Crying in Public

Josie Leavitt -- July 27th, 2010

I think it’s happened to all readers with a heart: you’re reading in public, say a plane or train, and suddenly you find yourself in tears because of what’s happening in your book. I found myself in just this situation last week on a plane to Chicago.

I was reading a galley of Sorta Like a Rock Star and I was overtaken and just started crying, a little at first and then a little bit more. I had no tissues, napkins or anything to wipe my eyes or nose with, so I resorted to dabbing at my eyes with a spare scrunchie that was wound around a my wrist. Luckily, I had no seat mate, but I had a very concerned flight attendant who checked in with me, not once, but twice. Clearly she didn’t believe me about being so moved by a book, I just had to weep a little. Each time I waved her off. Finally, I just had to put the book away for fear I’d struck some main line of tears, and as much as I was enjoying the book, I didn’t want to cry all the way to Chicago.

I know I have customers come into the store very angry with me because they outright sobbed at the last thirty pages of The Book Thief while they were flying home from vacation. “Why didn’t you warn me?” Well, telling customers when they’re likely to sob during a book isn’t part of my job. Although, I will say, I have amended my handselling for The Book Thief to say, “If you have a heart, you will cry at the end of this book. Be mindful of that when you’re on a plane.”

I must say, even crying at home can cause concern. I was reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince outside on my deck and I was sobbing so hard at the death of Dumbledore, I could barely contain myself. I just wasn’t expecting him to be, you know, totally dead. I just sobbed. First my dogs came out to see if was I was okay. Then Elizabeth, who knew what I was reading, came out with a box of tissues.

Books should move us. A good book can give us the whole range of human emotion. The good thing for me is I’ve got Christopher Moore’s Fool to read at the beach during vacation, so hopefully people won’t be concerned for me, they’ll just think I’m a lunatic for laughing at every page.

63 thoughts on “Crying in Public

  1. Hannah @ Lee & Low Books

    Oh my goodness, I can’t tell you how many times I have sobbed uncontrollably in public while reading books. That’s the danger of doing a lot of reading on subways, in parks… I finished THE BOOK THIEF while at a laundromat and cried through the whole wash cycle. Frankly, I’m surprised they ever let me back in after that.

    Another one that really got me was THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, which I finished while on a plane that was taking off. I was sobbing, and couldn’t get up to get tissues because the seatbelt sign was on. It was mighty awkward for the guy sitting next to me. LOVE THAT DOG is another one that totally made me weep in the middle of a room full of people. I didn’t see that one coming, either – the ending packs a real punch!

    The converse, of course, is books that make me laugh hysterically in public. Anything by David Sedaris or John Green would be at the top of that list.

  2. shelftalker elizabeth

    I bawled like a baby at The Book Thief, and also at Samsara Dog (by Helen Manos; illus. by Julie Vivas), a wonderful Kane-Miller picture book about a dog that gets reincarnated several times, moving through many different lives. He starts off as a street cur, unloved and unloving, and ultimately becomes a dog that learns finally to love someone more than himself–in this case, a special boy in his life. When the dog passes away after that life, his soul has fulfilled its mission. The book could have been written sentimentally, or with a cloying sweetness, but instead is simple and very moving. My sales rep made me read it at NEIBA at the booth, and I was horrified to find myself sobbing. In public. In front of my work colleagues. Darn you, Doug Cochrane! I love that book.

  3. Kay

    Though I’ve read the trilogy at least 5 times now, I always sob my eyes out through the last third of the last book in the Fionavar Tapestry (by Guy Gavriel Kay). I know what’s coming and it gets me every time. Those books were absolutely life-changing for me and I definitely read them alone in my house, preferably hours before I have to see anyone again!

  4. Carol

    Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A LITTLE PRINCESS was the book I went to over and over as a child when I felt like I needed a good cry. I’d curl up in a big chair or the top of a tree with an apple and tissues and it just felt so good. I was always lost in that book. When I was a teenager in 1971, Julie Andrews Edwards wrote a book called MANDY. It was about a 10 year old orphan who dreams of having her own little house with a garden. She lives in an orphanage with 30 other little girls, but sneaks away to an abandoned cottage that she has stumbled upon. You know, that description right there is enough to make you cry!! Last is a picture book by Jenny Wagner: JOHN BROWN, ROSE, AND THE MIDNIGHT CAT. Rose’s dog becomes jealous and feels left out (tissue) when Rose starts feeding a stray cat. Rose even scolds John Brown (tissue) when he sabotages the cat’s milk bowl.
    WOW! I LOVE GREAT BOOKS!

  5. Pingback: Book News, July 31st « The Librarian Next Door

  6. Emily (Super Reader Girl Reviews)

    I usually stop reading if I am in public and feel tears coming on. I want to be able to fully experience and feel my emotions without the distracting fear of what people around me might think! I think the last book where I truly cried – not just teared up – was The Book Thief. I was expecting some sadness, but tears were literally pouring down my face. I hid in my daughters’ bedroom in the corner with some tissues so I wouldn’t be interrupted as I read to the end. 🙂

  7. vicky

    Oh my gracious,

    This happens to me frequently. Whether I am reading children’s books or a well-written novel. If I am moved, I find my tears cannot be contained. I am in the world of whatever I am reading and books can be really moving sometimes.

  8. Heidi Estrin

    I love you all for sharing this trait with me!

    A few years ago I was sitting in the waiting room at my mechanic’s while my car was being worked on, reading Julia’s Kitchen by Brenda Ferber, with tears streaming down my face. I’m sure the other customers thought something terrible was wrong with my car!

    I wonder if anyone else has cried over Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine? I sobbed big gut-wrenching sobs when the poor kid couldn’t figure out how to clean her room (she piled all her junk together and spritzed it with Fantastick and couldn’t figure out why it didn’t make the room clean), and she thought she was a failure and that her parents wouldn’t want her anymore. I made actual noise, I was crying so hard.

    I also tend to tear up when reading animal picture books. I shared How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham in a workshop for teachers, and got all choked up trying to read it to them.

    1. Amy G

      Clementine? Clementine RULES! I adore that book. The Talented Clementine (sequel), in which Clementine is not quite sure what (if anything) her talent is, is also wonderful. In answer to your question, yes that book makes me cry. Lots do. MANY dozens of readings later, David McPhail’s The Teddy Bear still catches me too. 🙂

      1. Johanna Hurwitz

        Years ago, I was reading A DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE on the Long Island Rail Road when I began sobbing at the death of the father. My daughter (age 8) and son (age 6) quietly got out of their seats and found other places to sit. They did not want to be seen in my company. After I finished crying, I went to them and said, “Just wait. One day you’ll read that book and you’ll cry too.” And sure enough two years later I found my daughter weeping in her bedroom with a copy of the book in her hands. And then another two years later, I caught my son weeping with that book too. I think the three of us will remember that book forever.

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