Earlier this year, I took part in the Out of Comfort Zone Challenge hosted by Caro @ The Bookish Cheshire Cat. I was aiming for “Traveler”, so I had to read 10 books that were out of my comfort zone. (Also, please ignore that I completely forgot to add the books to the form like I should have, I suck).
ONE. HILLBILLY ELEGY, BY J.D VANCE
This one became a NETFLIX movie recently. I was looking forward to it, because it was my first time reading about this part of the United States and this group of people – “hillbillies”. I went into the book expecting to get more insight into the societal causes for the issues that this group faces so often, which include addiction and unemployement. However, it was weird to realize that there weren’t many “societal” causes to that at all? If anything, society excuses this behavior because they’re white people. I think it was interesting, nonetheless, especially because it showed me how your expectations when going into a story can shape up your experience.
TWO. THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS, BY CHLOE GONG
I am not much of a fantasy reader and I think this was my first experience with a historical fantasy. I loved what Chloe Gong did here, with the setting of Shanghai as this melting pot of cultures and it felt vivid and fascinating. I also adored Juliette as a protagonist and was surprised to see a discussion on identity and feeling torn between cultures, that is quite proeminent in YA contemporaries and that yet felt well intertwined with our setting here. The fantasy also wasn’t a *huge* element in the story, which made it easier for me to follow, and the romance had some ICONIC scenes that had me fully quaking.
THREE. ACE: WHAT ASEXUALITY REVEALS ABOUT DESIRE, SOCIETY AND THE MEANING OF SEX, BY ANGELA CHEN
While I occasionally enjoy reading non-fiction, this was my first time reading a non-fiction book that wasn’t an autobiography but more like an essay. I have an entire discussion up on my blog about this and it was a very important read for me in figuring out my own sexuality. I really appreciated how the book approached intersectionality, such as being asexual and black, being asexual and disabled, etc. While I do wish the author had touched more on aromanticism, I do understand it was not the point of the book, and I loved how she brought multiple perspectives and experiences to illustrate her points.
FOUR. BORN A CRIME, BY TREVOR NOAH
Autobiographies are not entirely out of my comfort zone, but I’d say this was the book that shocked me the most this year. As someone who reads almost exclusively YA contemporaries, I was definitely not ready for the amount of graphic violence, racism and abuse that this book dealt with. It tells the journey of Trevor Noah and his childhood in South Africa, during the last years of Apartheid, and it was very interesting getting to know more about the country, as well as being able to draw parallels between that and the reality in my country (two very different countries, but with surprising similarities nonetheless). The way Trevor talked about his relationship with his mom was my favorite aspect of the book and the one that moved me the most.
FIVE. THE SUN DOWN MOTEL, BY SIMONE ST. JAMES
I am not someone who reads adult thrillers. At all. The most I’ve read were the two cult-classic dark academia books – If We Were Villains and The Secret History – and both are quite different from the narrative we have here. The Sun Down Motel had paranormal elements that were pretty scary and that I enjoyed reading, and also a dual timeline. The feminist undertone of the book was *fantastic* and I did find the turns to be surprising, so I consider this one a success? I don’t know how to rate/review thrillers, so I’m not sure what I should be taking into consideration here, but I liked this one enough.
SIX. THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS, BY MICAH NEMEREVER
So, here’s the thing: yes, I read this book. However, I can also not tell you what it is about, neither what happened, nor my thoughts on it. Because not only I feel like this book disappeared out of my mind, but also because I have no understanding of what I read? I remember seeing reviews of people saying this was confusing, and I thought it was because of the writing style. However, I personally had no issues with the writing style of this book and found it to be very comfortable and approachable. What I didn’t understand was what I was supposed to feel and take out of this experience. The narrator is extremely unreliable, which makes the whole romance very weird to read about. Also, the ending?????? I have so many questions. If you have read this book and can explain it to me in the comments, I’d appreciate that.
SEVEN. AN ABSOLUTELY REMARKABLE THING, BY HANK GREEN
The only thought I had while reading this was: wow, this is very out of my comfort zone. The writing style, the sci-fi elements, the unlikable narrator. It was all very odd to me, but not all in a bad way. I was more invested in the actual science fiction element, as we try to figure out what is the purpose of the Carls, than in the discussion of fame that the book had. I also think that, after experiencing a pandemic, the way this book touched on the journey to radicalism in the face of the unkown was not as mindblowing as some described when this one first came out in 2018, because it feels very much like our current reality.
EIGHT. MAMA’S LAST HUG, BY FRANS DE WAAL
This was my first time ever reading a non-fiction by a scientist and I don’t think it will be the last. I found really interesting learning about the author’s perspective in defending the use of the term “animal emotions” and he provided very insightful research to support his argument. The writing was also particularly engaging and as much as I do think there was, yes, a bit of misogyny and seeing gender only as a binary which made me eyeroll at times, the book was overall very fascinating and well-written.
NINE. CHLORINE SKY, BY MAHOGANY BROWN
I am not used to reading books in verse, and I definitely felt out of place when it comes to the writing of this one. Still, I thought it was interesting how the author navigated a toxic friendship breakup, especially when what we mostly see in YA is romantic breakups. However, I found that it was a bit too short, and I would’ve liked more development at the end, especially because the protagonists’ self-discovery journey feels a bit too rushed.
TEN. THE MARY SHELLEY CLUB, BY GOLDY MOLDAVSKY
This was actually the first book I read, before I’d even signed up for the challenge, and I got it as an ARC for a blog tour. It is a horror novel, based on slasher movies, and I have to admit I was not familiar with most of them. However, I enjoyed the atmosphere and the discussions of economic disparities between the group and what that meant for their dynamic. I did find the ending to be too rushed, though, and more needed to have been explained.
I did find that, overall, the challenge was a success and I am very happy that I took part in it, as it allowed me to find out and read books that I otherwise wouldn’t have found the motivation to. That’s why I am signing up for the 2022 challenge!
I am also aiming for the Traveler badge aka to read 10 books outside of my comfort zone. Here are some of the books I am hoping to read:
BAD BLOOD. I am obsessed with the whole Theranos deal and Elizabeth Holmes – I’ve listened to The Dropout podcast and watched docummentaries, but I still have to read this one!
OUR VIOLENT ENDS. Obviously, I have to read the sequel to These Violent Ends. Ruby has raved so much about this one and I am both excited and terrified about how much it will break my heart.
DISFIGURED. I really want to read more own-voices works by disabled authors and I know this one will be about how disability is represented in fairy tales, which I think will be so fascinating.
ELATSOE. Reading more by indigenous authors is also a goal of mine and this one is a middle grade, I believe, which I hardly ever reach for.
THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL AND NEV. I don’t know much about this one, except the premise gave me Daisy Jones and the Six vibes.
PORTRAIT OF A THIEF. This one is a 2022 release that I saw being mentioned on Twitter and like everyone else, I immediately added it to my TBR cause hELLO. This cover. Ocean’s Eleven vibes? Yes sign me up.
Are you taking part in the challenge? What books would be out of your comfort zone? Also, thanks again for Caro for hosting this amazing challenge!