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Booking Through Thursday 9/25/08

September 25, 2008

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?

My work as a reviewer means there’s a certain lovely randomness to the books I’m handed.  I get to read, mull over, and describe books that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own in a bookstore or library.  I don’t know if I would have picked up any of the dog books I just reviewed, but I certainly had fun reading them.  The stories about funny, quirky dogs made me smile.

On deck are two science books about the possibilities of the future.  I never would have picked up a book called “Death From The Skies” unless it were some kind of action-packed, far-fetched mystery.  I don’t like thinking too hard about dystopia, apocalypse, or even life as we know it going to hell in a handbasket.  Hopefully, I can put my own qualms aside long enough to read, understand, and figure out who would naturally, and happily, pick up that kind of book.  Maybe it won’t be as scary as I think.

Two others come to mind, both I read in school.  In high school, we were assigned “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison.  I remember havint to read it slowly, with pauses to pace and shiver and clear my head.  I remember how much the vivid descriptions of violence and hatred affected me.  I remember being torn between my horror at what was being described, and my awe for the language Ellison used.  I knew why it was assigned.  Not just to capture a moment in cultural history, but to showcase really fine writing.

And a funnier story.  In college, I read “The Man In The High Castle,” by Philip K. Dick under duress.  My senior year, my boyfriend thrust it into my hands and said I absolutely had to read it.  And that, if I didn’t, there would be consequences.  Absolutely no kisses for me until I was done reading it, he said with a grin.  Philip K. Dick’s prose reminded me of a bargain-basement version of Hemingway.  The same standoffish, isolated sense of pressing my nose to the glass, sealed off from the characters’ emotions.  And as much as I dislike reading Hemingway, Papa did it better than Philip K. Dick.  (I’ve always wondered why PKD never took a pen name.  Or did he?  Is his given name something like Smith?)  In due course, I finished the wretched book and got kisses.  Though, it wasn’t an effective exercise- I don’t remember much about the book itself, except sullenly reading and disliking it.  I really should have given that boyfriend poetry to read, in retaliation as much as the spirit of expanding his comfort zone.  Perhaps Dickinson.  Just, you know, because.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2008 2:00 pm

    Ah, “The Invisible Man” is another I’ve read that fits this prompt. Come see my answer.

  2. September 25, 2008 9:30 pm

    I have read none of them. Jeez there is so much I haven’t read. lol I said that one of the weird books I read was Slaughterhouse 5 and I get the feeling that is not the only weird Vonnegut book.

  3. September 25, 2008 10:31 pm

    Do people send you reviews without offering them to you first? I get lots of ARCs and other review books but they always send me info first and I decide if I want to read it or not. I do of course say okay to some books I wouldn’t normally read because they sound interesting and sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t (at least to me.) Anyways, my BTT is up. Off to see the rest of your blog.

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