Didion's devastating new memoir explores loss in all its forms, to powerful effect.
For years, people have been guessing at why, as a species, we love to do things like watch hideously depressing movies or read paralyzingly sad books. And while I’m sure any analyst could have a field day teasing apart just what causes a sad-book propensity, what I’m going to do is to put forth a generally applicable theory and then leave you with a selection of titles that will make you hurt so good. Books with heart-breaking plot points, utterly unlikable characters, dysfunction piled atop dysfunction simply must redeem themselves through the clarity of their prose and the ingenuity of their structure. In other words, when the content is unlovely the form must be brilliant. Great writing shines through unadulterated.