12 Books That Aren’t For Everyone…But WERE For Me!

February 21, 2017 Book Lists 39

Books That Aren't For Everyone
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) topic is Ten Books I Loved Less/More Than I Thought I Would.

Well, I’m going to spin this one…possibly so much that it doesn’t much resemble the original topic because I got inspired by a book I read last week (A Separation)

You’ll notice some running themes here…in both the “isn’t for everyone” and “was for me” categories. Namely, writing, dislikable characters, long books, and the lack of a propulsive plot.

12 Books That Aren’t For Everyone…But WERE For Me!

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Why isn’t it for everyone?
 It’s over 900 pages. It’s full of odd, fantasy / magical realism – type elements.

Why was it for me? Despite not usually buying into magical realism, Murakami made me believe in the world he created. Plus, back when I read this, chunksters didn’t scare me.

A Separation by Katie Mitamura
Why isn’t it for everyone? It’s a 100% style book. Not much happens plot-wise.

Why was it for me? That style completely worked for me. I could read the narrator’s observations about life, marriage, grief, etc all day long. Plus, she created emotional tension despite the lack of action.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (my review)
Why isn’t it for everyone? One particular story element gets super creepy and icky.

Why was it for me? By the end of the book, Greenwood had forced me to see how this situation could be more gray than I initially thought. She talked me out of my initial revulsion.

Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller (my review)
Why isn’t it for everyone? It’s a short story collection. The stories and characters are dark, depressing, and maddening in their inaction.

Why was it for me? Miller’s writing was filled with “yes, that’s exactly how it is” statements.

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch (my review)
Why isn’t it for everyone? The plot meanders and fails to explain a major element of the story. Also, the narrator is dislikable.

Why was it for me? I’m a diehard fan of Koch’s distinct writing style…particularly his social commentary.

Home Is Burning by Dan Marshall (my review)
Why isn’t it for everyone? This memoir is an emotional gut-wrencher (it’s about a father suffering from ALS)…and also chock full of crass and inappropriate humor.

Why was it for me? I love books that make me feel a range of emotions and this one made me laugh, cry, cringe, and everything in between. And, crass humor definitely doesn’t offend me.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (my review)
Why isn’t it for everyone? Plot has been called boring and nonexistent. Tess (the main character) isn’t particularly likable.

Why was it for me? The writing…especially the food writing. It’s just incredible. Plus, I lived in NYC when I was the same age as Tess (the main character) and have worked in restaurants, so I could identify with the setting.

Tender by Belinda McKeon (my review)
Why isn’t it for everyone? Parts of this story are utterly cringe-worthy and uncomfortable to read. Catherine’s (a main character) terrible decision-making makes the reader want to shake her many times.

Why was it for me? Another book that took me on an emotional roller-coaster and created extreme tension without much action. Plus, the writing.

The Dinner by Herman Koch (my review)
Why isn’t it for everyone? See Dear Mr. M. Plus, there isn’t much action in the beginning of the book.

Why was it for me? See Dear Mr. M.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (my review)
Why isn’t it for everyone? It’s looong. And, the Las Vegas section of the book is a massive departure from the rest of the story…and isn’t appealing to everyone.

Why was it for me? The writing. And that Las Vegas section introduced the character that stole the show (Boris, of course).

The Shore by Sara Taylor (my review)
Why isn’t it for everyone? It takes a lot of concentration to read…there are a gazillion family members to keep track of and the timeline jumps around randomly. Plus, the last chapter was either love it or hate it.

Why was it for me? Again, the writing. Also, the raw focus on the terrible treatment of the women in this story and the soulful setting.

The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder (my review)
Why isn’t it for everyone? Non-sports fans are put off by the apparent football premise. Plus, there’s not much of a plot.

Why was it for me? I actually am a football fan (but you don’t have to be to love this book). Also, the spot-on social commentary about all aspects of life and the darkness running just under the surface of the seemingly mundane.

What are some books that you loved, but you don’t necessarily think would appeal to lots of people? And, what books on this list worked for you too?

12 Books That Aren't For Everyone...But WERE For Me

39 Responses to “12 Books That Aren’t For Everyone…But WERE For Me!”

  1. Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    Of all the books on this list, I’ve only read The Dinner. Oooh, but stay with it because it’s good!

    Curious…when do you give up on a book? I’m almost halfway through my current book and I’m just not into it…

    • Sarah's Book Shelves

      I usually give a book 25% unless I’ve heard something like “things pick up at Part 2.” Like I stuck with Fates and Furies for that reason. Or I might push on through if the book is really short.

      I say if you’re not feeling then move on!

  2. Alicia

    I fell in love with All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. I even follow Bryn on Instagram and she sent me a signed bookplate 😀 I am always afraid to suggest it to people because it is a bit controversial. I loaned it to my sister to read and she loved it too, so we can gush and that’s good enough for me! I’ll be checking out a couple more on this list. Thanks for putting it together!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      That’s awesome! I *think* I follow her on Twitter? It’s definitely controversial..hence it’s spot on this list. And I’m glad you have someone to gush about it with. And you’re very welcome – this is the kind of stuff I find fun!

  3. Bill @ Billbrarian

    I’ve been on a young adult, graphic novel, and middle grade kick for a long time (as well as blogging about these) and it’s time to start moving back into adult fiction, which I love. These are some great choices to check into. I love your blog too, by the way! Great post!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Thank you so much! I don’t venture into the YA, middle grade, graphic novel world much, but hope your entry back into adult fiction goes well.

  4. Susie | Novel Visits

    I loved several of these: Sweetbitter, The Dinner, The Goldfinch. No surprise that A Separation definitely didn’t do it for me! The others, I never tried. It was a good spin!!

  5. Madeline

    I’ve read a number of these. 1Q84 I read quite a while ago and completely forgot how long the book was — that’s how good it was. Loved Tender (your recommendation) and Koch (although thought The Dinner better than Dear Mr. M.). Throwback Special was a surprise. But The Goldfinch absolutely sucked. She can write but otherwise that book is a complete waste.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Totally agree with your ranking of the Koch books! And thrilled you loved Tender – that’s always a risky one! And you’re not alone on The Goldfinch..hence it’s place on this list.

  6. Lauren

    Great list! Of course, I say that because I agree with many of these choices. And now Tender is pushed up the list because “cringe-worthy and uncomfortable” are my favorite jam. Thanks for the great topic.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      What a funny jam to have – love it!! And if that’s your jam, you will LOVE Tender!

      PS – noticed you didn’t put your blog link in the comment. Are you still active? I hope so 🙂

      • Lauren O'Brien

        I like it when books make me uncomfortable. Maybe being uncomfortable is my normal state so it feels like home. 🙂

        Yes, still active. Trying to be more regular about it, but…things. I’m just too lazy to fill out one more box on the form.

  7. Arianna

    I really enjoyed The Dinner, too – that was the only Koch I’ve read. I also am currently reading The Goldfinch and am about 90% through, so I stuck with that one, too, clearly! 🙂 (You’re right – Boris was worth the odd departure of Vegas).

    I have had IQ84 on my list and definitely intend to try it, because while I don’t generally enjoy magical realism, I did really love (most of) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

    I think I’m going to look further into some of the others on your list because I tend to agree with your reading judgments…so, thanks!! 🙂 I really liked this post.

  8. Eva @ The Paperback Princess

    How have we not talked about our mutual love for Herman Koch?? His social commentary is amazing – he is SO Dutch, I can barely handle it. He’s one of those authors I always wonder about – is he saying what Herman Koch thinks?

    Based on my love of his books and the fact that by the end, I really felt like The Goldfinch was totally worth it, I might have to add some of these others to my TBR!

  9. Kathy @ Kathy Reads Fiction

    I wound up putting A Separation back on the hold list at the library a nanosecond after taking it off. lol I still have All the Ugly and Wonderful Things to get to this year. It was my Book of the Month Club pick several months ago.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Haha! Glad to hear that! Just make sure you have the right expectations going in.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I’ve heard so many people (mostly real life friends) say they hated that section or the book lost them there. I get it..it was so different from the rest of the book. But, ultimately, I’m with you on the but BORIS!

  10. Greg

    I haven’t been reading as many chunksters lately although every once in a while I like to settle in with one and just have a nice, long read. 🙂 1Q84 certainly sounds interesting, and I like the idea of a dystopian set in Japan. That one’s new to me.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      1Q84 is super surreal. Felt a little like Lost in Translation…that dreamy quality.

      I used to read chunksters all the time, but have found myself so impatient lately…plus, it’s got to be like the best chunkster in the world (like A Little Life) for me to want to devote the time I could normally fit in 2 or 3 other books to only one book.

  11. Anita

    All books I didn’t read, and yes the chunkster factor is real for me. I like 400 pages or less. I find it interesting that you were able to give definite reasons that you liked and others might not. Good job!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      With you on chunksters…very real. I’m more like 350 pages or less. 320 is my ideal page count.

      Those reasons are pretty much based on chatter I hear about each book…and then my own thoughts.

      Thank you 🙂

  12. Naomi

    A Separation is sounding promising. I love books that are mostly made up of just the narrator ‘talking’ to us, with very little plot. Kind of like ‘Eileen’. And I just read another one similar called ‘Lemon’ by Cordelia Strube.

  13. Serena

    I haven’t read any of these or heard of half of them. I’ve read Murakami’s Strange Library…I think that was the title and I liked it.

  14. Donna @ OnDBookshelf

    I disliked The Goldfinch from Las Vegas on (I call that my hours of my life that I’ll never get back book!), but loved The Dinner. I have both Sweetbitter and The Shore still on my shelf to be read. I think the book that a lot of people hate, but is one of my favorites is The Nest. It’s one of my top books of 2016.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Oh funny – I didn’t realize people hated The Nest! I liked it fine, but wasn’t blown away or anything. I did put it on my summer reading list last year.

  15. Tara

    Gosh, it’s so tough for me to think of NOT enjoying some of these, like Sweetbitter, The Dinner, and Tender; I loved All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, but I can see how some readers might be put off by it. It’s so interesting how tastes/experiences can vary so widely!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      Me too! And I agree about tastes…it’s what makes books so much fun to discuss and I think why there’s room for so many of us bloggers!

  16. Emily

    Such a fun topic! I want to read 1Q84 soon. I had such mixed feelings about The Goldfinch. I loved the writing and the characters. I didn’t feel like there was enough payoff at the end – I felt underwhelmed. But as more time passes I appreciate it more, because the characters have stuck with me much longer than they normally do.

    I read a lot of very obscure books that I don’t think are for everyone – a lot of nature writing and books and birds!

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I really loved 1Q84 and it’s way out of my wheelhouse. Hope you get to it soon!

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