Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Read a book this year that you think you won't like...and write about it

Over at Salon, the book critic writes that one of her New Years Resolutions is to read a book or two in a genres or with subjects that she doesn't usually like. I think this is a great idea. Part of reading is broadening your mind, right?

So this year, I resolve to read a couple of books that I don't think I will like*, and because I like to write about things, though I don't usually write about books much, I'm going to write about them here. When I do, I'm going to keep in mind that I don't know as much about the subject/genre as most readers.

I'm open to suggestions. Here are some types of books that I almost never read:

Political screed...Chick Lit...written before 1900 and not by Jane Austen, Shakespere or George Eliot...Western...Travelogue...Vampire...Biographies of political/military figures...Romance...Unlikely to pass the Bechdel test**...Historical novel...Memoir by someone who wasn't an old Hollywood movie star...Self originally written in a language other than English that had to be translated and isn't Don Quixote...fantasy***...military...anything that reminds me of Raymond Carver...a memoir about anyone finding themselves...books about music...books about illegal drug use...books about a religion other than Christianity...Young adult that isn't Harry Potter...philosophy..."I did this strange thing for a year just to write about it" books...anything Nora Ephron wrote or would be tempted to make a movie out of.

Anyway, yeah, Suggestions welcome.


*When I think about the subject "Books I won't like," the first thing to come to mind is that the "Eat, Pray, Love" woman has written yet another book about dealing with her first world dramas in a third world setting. She totally needs a cameo in the next "Avatar" movie. Anyway I'm not sure I'm ready to subject myself to reading her actual book.

** The Bechdel test, usually used for movies, is

1. There must be at least two women
2. Who have a conversation
3. About something other than a man

*** I read some Sci-fi though, and the line isn't always clear


Charlie Talbert said...

The Polish Officer by Alan Furst would meet several of your criteria (historical fiction, military, romance). It’s his best of the several that I’ve read.

epilonious said...

"Picture of Dorian Gray" as an example of non-Austen fun 19th century goodness if you haven't already.

I already told you about Poppy Z. Brite's later stuff, but "tales off the line" has been released after soul kitchen.

Paul Oakley said...

Historical fiction (Medieval period) in the setting of and with a lot of direct concern with a religion other than Christianity (Judaism):

Maggie Anton's Rashi's Daughters, in three self-contained volumes:

Rashi's Daughters, Book I: Joheved, (2005) 348 pp.
Rashi's Daughters, Book II: Miriam, (2007) 496 pp.
Rashi's Daughters, Book III: Rachel, (2009) 425 pp.

Sounds like an interesting resolution/project, CC.

PG said...

Robin McKinley's Sunshine hits three of your targets: chick lit, fantasy, vampire. It's my favorite vampire book. Speaking of which, I had too much tequila Friday night and said I would read Twilight. I'm almost halfway through and I concede that the parts that are YA are well-written, but unfortunately there's more Vampire Romance the more you read, and the Vampire Romance is third-rate romance novel with a lot of abusive aspects. He throws her around, stalks and spies on her, she's constantly concerned that she's made him angry... ugh. (Greatest vampire movie ever: Let the Right One In.)

For a Historical Romance novel, I'd recommend Laura Kinsale's work; I think you'd find Flowers from the Storm interesting.

Books that Nora Ephron would be tempted to make a movie out of: possibly several of Jennifer Crusie's romance/chick lit novels (though I think Nancy Meyers would have to grab Anyone But You, since it belongs in her middle-aged-woman-has-orgasm specialty).

Fantasy-military-historical: the Temeraire series. Napoleonic wars, with dragons! Optioned for the movies by Peter Jackson.

Book about illegal drug use + political screed + "I did this strange thing for a year just to write about it" = Hunter S. Thompson's Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 is awesome.

Written before 1900 + language other than English + political screed = Candide by Voltaire. Which also has the virtue of being pretty short.

Young Adult that isn't Harry Potter: some of my favorites are The Giver (which is also sort of scifi); Maniac Magee; Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved; L.M. Montgomery's novels (some written pre-1900).

Robin Edgar said...

I suppose I *really* should get around to reading 'The God Delusion' by my very good friend Richard Dawkins, and the write about it. . . I *have* been meaning to bjut it is not on my priority list.

hsofia said...

Just a few suggestions:

*Historical novel - Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf
*Book originally in another language - All the Names by Jose Saramago
*Miltary - The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Chalicechick said...

Don't forget Robin, the point is to broaden your mind, not backup what you already know, so you're supposed to do your best to read the book with an open mind.


Robin Edgar said...

I can assure you that my mind is rather more open than Richard Dawkins is CC.

Chalicechick said...

I don't know Richard Dawkins so I can't speak to that. But if Richard Dawkins' mind isn't particularly open then comparing oneself to him doesn't mean much. I'm hoping for something meaningful out of myself for this.


Comrade Kevin said...

Victorian Fiction would be mine, especially if it were written by Charles Dickens.

Chalicechick said...


I more or less agree with your comment, but I'm not posting it. If my reasons aren't obvious enough, email me.

TK said...

Dear CC,

Hi, it's your "Nuub" again.

From your exclusion list, it seems we have similar taste in books. Really similar. "Eeek!" similar.

A trilogy I wholeheartedly recommend: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. Composed of:

1. The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights if you're a limey.)
2. The Subtle Knife
3. The Amber Spyglass

These are ostensibly kid lit, in the way that Harry is ostensibly kid lit, fantasy, non-Christian, philosophy, and a bit of political/religious screed. It's an agnostic answer to the underlying Christianity in Harry Potter.

Pullman said, "I've been surprised by how little criticism I've got. Harry Potter's been taking all the flak... Meanwhile, I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God".

Well-written, too. As always, the books are much better than the one movie they made.

Don't get me wrong. I love Harry. I actually have an alternate email with the moniker "tigerpatronus." But the HDM books are even better.

Whereas HP takes its structure from the Chymical Wedding, a 17th-century Christian alchemy text, HDM borrows its structure from William Blake and John Milton's Paradise Lost. You know, where the Devil is the hero?


Tim Bartik said...

Fantasy: Patrick Rothfuss, "The Name of the Wind"

Memoir: Alan Lightman: "A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit"

Philosophy: Karl Jaspers's book, "Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus" (also a translated book)

Gregory Vlastos: "Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher"

Andre Comte-Sponville "The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality" and his other book in English "A Small Book on the Great Virtues" (also a translated book)

Andre Agassi's memoir is also supposed to be good. Unlike the other books on this list, I haven't read it.

Joel Monka said...

For Historical books, I might suggest "The Decline And Fall of Practically Everybody" by Will Cuppy. For written before 1900, I liked "Ivanhoe" by Walter Scott. For vampire, a recently published book- "Blood Lite", a collection of short stories from the Horror Writers Association. (many are hilarious, though) For a translated book, "Cousin Bette" by Balzak. For a book about a religion other than Christianity, "Harm None" by M.R. Sellars. (actually a murder mystery, but the protagonist is a Wiccan) Young adult, "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" or "Star Beast" by R.A. Heinlein.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't read it yet...I suggest "Go Ask Alice" by Anonymous.

It'll meet a few categories:
1. book about illegal drug use
2. memoir of someone finding themself
3. memoir of someone other than a celebrity

It's primarily assigned as summer reading in high school, but it is such an amazing book that I think everyone should read it.

Anonymous said...

For a non-christian, religion-topic book...

I would suggest something like the Tao of Pooh. I have not read it, but my fiance has and said it was very good.

Also, I suggest a book simply expanding your knowledge of another religion...perhaps a book about Paganism (different branches include Wicca, Santeria, Druidism, etc). Books about Wicca by Silver Ravenwolf are easy to read (titles include "To Ride a Silver Broomstick"). Or maybe you could read about Judaism or Buddhism, as they are very interesting religions.

kimc said...

For romance: an old Georgette Heyer (spelling?) novel called The Foundling.
A pair of Fantasies called Beauty and Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley. They are both the same story but told in two completely different ways. I prefer the earlier one, while the author prefers the latter one. (I also second Sunshine, or anything else by Robin McKinley, including her blog.) She has a young adult novel called Chalice you might enjoy.
another fantasy, if you can find it, The Warhound and the World's Pain by Michael Moorcock. I want it made into a movie. And it addresses religious issues, and portrays Lucifer as an angel.
And, for a book on a non-Christian religion, how about Terry Pratchett's masterpiece, Small Gods?
Classics? My favorite is A Tale of Two Cities, the world's most romantic novel.
Not "chick lit" but "chick sci-fi": anything by Sherri Tepper.

Joel Monka said...

Please do not read Silver Ravenwolf. Maiden Moon is a free download if you want to learn about Wicca- if you want to know about SR, read this Look around that site, too- a very good Wicca info source.