BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | ON BEING PLEASANTLY SURPRISED

Rain City Reads   December 18, 2014   Comments Off on BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | ON BEING PLEASANTLY SURPRISED
Book Thoughts On Thursday

The world of books is never boring. Every Thursday (well, almost every Thursday) I’ll discuss a different topic related to books, often inspired by or in response to what’s going on in the online book community (or something I’ve seen another blogger talk about). I call this Book Thoughts on Thursday. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, or even write your own post on the topic and share the link with me!

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One of the wonderful things about being a reader – and in particular, being part of the online reading and book blogging community – is expanding one’s TBR list exponentially. Even better is when, out of sheer curiosity, you pick up a book completely outside of your regular comfort zone because you just need to know what everyone is talking about. And then discover that it’s brilliant.
Admittedly, this is rare. We have our own tastes for a reason, and, particularly for those of us who read voraciously, picking books becomes second nature. We can tell if we’re going to like a book based on a glance at the cover and a quick read of the jacket copy; we know to look for certain red flags and green lights that rule it in or out.
For me, if I see the terms “time travel,” “bodice-ripper” or “futuristic sci-fi,” I’m probably not going to be interested. Likewise if parallels are drawn to certain authors or works that I didn’t like, I’m going to put the book back on the shelf. If particular themes (suicide, depression, drug addiction, cruelty to animals) are prominent, I’ll need a personal recommendation (complete with tone analysis) to entice me.
This isn’t always a good thing for my reading diversity and I often feel restricted by my own inability to get interested. But I also know myself – and I know that there are more books out there I want to read than I ever have a hope of getting to. So it’s necessary to be cut-throat in making tough reading decisions.
That said, it’s also important to challenge my assumptions every once in a while. To give a book I normally wouldn’t have touched a try. To listen to the recommendation of a fellow reader and put that above any misgivings the cover or description may have left me with.
Every once in a while, by doing this, I discover something amazing.
I was inspired to discuss this now because I’m currently enjoying just such a reading experience. If you read my WWW Wednesday post yesterday, you’ll probably already know what I’m referring to – but I’ve had a few of these lately, and I’d like to share a line or two about some of them:
The Martian - Andy Weir
The book: The Martian by Andy Weir
Why I wouldn’t normally be into it: Outer space. Sci Fi. Largely monologue. Technical details.
Why I’m loving it: Yes, it’s about an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars and in large part, the book consists of his logs. But… the character. Mark Watney is engaging, funny, likeable and can explain complex scientific problems (and their solutions) in a way that is simple enough for the layperson to understand, but not overly simplified. I’m completely enthralled.

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

The book:Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Why I wouldn’t normally be into it: Apocalypse. Death. DOOM.
Why I loved it: Sure, it’s about the end of the world… except, as it turns out, the end of the world isn’t entirely bad. Mandel manages to create a book simultaneously character- and plot-driven. It never lags, is suspenseful and had me flipping pages well past my bedtime, but she also wrote characters who had depth and range.
Not That Kind of Girl - Lena Dunham
The book:Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
Why I wouldn’t normally be into it:Girls. I tried watching the show and it was too brazen, too immature and too awkward for my taste. (Note: since reading this book and getting a better sense for Dunham, I’ve gone back and watched every single episode and love it now that I get where she’s coming from.)
Why I loved it: Honest, but never boring. Blunt but not obnoxious. Raw but not over-emotional. Lena is me, she is my friends, she is the voice of so many girls struggling to find a way to fit into the world (and fashionable clothes). I get her, and I’d wager most young (or not quite so young but not properly grown up either) women do. She’s also a great role model and example, and tackles subjects we need to be discussing openly.
The Opposite of Loneliness - Marina Keegan 
The book:The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
Why I wouldn’t normally be into it: Sensationalized context. Young, privileged author. Short pieces. Mixture of fiction and non-.
Why I loved it: Each piece was different from the last, but each was convincing and beautifully written. She wrote with an attention to detail and ability to embody diverse characters and life experiences with an ease that belies her age. The pieces were short, but none felt truncated. Her writing was raw, honest and poignant. The only down side is that, given her tragic death, there will be no more.
What about you guys? Have you read any books recently that you expected to be unimpressed by and ended up loving? Other books you think I really should give a chance despite not being my typical kind of thing? Share in the comments!