Saturday, September 24, 2011

Back on the Blog Chain: Getting Better All the Time

Since getting my Kindle last year, I tend to base my book buying on the beginning of the book instead of the blurb or cover as I did with paper books. That means if the beginning is poorly written or doesn't hook me in some way, I probably won't buy the book, let alone finish reading it. So when Sean asked,

What are three books you would tell people that they need to keep reading even if they aren't immediately sucked in by the first page?

I had to think about it for a while. After I came up with a couple of examples (which I'll name in a minute), I realized they had something in common. They were books that were highly regarded or got good reviews, but they were written in unusual voices that were difficult for me to get into at first. But since I trusted the reviews enough to keep reading instead of moving on to something else, I was eventually able to get the feel of the voice and follow the book better. Sometimes characters or plot twists that came later in the story also helped raise my interest in the book. So, here are my three books, plus an Honorable Mention:

1. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. --Set in a nineteenth century England where magic used to work (and still does for the two gentlemen named in the title), this book is written in a dense, old-fashioned style, complete with lots of footnotes. The paperback was about a thousand pages long, making the book even more intimidating. It takes a while to get the dry British humor, even for an Anglophile like me. I have to admit I liked some of the secondary characters better than the two main ones, so I enjoyed the story more when they were featured.

2. The Sound and the Fury--I actually chose to read this book for my AP English class in high school because it was challenging. (Well, what do you expect from Faulkner?) When my teachers asked me about it, I quoted Shakespeare at them: "It is a tale told by an idiot." This is literally true for the first section; I found the other parts easier to follow. One of these days I would like to go back and reread this book to see if I can understand it better now.

3. In His Own Write--I couldn't resist including one of John Lennon's books. John loved wordplay and nonsense, so his writing can be surreal. I like to say that I have to tilt my mind sideways in order to understand what he's saying. But everyone should have their minds tilted from time to time, shouldn't they?

The Kappa Child--I'm including this one as an Honorable Mention because I can't remember if I disliked the beginning or was just disappointed in one of the later plot elements. The voice, though quirky, wasn't as hard to follow as in some of the other books I've mentioned. The end tied things together in a way that still make me think about this book.


As a final point, I read all these books in paper, not e-book form. I'm more invested in paper books I've paid for than e-book samples that I can easily delete. Then again, life's too short to waste reading books you don't enjoy, especially when I know I'll never clear my "To Read" lists. I have over 180 book samples in my "To Read" collection on my Kindle now, plus another twenty or so paper books. Are you sure I can't take my Kindle with me? ;)


Please follow Amparo backward and Matt forward to see what books the rest of the blog chain recommends.

13 comments:

Christine Fonseca said...

Great titles! I haven't read all of them...but yea. And man, your kindle sounds like my iPad! :D (BTW - I'm sitting at Starbucks this am thinking about you as they are playing a Beetles compilation!)

The Golden Eagle said...

I haven't read any of these books--yet. Thanks for the list!

Sarah McCabe said...

Huge fan of John Lennon that I am, I am ashamed to admit I have never read In His Own Write. I shall have to remedy that.

anthony stemke said...

Two authors I could not read were Faulkner and Chas. Dickens. Had to read "Tale of Two Cities" in high school, don't know how I got through it. Twenty five years later, my daughter asks for help and I still could not stand it. Thank heavens for Cliff's Notes.

So, I read the blurb and then the first page or two. If that don't do it I pass it by.

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh man! The Sound and the Fury. That is such a great example. I've read it three times, and still don't fully understand it, but there is some great writing in there.

Michelle McLean said...

More books for my pile! :D I'll have to go back and revisit some high school books I couldn't make it through in high school and see if things have changed. I remember hating The Great Gatsby in high school but by grad school I loooved it. Same with Shakespeare (loved watching it, couldn't read it in high school).

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I remember picking up The Sound and The Fury in high school when our teacher gave us a selection of books to choose from. I think it took about three pages for me to choose something else instead. Maybe it's time to go back and try it again.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

LOL! Love the exchange with your high school teachers about The Sound and the Fury. I haven't read any of these... my lack of an MFA showing, I think.

I get where you're coming from with the kindle. I use a nook for books I'm iffy about, and with the free samples of beginnings, it's easier to avoid books that might fit in this category of good-but-slow-starters. Being a reader has certainly changed over the decade.
:) Great post!

Michelle H. said...

Another great list. Thanks!

Jonathon Arntson said...

I have loved the cover of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for a while, but I have not been brave enough to pick it up.

Lennon is my God.

Margie said...

So interesting! Only heard of (and read) Sound and the Fury. Will have to browse the others. And by browse I mean read the first 10 pages because that's my attention span these days. :-)

Abby Annis said...

I haven't read any of these. I'll have to check them out. :)

Shaun Hutchinson said...

I gave up on Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell...but now I'm thinking I need to go back and give it a second look. Thanks!

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