Since I’ve been under house arrest, I’ve had ample time to catch up on my reading. I’ve had quite a bit of catching up to do- the last book I read was something by RL Stine back when the Fear Street series was popular.
In case you aren’t familiar with books for young adults, that was a long time ago.
So I’ve started reading again and to make up for lost time, a lot of the books are considered “classics”. Now, I don’t know what qualifies a book as “classic”. I think it’s a proportion of how long the author’s been dead to how boring the book is. But that’s just my opinion.
Some of these books were boring. Some were hard to understand. A couple of them were halfway decent. Then there were a few that belong in a category all to themselves. It’s these books that this post is dedicated to: Depressing books.
These books aren’t just sad. When reading a sad book, most people tear up a little, but when they finish the book they feel richer for the experience. Not so with depressing books.
These are the books that stay with you long after you’ve finished them, like a particularly realistic nightmare. When a person has finished reading a depressing book they feel shell shocked and hollow. They don’t feel richer after reading one of these evil books, they feel like opening up the medicine cabinet, taking out the razor blades and ending their misery.
What do I think makes a book depressing? I consider a book to be depressing if by the end there is not ray or even the slightest glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. When I put the book down and I feel like I’ve just witnessed a puppy being burned alive, I know that was a depressing book.
Here’s my list of the most depressing books ever conceived and then put on paper. They’re in no particular order:
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. It’s about a Lithuanian family that immigrates to Chicago. The entire family dies from a combination of poverty, early twentieth century diseases, childbirth, evil, crooked and money obsessed society, being worked to death and just plain despair.
The protagonist is the only surviving member of this doomed family. He would have been better off had he died like the rest of his kin. But then the book would have been short about 200 pages and the author wouldn’t have gotten his point across. I don’t remember what his point was because by the end I just wanted to lie down and cry myself to sleep.
- Lolita by Nabokov. I don’t remember his first name but considering the grim subject matter I’m surprised I even remembered the author’s surname. It’s about pedophilia. The main character sees a 12 year old girl, falls in lust with her and then begins to seduce the girl’s mother in order to get closer to her daughter. The mother dies in an accident and that night he rapes the daughter.
He takes her on a cross country trip and he rapes her daily. He convinces himself she likes it. This goes on for two or three years when another pedophile takes the girl away. Another year or so passes and the girl leaves this other pedophile and marries a nice young man. She gets pregnant and she and the baby both die during childbirth. The girl was 17 years old. The first pedophile then kills the second pedophile because he blames him for the girl’s death for some reason. The End.
- 1984 by George Orwell. It was a toss up between this or Animal Farm. I chose 1984 because it’s longer by over 100 pages. That’s a lot with a depressing book like this. It’s about a future society that sounds a lot like Communist Russia. The date 1984 was 25 years ago but since this book was written about 40 years prior to it’s title that makes it a future society. A man falls in love with a woman and they set out to change society in order to be together with help from a high ranking party leader.
Of course it’s all an elaborate trap to weed out and dispose of potential traitors to the party. The man and woman are tortured to death by the very man who was to help them. Nothing changes and the man and woman are killed and then promptly forgotten about.
- Johnny Got His Gun by ?- I forgot who wrote this WWI nightmare. I guess it doesn’t matter much. It’s about a soldier in WWI who gets hit by a bomb while in a trench. The soldier loses both arms, both legs, and is rendered deaf and mute. Oh, and he’s faceless too. Most of the book is this limbless, faceless, and speechless man having an internal dialogue with himself about how he wishes the doctors at the army hospital would just kill him.
The soldier decides to use Morse code to convey his wishes by banging his head on the frame of his hospital bed. No one notices except for a nurse. It doesn’t matter though, because no one grants his wish. The book ends with him praying for death.
For some godforsaken reason this book was made into a movie. Clips from the movie were played in the music video for the Metallica hit One. The song was about this book, and yes, it’s also depressing as hell.
- Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. This book was dictated by Hitler to a writer when he was in jail in 1933 or 1934. It spells out all his prejudices and his “final solution” to the “Jew problem”. Mein Kampf is pretty much a step by step guide to bring the Holocaust to fruition. It worked and that’s why this book is so depressing.
- The Holy Bible by God, I guess. Not only is it a bitch to read and make sense out of, it has a bummer of an ending. Read Revelations to the end and then try to smile. Good luck with that.
- If I Did It by OJ Simpson and his ghost writer. A step by step guide to how OJ Simpson killed his wife, or how he would have done it had he been the murderer. Which of course he isn’t. The book goes on to describe his ordeal and countless hassles the double murder of his ex-wife and her friend brought upon him. Boo-fucking-hoo. This book is depressing because he actually got away with it!
These are some of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. I realize I spoil the ending of each book I list. You’re welcome.
If there are any depressing books that I you feel I overlooked, please post them in the comment box below. As for me I’m going to get a bottle of single malt scotch and drink until I can’t feel feelings.