Books with hard topics are important. They are stories that need to be read, to be understood. Sometimes they’re written by the very people who experience them, but they’re always written by someone who wants you to know, to be aware, to learn.
I have a hard time dealing with incredibly difficult topics. I hate being ignorant, and have been for a large portion of my life, on everything. I finally understood feminism and the reality of misogyny and rape culture only at 19, I was taught about racism and homophobia and the harrowing results of it through the internet. Books are an incredibly accessible way of learning about tough topics, it’s why you study texts like To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee or maybe Junk by Melvin Burgess at school.
You might find that the books in this list do not deal with as tough topics as some. You might find other bloggers choose books like Asking For It by Louise O’Neill, a harrowing depiction of rape culture and victim blaming. But, as a book lover just shy of three years, I am slowly becoming more open to the idea of reading books with incredibly tough topics. It is something I get annoyed at myself for, and I know people’s reading tastes are different, but while I become comfortable with the idea of reading books with topics that really stick with me (and frighten me), here are some of the books with tough topics that I have read and loved.
More Than This by Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness is quickly becoming (in my eyes) the King of Tough Topics. I’ve only read two of his books, but both deal with tough and real topics, despite More Than This being science fiction, apocalyptic, futuristic, scary stuff. More Than This poses difficult questions about the afterlife and also about this life. How can you make it worth it when you feel worthless? And what’s the wake up call that you need to understand that? I go in more detail about this fantastic book in my review.
The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Mixed with humour, The Rest Of Us Just Live Here is a story that parodies the ‘chosen one’ story, where kids with silly names hold the fate of the world in their hands…for some reason. But the story follows the others, the ones who aren’t directly involved in the chaos, but are collateral damage. While all the danger happens, these lot are just trying to get through life with mental illness, with psychological abuse, with friendships and love and loss. It’s a powerful book that looks at the little guy and why their lives are just as important.
Freak Show by James St James
I read this book a long time ago. A book that blew me away in terms of writing style and subject matter. Freak Show follows a flamboyantly gay teenager, who is forced to move to the Southern U.S, where he’s met with bullies, abusers and just horrific schoolkids. He’s tormented with some of the worst cases of homophobia, so much so that it makes the news. Basically, he nearly dies. This story is about being true to yourself, unbelievably so, no matter how many times you get knocked down. You will be loved for who you are, you’ve just got to find the right people.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
A book I only just finished, but was recommended to me by nearly everyone on Twitter, Radio Silence is a book like no other. Life as a teenager is not simple or easy, despite what adults say. School is fucking tough, with exams and tests and memory games. And that’s just school, you’ve also got heightened emotions, settling into yourself, and choice, so much choice. Radio Silence is about the ones who are unsure, the ones who don’t have their mind made up yet. There’s no clear path and that’s ok. I wrote a lengthy review on this powerhouse of a book right here.
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
And now, for something completely different. I haven’t read Trainspotting in a very long time, not since school. But it stuck with me since because of the subject matter that comes along with the honest to God difficult dialogue. Narrated in ‘Urban Scot’, Trainspotting tells the story of Mark Renton and his group of friends, all living in the working-class areas of Glasgow, completely high on heroin. The terribleness that they put themselves through is stellar, and if you have trouble reading the book, the film by Danny Boyle clearly illustrates that horribleness. It’s a great book though, and if you can get through it, you’ll find it’s worth it.