Wednesday, August 13, 2014

10 Top Books I'm not sure I want to read for various reasons

I'm going with this week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish, which took me by surprise. I'm used to talking about books I have read, not ones I haven't. I'll go for those which I've fully intended to read, because they are modern, raved about and sure to be well-written. But for reasons I'll try to explain, I've just putting off getting stuck into each of these.

1) The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy I adore the Harry Potter series but it's sure to be an impossible act to follow. As an admirer of JKR, I don't want to be one of those readers who grumble, 'I don't think it's as good as her earlier work.' To judge from comments and rumours I've heard about the different style she's taken on, and the bleakness in this story, I wouldn't be surprised if I was disappointed.

2) The Book Thief

The Book Thief I'm fascinated by the concept of this book and am certain that Marcus Zusak probably deserves his astronomical rise to fame. What puts me off is anticipating the grief and sadness, when Liesel, the young heroine, inevitably loses the people who have become dear to her. Rumour tells me there are quite a lot of those. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if she's the last character left standing. (I don't know, so don't take it as a plot spoiler.) I'm getting more tender-hearted lately, and when I get emotionally involved with people, I prefer them to live.

3) The Fault in our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars Same as above. I know this has wowed so many people, not only teenage girls, but a story of young love under such tragic circumstances is something I think I can do without. Sorry, Hazel and Augustus, I'm sure you're both lovable and brilliant, but that's the problem.

4) The Help

The Help At the moment, I've had my fill of stories of ill-fated friendships and relationships which are doomed just because of some topical, racial issue such as the colour of a person's skin. I'd expect something in the same ilk as 'The Colour Purple' or 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and I'm not sure I want to face another.

5) Angels and Demons

Angels & Demons  (Robert Langdon, #1) I read 'The DaVinci Code' with illustrated photos and thought it was quite a fast-paced, exciting read, although I think Dan Brown took major liberties with his interpretations of history. I think one novel with a plot based around a mysterious symbol with Robert Langdon as the hero is enough for me.

6) The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl (The Tudor Court, #2) I'm sure this would be extremely evocative of the Middle Ages, but as we all know the sort of man Henry VIII was, I don't think I can muster the heart to share the romantic thoughts and expectations of Mary, Anne or Catherine, as they anticipate a mutually satisfying relationship with him.

7) The Thorn Birds

The Thorn Birds I was curious to read this when I was a little girl but my mum kept telling me I was too young. When I'd grown old enough, I found my curiosity to read 'The Thorn Birds' had dissipated, and it never returned. There had been other books to read in the meantime, which led me down different literary paths. Maybe that happens when we are put off for long enough.

8) Myrren's Gift

Myrren's Gift (The Quickening, #1) This has been recommended to me by several different people, but I've kept putting it off because I know I'd be committing myself to not just one book but a whole series of thick books which I'm not sure I want to put aside the time for when I always have a long TBR list. Ironically, I've stumbled across other books on my own which have got me hooked on long series of thick books, but as it was accidental, I just went with the flow. Maybe that's one problem with taking recommendations.

9) Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing I probably shy away from this one for similar reasons as 'The Help.' The blurb sounds fascinating, but it also gives me the impression of a young, meaningful friendship which has to be dashed on the rocks because some outside authorities tell the hero and heroine, 'This isn't supposed to be what happens between the two of you.' I may be wrong, but I keep wanting to delay facing it in case I'm right.

10) The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency  (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #1)
I'm not sure why I keep avoiding this one. It's just that I've seen it and read the blurb several times and thought, 'I'll have to read that one day. Alexander McCall Smith sounds like a witty, intriguing author.' Then, for whatever reason, I find something else to read instead.

You might like to share some books you keep putting off reading yourself, or try to convince me to read one or more of those on my list.


  1. Hi Paula - What a great idea for a blog. I have to talk you into three of those:

    The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series is brilliant. Knowing the kinds of books you like, I'm pretty confident you'd love this series. I've read the first 13 or 14 so far. Although a crime or crimes do get solved in each book, that's almost incidental to the human stories. Mma Ramotswe is such a wonderful character. Alexander McCall-Smith writes with such warmth and humour, I can't wait for each new one to come out. It has good values and celebrates the good in people (with the occasional baddie thrown in). Although you can read them as stand-alone, it's better to read them in sequence so that the back story unfolds in order. Trust me Paula. You'll love these.

    The Book Thief - Yes, there are parts that are sad and people do die. But it also has a lot of heart. It's a beautiful story, told with such originality. One of the best books I have ever read. During the early part of the book (maybe first 80 pages), I did feel quite sorry for Liesl because she wasn't treated well by her foster Mum. But the characters change and develop as the book goes on and it's really heart-warming. The relationship between Liesl and the young Jewish man they're hiding in the cellar is just beautiful. Yes, parts of it are sad, but the overall experience is well worth it. I did cry at the end but because it was beautiful. A wonderful book. Sniff.

    Caleb's Crossing - This one's a bit trickier. I liked it, but I know others who've had more trouble getting into it. It's written in the voice of a woman in 17th century America, so takes a little while to get used to the voice. But once you do, it's fine. Like all of Geraldine Brooks's other books, it's really thought-provoking. For me the main theme wasn't so much the relationship between the American girl and Indian boy, but more the clash of cultures. There are a lot of faith issues and it raises questions that made me think about how we approach other cultures when telling them about Christ. What parts of a culture do we keep and what parts have to be relinquished? It made me think about how western Christians in the past sometimes trampled on cultures they didn't understand. I'm not sure if you finished reading "March". If so, you know what to expect from her writing. I didn't like the conclusion the main character comes to, but I was glad I read it. Would be a good one to discuss at a book club because it raises lots of issues.

    Have I convinced you? ;)

  2. Hi Nola,
    I love your feedback :)

    It's not difficult to convince me to try the Ladies No. 1Det. Agency, but I will make sure I'm stocked up with at least a couple more before I start. They sound like you want to going on.

    As for The Book Thief, I guess maybe I can steel myself. As they say, forewarned is forearmed. I'm thinking there must be a lot of heart and good to sacrifice for the sake of avoiding the bad. As it's such a thick book, I'd like to think there's a lot of good to counterbalance the sadness. Have you seen the movie to this book?

    You've intrigued me with the premise of Caleb's Crossing, which I'd expect from GB, knowing the work she puts into the books. Reading about such attitudes in action is good for generating interesting reflection and discussion, I know.

    So thanks for stating your case so well. I'll consider these more carefully :)

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    1. Hi Paula - Just one more comment about the Book Thief. Although it's 500 or so pages, they're smaller pages and there are a lot of short chapters and white space. The prose is also easy to read. So I didn't feel like I was reading a 500-page book.

      I've seen the movie and it sticks pretty closely to the book. It's brilliantly cast and Geoffrey Rush is brilliant as the father. I saw the movie first. Love the movie. Love the book. But if you have't seen the movie, definitely take the tissues :)

  4. I do like Geoffrey Rush. He's a good character actor :)

  5. I do like Geoffrey Rush. He's a good character actor :)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Sorry reposting due to typos :)

    Hi Paula
    I love your list :) I agree with you about Angels and Demons and the Casual Vacancy - though I do have one of Rowling's new detective novels from the library.

    I can understand your thoughts about Caleb Crossing – as Nola says, it’s much more about the clash of cultures and it is beautifully written. My main problem with the book is that, while it does stick close to the historical facts, it changes the Mayhew family into strict, rigid, people (the stereotypical Puritan) when in fact they when they had very positive interaction with the Wampanoag. I don’t think changing the character’s name to Mayfield makes up for that sleight of hand. Brooks does a similar thing in Year of Miracles – changing the generally reported ‘saintly’ William Mompesson to the deeply flawed Mompellion.

    Other than that, I can only second Nola’s praise of The Number One Ladies Detective Agency. I saw the TV series first and loved the books. I have read the sequels yet but I will one day. Also with The Book Thief – I’ve just seen the movie (as with a Fault In Our Stars) and plan to read the books. Yes, there is sadness in both but also humour, human warmth and hope. But I can understand why you may be hesitant to watch them.

    The one I’ll really go to bat for is The Help. Again I saw the movie before the book (and the movie follows the book closely) – both were fantastic and hilarious and inspiring. It is not about doomed relationships but about ‘seizing the day’ (as Robin Williams would say) and making a stand. While it is as hard hitting about racism, it really isn’t like To Kill a Mocking Bird or The Color Purple at all.

    1. Still missed a typo :(
      should be 'it changes the Mayhew family into strict, rigid, people (the stereotypical Puritan) when in fact they had very positive interaction with the Wampanoag.

    2. Jenny I agree that some of the Christians weren't shown in a very good light. I didn't know that family was based on a real one. I'd like to read The Help. I was put off a bit by the small print. Maybe I'll have to get a Kindle so I can change the font size :)

  8. Hi Jenny,
    I think you've sold me, by mentioning 'seize the day' (I do love Dead Poet's Society). It's funny how we can make assumptions without knowing the full story, so now I am more curious about 'The Help'.

    It's interesting what you say about Geraldine Brooks. An author, especially one who writes as provocatively has she does, wields a lot of power in those sleights of hand you mention. We should take that power seriously in our own work.

    Between you two ladies, you've almost convinced me to read almost half the books on this list now :)

  9. I also heard Geraldine Brooks being interviewed by Jennifer Byrne and she mentioned that she had to make up a lot of information about the Indian character in Caleb's Crossing. He was based on a real person who was the first Indian to go to Harvard. I think she mentioned that some of the local people were upset that she'd made up a lot of information, because there was little to go on. That would raise an interesting issue for another blog. How much could or should you make up when dealing with historical people or events?

    1. That is a great topic for fiction authors. I think it's well worth a blog post (or several). It would seem you must often use a bit of guesswork, poetic license, or whatever you want to call it to fill in, but is there a line which shouldn't be crossed? That's a good one, Nola.

  10. LOL Paula – Nola and I can be very persuasive when we try :). I think your right about the power authors wield , especially one who is known to be very meticulous in research as Brooks is. It makes it even more disappointing that she presents a certain perspective even when it doesn't match up with the known facts but falls back on popular stereotypes. I was similarly disappointed with Kinglsover's The Poisonwood Bible which presented a very different picture form my own experience of missionaries - just a decade later and just over the border from the area she dealt with.

    1. Yes, I agree Jenny, because readers often choose to take all on board without a blink when they are reading novels. It may not occur to some to wonder whether this may just be the author's take on an issue. Also shows the power an author has, which needs to be wielded responsibly. Good topic for another blog post maybe.

  11. I've often been disappointed by other people's recommendations. Even when there's an overlapping in our tastes, we ARE still all very different people, are we not?! But I would encourage you to read Caleb's Crossing. I find GB has such a compassionate edge that even her tragedies are cases I can cope with. Even the fact that she found this story and brought it to light was a ray of triumph. Having said that, it's not the one i would choose as my favourite GB, however she is such a superb writer and researcher, I can not pan it in any way. The only other title I must comment on is No 1 Detective Agency. I read two in the series, hoping to enjoy them better as I continued. I didn't. Just too twee, despite the fact that he is a very competent writer from a technical standpoint. But I did enjoy the TV series immensely! Rhonda

  12. Hi Rhonda,
    I love the variety of feedback on Ladies #1 Detective Agency. It just goes to show how a single book may come across to different readers, and I'll be curious to find what my impressions are.
    Caleb's Crossing will remain on my TBR list and I'm sure I'll read it someday soon.