BTT: Well, that was different!


I like this week’s Booking Through Thursday question. Here it is:

What was the most unusual (for you) book you ever read? Either because the book itself was completely from out in left field somewhere, or was a genre you never read, or was the only book available on a long flight… whatever? What (not counting school textbooks, though literature read for classes counts) was furthest outside your usual comfort zone/familiar territory?

And, did you like it? Did it stretch your boundaries? Did you shut it with a shudder the instant you were done? Did it make you think? Have nightmares? Kick off a new obsession?

You know what? I can’t answer that so easily.

I’ve got two degrees in English and while I like to laugh and brag about having managed to avoid many of the classics, I’ve also read things that, at the time, stretched my boundaries.

Moby Dick and the Scarlet Letter. Two classics (and possibly what turned me off the entire genre of classics) that convinced me that I could read the damn things out loud and still not retain much of anything that I read.

In college, it was old texts like Beowulf, which I loved. That opened the door to Grendel, which was brilliant. (No, I have not yet seen the movies.) Those were all good experiences, but did they turn me into raving fangirls?? Nope.

Fast forward to grad school. Experimental writers like David Bowman’s Let the Dog Drive (a book still on my shelf). Carole Maso. Kathy Acker. Metafiction. Interesting, but not for me.

And literary writers, too. Anne Panning, who was a classmate. Susan Sontag. E. Annie Proulx. Sadly, like the metafiction and experimental stuff, it didn’t do much for me. It’s nicely written literature, sure. But not what jazzes me.

And despite how difficult most Latin American literature is, some of it is so achingly beautiful that it makes me cry. One Hundred Years of Solitude. The House of the Spirits.

But some of it? Ick. I may still have a copy of The Aleph on my shelf but that’s more because after all I went through to get it, I’m not parting with it so fast.

Now, as an out-of-school writer and mom, I read whatever makes me happy. Right now, it’s Edwidge Danticat’s The Dew Breaker. And a SciFi by Gregory Benford. I like to read all sorts of different things, not just the same old, same old.

Part of the fun of participating in sites that blog about books, be they blogs by authors or blogs by book lovers, is exposing myself to new stuff. The nice thing about a book you don’t like is that you can close it and give it away.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Sorry for the lack of buy links over to The kids got home from school as I was composing this and I need to go hang with them. If any of these titles grab you, head on over to your nearest independent bookstore — even if it’s an online one — and pick up your own copy.



  1. Thomma Lyn

    September 25, 2008 4:49 pm

    Grendel! Interesting you mention him. I am reading John Gardner’s novel IGrendel/I right now. I’m really enjoying it. It’s written from Grendel’s perspective and J.G. does a very good job.BR/BR/Great answer to an interesting question! That’s what it’s all about for readers — reading what jazzes them. And it’s what it’s about for us writers, too — we write what jazzes us! 🙂

  2. bunnygirl

    September 25, 2008 6:10 pm

    Jitterbug Perfume, The Sound and the Fury, and One Hundred Years of Solitude all rocked my world, as did The Wasteland and the poetry of e.e. cummings.BR/BR/Candide was a big influence too, and set me up to fall in love with Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker’s series. Brainy lit may feed my mind, but satire is what has kept me sane. 🙂

  3. Smilingsal

    September 25, 2008 6:37 pm

    Oh, I enjoyed Beowulf too! Come visit to see my post.

  4. Tilly Greene

    September 25, 2008 7:00 pm

    Philosophy. I struggle with all books that fall within this category are before me. I see both my Greek Philosophy professor and the Modern Philosophy prof scrowling at me. I see them holding up Aristotle and Jean Paul Satre, touting them as fabulous must reads [the only two books from my college days that I didn’t keep for rereading later]. I hear the word “logic” and I see me running or the door.BR/BR/Would I appreciate them more now than I did back then? Doubtful. Those two professors scared me in many ways – forever!BR/BR/That said, I remember delving into contemporary foreign fiction and loved it. To this day I still will list Andrei Bely’s ‘Petersburg’ as one of my favorites.

  5. Tempest Knight

    September 25, 2008 8:36 pm

    Right now I’m reading this academic book on Celts, which I find fascinating. I’m pretty odd when it comes to reading. I tend to read pretty much anything. I just have to be in the mood for that genre, know what I mean?

  6. Shelley Munro

    September 26, 2008 5:22 am

    Susan, that’s part of why I enjoy blog hopping – the exposure to different books. One can never have too many books on the to-read pile!

  7. Alice Audrey

    September 26, 2008 10:34 am

    I cut my reading teeth on Science Fiction and, like you, did the English degree thing. NOTHING strikes me as all that unusual.

  8. Karen Harrington

    September 26, 2008 1:48 pm

    I loved this week’s BTT posts because taken together, they show that there is really a book for everyone’s tastes. BR/BR/Great post!

  9. Wylie Kinson

    September 26, 2008 4:19 pm

    I barely made it to chapter 3 in Moby Dick… kept falling asleep!! BR/One Hundred Years of Solitude has been on my must-read list for years. Just haven’t gotten to it.BR/BR/I have varied taste in reading and enjoy practically all genres.

  10. BeadedTail

    September 27, 2008 5:53 pm

    I love to read so will attempt to read just about anything. On the suggestion of a co-worker I read the James Patterson Maximum Ride series and found them very odd. I did read them all though but I enjoy his other books much better.

  11. TrishaRitchieNC

    September 27, 2008 8:27 pm

    I went to an auction this summer and bought a bunch of books for next to nothing. There were 4 old Pearl S. Buck books in there. I had not read The Good Earth since high school and proceeded to read it with great pleasure. Then I read the other books. One, The Living Reed, was totally intriguing. It was about Korea’s politics and a family’s struggle from the late 1890’s through 1920’s. Now this was so interesting to me because it was written by a woman and it was politically oriented. My mind just can’t wrap around women being politically minded, because I’m not. So, maybe not the greatest books I’ve ever read, but made me stop and think – again and again!

  12. Dawn (sheIsTooFondOfBooks)

    September 27, 2008 9:39 pm

    “Part of the fun of participating in sites that blog about books, be they blogs by authors or blogs by book lovers, is exposing myself to new stuff. The nice thing about a book you don’t like is that you can close it and give it away. BR/BR/Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”BR/BR/Yes! So true! I rec’d an ARC of Dionne Brand’s *What We All Long For* … nothing I would have picked off the shelf at the bookstore. It was *not* my usual fare, but I loved it 🙂

  13. J at

    October 2, 2008 2:52 pm

    Interesting to get a peek into the mind of a reader, and see what books get them going. 🙂

  14. Lex Valentine

    October 4, 2008 11:35 am

    By now, you know enough about me to know that I probably was a whiz at English. I was. But I hated what they gave me to read. Big freaking yawn. Almost all of it. However, in middle school, Beowulf was the stand out. In high school, it was Jean Paul Sartre’s No Exit, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Frank Norris’ The Octopus, Orwell’s Animal Farm… Paragraph upon paragraph of boring descriptions and angst is so not me. I like a little action, a snappy dialog. I get bored easily when I read. I’m a skimmer if they can’t engage me. In fact, I just told Nicholas over at A Gentleman’s Domain, that I don’t think I ever read Treasure Island but I’m positive I did an essay on it and got an A. LOL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *