Top Ten Tuesday: Going Against Type

For Top Ten Tuesday this week, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, our topic is books we enjoyed recently that are outside our usual type/genre/comfort zone.  Here’s the thing:  I like my comfort zone.  I think my comfort zone is actually pretty broad.  Part of the reason I read so voraciously is to learn and understand new things about the world, to experience life from another set of eyes than my own.  Being more mindful of what I’m reading – trying to read authors who are of a different nationality or race than I am – continues to be a rewarding and enlightening practice.  But I also know what I like, for the most part.  So as I choose my next read, I don’t tend to pick titles from left field.  I guess what I’m getting at with all this is that I had to think about this topic a while, dig a little bit for things that I’ve read in the last year that were a “stretch” for me.  So here goes.

  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.  nimonaI didn’t grow up reading comics as a kid, and I have thus far read very few graphic novels.  They’re just not a type of book that I naturally gravitate toward.  But I have been trying to branch out and read a few titles, and this one was nearly universally positively recommended.  I LOVED it.  It is simultaneously charming and moving while also being an exciting page-turner.
  • The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.  I also am not naturally inclined to read Teen/YA books.  Maybe because when I actually WAS a teenager (or pre-teen) this whole subset of fiction didn’t really exist.  I mean, there was Judy Blume, Christopher Pike, and those teen romances published by Silhouette.  But I pretty much went straight from reading The Babysitter’s Club to reading Agatha Christie, Victoria Holt, and Danielle Steel.  In any case, I try to read a couple of teen books a year simply to be able to recommend things to my library patrons.  This one was fantastic – it’s a mystery and a ghost story, with the right amount of suspense and not too much teen drama or romance.  I will definitely read the other two in the series – eventually!
  • The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman.  I really resisted reading this book  – but it was a book group pick.  I didn’t feel like reading about the romantic “travails” of a narcissistic, privileged, young white man from New York.  It turned out to be one of the best book discussions we’ve ever had, and I was totally engrossed.  Waldman is a very skilled writer and I even bought (and really liked) the follow-up novella told by Nathaniel’s friend Aurit called New Year’s.
  • A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.  Y’all have surely heard a lot about this book – it won the Man Booker Prize for 2015.  Let me just say that this book is LONG and CHALLENGING, two adjectives that do not describe books I eagerly reach for.  But it was TOTALLY WORTH IT.  I wrote about it (rather glowingly) here.89717
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.  I’m a wimp, especially when it comes to scary stuff.  I was nervous about reading this even after I’d read We Have Always Lived in the Castle and discovered that I adored Shirley Jackson.  But it had the right about of scary – turn-the-lights-up bright scary, but not I-can’t-sleep scary.  Crazy good.
  • Gulp by Mary Roach.  Nonfiction is something I enjoy, but fiction is my first love.  I kind of have to make myself pick up nonfiction, even if it’s something that sounds really interesting.  This one was a great pick for someone who doesn’t normally read nonfiction.  Funny and interesting – I learned a lot, especially about the horrendous C. Diff infection and what really killed Elvis.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.  Boxes checked off:  YA/Teen, Fantasy, Paranormal, Audiobook.  All formats I have only taken baby steps in.  This book is SO GOOD, especially as read by the brilliant Mr. Gaiman himself.  Suspenseful and genuinely moving.  After reading this one, American Gods, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I count myself among Mr. Gaiman’s many fans.
  •  Tar Baby by Toni Morrison.  I’ve written previously about how Ms. Morrison’s works intimidated me.  This is the one that got me over my (unfounded) nerves.  CROSSOVER
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  A YA novel about basketball told in free verse?  Not my usual fare.  But I’m profoundly glad I read this.  It’s about so much more than basketball.   I dare you to read it and not cry.  This is also a book that a “reluctant reader” would probably really like.
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.  Reading this captivating series has made me realize how much good contemporary fiction I’m missing that is not written in English.  So I chose this title because it awakened me to my lack of awareness of works in translation.  (BTW, I’m reading the third installment of this series right now and it continues to absolutely TRANSFIX me.)

So there’s my list.  Do you have any recommendations for the genres in which I’m a relative newbie (graphic novels, YA, audiobooks, science writing/nonfiction, scary stuff?)  How do you (or do you) make yourself read outside of your “comfort zone?”


31 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Going Against Type

  1. I loved The Graveyard Book. Actually broke into tears at the end. Like you, I don’t read a lot of YA, but if you haven’t read The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier yet, I highly recommend it. Very creepy – in a good way! I think it’s being made into a movie, which I hope does it justice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whoa! I love this list. SO much. I am a big fan of Gaiman too, and I loved ‘The Graveyard Book’, ‘Coraline’, ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, and ‘Neverwhere’. I would also love to try the audiobook of ‘The Graveyard Book’. If it was read by Gaiman himself, then it surely must have been wonderful. I am planning to read ‘American Gods’, ‘Fragile Things’, and ‘Stardust’ too this year. And, and, I love Shirley Jackson. I have just read ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’. I think I read it for Halloween. I fell in love with her. I want to read ‘The Haunting…’ too. Thank you reminding me. As I read your blog, I kept nodding, and smiling. Gaiman, Morrison, and Jackson. I haven’t tried the other book. I will add those to my TBR. Thank you for this passionate blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Deepika, for your passion for books! Neil Gaiman is a treasure. I’ve only read three of his books – American Gods, Ocean, and Graveyard – but I am going to read everything he’s written eventually! I’m glad you found some interesting titles for your TBR!

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  3. I loved Nimona and I can’t wait for the sequel because there absolutely needs to be a sequel. I bet you would like Ms Marvel. It’s a comic and Kamala is Muslim, a teenager and a superhero trying to juggle it all. Lots of fun 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Stefanie. I hope there’s a sequel to Nimona as well! I did read the first Ms. Marvel. I think I appreciated it (the fact of its existence) more than I liked it. If that makes sense! Maybe I should try the later ones?


      1. Nah, if you didn’t like the first one then don’t keep going. The characters get more developed but it still has the same flavor if that makes sense. Have you tried Brian Selznick? He does graphic novels for more of a YA crowd but the art is phenomenal and the text and the art tend to be separate, each telling part of the story but in a different way.

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  4. Ha ha! I also went from reading Judy Blume and S.E. Hinton to reading Agatha Christie and Danielle Steele. No YA for me. And everyone is jumping on the comics bandwagon! Maybe I’ll have to try it soon, but for some reason it just doesn’t appeal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Priscilla, I understand what you mean about graphic novels/comics. I think that they will never be something I really love. But I try to keep my eyes open for the ones that people I trust recommend. I did read Persepolis years ago, a graphic memoir about an Iranian girlhood, and it was excellent. (That seems like it came out well before the graphic novel explosion of today.)


  5. Ooh, I’ve been meaning to read Crossover for some time! If I’m not mistaken there’s a sort of sequel coming out too. I think I’m going to get to it once I’m done with my current crop of books! And for me expansion of comfort zone has been non-fiction–it’s been a revelation to find that there exists non-fiction that I find interesting. Makes me think same might be true for every “genre” out there.

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  6. Oo yes yes yes, I totally have recommendations! Oh God I will have to try to limit myself to just a few in each genre.

    For comics: If you liked Nimona, you could try the author’s series Lumberjanes, which skews a little younger than Nimona but is very sweet, anyway. Image Comics publishes a series called Saga that’s fantastic (but quite explicit at times! do not read on the subway!), or if you want something that’s just wonderfully fun and adventury, try The Unwritten. Fables, by Bill Willingham, is also a fun one to read — it’s about a bunch of fairy tale characters who have been driven out of their homeland by a wicked supervillain, and have come to live in New York City.

    In YA: Chime, by Franny Billingsley? If you like unreliable narrators. Maggie Stiefvater is a good bet in YA as well. Her standalone novel the Scorpio Races is much beloved by people who are not me (I thought it was just okay), and her series The Raven Cycle, of which the fourth and final book is slated to come out in April, is one of the best things in YA I can ever remember reading. Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown made me love vampire stories again.

    In scary things: If you liked Shirley Jackson, can I recommend Helen Oyeyemi? Her book White Is for Witching has that same spooky-haunted-house sort of quality that Shirley Jackson so excels at. I also read a few books by a South African horror writer, Lauren Beukes, that teetered on the edge of being too gruesome for me, but were saved by how utterly weird and great they were. Broken Monsters is the one I really liked.

    Ahem. I’ll stop. :p

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  7. So many of these books are on my TBR list – Elena Ferrante, Shirley Jackson, and The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. I’ve not been inclined to graphic novels either, but seeing how many people online love them I’ve been meaning to give it a try. I’ll definitely add Nimona to the list! And as you’ll have noticed from visiting my blog, I read a good mix of contemporary literature and YA so if you’re new to YA some of my recent posts have some good recommendations. And my big recommendation for nonfiction/writing is Big Magic – definitely worth a read if you’re interested in fostering a more creative life.
    Great post, Laila!
    – Rose

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rose! I love Elizabeth Gilbert, she’s one of my favorite human beings that I don’t know in person. 🙂 I haven’t gotten around to it yet but I’m on hold for the audio book of Big Magic at my library. I will definitely peruse your blog for YA suggestions!


  8. This summer I’m tackling my states middle grade reading program (which contains The Crossover) and I could hardly be more excited. I actually discovered The Graveyard Book while doing this program a few years ago and promptly fell in love. Great list!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yay! I was so happy when I stumbled across your blog on the Top Ten Tuesday link-up. Lately I’ve been searching for a poster with similar tastes to mine that covered a bit of an older demographic, and Big Reading Life fit the bill perfectly.

        Liked by 1 person

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