Monday, February 20, 2017

Top Ten Books I Liked More Than I Expected

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is books that you liked more or less than expected. I could write another full post of books I didn't like as much as I expected, but I decided this time to be positive and share books that I liked. They were easy to pick out because I tend to start my Goodreads reviews of these kinds of books with "I enjoyed this more than I expected..."

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I've mentioned this already a few times, but I expected this book to have dense prose and be all symbolic and philosophical, and it wasn't at all. It was very readable and ended up being my favorite read from January.

2. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
I had heard a lot of criticism of this book before reading it, so I was surprised to find that most of the criticism was unfounded. Yes, the book is targeted at a specific demographic, but Sandberg makes that very clear upfront, and for her specific audience I thought the book contained a lot of excellent advice, addressing systemic barriers while giving women practical things they could do to advance their career.

3. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
I read very little sci-fi and fantasy, and I'm an unrepentant world-building snob, so I was very surprised at how much I liked this book. My book club wasn't a huge fan, but I found the characters relatable and their dilemmas felt real.

4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
I'm always hesitant going into 19th century classics because they can be so dry and tedious, but this one was quite enjoyable. I wouldn't say it's a favorite — it would still be more rewarding to study and analyze than simply to read — but I found it entertaining enough to keep my attention.

5. MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
This book kind of got panned by many reviewers as being too gimmicky, but I liked reading her reflections on the awkwardness of making friends as an adult. Maybe it just spoke to me at a particular time in my life. This book is the reason I initially decided to seek out a local book club (why had that never occurred to me before?) and since I'm now part of three, I guess I have Bertsche to thank.

6. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
I expected to hate this book based on what I knew about it, but I ended up finding it quite entertaining. It still has pretty terrible viewpoints on women and people of color, but at least for myself, Kerouac's ("Sal Paradise's") experiences were so utterly absurd that I couldn't help but find them funny.

7. Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Young adult books have been super hit or miss for me in recent years. (The majority of the "books I expected to like and didn't" fall under this genre.) I really thought this was going to turn into a YA cliché where the questionable male character ends up being an unquestioned love interest, but it didn't develop that way at all.

8. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Don't get me wrong — long sections of this novel were a slog, as you might expect from a 1300-page 19th century Russian novel. But I liked how the novel went back and forth between the war front and the home front, where the events start out separate and over time come to be more and more blended as characters at home became more affected by and involved in the war efforts. If you're not looking for the accomplishment of reading the whole unabridged version, I actually recommend the story in an abridged format.

9. Watchmen by Alan Moore
When I picked this up I had only read my first graphic novels the year before, and I hadn't read anything that explicitly dealt with comic book-type superheroes and villains. I appreciated the book's various themes, and it gave me a lot to think about. (Plus I could recognize how this year's Doctor Who Christmas special borrowed from the book's plot!)

10. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
I've read a lot of books in this vein that talk about how you shouldn't rely on willpower and should instead craft your environment to help you make the right choices, so I was skeptical going into this book, but McGonigal acknowledged this upfront and specified that her research was about the areas where you do still need willpower. You can set out your workout clothes the night before, get a running buddy, and incentivize yourself to complete your workout, but you still have to actually get up and out the door. I found the book helpful, practical, and applicable.

Which books surprised you for the better?

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