Tuesday Top Ten

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge was to choose the books that you thought you wouldn’t like and did – or those that you that you would like and didn’t.  This was a tough list for me – I try to read without expectation – and often it’s not until after I finish a book that I realize it failed to meet/exceeded expectations I didn’t even know I had!

First, five books I didn’t like as much as I thought I would:

  1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I did like this book, just not as much as I thought I would given all of the hype surrounding it.  Sometimes I think the more a book gets talked up the more likely I am to be disappointed by it…
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed – Another book that received a lot of attention (thanks to Oprah) and build-up that I found disappointing.  I wanted to hear more about the actual trail, the things she saw and the people she met.  Instead it seemed like a frustrating story about a person destined to make poor choices and shift blame onto others.
  3. Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes – Award winners are dangerous – subconsciously the expectations are high which makes it easier to be disappointed.  While the language was beautiful I was disappointed by the story and the characters.
  4. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara – This showed up on my to-read list after reading The End of Your Life Book Club and since it was number 22 of the best English language novels written in the 20th century I thought I couldn’t go wrong.  It wasn’t awful, I just didn’t understand it being in the top 100.
  5. 1776 by David McCullough – This is a wonderful book about the first year of the American Revolution, well researched and showing a seemingly unbiased account of events.  Unfortunately, I am a lover of stories and I wanted this book to tell me a story – it often felt too much like a textbook to me (although a very well researched and well written one) and I’m not a fan of most textbooks.

Now onto five books that I liked much more than I anticipated:

  1. Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I wouldn’t want to have a top ten list without this book in it somewhere!  Truthfully, I picked up this book at the bookstore and looked it over a number of times before I actually bought it.  Another holocaust book?  Nah – not today…  I never imagined the heartbreaking beauty that would be captured in those pages.
  2. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz – I went through a period during my teenage years where I read a lot of Stephen King and a lot of Dean Koontz until I was honestly bored by them.  When my husband picked this one up and encouraged me to read it I was doubtful, but I love Odd and have become a true fan of this series.
  3. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – I expected to like this book, it’s about a bookstore after all!  I didn’t expect to love it, to love the melding of technology and antiquity, to become so engaged with the quirky set of characters and their quest.
  4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – I heard a lot of wonderful things about this book which made me a bit wary.  I wonder if buzz about a book will actually start to lower my expectations??  But the buzz around this story was well deserved and as Eleanor & Park fell in love I fell in love with them.   My review is coming soon!
  5. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – I was a fan of the author’s first book, Between Shades of Gray, but admittedly was concerned about her ability to write again so masterfully about a different time and place.  If anything, I ended up being a bigger fan of Out of the Easy, and was completely engrossed by both the setting and the characters.

Appointment in Samarra

samarraAppointment in Samarra tells the story of the downfall of Julian English over the course of three short days during Christmas in 1930. Julian seems to have it all – he lives on the right street, owns a Cadillac dealership, is a member of the country club, has a beautiful wife, the right kind of friends – when he throws it all away by making a series of ridiculously awful choices (don’t throw a drink in the face of the guy who you owe $20k, don’t sleep with the mob boss’s mistress, don’t beat up a one-armed war veteran…) which cause his life to come crashing down around him, resulting in his ultimate destruction.

Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara is number 22 on Modern Library’s top 100 list of the best English speaking novels written in the 20th century.  Personally, I don’t understand why.  In spite of complete chapters that are dedicated to the background of secondary and even tertiary characters there is no explanation for Julian’s actions – was he always such a self-centered jerk?  If so, then why do I care if his life is falling apart?  If not, then what the heck happened to turn him into one?!   The story takes place in a small town in Pennsylvania in the middle of prohibition and the depression, but you wouldn’t know it, everyone is hanging out at the country club and getting drunk and acting like idiots.  Perhaps that shows a truer picture of society during that time as “new money” was coming into play and “old money” was going away, and I know that it stretched the limits for how sex was addressed in novels at that time, but I honestly found it all a little repetitive, adolescent, and boring.  Oh well, at least I tried…

Title: Appointment in Samarra
Author: John O’Hara
Genre: Fiction, Classic
Publication: Originally published in 1934