When I saw this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme I thought it would be ridiculously hard to accomplish. I couldn’t recall right away any story that I’ve had a change of heart about in recent history. A trip to my Goodreads archives proved me wrong. Turns out there’s plenty of books that over the years have grew fonder in my steely heart, or had a downfall in my mental rankings of bookish worth. Be it from age, exposure to more in the genre, or time to reflect, there’s a host of reasons a hard critic like me might be persuaded on her stance. I loved writing this post as it showed me just how much blogging has changed me as I analyze any and all reading material to death. If nothing else this post proves I can, occasionally, be wrong. 🙂
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
For a long time (nearly five years) Mockingjay has been a source of conflict for me. Prior to starting this blog and beginning to delve more deeply into my relationship with books, my reaction to any mention of The Hunger Games finale would have been a resounding “Hell, no!”. Whenever I detailed my love for the book and movie franchise, I effectively pushed the last installment out of mind. There was bad book blood between us to say the least. This is largely because I just devoured its predecessors whole, and nothing about Mockingjay inspired those good bookworm vibes in me. Now though I’m coming to realize that Suzanne Collin’s social commentary on war wasn’t bad or uninspiring, it just wasn’t what I, as a fan, wanted to see happen. Having considered a lot lately whether authors have a responsibility to their readers in regards to what they write, I can now say I was wrong with my initial rating of two stars. Because in a different life, one where Catching Fire hadn’t recently blew my mind, I believe I would have liked this conclusion quite a bit. It’s raw and emotional, focusing heavily on aspects of writing I didn’t have a huge appreciation for in my younger reading days. Do I think the trilogy would have been better served with a conclusion lighter in tone? Of course, but I can’t fault Collins craft based off my personal emotions.
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
From The Accident Season to Bone Gap anyone who’s stuck around this blog long enough knows me and magical realism have a mixed and varied relationship. And the book that started it all was Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls. At the time I picked up Suma’s much acclaimed debut I really didn’t understand what the genre consisted of; I didn’t “get” the blend of fantasy and contemporary. What I did know though was that this story was intended to move me, to affect me in a way that I would stop and think. So, like the very young reader I was, I made something out of nothing. I didn’t actually understand what any of Suma’s symbols and metaphors truly stood for, but in an effort to be thoughtful I convinced myself Imaginary influenced me in a profound way. Years later I can say pretty confidently it did not. I can also say, having more background with likewise stories, that to this day it’s doubtful I would truly interpret Suma’s work the way she intended for it to be consumed. I would like to give this one a re-read, if for nothing more than to see how my thought process has changed over the years.
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
Immediately after finishing The Spectacular Now I would have suggested an alternate title as Sutter Keely is an A-Hole. I hated it that much. Obviously this was in large part to main character Mr. Keely, a self-absorbed, generally inconsiderate, loser who frustrated me in ways I shouldn’t have felt considering he’s fictional. I gave Tim Tharp two stars for his efforts and moved along. Recently though I read a review on Goodreads that really changed my perspective on things, similar to my renewed appreciation for Mockingjay. The gist of what this aforementioned review argued was that even though Sutter would be a largely unlikable person IRL, he was incredibly fleshed out and underwent a near 180 turn in character development. And really, what more can you ask an author to do? Just like in the human world, books can be filled with personalities that make you want to run for the hills in their horribleness. Without them stories would be a largely unrealistic dreamland. It’s just that we aren’t so use to having to read from that perspective, and when we do it can come as a shock. Ultimately, this was one of those rare instances where my feelings changed for the better.
Winter’s Bone by Daniel Boone
I have zero clue how I stumbled across it, but I actually read Winter’s Bone before the award winning movie with Jennifer Lawrence was released. And when you consider that the flick was Lawrence’s break out role…it gives an idea of how far my reading tastes have come in the years since then. At the time I picked up Daniel Boone’s testament to rural Ozark life I was all about the fantasy, and thusly drawn to quick action and swoon worthy romance. Needless to say, the book at hand offered up none of that. Instead I was in for a very quiet, atmospheric read that took pride in its emphasis on character development- none of which I had the patience for then. Only later, after watching the adaptation (which is great but very different), did I decide to pick it up again. I loved it. Like head over heels, would have wrote fan letters to Boone, adored it. Everything I missed the first time around came to me in glaring detail, all creating a bookish experience that sums up why I read. Just living proof of why I need more tolerance towards rereads.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
I always enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for its meticulous historical accuracy and attention to a lesser known time and place. Some things never change and my love for historical fiction is one of them. Had I read it now though, in a time when Elizabeth Wein and Ruta Sepetys have only heightened my love for the genre, it could very well be one of my favorite books of all time. Granted the “What-If” game is a tricky one to play, as I could very well be recalling a romanticized version of the real deal. However, through Goodreads scouring and Amazon stalking, I don’t believe Lisa See’s top notch storytelling is a figment of my imagination. Other reviewers mention her attention to sensory details, or her thoroughly nuisanced portrayal of Snow Flower and Lily’s relationship- all things I now value very highly in my books. All this build up makes me excited for a time when I’m in a place to return to old favorites, and live first hand in the world I’ve already built up so strongly in my mind.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’m officially declaring The Great Gatsby a nonentity in my reading experience. It was the very first classic I ever read, and without the aid of a teacher or trusty Sparknotes I hopelessly muddled through a book known for its substance and complexity. When I tell people I’m a fan of Gatsby what I really mean is that I enjoyed swooning over Leonardo Dicaprio in the 2013 remastering. Who knows? Maybe I really did comprehend more than I give myself credit for. But when I can’t remember anything beyond the various story lines I would consider it time for a more thorough reread. My opinion of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most highly regarded work went neither up nor down, I’m now simply compelled to refrain from giving my opinion ‘till a later date. It’s nice to take a step back, to retain all the fond recollections I have in the moment of reading it, whilst knowing there’s more to come at a later date.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
I considered not featuring As I Lay Dying as my reasoning for why my feelings toward it have changed is very similar to the story I told about The Great Gatsby. However because it’s one of the best examples of this phenomenon I decided to include it. As anyone who’s ever read William Faulkner knows, his writing is confusing as all get out. Not quite old English, but definitely not the language of our modern Twilight it was near impossible for me to muddle through. Add on to that the rapidly shifting narratives and various hidden messages each lay out to decipher, and you have one confused reader. I took absolutely nothing away from this and never even watched the James Franco movie that originally prompted the read. If I read it now though I think I would at least have a fighting chance of “getting” Faulkner’s wordy prose, and as a result would really enjoy the read. After all, I love soap operas and As I Lay practically coined the term with their drama filled family saga. Look out for me to reread this one when I say I plan on checking out more classics!
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
I absolutely love The Princess Bride movie, so it’s surprising I waited as long as I did to check out the book that inspired it. However, upon my first read through William Goldman’s only novel sat with me to mixed feelings. I still enjoyed the swashbuckling adventure and romance that’s incorporated into the flick, but I was in for an unexpected surprise that significantly lowered my rating. See I always assumed director Rob Reiner took creative liberty in setting up the framework of the movie by using an old man reading to his grandson. I imagined the actual book being exactly what occured in the flick’s main storyline. Incorrect on all counts. Instead Goldman mixes the epic fantasy tale with various anecdotes from his actual life, along with quips that led me to believe I was actually reading an abridged version of a classic novel. Of course I wasn’t, and after the fact I felt unbelievably slow for not catching on that all the production was merely smoke and mirrors. Had I read the book now I don’t doubt I would greatly enjoy it, but at the time it was an equilibrium shattering experience.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
I’m a rare breed amongst the book community (really the entire industrial world) in that I’ve never read the Harry Potter series. Actually, cross that out. I read book #1 and #2 three summers ago as a result of peer pressure. I obviously wasn’t utterly transfixed under the wizarding spell of the lightning boy (or whatever fans call Harry), and never felt the need to continue. It’s hard to say what my reasoning behind this was. I’ve finished series that I had a much greater dislike towards, so it must not have been that. As far as length is concerned, the 21st century’s greatest tales (while intimidating) aren’t the longest out there. Really what I now think it comes down to is me being a hipster. If I wasn’t going to fall totally in love with these books, I might as well resign myself to pasively hating on them. Or something. Hipster logic is confusing ‘yo. Anyways I now get that while they’ll never be my favorite books, I should at least appreciate the awesome theme park its spawned. Oh and the books themselves.
Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
Despite writing several EXTREMELY successful novels, Everybody Sees the Ants remains the only A.S. King book I’ve ever read. This is largely because Ants left me confused to all get out. It’s an ode to courage and facing your demons (I think) but King threw in so many metaphors that I only loosely saw a connection between that even I question my original stance. In hindsight everything about Lucky’s narrative just seemed so haphazard and…trying to hard. However, as I mentioned earlier there’s a little hipster part of me that’s desperate to enjoy things that are desperate to be meaningful, so of course I convinced myself I enjoyed this story. I really don’t think I did. Contrary to most other books on this list I’m not so eager to return to the world presented in Ants, but I am eager and willing to give another of King’s novels a go. No time like the present, after all.
What books do you now feel differently towards? What prompted this change of heart? Let me know in the comments!
-Keep Calm and Read On