Top Ten Tuesday: Books I've Read that were Outside My Comfort Zone

The great thing about books read from outside our comfort zones is that they can broaden our range of ease. Of course, they can also define the lines more firmly. I've got some of both on my list.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

Sometime around the end of high school, I decided to make a point of reading classics. Austen and Dickens proved a delight beyond words, but some authors gave me more of a challenge. Hence, about half this list. The other half is a bit more random.

1. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo). Hugo tried hard to bore me to death with about 900 of the 1200 pages, but I kept going; I had to know what happened to Valjean and Cosette and Marius.

2. For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway). I knew Hemingway would be depressing in places, but I felt like I ought to face up and read him anyway. The point of this work seemed to be that a little romance and a lot of... er, getting the earth to move... is what makes this horrific life worth living, but I'm sure Masha can point out the more worthwhile aspects of the story. :)

3. The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky). This was an intentional stretch of personal taste. I liked it, or at least I liked Alyosha, but I had a hard time making much sense of it at the time and should probably re-read it. When I later read Crime and Punishment, though, I loved that.

4. The Divine Comedy (Dante). Shakespeare excepted, I find poetry extraordinarily difficult to read, but I've loved this work enough to read it more than once.

5. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë). George finally talked me into reading it. :) That's tomorrow's review post, so I'll maintain my silence for now.

6. The Hunger Games books (Suzanne Collins). I usually prefer to avoid books that are very violent, and while I saw some good in especially the first of this series, the third in particular was a devastating read. 

7. Phyllis Whitney's books. My grandmother loved these, so I read a couple. Murder mysteries creep me out. Psychopathic murder mysteries really creep me out.

8. And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie). Along the same lines as the above murder mysteries. Possibly worse.

9. The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien). I read them after seeing the first movie, and found them occasionally dull, often wandering, and generally difficult to get through. A couple of years ago, I read them again and loved them. Some things just take time.

10. Jurassic Park and its sequel (Michael Crichton). I know so many people who have loved those books and the movies, but quite frankly, they're two of the books I'm most sorry I ever read. Horrifying. :P

What books have you read from outside your comfort zone?


  1. Hi, Jenna -

    A very intriguing list! I've never read any Hemingway or Dostoevsky (can you believe it??), but I loved Wuthering Heights.

    You're right about The Hunger Games trilogy, but I think that's part of the author's main intent in the third book - to show how devastating war is to everyone involved. I found it very thought-provoking.

    I haven't tried Lord of the Rings, though it's my husband's favorite, and I've seen the movies dozens of times with my sons!

    Great list!


    Book By Book

  2. I liked Crime and Punishment, too. And I have The Idiot on my TBR shelf. I wonder if I should give Brothers K a try also?

  3. I just reread the Brothers K after years of neglect. You should definitely have another go at it, I LOVED it the first time around and found so much more to love this time..I think Mitya is my favorite, I always want & half expect him to be found innocent, and I'm always disappointed.

    The Sun also Rises is actually more an exploration of what love would be like for a man made impotent by a wound, not "naturally" impotent, how that would affect his relationships and his masculinity. He's also defending "the lost generation" (the WWI guys), labeled as such by Gertrude Stein, who Hemingway knew in Paris. The label bothered him a lot. In book he shows his generation as being damaged by the war, but sort of in the process of renewal and rediscovery. It's a pretty awsome book overall.

    I can't really think of books outside my comfort-zone..I read Middlesex a few years ago, about a hermaphrodite who becomes a man (or a women, I can't remember) but it wasn't really impressive, I got bored. It would have been better if it hadn't tried so hard to have a message.

    In college I finally read the Narnia books, which were kind of "out of my comfort zone, because they were kid's books, and I'd never really been into kid's books, that was exciting. I have my husband to thank for wider-horizons. :)

  4. Sue, thanks! I think you're absolutely right about Collins' point in the Hunger Games books--I just think she hit her readers too hard with it. But I have friends on both sides of that argument. :)

    Trish, I think The Brothers Karamazov is worth reading if for no other reason than that so many people call it one of the greatest novels ever written. I'm not sure why, but that's probably why I ought to re-read it.

    Masha, I've never read The Sun Also Rises, but it sounds interesting. As for For Whom The Bell Tolls, I read that about ten years ago and perhaps just didn't have the maturity to comprehend some of its other themes.

    And husbands are great for broadening horizons. :)

  5. Oops, totally read your post wrong. I'm a bit flaky today apparently..ignore all that, I'll talk about For Whom the Bell Tolls another time, when I've gotten over my shame. :)

  6. I'll look forward to it. But you don't need to be ashamed. It happens to the best of us. ;)


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