For the longest time, I’ve enjoyed reading books about people who’ve overcome great struggles in life. I cannot count the number of memoirs I’ve read about drugs, addiction, poverty, abuse, racism… and I never thought much about what it was doing for my mental health.
Even after my dad passed away in 2018, I picked up any book and didn’t think about the contents inside and how they might affect me, mentally and emotionally.
That is, until earlier this year when I read a book that had a subplot involving a parent who had an accident and ended up in the hospital.
The last time I saw my dad, he was asleep in a hospital bed. I knew it would be the last time I saw him and I bawled just standing there. It’s an image I have tried to erase over and over.
It was then, reading that book, I decided I couldn’t take any more. I could no longer read books that features parents with cancer, parents in the hospital, or parents dying.
The problem is that, sure, I can read the book description and avoid books that have that as the main plot. But what about the B-plots? The side stories? Those are never mentioned on the book covers.
So, I took to an online bookish group I’m a part of and asked the other members if they knew of any place I could find a massive list of book trigger warnings. How can I avoid these types of plots in books I read?
Some people commented with the titles of books they knew had this kind of plot (including a book I’d just checked out from the library), while others wished there were trigger warnings on the inside cover of books. Yes, yes, there should be.
Why don’t books have trigger warnings?
I did a little bit of digging to see if there was a specific reason as to why books don’t currently have trigger warnings.
I couldn’t find anything certain, but of course, many people out there have their opinions. Some said, life doesn’t have trigger warnings, why should books? Others said maybe it’s beneficial to read things that challenge us.
Hmm… Yes, I can see all sides of this argument. But am I really going to benefit from continuing to picture my dad in the hospital when I’m trying to read a book?
Or what about a victim of abuse? Are they going to benefit from reading a scene that involves a similar kind of abuse?
I think we should leave those types of things to the professionals and not ourselves. Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to read books without caution, but that’s just not my situation right now.
The only argument I could partially agree with is that maybe it would spoil the plot. But, I think you could avoid that by just listing the possible triggers in a few words, like so:
- Possible triggers: drug use, verbal abuse, car accident
It wouldn’t have to be on the cover, but maybe in a designated spot so people that want to know them can look there, and if you don’t need to see them, then don’t look. It’s just an idea.
Where can you find trigger warnings for books?
My fellow members in the online bookish group sent me a few spreadsheets that list some trigger warnings.
Here is the link to a Content Warning Database, which is a spreadsheet that lists books and organizes them by the trigger (on different tabs).
Here is a list from Lauren Hannah’s blog, and it has 360 books and their triggers.
For the sake of this blog post, I did a little more digging to see if I could find additional resources for those of us that need content warnings.
I found this list from Book Riot that has links to a few different databases and lists tips on where to find content warnings, such as in the reviews on GoodReads!
Drizzle & Hurricane Books discusses the importance of trigger warnings and lists a few places to find them. She also puts these warnings in her books reviews (which I think are mostly YA) and that made me think I should start doing that!
It would be a dream to have one place that housed them all, but maybe using all of these different resources, it can at least help.
What do you think about books having trigger warnings? Do you know of additional resources? If so, leave them in the comments so we can read safely 🙂
For more book recommendations, be sure to subscribe to the blog (look to the right) and follow me on Goodreads @thebitterlemon – where I share more of my book picks. Need help with your blog? I can help with all of your digital marketing efforts – just let me know!