Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reading the Tough Stuff

I am basically a lightweight when it comes to reading. More often than not I’ll go for and enjoy books that entertain or intrigue and whatever I learn in the process is gravy. However, I sometimes come across a book that is very difficult to read and make myself stick with it, gritting my mental teeth, until at last I find something in it that makes me stay through to the end because it simply MUST be read. 

I’ve had this experience twice in the past month, although the books were polar opposites in regards to subject matter and style. 

First up was Little Bee by Chris Cleave, the story of a Nigerian detainee, set in England, except for the back story in Nigeria. Published in 2010, it has sold millions and been a #1 New York Times Bestseller, but this isn’t why I read it. I’m a sucker for a good cover and picked it up at the Friends of the Library section at my own local library. 

This book was difficult to read on two levels for me. The hardest part was forcing myself not to “look away” through the horrors that are described both in Little Bee’s homeland and in the detention center.  However, as painful as it was, I feel I came away with something valuable and would recommend it to anyone who can deal with the deadly grim side of real life.

Secondly, I just finished reading The Rosie Project, a romantic comedy, by Graeme Simsion, published in 2013, and, according to Goodreads, a very popular novel. How can a romantic comedy be difficult read you might ask and rightly so. 

The trouble I had with this one is that the protagonist is a highly functioning sufferer of Asperger Syndrome, who would argue that this condition is actually a gift, and perhaps he’s correct. However, as the narrator, his descriptions are very dry and at times resemble a catalog rather than a novel. All of this is necessary to establish who Don Tillman, the main character, is and how he thinks but it took me about a third of the way through this one to develop any feeling at all for Don. Once I did, then I was invested enough to finish and truly enjoyed the book, but it was getting to that point that was tough. 

So, I guess the point is that if I have the temerity to pick up a book based on its cover, I should make every attempt to get involved with the story and perhaps, in the end, it will pay off.  In the process, perhaps I’ll move myself up to the middleweight division.


  1. Kathy, you are a better woman than I am. Between college, graduate school, required books in high school(some of which I did not read), reading case files, policy manuals and etc. I have read more books and such that I HAD to read to be able to make myself read anything that doesn't ring my bell pretty quickly any more. I only read things I want to read and am enjoying doing so.

    1. Thank goodness I never had to read case files or policy manuals! I am glad I stuck with it on these two novels, but believe me I've tossed a book into the donation pile in a flash many, many more times than I've endured.

  2. I've been reading multiple biographies of Charlotte Bronte after visiting her home last fall. I find bios more challenging to read in general, but I'm getting a better overall sense of who Bronte was as a person, and that makes it worth the hassle.

    1. Oh thank you for this one! When I was a kid there was a series of biographies on everyone from Lou Gehrig to Florence Nightingale and I read every single one my school library had in stock but I'm with you nowadays. I reach for a biography expecting that childhood wonder (of course they were written in totally glowing terms so that you couldn't help but admire the subject) and struggle to get through them. But I think I'd enjoy biographies of writers and will jump in with a Charlotte Bronte. Thanks for the idea.