Monday, March 12, 2018

Top Ten Books that Surprised Me

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is about books that surprised us in either a good way or a bad way. I decided to share a little of each.

Books that Surprised Me in a Bad Way

1. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
This book has gotten rave reviews from every corner, and I can't understand it. Besides the truly awful romanticizing of suicide, it just didn't seem that well-written to me — the characters seemed two-dimensional and like stand-ins for different ideas. I was surprised and disappointed.

2. I Am an Emotional Creature by Eve Ensler
I thought the writer of The Vagina Monologues would have another slam-dunk here, but this book was terrible. It read like a checklist of issues, for each of which Ensler tried to put herself inside the head of, say, a child factory worker in China with minimal research. The writing wandered and the audience was unclear, unless it is "middle-aged women who think this book would be really great for teens," which seem to be the people rating it highly on Goodreads.

3. None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
I was so excited to see a popular book about an intersex character, and then I was shocked at how transphobic this book is, on top of just being a really terrible plotted and predictable YA book. The main character's intersex condition was also not handled well by the author, and as a non-intersex person she was not the right person to write a self-loathing story.

4. Sophie's Choice by William Styron
I knew enough about what the "choice" mentioned in the title was that I was really surprised that 1) it doesn't happen until the very end of the book and 2) the main character isn't Sophie, but a sex-obsessed writer based on Styron himself who spends pages and pages on "humorous" interludes about his inability to get any. All the characters were terrible and the payoff at the end was not worth the slog to get there.

5. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Donoghue's Room is one of my favorite books ever, so I was surprised at how much I disliked this one. The plot was draggy, the main character was painfully slow on the uptake, and the overarching theme of "Boy, Catholics are dumb, huh?" wasn't one I (as a Catholic) appreciated.

Books that Surprised Me in a Good Way

1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
I expected this book from the 17th century was going to be a slog, but I liked it much more than I expected. It was amusing and satirical and sweet, and while parts were repetitive or inconsistent, there were enough good parts to keep me going. It's still not one of the best books I've ever read, but it was enjoyable enough.

2. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
This book got so much criticism for its limited applicability that I was surprised to find that Sandberg falls all over herself at the beginning making disclaimers about that exact thing, and then proceeds to share a lot of really excellent advice for that specific audience (men and women who work in white-collar jobs or aspire to do so). I thought it was practical and inspiring, and I never felt shamed for my own choice not to "climb the ladder."

3. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I had heard very mixed reviews of this book before picking it up, but I loved it! It was like all my favorite things in one book. I think maybe a lot of people misunderstood where the book comes down on technology, as I've heard rants against it both for being anti-technology and for implying the technology improves everything. I found it to be a great parable about how technology has a role to play in our lives, but that doesn't make it the be-all end-all.

4. MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
Man, this book was slammed by Goodreads readers, but this is one of the very rare occasions where I liked a book better than most. At first I found the author hard to relate to (I'm not looking for a friend to get brunch with every Sunday) but I enjoyed seeing the wide range of approaches she took to making new friends and her spot-on observations about the awkwardness of making friends as an adult. It was this book that first prompted me to join a book club, and several book clubs later I'm still grateful for that push!

5. Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
I don't read a lot of celebrity memoirs, and I picked this up just because of my love for the Matilda movie, so I really wasn't sure what I was going to find between the covers. But it turned out to be amazing and relatable and such a beautiful book about life. A wonderful surprise!

Which books surprised you?

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