Have you ever had to read a book, perhaps for school? Have you ever picked up a book on a recommendation or just because you feel that you need to read this book for your edification but weren’t sure if you were going to enjoy it?
I have. Most of the time, if I have doubts about a book, it usually turns out, I was right. I know what I like to read, and if it doesn’t sound interesting, I will usually pass.
Once in a while; however, a book ends up in my hands, reluctantly, and by the end of it, I’m clutching it to my chest crying, “Why oh why is it over?”
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (1990)
Ever since high school I have been told to read books that I had no desire in reading. This trend carries over to College, except now, we know there is a reason behind it.
I was actually given one story from this book of short stories by Tim O’Brien. The story was the one in which the book was named after.
I had in my younger days enjoyed books about war, especially the Vietnam War, but I was over it by the time I was given this story. Although after I read this story, I wanted to read more.
The entire book consists of 21 stories that stem from O’Brien’s life before, during and after the war.
This was the first time I actually wanted to read more from something I received in the classroom, and it was a pleasant surprise. This is a great collection of short stories.
A few weeks after we read the story, I told my professor that I liked the story so much that I read the entire book, he was impressed. I’d like to think it was because it stemmed from a class assignment, but in all honesty, I think he was impressed that I read a book (not a reflection on me, but a reflection on society in general).
Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (1952)
I had always heard of Flannery O’Connor but never had a desire to read her books. But once again, I was introduced to something in the classroom that peaked my curiosity.
We had read two short stories by her: A Good Man is Hard to Find and Good Country People. I really liked both of them. I thought they were quirky.
So I wanted to experience a full novel by her. I am not sure why I landed on Wise Blood. I suppose something in the synopsis intrigued me.
One of my professors always talked about her, and loves her work. Since I was not disappointed in her short stories, I couldn’t see myself being disappointed in her novel. If anything, I would think it was just OK.
Once again, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed a book that I had no previous desire to read.
Unlike O’Brien’s book, whose stories were the grabbing point for me; O’Connor’s characters sold me on her work.
This professor was not surprised at all that I read the book. But then again, this professor knew I cracked a spine every so often.
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929)
In my attempt to be well-read I occasionally pick up a classic novel. I’ve read quite a few of them in my day, I had already read books by Dickens, Wharton, Tolstoy and many others, so it wasn’t something out of my normal process.
I found this book on list of books to read in order to get into an MFA Creative Writing program. This book was never on my radar.
The Modern Library ranked this book #6 on the list of 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. (Just for the record, I have read books 1-5).
I went into this one kicking and screaming. It was written in a technique known as “stream of consciousness” which authors such as Joyce and Woolf used. So already, the eyes were rolling in my head.
Something about this novel was different.
The story itself jumps around in time, but mainly takes place in 1928.
What got me in this book were the actions of the characters. This was a book written almost a century ago, and these characters were acting just like people I know today, in other words, extremely dysfunctional. It just goes to show, that good characters are eternal.
Burial Rights by Hannah Kent (2013)
Everyone on Goodreads was reading this damn book. It was getting high praise and was everywhere. I read the synopsis and was like “yeah…no.” But the Goodreads peeps wore me down.
My initial thoughts before reading it was, “Why would I want to read a Historical Novel set in Iceland?”
A murderess in 1829 Iceland….zzzzzzzzz
I can admit when I am wrong. It took me four days to read this book. I did not stop until I was done. Usually I read 2 or 3 books at a time, alternating between them, but not this time.
Looking at the reviews this is either a book you will love to death, or hate with a severe passion. I thought I’d be in the latter group.
I suppose what drew me in was the story itself. There was no verbosity or over explanation of anything. It was sparse like Iceland in 1829.
Reading this book was a testimony to 180º thinking.
Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-el Padilla Peralta (2015)
Origination: Deal of the Day Audible Listen
It isn’t fair to say that I didn’t want to read this, but it was low priority. The synopsis sounded mildly interesting, but I thought it would be on a similar vein with The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs.
Perhaps it was the incredibly long titles that both ended in the phrase “Ivy League” that made me think this.
Although the Robert Peace biography was good, I wasn’t sure I wanted to re-live it.
I eventually gave Undocumented a listen.
It wasn’t long before Padilla Peralta sucked me in. He narrated his own memoir, as many do. There was something about the way he did it that made me listen.
The fact that it also took place in New York City was a bonus, I knew the places he referred to, and it made it seem more relatable.
He peppered Dominican phrases throughout this book (very much like Junot Diaz did in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao). He told this story with humor that I could just not pay attention.
The more I branch out from my comfort zone of reading, the more this is likely to happen. I still come across some books that I want to throw out the window when I’m done (and sometimes before), but I approach them with less apprehension.
I see if there is a large divide between those who loved it and those who hated it, it is probably something I should try.
The books I mull over longer are the ones with an average rating.
I am going to recommend all of the books I mentioned to you. Maybe you’ve already read a few.
If there is a book that you didn’t think you’d like and ended up wondering how you could have lived so long without reading it, let me know. Perhaps I haven’t read it and I will put it on my TBR.