08 November 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Unexpected Pleasures

It's been quite a while since I participated in The Broke & the Bookish's weekly Top Ten List and this morning I've got a little extra time before heading to work, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  This week asks us to list the top ten books that we've read outside our comfort zone.  I'll have to modify this a little because as a bookseller, I have to read things all the time that I wouldn't necessarily pick up for my personal reading pleasure.  So my list this week will instead be the slightly modified top ten list of books I was surprised how much I enjoyed, considering they were outside my own reading preferences.

1. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.  I can read dark things all day and into the night, but creepy and scary I do not like.  Thus I was surprised how much enjoyment I got from this YA novel.

2. The Midwife of Venice by Robert Rich.  I don't read a lot of historical fiction, romantic or otherwise, and this book was very chick-lit.  But it was easygoing and fairly engrossing and before I knew it, I didn't want to put it down, despite its not being a particularly good book.

3. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.  Frankly, I wasn't expecting to like this debut novel, despite its literary cred.  I mean, come on--a book about small town liberal arts college baseball and the boys who play it?  But as I soon discovered, it's really a book about life with baseball as the conduit.

4. Chaucer -- almost anything he wrote.  I didn't read anything from Middle English until I went to grad school and I was immensely surprised how much I liked reading Chaucer for the first time.  Part of it the pleasure back then was the challenge of actually reading Middle English, but even now to this day, with academia far behind me, his stories linger in my mind.

5. Jodi Picoult -- So probably the opposite direction of Chaucer, literarily speaking! Until a few years ago I was a big book snob about Jodi Picoult.  Ugh--too commercial, not well written, etc. But then my husband's daughter gave me a copy of My Sister's Keeper for Christmas one year and I read it out of obligation.  You know what?  It was fun and engaging.  A fine prose stylist, Picoult ain't. But I do understand now why she's so well-beloved by so many readers.

6. The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan.  I've grown so weary of the paranormal romance featuring the vampire or werewolf du jour that I almost passed this book up entirely.  Glad I didn't 'cause it's covered with awesome sauce.  It's chock full of existential philosophy, literary allusions, humor, sex, and violence. 

7. Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog.  I don't read a ton of nonfiction, for starters, and what I read is usually out of obligation to my bookstore or to assuage my readerly guilt for being all-fiction, all-the-time. But this book blew my socks off.  I talked about it for days after reading it.  I read passages out loud to my husband.  It's thought-provoking and a good read for anybody, no matter where they are on the vegan-vegetarian-pescatarian-omnivore sliding scale.

8. The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan.  I usually hate gimmicky prose style or structures (Georges Perec and Ella Minnow Pea, I'm talking to y'all) so I was completely ready to dismiss this one until a good friend reviewed it on her blog, Wildly Read, and I thought, well, maybe I should give it a try before dismissing it outright.  Glad I did. 

9. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.  I can't recall exactly how old I was when I first read this book, but I'd definitely reached the stage when I was all about judging a book by its cover and title and I was going to have none of that.  This book sounded as insipid as Pollyanna and I roundly refused to read it.  Meanwhile, my mother roundly refused to drive me to the library until I cracked it open.  The standoff lasted a while but I eventually gave in and discovered one of the most delightful characters in all of English language literature.  I now re-read this book every other year or so and I recently indulged in watching the mini-series adaptation.  I've rarely been so happy to have my mother be right about something!

10.  What about you?  What's the top book on your list this week? 


  1. I haven't been able to post any comments in ages...something wrong with my browser...but I'm hoping it's fixed now. I really have to read Some We Love, Some We Hate....you keep talking about it. And Jodi Picoult, too, I guess. I pick up her books in the bookstore and have the same reaction you did. Also, I haven't read Lolita in a long time, but I did like it back when I did read it. I'm contemplating a re-read before I comment on your post.

  2. I have Midwife of Venice on my TBR shelf. I have mixed expectations . . .

  3. I haven't read Anne of Green Gables, but now after reading your post I think I should pick it up ;) Thanks!

  4. Ooh such an interesting list! The main character in The Last Werewolf got on my last nerve - I just wanted to tell him "Man Up!" Lol. And I've been on the fence about reading Lover's Dictionary, but you make it look very promising, so I might just have to give it a go.

  5. The Name of the Star was a book I was surprised I enjoyed too, especially because, like you, I'm not a big fan of scary/creepy.

    And I love Anne of Green Gables :)

  6. I LOVE #9--always a good choice. The top book on my list would be "Gone With the Wind." :0)

  7. Important Picoult question- have you read any of her other books except for My Sister's Keeper? Because I liked that one well enough (poor prose style aside) but then I read another one of her books and it was like same story, slightly different situation, and I hear they're alllll like that... Disturbing.

    Also, so impressed with your Chaucer liking! I kind of respect him from a distance, but that's about it...

  8. Laura, I have read a handful of Picoult books since My Sister's Keeper. Since she basically takes one hot-topic issue and writes around it with multiple narrators in each book, I feel that her books are similar in terms of being formulaic but not necessarily in content (except for two of them). I will probably continue to dip into her books from time to time, either for myself or for work. I have to say that Ms. Picoult is definitely one of the most engaging *speakers* I've ever listened to. She did a great bookstore event with us last year and she was really fantastic on stage.

  9. @Laura and Crowe,
    I've only read two Piccoult books, The Pact and Salem Falls, The Pact was really quite good but I wouldn't bother with Salem Falls.
    The subject content is really quite different, but the books are very formulaic in the way they're set up and explored. I doubt I'll read any others since I've heard they're all a bit like that.

  10. I like Picoult. I always find that she helps drag me out of a reading slump.

    Laura @ The Scarlet Letter.

  11. I suppose I'm opposite of you. Don't like Picoult and find little writing challenges like Dictionary charming.

  12. Now you've gone and forced me to add another book to my TBR: The Last Werewolf.
    And right now Song of Achilles is my curl-up-in-bed semi-guilty pleasure. (This time last year, I would have been long finished, but now I spend at least 3 hours every night reading student work and whatever I'll be teaching, so pleasure reads take a back seat. Boo hoo. Or not: I actually adore my current students and enjoy dipping back into the Greeks.)
    FYI: I responded to your comments over at What She Read and am off to find a copy of that Dante you mentioned...


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