Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About

I love book social media. Blogs, bookstagram, Twitter, the book subreddit…you name it, I’m on it and I love interacting with the different communities and seeing what everyone’s reading. Inevitably, though, each community tends to flock around the same handful of books – bookstagram’s always looking for the next trendy read and has It Books of the moment like Circe or Three Women, while /r/books tends to be more scifi/fantasy focused and has favorites like The Hitchhiker’s Guide and Master and the Margarita.

Sometimes they become a bit like echo chambers as people repeatedly recommend the same books, so I appreciate this prompt for reminding us to highlight great books that don’t get discussed as much. So below, three books I read or reread in the past year and enjoyed immensely.

In the 1920s, 9-year-old Chiyo gets sold to a geisha house. There, she is forced into servitude, receiving nothing in return until the house’s ruling hierarchy determines if she is of high enough quality to service the clientele — men who visit and pay for conversation, dance and song. After rigorous years of training, Chiyo becomes Sayuri, a geisha of incredible beauty and influence. Life is good for Sayuri, but World War II is about to disrupt the peace.

This book is so close to my heart. I read this as a teenager and it instantly became one of my favorites; then I watched the beautiful movie and fell in love even more. I don’t know what it is exactly – maybe the atmosphere of 1920s geisha life, or watching Sayuri grow up into such a formidable yet graceful figure. I reread this every so often and delight in it every time.

An award-winning, internationally acclaimed Chinese bestseller, originally banned in China but recently named one of the last decades ten most influential books there, To Live tells the epic story of one mans transformation from the spoiled son of a rich landlord to an honorable and kindhearted peasant.

To Live was my company’s book club pick one quarter. It’s a short book and after I finished, I was completely aghast by what happened to the main character Fugui – his life is nothing but a series of terrible events during the Cultural Revolution and each of his family members dies in unnatural ways over the years. And yet…despite all the heartbreak, somehow the book ends on an uplifting note. Fugui is old, alone, and penniless, but also forgiving, accepting, and at peace with his lot. You walk away with a sense of tranquility after reading this. The world can do its worst to you, but you’re still strong enough to walk out intact and a better person.

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook is a memoir by Anthony Bourdain and the follow-up to Bourdain’s bestselling Kitchen Confidential.

The whole world was in shock with Bourdain’s passing and I was no exception. I really liked Kitchen Confidential and his other books are great as well. While Medium Raw isn’t my favorite of his works (A Cook’s Tour takes that spot for me), it’s a solid collection of food-related essays and rants in the way only Anthony Bourdain could rant (the Alice Waters diatribe is epic). He’s an unexpectedly good writer who’s also full of interesting insights, and I’ll really miss never having anything new from him to read again.

What are some books you really enjoyed but don’t see much discussion about? I’d love to hear your picks.

(prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl, photo via Instagram)

2 thoughts on “Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About

  1. I enjoy a LOT of classics, so my go-to classic that I feel doesn’t get the recognition it deserves is An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott! She is deservedly well-known for Little Women, which is wonderful, but I think this particular novel should get some more love :’)

    Liked by 1 person

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