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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Take Ten: Tear Jerkers

One of my student's Tori, made a list of "tear jerkers" for her midterm. These are not traditional tear jerkers. Yes, they will make you cry a bit, but all are ultimately uplifting. Here is the list:

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. (1996). In this sentimental love story, Noah reads the story of the love of his life from his notebook. In it, Noah and Allie spend one memorable summer together, after which they are separated for fourteen years. They are finally reunited just prior to Allie’s marriage to another man, but will she return to Noah? And to whom is Noah telling this story? 214p

Mercy by Jodi Picoult. (1996). At the beginning of the book Jamie MacDonald turns himself in for murdering his wife. All is not as it seems however, as Jamie confesses that he smothered her only after she begged him to put an end to her long-suffering from terminal cancer. Picoult deftly balances the courtroom drama with romance in multiple plotlines while dealing gracefully with the issue of euthanasia. 353p

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. (2002). It begins with a death. A parent’s worst nightmare, 14-year-old Susie is raped and murdered. Sebold, in a bold and masterful style, writes the story from Susie’s point of view from heaven. Susie observes how her family copes in the aftermath of her death. 328p

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. (1966). Keyes also chooses a unique perspective for his story about a mentally disabled man. Charlie undergoes an operation to increase his intelligence. His progress is revealed in the form of diary entries. However, Charlie doesn’t fully understand what he is in for when he volunteers for the surgery. He has little protection from those who want to use him to further science and their careers. 274p

The Pearl by John Steinbeck. (1947). A poor diver, Kino finds the “perfect” pearl the size of a gull’s egg that will lift his little family out of poverty in Mexico. In true to form fashion, Steinbeck illuminates the obsession and greed of men that threatens to destroy a family. 90p

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. (1997). On May 11, 1996 Jon Krakauer began his descent from Mount Everest on what would become the deadliest day in the history of the mountain. Krakauer tries to piece together what events lead to so many deaths on Everest on this catastrophic day. 291p

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. (1961). This bittersweet adventure tale about a boy and his dogs will move anyone. Billy’s passion and love for his dogs is contagious. Readers will find themselves reading quickly through the book to follow Billy on his next adventure. However, all adventures must end and part of growing up is learning how to say goodbye. 212p

I Am Third by Gale Sayers. (1971). Gale Sayers uplifting memoir tells two stories. The first is Sayers’ journey to leave the ghetto, and his career playing for the Chicago Bears. The second is his heartwarming friendship with teammate Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer at age 27, which will move even the most stoic reader. 238p

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. (2005). Lily and Snow Flower are bound together as laotong or “old sames,” a relationship closer than that between a husband and wife. They send messages to each other using a secret and subtle women’s language called nu shu. A misunderstanding in nu shu threatens to destroy their friendship forever. The book is rich in cultural information and the reader will move quickly through it to watch Lily’s and Snow Flower’s relationship develop. 258p

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. (2008). This book was developed from Randy Pausch’s final lecture that he gave at Carnegie Mellon, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” The lecture was part of a series in which professors were asked what advice they would impart if they had one last opportunity. In Pausch’s case, speculation became a reality when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This inspirational and moving account will stick with you long after you put the book down. 206p

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