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.

Kundera

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

 

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.

 

IMG_1727

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

JFK

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?

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24 Comments

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…

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    • 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!

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

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

    Great post by the way.

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

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

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  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?

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

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    • 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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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!

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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

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  18. Jesse

    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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