Books I Thought I Would Struggle With But Didn’t

Generally, I avoid picking up books which I don’t think I will enjoy.  However, that doesn’t mean I always have super high expectations for everything I read. Here is my list of books I initially thought I would struggle with but actually liked a lot.


The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

I wasn’t sure if I would like a book as ‘philosophical’ as this one but I did.  It’s still a pretty weird book and might be viewed as pretentious, but as I said in my review, it’s a very readable sort of pretentiousness.



Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

This was the first book I read by Jeffrey Eugenides.  With ‘Middlesex’ I initially thought it might be too long and tedious to hold my attention.   I had no idea that it would end up being one of the best books I would read all year.  I love it when that happens.



Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Last year, I found ‘Wolf Hall‘ to be a little bit of a slog.  However, ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ is much more focused on a shorter period of time and it was therefore much more readable.  Either that or I was just in a better frame of mind for tackling an ambitious novel than I was when I read ‘Wolf Hall’ last summer.  Sometimes it is just a case of reading the right book at the right time.

John F. Kennedy: An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek


I am sometimes a bit wary of starting giant political biographies but I found this one about JFK more readable than I thought I would. The book paints quite a sympathetic portrait of the former president and takes into account the extent of his medical problems which were kept secret at the time.  It is a conspiracy theory-free account of Kennedy’s life which focuses more on his politics than his infidelities.

Which books turned out to be pleasant surprises for you?


Filed under Books

24 responses to “Books I Thought I Would Struggle With But Didn’t

  1. I dreaded Wolf Hall, but actually really enjoyed it on audio. Same with Song of Achilles. Listening to Bring up the Bodies now. Heads are rolling…


    • I have just got hold of a copy of The Song of Achilles which is another book I think I might struggle with even though there have been lots of reviews saying you don’t need to know anything about The Iliad to enjoy it… hopefully I will be able to add it to this list once I have read it!


  2. I was worried about Gore Vidal’s Essays 1952-1992 but it is going fantastically.


  3. I thought that I was going to struggle with Naked Lunch but I loved every page of it.

    Great post by the way.


  4. Absolutely loved Middlesex! Can’t wait to check out The Marriage Plot.


  5. Loved Middlesex! Also completely struggled through Crime and Punishment but I am glad I read it!


  6. Notes From [The] Underground. I was expecting to have an intellectual response to it, but I didn’t think it’d be laugh-out-loud funny. Who knew?


  7. East of Eden – it had been many years since I’d picked up a classic and it was quite the page turner.


    • Ariel Price

      I’m definitely with you on that one. I expected East of Eden to be rough, especially because I hated Of Mice and Men in high school, but I absolutely loved it.


  8. It’s funny, I’m having trouble with Bring Up the Bodies right now. Perhaps you’re right that you have to be in the right frame of mind for a book like that.


  9. Ooh, Bring Up the Bodies. I’m still trying to psych myself up for that one. I read Wolf Hall, which I expected to struggle with, too, but ended up loving… Though I think you’re right about reading it in the right frame of mind. I read Wolf Hall during a trip to Europe, right after leaving London. So it was the prefect time for me. I still haven’t found the right moment for Bring Up the Bodies.

    The book I was most surprised about not struggling with was Anna Karenina. I mean, the size alone is pretty damn intimidating, but I promised myself I’d read the book before seeing the movie last winter. I really liked it! I forget who did the translation, it was the Oprah Book Club edition I bought years ago, but I found it quite readable.


  10. One of the reasons I enjoy belonging to book groups is that I will often find myself reading books that I would never have chosen because I expected to struggle with them, only to find that I can’t put them down. The last one was ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist.


  11. Owl_KnitYou

    I loved The Unbearable Lightness of Being – it’s weird and philosophical but a really good story at its most basic level. I am definitely checking out the other books I haven’t read – great recommendations!


  12. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell was my pleasant surprise. It took a restart, following a year-long gap, but I’m glad I came back to it. Every book deserves a second chance.


  13. I’ve been avoiding the Unbearable etc for years … you’re brave! Have similar feelings about Bring up the Bodies – its in our Book Club & I’ve been avoiding it. Will give it a try this month. Thanks for a good article.


  14. I know I have to read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides because I watched (and was in awe) of the movie The Piano Teacher, but I feel exactly the same as you did. I’m afraid I won’t like it or it’ll be too long etc. Thanks for pointing it out as a great reading, it really helps to re-consider it.


  15. I haven’t yet tackled any of these, after Wolf Hall, I just can’t, although your arguments for reading it again are compelling.


  16. Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence – it just looked so massive on my bookshelf. Yes, it is incredibly detailed, and sometimes repetitive, but actually I enjoyed it much more than I thought and read it in less than a week.


  17. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Yours is SO interesting. I will consult it as I add new books to my reading list.


  18. I couldn’t get through ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy. I tried and tried but his narrative style was just too difficult to get into.


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