Hi all! It’s time for Top Ten Tuesday. This week’s topic was Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR, but I felt like I’d already covered that in an earlier post, so I thought I’d pick an old topic – Top Ten Books I’ve Read That Were Out of My Comfort Zone. I’m usually very firmly in the YA/Science Fiction/Fantasy genre nowadays, though I am resolving to read more widely and have done so in the past.
The Princess Saves Herself in This One, Amanda Lovelace
I recently read this one after seeing it all over Tumblr and seeing rave reviews (and also being drawn in by the excellent title). It was out of my comfort zone as since being forced to read Carol Ann Duffy’s The World Wife at school and a compulsory poetry module at university, poetry didn’t really attract me. However I do realise that this is ridiculous, because poetry encourages has some of the most beautiful and emotionally resonant language. I loved this collection – it was so honest and relatable, and while it went to some dark places it was also uplifting, with some beautiful phrases. It’s really made me want to read more poetry.
Elizabeth Is Missing, Emma Healey
I’ve talked about this one far too much, honestly. It was out of my comfort zone as while I do like to dip into contemporary fiction, it’s generally not with an older narrator, but I loved it (as you probably already know) and cannot wait to see what Healey does next.
I Served the King of England, Bohumil Hrabal
I read this back at university for my Modern Comic Novel module. It’s out of my comfort zone because;
a) It was published in 1983 (though it started circulating during the censorship in 1971)
b) It’s by a Czech writer
c) It’s set in Prague in the 1940’s during the Nazi occupation
Despite all this, I really enjoyed the book. Ditě was a weird and frustrating character at first but as the book went on I found myself rooting for him, especially in the episode at the Nazi Aryan camp. While I normally avoid books with this kind of setting it was really interesting to read about the different culture and the atmosphere in the occupation, albeit through a bit of a narrow lens in the different hotel environments.
The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
I also read this at university, and while I’d never read any Julian Barnes I appreciated his writing style and the way that he presented an unreliable narrator. The mystery and insights in part two were also really interesting. Again, another aging narrator and not something I would usually pick up, but I did really enjoy it.
The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams
I read this at school and loved it. I don’t read a lot of plays, but this made me a big Tennessee Williams fan (This is my favourite out of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire). I loved the relationship between Tom and Laura, and there’s something about Williams writing that makes it so visual to read despite it being written for the stage.
Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood
Again, another university book but one that also led to a deep appreciation of Margaret Atwood’s writing. I’d consider it out of my comfort zone, being set in Canada from WW2 to the 1980’s. I think what really attracted me to it was the way that it depicts childhood relationships between girls and the anxieties and insecurities that develops into, the feminist elements and exploring the shift from victim to bully and how that affects Elaine in later life.
The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton
I read this as my mother picked it up some months ago and she found it quite interesting. Again, I don’t usually read historical drama, or settings in other countries, but I really enjoyed this and again learning about the culture in 17th century Amsterdam. (It also made me really want to try all the pastries). Though I was ultimately disappointed with the ending, I was pleased that I had read it, and I did also buy the Muse a few weeks ago.
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
Ok, this isn’t strictly out of my comfort zone, but I read it at a time where I was only really reading YA and contemporary fiction, so to read crime/thriller was a great change. Despite having one of the most frustrating main characters ever, I really enjoyed the book and it really was unputdownable. I cannot wait for the movie – I am a little disappointed that it’s so Americanised, but hey. I’m also aiming to read more crime/thriller in the future.
Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw
Another play, and also a Victorian setting, read way back before I was at uni, and picked up on a whim (to read more widely). This is the play that inspired My Fair Lady, and I’ve always enjoyed it’s comments on class and feminism.
Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son, Gordon Burn
Another one I read at university. I’d never really read any true crime accounts before, but found our seminars on this and the ensuing essay debate really interesting. The depth that Burn went into about Sutcliffe’s family, friends and upbringing created great insights into what motivated him. I think the psychologist in me was really what made this book compelling, though the true crime element was a little out of my comfort zone.
So that’s my Top Ten for today! What did you think? Did you like the topic? What books have you read that are out of your comfort zone? Let me know!