Great Books I Never Would Have Chosen

Welcome to Enji, a new blogger for EOR. She says this about her reading interests: I tend to gravitate toward fantasy, scifi, and young adult books for my light reading, any genre for those books that call for a discussion, and kids and young adult books for listening.  My TV viewing runs along the same lines, almost anything BBC, and I have a strange pacifist's fascination for the cop shows.

The thing I have come to love about being part of a book group is that it forces me to read books I wouldn't ordinarily choose.

Some of these very books, the ones I wouldn't have picked up myself, are the very ones that become my favorites of that year.  I doubt I would have noticed The Echo Maker if it hadn't been on my book group's reading list.  Sure, it explores the nature of the self, and I love that stuff, but it's set in Nebraska (nothing against Nebraska), and I wasn't too sure it sounded like a story that could be pulled off.  What I discovered is a richly layered book, full of metaphor and the meaning of life.  It contains so much more than the story of a man with the rare brain disorder called Capgras Syndrome.

Some people are helped, and some are hindered, by the knowledge that a book was chosen to be an Oprah Book Club selection.  I tend to stay away from those, so I avoided Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True. But I was blown away by this story of twins, one schizophrenic, one not, who have never known who their father was. The story of their grandfather within the story speaks to theirs, and there's a surprise twist at the end about their family history.

I had my doubts about Ahab's Wife, or, The Star-Gazer. I figured it takes a bit of hubris to write a book from the flip side of the truly great Moby Dick. It turns out, perhaps thanks to Moby Dick, I have a soft spot for sea-going novels.  While Ahab's wife Una spent a greater amount of time next to the sea and on the sea before she ever met Ahab, her sea adventures do not disappoint...and this author dares to go further than Melville with her shipwrecked sailors.  I absolutely loved Una's narration of her childhood spent on a lighthouse island.  If this book has any flaw, it's that it goes too far with something I call the Forrest Gump effect.  Una crossed paths with a few too many literary figures, and trends of the times, for my tastes...but even that did not affect my love for the book.