Watching a book get smeared all over popular culture is a bit anxiety-inducing for me. When a book has legions of adoring fans, I want to trust them. I really do. They must like it for a reason, right? It’s popular and everyone seems to love it. But will I love it? Is it too hyped? Does it deserve all the praise? Wait, did yet another person just rate it five stars on Goodreads?
Every bookworm knows this feeling. It’s anticipation, mixed with dread, but tinged with hope.
Well, here is my take on ten books that didn’t kill my hope. No, I picked these up and anticipation changed to delight, while the dread melted away. Liking a book is incredibly subjective, of course, so you may not be as in love with these. Still, if you’ve been trying to decide whether or not to pick one of them up, consider my vote “go for it!”
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien. After the first Lord of the Rings movie came out, in those golden days of yesteryear, I figured I should give Tolkien a try. I started off gently, with The Hobbit. And you know what? I loved it. Laughed at the sly humor, loved Gandalf and Bilbo, adored the creepy scenes with Gollum, and the witty banter with Smaug. “Never laugh at live dragons” is definitely a proverb to live by and I would have missed it if I’d never read this book.
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury. This was assigned reading in school. Despite that immediate strike against it, Ray Bradbury’s prose grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. In this case, the classic is definitely classic for a reason and it’s a story that has stayed with me all these years. I can’t wait to see how the new HBO adaptation looks!
The Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling. Sick of seeing the lightning scar everywhere? Don’t want one more person gushing “you should read these”? Tired of the endless fanatic fandom debates over minuscule parts of the movies? TOO BAD! *laughs maniacally* #HarryPotterForever
To be serious, aside from the awesome characterizations, driving plot, and thorough worldbuilding, these books are precious to me because they remind me that love is always stronger than fear or hatred.
The Illuminae Files, Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. This one was a case of seeing it all over bookstagram. I found it at the local library and thought, ‘why not?’ Ten hours of non-stop reading later it was 1:00 in the morning and I had finished the book. I was a converted Illuminae Files fan, and it wasn’t the lack of sleep talking.
Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo. Another bookstagram hyped choice. It had a lot to live up to, what with all the promises of impossible heists, badass thievery, amazing worldbuilding, actual darkness (not just “oooh it’s so dark” promised darkness that turns out to be angst), super complex characters, group snark for DAYS, and twisty plot twists. And it did. It fulfilled every expectation. I could have done with a bit less of Matthias’ constant whining. Like, dude, lighten up and eat a goddamn cookie. But that was his backstory/character trait so, oh well.
Carry On, Rainbow Rowell. Yep, another bookstagram rec. I heard so much about Rainbow Rowell’s ability to drag you, starry-eyed, through the heartache and stomach swoops of a budding relationship. And I’m here to confirm that she can, indeed, cause you to smile and then grimace and then go “why? Ugh, Baz! Simon, you idiot!” and then start giggling. Her characters are defined and empathetic, her magic system is unique, her humor is unforced, and I unashamedly root for Baz and Simon to have a happy ending in their next book, which I will be buying.
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins. I resisted these books until the third one was almost out. I know, SE, what were you thinking? It was a real case of hype-anxiety. And I was so wrong not to read it before. The complete opposite of right. My husband is not a bookworm, doesn’t read (like ever, he would rather build something or take something apart than sit down to read), and he read the entire first book. It was one of the proudest days of my life, when I recommended a book to him that he actually liked and read. That’s how I know these books are worth their hype.
Good Omens, Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. The news that this book was being made into a TV series, with David Tennant, came as no surprise to me. There’s never been a book more deserving of being brought to life on the silver screen. If they don’t muck it up it will be just as fantastically funny as the book, and I can’t wait. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, separately, are two of my very favorite authors. Their combination is the stuff bookworm dreams are made of.
The Terror, Dan Simmons. The mix of historical accuracy and spine-tingling terror was much too wonderful to put this book down. It definitely gave me an accidental all-nighter, two nights in a row. Even the fact that that narrative jumps around from past to present couldn’t deter me, I had to know what happened next. And then I looked up the real-life Franklin Expedition, and got creeped out all over again by how much like the book their story was. To this day experts only have guesses as to why all of those men died in the arctic ice. Why shouldn’t it have been a demon?
IT, Stephen King. The 1,000 page count put me off of this book for many years. Then the movie reboot came out and I figured I should at least give the book a try before I saw it. And I don’t know what I was so worried about. Of course King kept my attention for all 1K pages. And of course the book is way scarier than the movie (and that’s saying something, since I had my eyes covered for lots of it).