt like a philosopher reading it and it totally changed the way I look at things.

    I do love your posts! 😀 Thanks for all the inspiration

  15. Sandra Alexander

    I’d recommend Neuromancer by William Gibson – after I first read it, I felt so inspired and absolutely desperate at the same time because I thought I’d never be able to write something even close to Gibson’s power and skills.

  16. Ruan van den Berg

    Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck.

    I read the last couple pages in tears. The ending was inevitable.

    Inevitable, should not be mistaken for predictable, which leaves you cheated. Inevitable, on the other hand, leaves you feeling overwhelmed, complete and grateful. Of Mice and Men is so superbly written that you say thank you after every page.

    A perfect novel.

  17. Davonne Burns

    Ender’s Game did that for me when I was twelve and changed my world view forever. There have been others over the years that left me stunned and incoherent for days. The Homesick Cafe was another one. I never expected to even like it, much less be profoundly moved by it.

    Those emotional epiphanies are what I strive for in my writing. Not sure I’m there yet, but I won’t quit till I have someone tell me they were effected like you described.

  18. Jess Owen

    Great post! It’s so true. As readers we crave it, as writers we aspire to it. The last book that made me weep was The Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. Based on your reading list, you would probably enjoy it.

  19. Ellen

    The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein!!! It was SO AMAZING. A sad ending, but a hopeful one too. And Fault in our Stars killed me. I propose a frying pan revolt against John Green. Who’s with me?

  20. Liz

    ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series by George R. R. Martin. It will make you want to tear your heart out and eat it, and leave you begging for more.

  21. Johanna

    Allegiant, anyone? And no, I actually don’t like the feeling when authors rip your heart out and refuse to put it back. Sucky endings? No thanks. I read to escape my problems, not ride an adventure that ends in more misery than my real life.

  22. Autumn

    Did you read To Kill a Mockingbird…i am sure you did. How about Beloved? I was hungover for days just like you after these reads

  23. Shizi

    So many books have done this to me, I just lose count, but it is wonderful, to feel that way, something so significant in your insignificant life.

  24. Baliseth

    I’ve had a few that have left me like that. Most recently, Allegiant by Veronica Roth. Literally ripped my heart out and tap danced on it, I sobbed while finishing the book and couldn’t read or write anything for days afterward.

  25. Writers Write

    From Mia Botha:

    Now I feel like you are trying to kill me…

    Thank-you for the overwhelming response I received for last week’s post, Do you ever feel like the author of the book you are reading is trying to kill you?

    The comments were wonderful and the book suggestions are going to keep me busy for a while. I have them all listed below just for you (And for Santa of course). They are in no particular order and I hope I got the right book. Some folks only listed a title or an author name so it was up to me and Google. Your name is in brackets. This list comes with warnings of emotional trauma, tissue abuse and severe sobbing.

    Mia’s list of death (in no particular order) as suggested by you:

    Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (xien dc)
    Fugitive Pieces by Anne Micheals (Lady Ri)
    The Beach by Alex Garland (Alex Tanne)
    All essays by Robert Fulghum (Natalie)
    The Black Jewel Series by Ann Bishop (Claire)
    The Games of Thrones Series by George RR Martin (Tiffany)
    Skewed Psyche by Grace-Naomi (just a sad girl)
    The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey (Matt Sloan)
    Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (Ceri)
    The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum (Ceri)
    All work of Kylie Chan (Ceri)
    All work of Traci Harding (Ceri)
    Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Kai-Anne Clews)
    Unteachable by Leah Raeder (Lyss)
    Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Ruan van den Berg)
    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (Davonne Burns)
    Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler (Davonne Burns)
    The Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay (Jess Owen)
    The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
    A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin
    Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Johanna & Baliseth & Tessa Register)
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Autumn)
    Red Wedding by George RR Martin (Daniel De Los Reyes)
    My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (Tracey White)
    River’s by Michael Farris Smith (Carmen Sisson)
    All work by George RR Martin (Victoria Vanderveer)
    All work by Sarah Rees Brennan (Tia Bearden)
    Awakening the Heroes Within by Dr Carolyn Pearson (Ila Flamand)
    Arrows of the Queen Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey (Jaleh Dragich)
    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Anastasia Lankford)
    Red Dot in a Room Full of Plaid by Varian Johnson (Mercedes A Burt)
    All work by Joyce Carol Oats (Karen Lawson)
    Looking for Alaska by John Greene (Proot Choda)
    Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Mary Schneider)
    The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (Kerry Kijewski)
    Harry Potter series by JK Rowling(Kerry Kijewski)
    Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Sameeha Khaliq)
    White Oleander by Janet Fitch (Amanda Patterson)

    Happy reading.

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