Okay, let’s have some positivity to counter that grumpy post I made before. Time to talk about some books I expected to be awful, but which surprised me when they turned out to be flipping amazing.
Onward, to glory!
1: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Expectations: Great, a book about racism.
Reality: I was dragging my heels when it came to To Kill a Mockingbird. The little I’d heard about it sounded preachy and miserable, and the only reason I picked it up at all was because Go Set a Watchman was expected to come out soon. With a grumpy sigh, I rolled my eyes and started page one. And didn’t stop.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a beautiful, multifaceted story about a young girl growing up in Southern America, and learning how to face inequalities of all kinds. Yes, racism is a part of it, but the story doesn’t thump you over the head with its message. It’s a sweet story about lovable characters, written so perfectly you can hear Scout’s accent in every line of the text.
2: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Expectations: Oh my god this book is so slow.
Reality: When I first tried to read Dracula, I was bored. I knew next to nothing about the actual story, and gave up before I even finished reading Jonathan’s journal. Yep, the very first section of the book. Facepalm.
But when I picked it up a few years later, I was horrified at my younger self’s lack of taste. All right, it’s not an action-packed Buffy the Vampire Slayer kind of story (at least, not in the first half), but it’s a tense, eerie gothic story that kept me engaged all the way through. Definitely worth finishing!
3: World War Z by Max Brooks
Expectations: Oh goodie, another dumb zombie flick.
Reality: I know I bang on about this one a lot but seriously guys. Guys, seriously. Please read World War Z. Every zombie story I encountered before this books (including the flipping movie for this books) followed a formula I found boring the first time. But this? This is something else.
A zombie story written like a history book, Max Brooks completely broke my brain reading this. For the first time, zombies were scary. The fall of humanity was portrayed in such a way as to be completely believable, with everything from military involvement to political scuffles taken into consideration. It’s creepy, gory, and intelligent as hell. 10/10 Max Brooks, massive props to you for making me like zombies.
4: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Expectations: Ugh, this is going to be hard going.
Reality: I never used to read science fiction. I found it strangely hard to visualise, considering I come from a background of reading 99% fantasy. And when Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? showed up on my reading list for uni, I may have panicked a little. Expecting to struggle all the way through, I decided to read it first, and get it out of the way.
And I loved it. Philip K. Dick messes with your mind in the best possible way, using a story about near-apocalyptic Earth, extinct animals and psychopathic androids to make you question what it even means to be human. Could you pass a voigt-kamf test? Man, I after I finished this book, I didn’t even know anymore.
5: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Expectations: Wuthering Heights, here we go again.
Reality: After reading Emily Brontë’s master work, I went into Jane Eyre highly sceptical. Sure, this wasn’t the same sister, but come on. They were bound to be as miserable and awful as each other, right?
Wrong. Unlike Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre is a genuinely beautiful gothic love story. Jane is a wonderful character (perhaps even a little too perfect), and you desperately want her to succeed and have a happy ending. On top of that, the writing itself is beautiful–but very comfortable to read.
6: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Expectations: I never like anything popular, so it’s bound to be rubbish.
Reality: Oh my god, childhood me. You were wrong. So very, painfully wrong. In fairness, popular authors of the time included Jacquline Wilson and Michael Morpurgo, both of whom failed to enegage me. Even if Harry Potter was fantasy, its sheer popularity made me suspicious. I never liked popular stuff.
But of course, Harry Potter was actually incredible. I love those books, and they’ve stuck with me into adulthood. They’re a comfort and an inspiration, and I utterly adore them. I suppose I’m with the popular crowd after all.
So there we go, some positivity from me! Have you ever picked up a book you expected to be awful that surprised you with their brilliance? Are you shocked and appalled by my terrible taste? Let me know!