This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, as chosen by the hosts The Broke and The Bookish, is books outside the comfort zone which we actually enjoyed. My problem here is that I don’t particularly have a comfort zone; I read quite widely in different genres and avoid others just because I am a deeply prejudiced reader and judge everything by its cover. So this week, I’ve been my usual contrary self and carved out my own version of the topic; my top ten is books which should have been safe comfort zone reads but I actually didn’t like/completely hated/threw out of a window.
10. The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
This sounded like it was going to be really good and I bought it in a second-hand shop for £1, so it should have been a winner. But the story of kids having music lessons and someone having an affair with a teacher didn’t really grab me.
9. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Samson
I really loved The Rosie Project, so I expected to enjoy this, but I was disappointed by how it just recycled everything that was good about the first book but in a less entertaining way. Don was endearingly eccentric in The Rosie Project, but in the sequel he was just uncaring and annoying.
8. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
This is another book I expected to love; for one thing, it’s about music and, as I love music as much as I love books, this should have been a winner. It was, however, a massive letdown. Obviously it’s actually a Pulitzer Prize winner so nobody actually cares what I think, but I was really disappointed by this.
7. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee
This was on my TBR for absolutely ages; it’s a dystopia about a girl who leaves her weird, controlled town to find her recently-disappeared boyfriend and it sounded really good. I just didn’t fall for it though and this made me sad.
6. Fiesta, or The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
I really want to like Hemingway; I find his life story really fascinating and, on holiday in Chicago, I dragged my poor husband to the Hemingway museum and his birthplace. But I just don’t seem able to connect with his writing. I’ve read For Whom the Bell Tolls too, which should have been a banker with my obsession with the Spanish Civil War too, but neither of these books have impressed me. Hemingway’s style is divisive (in case you haven’t read any of his books, he basically hates all descriptive devices and is allergic to adverbs) and I feel like I’ve worked out which side of the divide I’m on.
5. The Master and Margarita by Mihhail Bulgakov
Someone I work with and whose literary opinions I respect loves this book, so I read it, thinking it would give us an intellectual topic to converse about over coffee at school. No. It was absolutely terrible. It made no sense. There was a giant talking cat in it. It was intensely misogynistic. The colleague in question also loves Moby Dick, which is probably the most boring book I’ve ever read, so I no longer listen to his recommendations.
4. The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne
I know I’m massively in the minority here, and I’ve not read anything else by Holly Bourne (largely because of this one), but I really disliked this book. I disagreed with the central premise that, in order to be interesting, you have to be popular, and, in order to be popular, you have to be completely horrible. The main character in this book does some seriously messed-up stuff and I did not like it even one tiny bit.
3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
I had such issues with this book. The story never convinced me, because at no point in her horrible, vindictive tapes does Hannah actually come across as suicidal; rather, she just blames a lot of people for her unhappiness, and she makes some very questionable choices along the way. Not least of which is her decision to record her story on a completely defunct medium. I have tested out my thoughts on this book to people with actual feelings and empathy, so I know it isn’t just me.
2. I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
I’m actually embarrassed to admit to not really enjoying this. The book was literally all over Twitter for ages and billed as a lost feminist classic; I like to think of myself as something of a lost feminist classic, so surely this should have been a match made in heaven. Umm, no. The whole thing was excessively weird and everybody in it did things which made no sense whatsoever. Sigh.
1.Watch Your Mouth by Daniel Handler
This was one of the biggest disappointments of my reading life. I read The Basic Eight last year and ended up basically in a quivering heap on the floor, unable to cope on the most basic level with how astoundingly awesome it was. Why had I never heard of this book before? It was a revelation. So I sought out Watch Your Mouth, sat back and waited for it to change my life. Actually, it just made me feel a bit icky. Like I needed a shower. Why I thought a book about incest would provoke any other reaction is a mystery but, still; this was a crushing disappointment.
This has been a very cathartic experience. I feel that I have let go of all these feelings of negativity and I can now move on with my life, untroubled by how distressingly unhappy these books made me.