I really enjoy broadening my horizons and reading books outside of my comfort zone. It doesn’t always work out, but there have definitely been a few times where I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed a book I wasn’t expecting to. Today, I thought I’d talk about some of those books. All of these books fit into categories I don’t gravitate towards or are just really different from what I usually read. I was a little bit skeptical going into each and every one of these, but I ended up really loving all of them.
How Much of These Hills is Gold by C. Pam Zhang
This my most recent read on this list. And I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much (or at all). If you’d asked me if there were any genres I didn’t read, westerns would have definitely been on that very short list. But this was for a reading experiment post (coming at the end of the year), so I buckled up and read it. As soon as I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down, and finished it in a single day.
Despite the fact that I loved this one, I don’t really think it convinced me to read more westerns. I feel like this is the exception to the rule, especially because the things I loved most about it weren’t really things I think of when I think of westerns. This was just a really unique book. However, I would be willing to give more westerns a try, particularly if they are similar to this one.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
A few years ago, I would tell people I didn’t really read romance. I occasionally read mediocre guilty pleasure rom coms. But it wasn’t really something I picked up very much at all. And, if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t admit to reading them, either (you won’t find any romances on my Goodreads from more than two years ago or so). This is the book that changed my mind about what romance novels could be.
This book is so cute and funny, but what set it apart for me is that it also has a great message. It made me much more open to picking up romance novels, but it also made me especially look for those that also have a deeper message. I’ve realized I really love romance novels that comment on real issues like sexuality or gender or race or mental health. They’re just so much easier to relate to, and this book definitely encouraged me to explore that more.
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
This is kind of a weird book on this list, because it wasn’t until I started reading this that I realized it was kind of outside of my comfort zone. The writing is just so unique and different from anything else I’ve ever read. It was also a little uncomfortable to read because of the subject matter. This book definitely has an element of magical realism, but it is a book about child abuse. Not the easiest thing to read about, especially because I am pretty sensitive to it.
That said, this is also one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It was one of those books that blends beautiful and devastating to create a story that sticks with you. It’s been over a year, and I am still thinking about this one. I’m still trying to find another book that hits the same way.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan
I have, over the years, learned that there are some subjects I don’t do well with. I’ve mentioned before that I have always had a very toxic relationship with my mother, so I tend to avoid books about mother/child relationships. At best, I struggle to identify with them, at worst it makes me feel really sad even when the book isn’t. This book is about a daughter struggling to cope after her mother’s death. Not totally out of the realm of things I might read, but this wasn’t something I would have picked up had it not been for one of the reading experiments I did last year.
But this novel was beautiful enough that I could get past the thing that is hard for me to read. It was definitely a major plot line of this story, but I think because it focused more on the daughter moving on rather than their relationship, it wasn’t as hard for me to read. I’m not rushing to pick up more books about mother/child relationships anytime soon, but this book made me think it might be worth delving into that category occasionally.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
As much as I wish I was, I’m just not into podcasts. I have absolutely nothing against them, but every time I try to listen to one, I can’t stop thinking about how I could be listening to an audiobook instead. I also don’t currently read very much YA, because I’m at a point in my life where I really don’t enjoy reading about characters that remind me of how stupid I was as a teenager. I am in my thirties, and I have absolutely zero desire to go back to sixteen. So when I read that this was a YA book that was told partly in podcast form, it just didn’t seem like it’d be my thing.
I think I picked this up for a readathon or something, but it kind of felt like a good excuse to read something I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy. I also wasn’t a huge fan of full-cast audiobooks, but I listened to other book bloggers and ended up loving the audiobook version of this. The story was fantastic, but so was the whole production of it. It was just so fun to listen to.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This book was outside of my comfort zone in two ways. Like I said, I wasn’t a huge fan of full-cast audiobooks. This is the book that changed my mind. It just has such an incredible cast, so I thought I’d try it when I read this for the second time. And it was totally worth it. But this was also very out of my comfort zone because I’m just not that into books about musicians. I’m not a music fangirl, I can count on one hand the number of concerts I’ve been to in my life, and I’ve just never been obsessed in the way I see other people get.
So even though I do really enjoy Taylor Jenkins Reid, I wasn’t convinced I’d love this book. But it was brilliant. Honestly, I don’t see myself reading more books about musicians or bands. I kind of just think I like Taylor Jenkins Reid’s characters and writing. I don’t think this is something I’m any more inclined to pick up in the future. But who knows? Never say never, right?
I think these books prove that it can be worthwhile to explore books outside your comfort zone. You might find a new favorite or learn something new. I might not have any intentions at the moment of picking up another western, but I am definitely more open to them now. Though, this does create a problem because now I have even more books I have to choose from when it comes time to pick my next read. #bookwormproblems
Do you ever read books outside your comfort zone? Do you have any that unexpectedly became favorites?