Happy Tuesday, friends!

I’m doing a Top Ten Tuesday post for the first time! I’ve been reading other bloggers’ lists for a long time and I’ve finally gotten my act together enough to join in the fun.

TTT is hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl and features a new prompt for a top ten list every week.

Today’s prompt:
Books I Enjoyed That Are Outside of My Comfort Zone (i.e., a genre you don’t typically read or subject matter you’re not usually drawn to)

Here are my picks!

Governess Game
Tessa Dare

I don’t read a ton of adult romance–maybe two or three novels a year. I realized a while ago that I’m still harboring a prejudice against romances with those harlequin-paperback-style photo covers. I know in my mind that there’s no actual difference, but I still only went for romances with more modern illustrated covers like The Kiss Quotient (which was amazing and very much a traditional romance).

A tweet with a Tessa Dare quote made me pull her up on my library’s website on a whim. I checked out The Governess Game, which turned out to be the second the Girl Meets Duke set, which was a little confusing. At any rate, it was marvelous and I read it in one sitting (which is so unusual for me!) I will definitely be back.

Andy Weir

I’ve never had much luck with straight-up sci-fi. Most of the sci-fi I’ve enjoyed has been a genre blend. I’ve had the most luck with YA science fiction written by women (favorites include Mirage and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe) so I was a little skeptical about picking up Andy Weir’s latest adult science fiction novel.

I’m so glad I received a copy of Artemis as a gift, though, because I never would have picked it up on my own and it was wonderful. I loved Jazz and was invested in every step of her disastrous heist on a corrupt lunar colony. The worldbuilding was so sharp and detailed (give me more economic worldbuilding!) and while I have a very low tolerance for science-dumps in books, Artemis kept me informed enough to understand what Jazz needed to accomplish.

Choose Your Own Disaster
Dana Schwartz

I never loved Choose Your Own Adventure books, so I wasn’t too excited when I learned the central conceit of Dana Schwartz’ first adult book.

(Dana Schwartz’ YA novel didn’t get much hype from what I can tell, but you might recognize her work as the hilarious writer behind the YA Dystopia and Guy in Your MFA twitter accounts.)

Schwartz, who seems a little young for a memoir, was apprently writing in the form of a quiz story book. I worried that there wouldn’t be much to the book besides the gimmick. (Dana Schwartz’ YA novel didn’t get much hype from what I can tell, but you might recognize her work as the hilarious writer behind the YA Dystopia and Guy in Your MFA twitter accounts.) I worried that there wouldn’t be much to the book besides the gimmick.

This, it turns out, was a dumb thing to be worried about, because Schwartz is way too smart and detail-oriented not to make sure every single page counts. Choose Your Own Disaster, inspired by (but not beholden to) Schwartz’ real-life experiences, was hilarious, thoughtful, sharp, and sometimes devastating.

Fun fact–Dana Schwartz wrote a story for one of my favorite September releases, It’s A Whole Spiel, an anthology of YA fiction of contemporary Jewish teen life. Her contribution is… strange, and won’t be for everyone, but I quite liked it.

From a Certain Point of View

I’m not big on novelizations of movies or even companion books to movies/TV. Mixing mediums makes the experience uneven for me.

This is especially the case for “expanded universe” novels like the vast body of work that exists in the Star Wars franchise, which can make me feel like there’s a huge barrier to fully experiencing the series.

From a Certain Point of View, though, is the one Star Wars book I was able to get through. The author lineup is impressive and so varied–writers like Glen Weldon, Sabaa Tahir, Meg Cabot, and Renee Ahdieh take very different approaches to the project, resulting in a mix of tones that completely delights me. My favorite is probably Mallory Ortberg’s “An Incident Report,” her imagining of the document sent to Empire HR after an incident of religious-inspired workplace assault by one Darth Vader.

The Power
Naomi Alderman

I’ve been burned by many speculative feminist dystopian books. I’m not a big fan of The Handmaid’s Tale, and I absolutely hated similar recent attempters like Vox and Grace and Fury.

There are probably a lot of reasons for this. Those books seem to often be poorly-written, depending on provocative premises and much-praised “timeliness” instead of strong character and story. More importantly, I fail to see much value in “oppression porn” stories that serve to let allow privileged readers to vacation for a few hours in dramatic (but always limited) oppression.

Naomi Alderman’s The Power takes a completely different approach, imagining a world where real-world power imbalances are subverted instead of exaggerated. The result is a fascinating, nuanced exploration of the ways power shapes individuals and societies.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

I’m not big on comics or graphic novels. I’ve always found them very difficult to read. I can’t seem to find a good balance between text and image; switching back and forth interrupts my reading flow, but there isn’t enough there to actually paint the picture for me. I can read prose and I can watch a movie, but graphic novels usually feel like the worst of both to me.

That said, while I probably won’t be reading more graphic novels anytime soon, I loved Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. I’m also a big fan of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, which I picked up after seeing and loving the musical based on Bechdel’s life by the same name. I’m so glad I picked them up!

Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher
and I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

I read a lot of history and a lot of historical fiction, but very little that’s in-between. When I’m reading about real history, I want to know that the facts taking root in my head are actually true. Writers novelizing the lives of real people have free reign to change details and reimagine personalities. I can roll with that in a movie, but if I’m reading a book, I want to be able to rely on the details, so I usually stick to straight-up biographies or historical fiction about completely made-up participants in real events.

That said, I did really enjoy The Kennedy Debutante, Kerri Maher’s narrative of the early adulthood of Kick Kennedy, and I Was Anastasia, Ariel Lawhon’s duel narrative of Anastasia Romanov and Ana Anderson (who famously claimed that those two women were one and the same). 

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