Top Ten Tuesday: First for me...

I wandered over to one of my new favorite book blogs, I Swim for Oceans, and I saw that the author has a "Top Ten Tuesday" feature going on. This is what the author says about it:

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. They'd love to share their lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week they will post a new top ten list that one of our bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

So...I think it is a great idea. And, this week's Top Ten theme is:

Top Ten Books I Read That Were Out Of My Comfort Zone.

Right now, this is entirely appropriate, because today's post was going to revolve around exactly such a book. So, here goes my list...


1. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. I start with this book because it is the one I was reading last night and considered posting about today. I can't handle this book, and I haven't made it past the first few pages. Though it is obviously one of the best explorations of grief that I have ever come across (clear from the first few pages), I just can't read it. I have had so many people tell me how wonderful this book is (and they are right), but the fact is that the subject matter hits too close to home. The book explores Joan's reaction to her husband's sudden death from cardiac arrest caused by ventricular fibrillation. For those of you who know, this is what my dad survived. Unfortunately, Didion's husband did not survive, and in the first few pages I read very familiar words of scenes that I had already experienced.

The point at which I had to stop: when she described the hospital's plastic bag that contained her husband's clothing. The thing is, I have a memory associated with this same moment. When I finally went home from the hospital so that I could check on Casey, my mom gave me the clear plastic bag from the hospital that contained my dad's clothing. He was still on life support at the time, and we were all exhausted. I don't remember driving home later that evening, but I remember standing in the kitchen, Casey right next to me, as I took his clothing out of the bag. I just remembered being horrified to see his shirt ripped to shreds, the result of paramedics trying to work on him that night. I didn't know what to do with it, because I didn't know if he was going to live or die. Casey sniffed it for a long time, and I just put it back in the bag. I didn't tell my mom about it until days later, when they came home. I told her that I was going to throw it away, because it was too painful to look at and I didn't want dad to see it. So, I did. I threw it away. In fact, I didn't want anything in the house that had to do with that night. I threw away food that we ate, clothes that we wore--anything.

So, when I read Joan Didion's reaction to her husband's clothing...well, it brought back really hard memories. I didn't get much sleep last night, to say the least. That being said, if you can handle such a subject, you should read Didion's book. The writing is beautiful, and it is an important book.

2. Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy. I have already written about this book many times (such as here). This is one of the darkest novels I have ever read, yet it entranced me . Hardy forces you to confront the best and worst of yourself. Even though it was hard to read and stuck with me for a long time, I love this book.

3. Bastard Out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison. Nothing makes me angrier than child abuse (yes, I want that "judge" in Texas to be taken off the bench ASAP), and this book brutally confronts that topic. I read it in a class a few years ago, and it was one of the most uncomfortable moments in my reading life.

4. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. I don't add this to the list because it made me uncomfortable; instead, I add it because, when I picked it up, I had never read science fiction. I loved this book. The subject matter/morality at play is complex and it did make me uncomfortable at times, but the story is so engaging and fascinating that I had to continue reading!

5. Villette, by Charlotte Bronte. I am actually rereading this one at the moment. All of the Bronte books have the ability to make me feel uncomfortable (even though I love them), but this one REALLY makes me uncomfortable. I know that most people think it is Charlotte Bronte's best novel, but I actually get angry when I read it. Something about Lucy and M. Paul just makes me want to scream.

6. Keesha's House, by Helen Frost. Frost's novel is a "verse" novel. In other words, it is poetry in novel form. It is a book marketed to a young adult audience, and it is one of the most devastatingly heartbreaking and beautiful short works that I have come across. The story follows seven teens as they cope with very difficult circumstances. It is amazing. Why is it out of my comfort zone? One: I had never read a verse novel. Two: It was an assignment to read one in my young adult library services class, and my stuck up opinion at the time was that the only reason kids would check this out was because it looked short. But I totally changed my mind. This book has more depth than most books for young adults--probably because it is written in verse form. You feel the restriction of the protagonists' lives in the restriction of space and words. It is beautiful.

7. By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead, by Julie Ann Peters. Oh. My. God. This book. THIS BOOK. I love it. I was reluctant to read it, because it discusses suicide of a teenager. Having never read a novel by Peters, I didn't know what to expect. It is incredibly dark and disturbing, but it is also beautiful and has a good message. I was so impressed with it that I wrote the author--and she wrote me back! This is another book that sticks with you for ages. I also highly recommend her novel Luna, about a transgender teen.

8. The Chronology of Water, by Lydia Yuknavitch. Another book that makes you hold your breath. I came across this book in a review and immediately downloaded it. Had it not been for the review I read, however, this is not a book I would have picked up on my own. Her treatment of emotional distance, substance abuse, grief, etc. is beautifully rendered. It is not an easy read, and you find yourself needing to come up for air quite often. Her story is amazing, though.

9. House Rules: A Memoir, by Rachel Sontag. I am including so many memoirs because this is a genre that I never read until this last year--and I started with House Rules. I found a copy of this in my local bookstore. It was an old library copy, and BAM was selling it for a dollar. I had to take my dad to his jazz concert and I didn't have anything to read, so I picked this one up. I couldn't put it down. The emotional and psychological abuse portrayed in this memoir is so haunting that I had to find out more. The book has an incredible afterlife. I wrote an review here, if you are interested in more.

10. Kim, by Rudyard Kipling. I had never read this book until a seminar I took a few years ago. I had never read The Jungle Books (mainly because I don't like talking animal movies or books) and I wasn't looking forward to reading this one. I have to say, though it is a difficult read (definitely not children's lit), I fell in love with this one.

Well, there you have it! My Tuesday Top Ten. Go forth and read.


Amy said…
What an interesting list! I'm going to add these to my tbr.

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