Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is an extra fun one, as it gives me a chance to talk about some of my favorite books that I don’t usually mention. I tend to read some very specific types of books, but these few reaches outside of my comfort zone definitely paid off!
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
My number one rule about books/movies: never read or watch anything with a dog on the cover. This book absolutely blew up when it came out. Posters of it were all over my local libraries, it was on so many book club lists, and everyone was talking about it. I instantly dismissed it, because dog. Nope. I don’t remember what finally convinced me to try the audiobook, but holy hecc was it great. I completely fell in love with Enzo (obviously), the story was beautifully written, and (of course) I bawled my eyes out. I listened to this exclusively in the car during commutes and I got to the end as I was driving to visit my mom. I sat in my car in the driveway for half an hour finishing the story with my mom texting me constantly and staring at me out the window making sure I was okay. When I finished, I walked straight into the bathroom and finished my cry. As long as you’re okay with that level of heartbreak, this book is definitely worth it and I think about it often.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Another one I decided to listen to on audio during commutes, and another one I sat outside my mom’s house as I finished. I worked at Barnes and Noble when this came out and I sold so many copies that holiday season! When I heard there was going to be a movie I decided I’d finally see what all the hype was about. This book is primarily told in alternating perspectives between Nick in present-day trying to figure out what happened to his missing wife and Amy’s diary entries leading up to her disappearance. It’s got murder mystery, it’s got psychological manipulation, it’s got delightfully hatable main characters. It’s excellent. The audiobook also has two different narrators to get the listener extra invested in the story. It completely blew my mind (and not just at the end, there are twists around every corner!) and I adored it. This is still the only Gillian Flynn novel I’ve read (though I have watched Sharp Objects) and I really need to pick up more.
The Postmortal by Drew Magary
I picked this up on a whim from a local used bookstore largely because of the cover. I don’t usually read dark satirical types of books, but this totally blew me away. This story follows a world in which aging has been cured. You can still die in pretty much any other way, but you can’t die of old age. As technology progresses and the population becomes unsustainable, a new career emerges where people are commissioned to kill others in oddly specific ways. This book is very similar to Sythe by Neal Shusterman in concept, but the execution – pun intended – is very different. Don’t be mislead, this book is dark. There’s murder, there’s cults, there’s hate crimes, etc. It’s intense. When I finished it I just sat on the couch swearing for half an hour (that seems to be a theme with these books?) to the point where my fiance got annoyed and told me to either stop or close myself in the bedroom. It’s so good. But have something happy waiting to get the taste out of your mouth.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
I have no idea what I expected going into this. All I knew was that my friends raved about it. I think it’s best to go into this story without knowing much about the plot, but this deals with race, religion, and a whole mess of heavy topics in an elegant and lyrical way. I haven’t picked up any of Hosseini’s other works just because I’m not emotionally ready yet, but I almost certainly will in the future. I do feel the need to warn potential readers, though: I knew this book would make me cry, but I did not expect a severely upsetting scene to occur about halfway through the book. Typically these are at the end, so I was reading this on my fifteen-minute break at work, came to that scene, and was late returning to work because I had to compose myself in the break room. Use caution if you intend to read this book in a public space.
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
I don’t do holiday books. I just don’t. I picked up this book because I’d heard amazing things about this author duo and this seemed to be their most popular book. I knew there was a movie made of Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist, but this seemed to be the one everyone was talking about. I’m so glad I decided to give it a shot. The story follows around two characters who interact through notes left in a Moleskine notebook in a bookstore. The New York setting at Christmastime is dreamy, the characters are adorable, and it was such a refreshing book to pick up as I finished finals and prepared to settle in for my winter break. This is a great one to curl up with by the fire with a hot beverage, a fluffy blanket, and a fuzzy animal on your lap. It’s quick, so you can read it during the holidays and it won’t drag on once the holidays are over, and it’s just so cute and put me in a great mood.
The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Speaking of holiday books that I don’t read… The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol wherein a company – again based in New York – picks a new Scrooge every year. Each Scrooge is someone who has the potential to turn their life around and, if they don’t, they will die within the next year. The three Christmas ghosts are leaders of their own team of employees to focus on the year’s Scrooge’s past, present, or future. Holly Chase is a failed Scrooge who has been given the opportunity to become the Ghost of Christmas Past in lieu of dying for real. She’s given an entirely new life, is set up in a small apartment with basic living expenses, and has a hoodie of invisibility so she can spy on the current scrooge. Holly is despicable at the beginning of the novel and her character arc is amazing. This novel is part fantasy, part paranormal, with amazing technology and such a cool concept. If you pick up one holiday-themed book, let it be this one.
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
I love the idea of essay/story collections, I just rarely read them to completion. I was drawn to this collection by the stunning photo on the cover. Marina Keegan was a graduate of Yale who died tragically in a car accident just five days after her graduation. This collection of her essays and short stories is gripping and heartbreaking. Marina was a refreshing voice who could have done great things, don’t miss this collection of the only pieces we have.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
On a completely different note, we have My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. Oh, this book. I knew nothing about it when I saw it in the store and I was instantly drawn to not only the title but the GORGEOUS PRESENTATION. The hardcover is meant to look like an old school yearbook and it’s stunning. I’m super picky about horror in books, but this is a nice balance of super creepy and pure 80’s joy. This book is an absolute delight for any horror fan. A slow-burn creepy story with characters that I actually grew to care about and scenes that gave me legitimate nightmares. I really need to pick up more Grady Hendrix, this is amazing.
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
This series was recommended to me when I was looking for easy reads while I recovered from having my tonsils removed last year. If I’m going to go for a paranormal book, I typically read YA because I want all the drama. I picked this one up because the first book in the series was cheap on kindle and because it has fae, which is my weakness in paranormal/fantasy books. This series is just so much fun, I ended up picking up the first three in the series. I love the Dublin setting, the creatures are so unique, and I’m fascinated by Barrons. This book does contain some sexual content, but compared to other adult paranormal romances it’s very mild. This book opened the door to a whole new genre for me and I’m so excited.
Differently Morphous by Yahtzee Croshaw
Y’all. Y’ALL. I picked this up because it was the deal of the day on Audible and seemed intriguing. If it sucked, I was only out about $3. BUT IT DID NOT. This book is quirky and unique and amazing. Lovecraftian monsters. A (basically) ministry of magic trying to cover up the existence of weird creatures. A protagonist who went to magic school and then found out she wasn’t actually magic. An obnoxious wizard with a cape who’s overly dramatic. A very sweaty computer nerd. This book is read by the author, it’s lighthearted, it’s excellent. I’ve already listened to it twice and I intend to listen again on an upcoming road trip.
Those are my top ten books I’ve enjoyed that were outside of my comfort zone! Let me know what books you’ve read that you weren’t sure about, and let me know if you’ve read any of the ones I’ve listed!