This past week I did a 17 hour audiobook in 4 days. The book was Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex. I loved the Virgin Suicides, but have been reluctant to read Middlesex for a variety of reason. Mostly it was because it is recognized as “the great American novel.” I find “the great American novel” to frequently not be my taste. It was on my list for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge because the book has a main character who is Transgender. The more I read the book, the more I wanted to kick myself for not reading it sooner. I got to the point where almost all my time was spent listening to the audiobook. I played with Cedric, baked cookies for a holiday party, and cleaned the house all while listening to the audiobook.
It got me thinking about how often, especially as I read book in Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust, of how many books I am reluctant to read and then love so very much. Here are the top 10 of those books
- The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead is about elevator inspectors. You can imagine how easy it was to dismiss this as not at all interesting. That is, until it clearly deals with magical realism, racism, and a mystery that needs to be solved. If you read Whitehead’s recent The Underground Railroad then you may have a better idea than most how he can make elevator inspection riveting.
- The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orleans is famous and my parents suggested it to me many times. Each time I dismissed it as not for me. My black thumb extends to my imagination sometimes. Then Adaptation came out and I knew I had to read the source material. It make me more likely to read books my parents suggest.
- Visions of Gerard by Jack Kerouac is not like anything else he wrote. I can’t stand On The Road. I didn’t love The Town and the City or Maggie Cassidy, but Visions of Gerard was haunting and moving. The story of Kerouac’s older brother who died when he was very young is poetic and inspired mostly by drug induced memories. Even if you don’t care for Kerouac, I would give it a chance.
- Bossypants by Tina Fey is another memoir by a funny woman. I am not a massive fan of Fey. I appreciate her, but I don’t flock to her. Almost everyone I know read and raved about this memoir, but when someone told me how she read her audiobook, I knew I had to give it a chance. What’s the big deal? Not a big deal in so much as she breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audiobook engineer or producer (I am not sure which). Those are some of the funniest moments in the audiobook.
- Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson is a book I have raved about enough times to not do it again. I resisted it at first though. I don’t even know who suggested it anymore, but eventually I gave in because the audiobook was on Overdrive.
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón has been on my radar for years, never really important enough to read. That is until my friend Debbie took the time to actually suggest I read it. She knows my taste. I can’t resist a mystery or books about books… or books about book related mysteries.
- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is something I read ONLY because Nancy Pearl listed it in Book Lust. I am not a big fan of romance books and I wasn’t too sure about the premise… and then the show started and there is a very attractive man on it… Basically I am probably going to read the entire series now because reasons.
- A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is something I should have read as soon as it came out. Here is how I deny myself my pleasures: I ignore it’s existence. To be fair, Twilight caused some vampire burnout. It was easier to ignore for a while. Then I joined a book club and then they loved it. Vampires! Witches! Oxford! History! When I went to Oxford a few years later, since I was alone, I walked around pretending I was hunting for Matthew. It’s FAR BETTER than Twilight.
- Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire is something I read at the end of last year because it was in Book Lust and fit on the Book Riot Read Harder challenge. I really didn’t expect to feel too engaged with it, but I found myself engaged with this story that talks about the struggle in African families between traditional and modern life. It deals with the memory of parents as they watch their children reap the benefits of their hard work as they also abandon the traditions of their families. I cried often.
- Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy is probably something that can be done now, but Murphy published her book in 1965. The idea of a western woman (no matter what her heritage) riding a bike through the Middle East is… mind blowing. She writes mostly about the time she spent in the Middle East, but I was fascinated by her experiences outside the main, westernized cities.
What about you? What books have you read that you loved more than you expected? Let me know in the comments!