#AMonthOfFaves: Reading outside my comfort zone.


Good morning, everyone!  Christmas craziness is in full swing at my house. My sister has landed (I repeat- my sister has landed!), which isn’t code for anything, but it does mean that we’re busy having ALL of the fun at my house. And also bone-chilling arctic fronts and maybe a sinus cold or three.

Because that’s how we roll.

To try to get us back on track for a wacky week (I’m half-working, Kim is half-grant writing, one kid is home, and one still in school), I thought diving into our #AMonthOfFaves topic would be just the thing! But before we do that, let’s stop for a moment and thank our sponsors and purveyors of JOY: the giving and beautiful Andi at Estella’s Revenge, the hilarious and joyous duo of Tanya and Kimberly at Girl XOXO, and fabulous reader-with-it-all Tamara over at Traveling with T. Take a moment to go say thank you for hosting this month’s festivities!

Today’s prompt is to think back on some of the reading you’ve hit upon that’s been maybe a little outside your comfort zone. Which is kind of funny, because the book I’m reading now might be the biggest candidate:

The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, by Manuel Gonzalez. It’s on everyone’s “Best Books” of the year lists, and I’ve been bombarded by this book from every direction – and resisted just as hard. Have you ever had that book? The one that just looks at you the wrong way? Or sounds so stupid? Last year it was Ready Player One, and several years ago it was Eat, Pray, Love – the one you spend so much time actively avoiding until you can’t anymore, and then you just about die hating yourself because you love the book so much? Yeah. That’s this book this year. I spent all last week trying to convince Kim to buy a copy, which she totally would have if she could find a physical copy anywhere in the state of Connecticut. I love the sarcasm and the immediate voice; I also love how cinemagraphically it’s written – it will get scooped for a series on FX or Netflix before long. Just watch. And definitely read! 5 of 5 stars.

Lumberjanes; Ms. Marvel; El Deafo, etc. Graphic novels are not my thing. I see movie screens naturally when I’m reading, so having to stop to take in the detail the illustrator wants me to notice – and make sure I’m not missing anything – that’s not a natural flow for me. But it is for my daughter, SheWhoUsedToBeAReluctantReader. So I’d read graphic novels with her so we could bond. She absolutely delighted in knowing the plot points before I did (knowledge=(evil)power=BeeGirl, for sure), and liked that the two of us had something to do that Gracie was NOT involved in. And I like both making my girl smile and feel good about herself and “tricking” her into reading, so I read quite a few graphic novels this year. And will be again next year if I remember how many are sitting under the tree. Also, I got to hand it to Bee – for as many misses (Babymouse) as she has, she has some really top notch picks (Nimona). Average: 4 of 5 stars.

Bats of the Republic, by Zachary Thomas Dotson. This was part of the 2016 Tournament of Books, and I read it really only for that reason. I don’t even know how to describe it… God! Um… A sci-fi Western filled with unreliable narrators, characters, plotlines that are buried in weird places, and books within books that may or may not be true? It gave me a headache trying to figure it out, and while I’ve heard the payout is worth it – and I am not opposed to reaching for sideways thinking – this book just didn’t have enough rewards to keep me motivated. Good gravy. 1 of 5 stars.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck!, by Sarah Knight. I usually don’t have many flips to give anyway, so this wasn’t so much as permission as it was a reminder. I’m not big on self-help books because I have a pretty good internal compass. I use books for entertainment, and for escapism; never for permission, and hardly ever for justification. But it was getting a lot of buzz and some of my favorite book people were in the chorus. I think I liked it better at the time than I remember looking back. So I’ll go with 3 1/2 of 5 stars now, with the caveat that if you do need some buttkicking reminders, this is a good place to get them.

Snowblind, by Christopher Golden. I don’t do hardcore, schmutsy horror if it’s not Stephen King. I don’t do Koontz. I don’t do Lovecraft or Clive Barker or Rice or Straub or…okay, I do read Shirley Jackson. I just can’t be bothered. Psychological thrillers – okay, I will do those. It reminds me of every day life with just that one thing that’s off. So I wasn’t expecting to like a book about snow monsters. Except I did like it! Not so much I would hunt down any of Golden’s other books, but enough that I was glad I was reading during the daytime and not when it was the least bit cold outside.

Those are just five books from my many I’ve read this year that normally wouldn’t be a blip on my radar. I have wide-ranging tastes – I’ll try nearly anything – so it’s hard to find something that fits the definition of “outside my usual scope”. Finishing something I wouldn’t normally read might be more of a task, or purposely timed reading even more so. With my organic bookfinding methods, I find that most challenges do just that – get me to read books not so much that I wouldn’t normally read, but read them at a particular time. I have to see those books out right then, instead of just sticking to all the contemporary fiction and memoirs that are constantly circulating through my local library. Now that’s an interesting thought that needs a bit more teasing out!

What about you – what are some of the books that you’ve read this year that you might not have? Which one surprised you most because you ended up falling for it? Or did they elicit a very stubborn told you so! instead?


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