S is for (Books About) Suicide #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about suicide and suicidal thoughts. I love that the topic is getting more interest, that books and movies are generating more conversations about it. I don’t love that a lot of the information out there is false. Here are my thoughts on a few books on the topic.

Why People Die By Suicide, by Thomas Joiner (psychology): After his father committed suicide, Thomas Joiner set out to learn all he could about the topic. This book is accessible to people even without a background in psychology and mixes research with personal experience. It’s a fantastic and important book.

All The Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven (YA): Theodore and Violet are both struggling with suicidal thoughts. Violet, after the death of her sister, Theodore because of his depression. The two teens fall into a tumultuous relationship. I loved this book because it shows the path that suicidal thoughts can take, how they can grab a person and drag them down. However, this book could be triggering to someone actually struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. It’s fantastic but be cautious about reading it. (Spoiler alert: it’s not a happy ending)

13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher (YA): I debated whether or not to talk about this book because I could devote an entire blog post to it (and maybe I should). As an adult who isn’t struggling with suicidal ideation, I loved it. It’s an entertaining (but dark) read. Previous coworkers who work with teens have said teens have cited this book as a reason they attempted suicide. But let’s be honest… there’s always something that’s going to be the trigger. The two major specific problems with this book are that it made it seem like there’s no point in asking for help, and that suicide is an effective way to revenge yourself on those who’ve wronged you. It’s a good book for insight into the mind of someone contemplating suicide, but I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide. Teens who read it should have someone to discuss and process the book with. I won’t say teens shouldn’t read it because, other than suicide, it touches on topics of bullying and sexual assault, things I think teens need to be encouraged to talk openly about with adults. But… use caution.

So that’s it for me. Are there any books about suicide you’d recommend?

How I Decide When to Abandon a Book

img_6558Readers can pretty much fall into two categories: those who will abandon a book, and those who won’t.

I’m not a terribly picky reader.  I like books my friends don’t.  In the last month, I’ve completed the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riorden and finally read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I’ve read a few books I loved (A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven), one I hated, new books, and rereads (There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake).

Even though I read about 90-100 books a year, I abandon only about 2 a year.  Even though I don’t do it often, when I do, I don’t feel the least bit bad about it.  I decide based on a few things.

  1.  The book doesn’t speak to me. Everyone’s tastes are different, and I’ve abandoned “good” books which simply didn’t interest me.  The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt was one of those.  My friends read it and liked it, it was reviewed well, and I could even tell it was an interesting book.  But for some reason, it didn’t speak to me, so I put it down. By this, I mean that I couldn’t relate, and I sometimes read paragraphs but didn’t remember what I’d just read.  When I find myself doing this with a book, I know it’s time to abandon.
  2. I keep finding reasons to put it down.  When I really like a book, it’s hard for me to do anything else until I’ve finished it.  I carry it around the house with me.  I stay up late reading it.  I’m late to appointments.  If I pull out of the driveway and have left it inside, I’ll go back in to retrieve it, just in case I have two minutes while waiting somewhere.  When I’m not into a book, it’s easy for me to become a responsible adult.
  3. I can’t figure out the point of the book.  I like plot.  I like to understand the point, the message, the happenings in the book.  If it’s just a random collection of stuff on the page, it loses my interest.  I’ve known way too many people who think they’re interesting (but aren’t) to spend time with a book that doesn’t go anywhere.
  4. It’s forgettable.  If I have trouble remembering what’s going on in the book when I pick it back up to read, that’s a good sign that it’s either not a good book, or just not a good fit for me.
  5. I hate the characters.  I’m fine with characters not being likable, but they should be interesting.  I love a good anti-hero, and I have no problem rooting for the bad guy.  I’m not a snob, and enjoy books that are widely hated (like Twilight).  But sometimes, I hate the characters, find them dull and boorish.  And then I know it’s time to go.  I stayed with the Casual Vacancy longer than I would have if it were any author other than JK Rowling, but after awhile, I couldn’t stand those characters one more moment, and I quit reading in the middle of a sentence in the middle of a paragraph.  And I never regretted it.

I read for entertainment, and if I’m not entertained, then I let go.

“One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind.

In order to read what is good one must make it a condition never to read what is bad; for life is short, and both time and strength limited.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer