The Broke and the Bookish. Okay, it's been forever since I've done any serious blogging at all, but this week's topic captured my interest. It's all about those books you almost put down but didn't. Obviously, there are books that you didn't give up on that turned into major reading winners. On the other hand, there are the books that you definitely wish you would have gone with your gut and given up on. I've divided my list between the two.
Books I'm Glad I Didn't Put Down
1. The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson - I'm totally into the whole family saga thing, so this one reeled me right in. Then I realized it was a bunch of interconnected short stories, which is often a dealbreaker for me since I don't find that short stories really connect into much of anything for me. This one was different, and really worked for me - an excellent picture of a family weathering the changes of the late 20th century with an ending that's like one of those songs that starts in a minor key and then suddenly transforms to a major one in the final note. Hopefully you're musically "educated" enough to know what I mean by that...but even if you aren't you know it when you hear it. And read it.
2. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh - Between the rough subject matter and the written Scottish accent/dialect, Trainspotting is nothing if not challenging. I had to read it out loud until I got the hang of it (thank goodness no one was around), but once I got it down, I could hear it in my head and surprised myself by really liking this one.
3. Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman by Minka Pradelski - The narrator of this one, and the premise of a stranger coming to the weird narrator's door to tell her stories all about her Jewish town in the run-up to World War II, is all a bit too much on the weird side, but then Mrs. Kugelman started bringing her town to life in a way that seemed to mix the mundane with legend and myth, and I was sold. Sure, it was weird and outside the box, but it also happened to be really good.
4. We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen - Here are those interconnected short stories again, which is apparently something I expect to hate, but don't always. The stories from the perspectives of the many members of a large fundamentalist Christian family combine to create a picture of all the pleasure and pain of living life or leaving life steeped in religion. I didn't realize until I wrote the review how much I admired the well-balanced, loving perspective Pylvainen brought to her story.
5. In the Beauty of the Lilies by John Updike - I read this book for a book group meeting, and I'll admit it was occasionally kind of a slog, not to mention that the first segment is about a minister losing his faith, which is kind of too depressing, even for me. The book has 4 huge chapters that take on one character's life journey each, and I struggled to understand it at times. But it was great for discussion, and I found that having discussed it and thought it over that the story and ideas Updike brought together in this book really stuck with me.
Books I Finished and Sorta Wished I'd Put Down
6. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen - In hindsight, with all the scandal and everything, I wish I had put it down. Mortensen's was an interesting story so drawn out and dryly told that I could have put it down a dozen times.
7. Crossing the Heart of Africa by Julian Smith - This book has a cool premise bringing together the stories of Ewart Grogan who made the first crossing of the African continent in the late 19th century, braving innumerable hazards to earn the uncle's blessing that would allow him to win the hand of his true love alongside Smith's own story of traversing the continent before marrying his wife-to-be. Grogan's story is pretty cool. Smith's side of the story is more about escaping marriage than embracing it, and his weird commitment-phobia and over-sharing about his own relationship look that much shallower when set against Grogan's impressive feat.
8. Enjoy Every Sandwich by Lee Lipsenthal - Interesting memoir about a doctor facing death with dignity takes a bizarre turn for the metaphysical and self-helpy.
9. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry - Bizarre satire features an impossibly naive high fashion designer turned accessory to terrorism. And, yes, it was as weird as it sounds. And also unexpectedly...boring?
10. The Very Thought of You by Rosie Allison - I pressed on with this one because it got an Orange Prize list nod, but I wish I hadn't. The novel is about the dissolution of a marriage during World War II while the couple hosts numerous evacuee children on their country estate. Therefore, impressionable young Anna is on hand to witness marital drama far beyond her years. Kind of creepy, really.
What books did you almost put down but turned out to be good? Or do you usually wish you would have gone with your first instinct when you finish a book you thought you should've put down?