Have you ever looked at a book and thought, “I’m definitely not going to like this.” But then something about it made you want to try it out anyway? Whether the setting or details in the synopsis caught your attention, or maybe your bibliophilic friends convinced you to read it because of how much they adored it? Then when you finally read it, you ended up loving it to bits?
I’ll admit that this doesn’t happen to me that often—picking up and thoroughly enjoying books that I initially had little to no interest in. However, the few times that it has were with novels that ended up either becoming a favourite of mine or coming damn close to it. Today, I wanted to share five of those books with you!
05. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander is a historical fiction, romance novel and the first instalment in a lengthy series. This is a story about a young English woman named Claire who’s visiting Scotland with her husband, Frank, in 1945. He’s a historian who’s researching Scottish history. Through a number of brief plot elements, Claire eventually finds herself standing at Craigh na Dun, which is a stone circle that is a significant site for druids who practice Old Celtic rituals. While here, she examines the stones and activates magical properties in the stone, which transport her back in time to Scotland, 1744.
My introduction with Outlander happened like it did for many other folks, with the television serial on Starz. I love historical fiction and I’m also greatly interested in Celtic culture and history. After the first season ended, I was so mesmerised by the characters and the plot that I turned to the book. One of the reasons I never picked up the novel before was due to many reviewers griping about the romance and the sex, calling it out to be very smutty. Romance isn’t typically a genre that I like reading, more so if it’s basically erotica with straight couples (doesn’t appeal to me as a Queer person, and that’s how it was described). Yet, I went for it and I ended up loving it!
It’s not erotica in the least, and while there are sex scenes, they felt very natural and genuine to me. I thought they were quite tasteful and matched the ambiance of the narrative and setting/situations nicely. My full review goes over it in more detail. But suffice to say, I was definitely surprised by how much I liked this; probably one of my favourite narratives that take place (or start) in Scotland.
04. Frankenstein (Original 1818 Edition) by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein is a British science-fiction horror classic. It revolves around a man who basically becomes obsessed with death and finding a means for bringing the dead back to life via science.
I don’t like classic literature. Most of them are supremely boring and outdated and desperately need to be replaced with more modern titles to fit the evolution of humanity’s current social issues/environment/etc. That is a strong, personal opinion that I have. However, the part that intrigued me about Frankenstein, despite it being a classic, were the themes on morality and how the story is the purest essence of romanticism. I love romanticism, which is something that you don’t typically see in modern novels that much anymore, at least not like you do in this book. So, when my cousin demanded that I put aside my aversion and read this, I did. It is still one of my all-time favourite science-fiction novels to date. You can read my review here, which just so happens to be my first book review ever written as well!
03. Alice by Christine Henry
Alice is a dark fantasy, fairy tale retelling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This version is a wickedly fucked-up and horrific take on the original with elements of Gothic literature in it. I won’t give a synopsis because it’s truly one of those novels that is best experienced with little to no knowledge of anything going into it.
I am not a fan of most fairy tales. I know, blasphemy! Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of my least favourites on top of that. When I first became acquainted with BookTube, a BookTuber I’d watch frequently had mentioned how malevolent and strange this retelling was, which stirred my interest. My venture into the story was a cautious one with expectations that bordered on indifference. However, once again, I had found a new book to add to my favourites stack (review is here). Holy hell, it is twisted and severely psychological, but so gripping and marvellously written. I remember closing the book and just staring at it for a good ten to fifteen minutes because I was shook by how much I fucking relished it.
02. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Sleeping Giants is a science-fiction novel that begins with a young girl who stumbles into a giant hole one day while riding her bike; a birthday present from her ma and pa. While looking around curiously in this hole, she notices the tip of giant metal phalanges sticking out of the dirt with glowing blue lights. A ruckus is caused henceforth, and it changes the very face of humanity as the world knows it.
Hype. I fucking loathe hype. Hyped books are immensely off-putting to me. Most of the time I shall pick up a book that was hyped, but usually years after the hype has died down. There is almost always something that leaves a disappointed taste in my mouth whenever I read books that are being raved and fanhumanned about. Sleeping Giants was no bloody exception to that. Combine the chaotic obsessions with the eccentric format and structure, which is severely risky for a debut novel, I was determined to wait until the 2020s to read this series. Sit Besty wasn’t having any of it. They shoved the book into my hands (essentially) and told me to stop whining about they hype and to read it. It blew my fucking mind all the way to fucking Mars. I shall cede that this was one of those rare times where I was wrong about the hype. The whole series was bleeding brilliant, actually, just go into it with an open mind. My review for book one. My review for the series.
01. Batman: Arkham Asylum – A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean (Illustrator)
Batman: Arkham Asylum – A Serious House on Serious Earth is a superhero, psychological horror graphic novel that follows The Bat on April Fool’s Day when the inmates at the infamous Arkham Asylum detention centre have taken over, all led by the insanely brilliant, The Joker.
I honestly don’t know how to describe what this graphic novel did for me as a reader. When I first came across it at a local bookshop, I thought the illustrations were extremely discomforting and not aesthetically pleasing at all. So, I shelved it and moved right on along with my naïve self. Then I met Sir Besty and they told me that I cannot call myself a proper The Joker fan unless I read this book. Pouting and displeased, I sat down and read it. This is the finest fucking comic, and the most brilliant exploration of insanity, that I have ever read in my entire life. To say it stunned me in any and all ways possible would be a massive understatement. Most people see Batman as this hero who can do no wrong and it pisses me off sometimes because he’s not. He’s a person who is just as fucked-up as the people that he hunts down and puts away. The same thing can be said about The Joker. “He’s a clown who’s really not that smart.” Bullshit to the one-hundredth degree. This comic expresses that better than any other comic, film, or piece of media that I’ve ever encountered. Check out my (amateur) review to see why I feel this way.
Have you read any of the books mentioned here? Did you love them, hate them, or fall somewhere in between? What are some books that you never believed you’d enjoy, but found to be quite pleasant? Please, come chat with me in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!