I’m back for another Top 5 Tuesday post! Once again, this one’s hosted by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm. This week’s prompt was a bit challenging because I couldn’t think of just five books, so I whittled it down by choosing the five books that exceeded expectations and the ones I loved so much that I plan to reread them. Here they are, in no particular order:
My bar for contemporary romance isn’t even high in the first place, but WOW did this exceed expectations I didn’t know I had! It has all the romance tropes I love – enemies to lovers, witty banter, a quirky heroine and a straight-laced hero, bed-sharing, and the game motif – and it did everything right. It made me laugh, it made me sigh, it made me giddy, and it made me believe in the contemporary romance genre again. I hold any book in the genre now to this standard.
Whenever I read literary books, there’s a tiny part of me that still feels like I’m “obliged” to do it – obliged to be more understanding of it, more deferential, more patient with the author’s formal experiments and meandering prose – so that at the end of it all, I can feel proud that I’ve conquered another literary work, even if I hadn’t exactly enjoyed it.
Not so with Possession. Possession is one of those literary works that’s also a romance and a thriller – if you can imagine a thriller set in academia, with two scholars of two dead Romantic poets as the protagonists. Plus, this is also a book-within-a-book, where we have the main narrative alternating with the trail of letters and documents left behind by the dead poets that our protagonists follow in order to unravel the real nature of their relationship. This book was magical and transporting, compulsively readable, and intellectually rewarding to read.
Yes, this is the second book on this list set in the academe, and yes, I’m nuts for books set in the academe, especially if they promise dark undercurrents. This was one of those books that just hit the right notes for me – the discussion on the classics (even if I didn’t understand any of the Greek stuff), the group of brilliant misfits, the exploration of the repercussions of good and evil. This was also a startlingly insightful character study: Tartt’s characters are unlikeable and many times unsympathetic, but I was helplessly drawn into their orbit anyway, seduced, like the narrator, by the group’s air of brilliance and exclusivity. I was morbidly fascinated and invested in these characters until the bitter end, even when all their relationships with each other turned poisonous. This was another addictive page-turner that I’d recommend to anyone who’d appreciate its darkness.
Like I mentioned in my review on City of Girls, I honestly wasn’t expecting a lot from Gilbert in the first place, so I was genuinely surprised by how much I loved this one. The Signature of All Things is a historical saga spanning most of the 18th and 19th centuries, and it vividly portrays American society and the world caught in a whirlwind of change. It touches on the issues of women in science and of being an unattractive and intelligent woman; it explores the wider issues of colonialism and scientific discovery. Breathtaking in scope without sacrificing intimacy of detail, reading The Signature of All Things was a transcendent experience.
This is a very dear book. In A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth, in present-day Vancouver, discovers a lunch box with some letters and a diary written by a certain 16-year-old Nao from Japan. I was more invested in Nao’s story, to be honest, but I remember finishing this book feeling like I had a lot to think about – especially about our existence in space and time. In the story, the author had also experimented with the notion of novelistic time by introducing the idea of parallel universes. It fell a little short in execution for me, but it’s definitely still worth the read.
✨Topics for Top 5 Tuesdays this February✨
- FEBRUARY 4th – Top 5 books that weren’t what I expected
- FEBRUARY 11th – Top 5 books that exceeded my expectations
18th21st – Top 5 bookish habits
- FEBRUARY 25TH – Top 5 books that caused a major hangover
Have you read any of these books? What books have exceeded your expectations? Let me know in the comments!