Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Treasures Hidden In The Stacks

A fun question has come up in the comments of a previous post. Me and Jean Pierre have been talking about discovering those magical books that you weren't prepared for and give you the surprise of a lifetime....the ones that stick with you...the ones that become favorites when you weren't expecting much at all. Here's how the question went:

Jean Pierre:

just randomly discovering one of those great books must be one of THE BEST experiences in the world!!

which books have you discovered like that?

My Response:

Two of my favorite books were discovered like that actually JP. The first was Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I had never read any Card before, but had heard of the title "Ender's Game" mentioned as a Sci-fi classic, so I bought it. I was hooked by the end and he's now my favorite author. I'll never forget that book.

The second is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I had read Gaiman before. I read Good Omens about 10 years ago, but wasn't a huge Gaiman fan from just that one. American Gods sounded like a cool premise, but I was absolutely blown away when I actually read it. Had no idea how amazing that book would be.

This year, I've had a couple of reads that have been somewhat like that such as George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux, and John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things.

How about you?!

So there's my question to all of you if you have an answer...are there any books that you ever picked up off the shelf, not expecting anything more than a normal read and ended up with one of your favorite books?


Too Hotty said...

Is it too overdone to say I discovered Harry Potter like this? My mom handed me the first book about 10 years ago and said her friend recommended it. I took one look at it and thought "What the hell is this? Is he on a broom? Is this about magic? Oh, please. Thanks but no thanks."

The other one that springs to mind is Coraline, which was my first Neil Gaiman book. I thought it would be lame, but I liked the cover. The copy I bought that day fell apart from being read so many times.

DesLily said...

I was totally captured by Cornelia Funke's Inkheart series! I can't get it out of my mind!

Chris said...

LOL, not at all Scott...I actually discovered Harry Potter like this as well. A friend of mine was reading it, so I decided to pick it up as well not expecting much, but really enjoyed it! And look at the chaos it turned into...I can definitely see Coraline being one of those books if it's your first Gaiman...very cool.

Deslily, That makes me excited! I have Inkheart sitting on my shelf right now, but I have no idea when I'll get to it with all the challenge books I have lined up. Maybe I have a gem waiting for me ;)

Carl V. said...

Most definitely. Neverwhere is certainly one of the first that I remember reading as an adult.

Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo did that too me. And though I should have suspected it, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane did as well.

Though it had gotten some buzz, I didn't expect myself to be so caught up and transported by either Time Traveler's Wife or The Thirteenth Tale, but boy was I ever lost in those.

The Book of Flying by Keith Miller was a gift given a few years ago that blew me away. I haven't reviewed it because of a few controversial things in it, but I'm planning to read it again and do so as it was one of those books that stayed with me for days. Not sure if I would call it "magical" as much as it was heavy and melancholic and I really enjoyed it.

The Knight and The Wizard by Gene Wolfe were magical. I hadn't read any Wolfe and just picked the first one up from the library on a whim and was literally transported. I was swimming in these pages for days and they are among my favorite stories.

I picked up the Conan books by Robert Howard a couple of years ago after reading some of the comics not expecting much and was also blown away by his writing. These are so well done.

And I agree with you both, it IS one of the the best experiences in the world to happen upon these books. Thus far I am experiencing that with Glass Books of the Dream Eaters and hope that I will still feel this way when it ends...I suspect that I have nothing to worry about.

Chris said...

Carl, Gaiman seems to be a theme for this question! Though that's expected. It must make you happy to think of how many people have discovered him through the Once Upon a Time challenge. I hope that some of those people got this same type of experience through the challenge. Neverwhere was definitely that sort of book for me too even though I knew how wonderful of an author he was when I read that book...I read that one right after American Gods, but it still surprised me! I don't think that Neil will ever cease to amaze me with his writing...lets hope for a big rebound from Interworld!

Tale of Despereaux was SUCH a pleasant surprise. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and hadn't even heard of her. I just loved the title, so I chose it as one of my Newbery Challenge reads. I've become a big fan of hers now, and am really looking forward to Edward Tulane thanks to your recommendation.

Of course I was blown away by the Time Traveler's Wife. I was prepared by everyone's recommendation, but it still exceeded my expectations and I have The Thirteenth Tale lined up for the RIP Challenge...have a feeling I'm in for a treat there.

I haven't heard of The Book of Flying or Keith Miller...I'll have to research that one. Controversial, heavy, and melancholic always appeal to me ;)

I really have to get to The Knight/The Wizard. I've heard so many people talk about them. One of these days.

Have you seen this new Alan Campbell book that Subterranean is publishing called Lye Street? It sounds great and has a Dave McKean cover that is amazing! It's a prequel to another book that sounds really good that's available now through any bookstore called Scar Night. I think I'm going to check that one out. Ooooh, and Subterranean is publishing a new edition of Coraline!!

DesLily said...

I know now how you like "good story telling".. so I know you will like Inkheart!

Yeah Harry Potter was like that for me too.. my brother told me to read it, this was after 3 books were out.. I had a long dry spell of not reading for many reasons, but I did start to read Harry, and I think I can say he pulled me back into reading.. thanks Harry!

Chris said...

I can't wait to get to Inkheart now! I think Harry pulled many people back into reading...both children and adults!

Kim said...

The Time Traveler's Wife, The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell), and Kushiel's Dart (Jacqueline Carey) were books like this for me. Both ended up in my hands because my sister said "Read these."

Also on the list are the books of the Black Jewels Trilogy (Anne Bishop) and Daughter of the Forest (Juliette Marillier). These were books I just picked up because I needed something to read on a plane, and was completely entranced by.

cj said...

Well, off the top of my head, the very first book I can remember reading and falling absolutely in love with was...

To Kill A Mockingbird.

Man, I'm boring, aren't I?

This year, I'd have to put Sinner by Sharon Carter Rogers and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Sinner was simply a complete surprise that I fell in love with and The Road was stunning, which I didn't expect. The descriptions I'd read of it made it sound so depressing. It was, yet in a strange way, it wasn't.

Love it when things like that happen.


Chris said...

Kim, I haven't heard of The Sparrow...I'll have to check that one out. I HAVE heard of the Kushiel series from quite a few people and I've been meaning to get around to it for awhile now. I hear nothing but good stuff about it and I'm going to have to make it a must read now that I know it's so high on your list ;)

Ooh, and I just did a quick Amazon search for The Sparrow and it sounds quite good! I've put that one on the wish list as well!

Maybe this question was a bad if I don't have enough books already!

CJ, This is quite embarassing, but do you know that I've never read To Kill a Mockingbird! The next time I get myself into a Classics Challenge or if the Southern Reading Challenge comes around again, I promise I'll read it! I don't think that's boring at all. There's a reason why the book is considered a classic I'm sure and a reason why it's so loved.

I really want to read The Road and it's because of your review. Every time I go to the bookstore, it's in my hands, but I haven't walked out with it yet...I'm sure I will very soon. I tend to like books that are sort of depressing, so I'm sure that I'll be a fan of The Road. A little Melancholy goes a long way for me!

Bookfool said...

You know, I think Ender's Game was a random choice for me, too. I don't think I'd heard of it; I think I just happened across it while browsing and was totally blown away. That's probably true of a lot of my earlier reads - less so in recent years, since hanging out with other book nuts.

Dark Orpheus said...

I'm with you on George R.R. Martin. I first picked up A Game of Thrones because I was supposed to be studying for an exam but I didn't want to study. Wanted some distraction. It ended up as a series I've followed for many years.

Then there's The End of the Affair - which made me a Graham Greene fan for life.

Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies and Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall On Your Knees - authors that put Canada on my reading map.

To Kill a Mockingbird - it was assigned to me in my schooldays to help improve our English reading skills. I read it when I was 14 and I loved it. I re-read when I was 30, and I still love it. I will go to my grave loving this book.

Chris said...

Bookfool, After knowing you for 6 months I had no idea you were an Ender's Game fan!! I'm so glad to hear that :D

Dark Orpheus, I'm so excited about Song of Ice and Fire since I'm just starting it...I feel like I have this whole world still ahead of me! Loved Game of Thrones...can't wait for the rest.

I haven't heard of anything else you mentioned except of course of To Kill a Mockingbird. I have a whole lot now to add to my reading list! You know, I think I'm just going to go ahead and read To Kill a Mockingbird soon rather than wait for a new challenge to come around. I've put that one off for way to long and I really should read it!

Fence said...

Seconding Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow. I had no idea what to expect with that book, a random purchase, and it was excellent.

Anything by Guy Gavriel Kay I love, but especially The Lions of Al-Rassan. I really must reread it soon.

And Mary Gentle's Ash. I picked it up because I thought the premise sounded interesting. Female mercenary captain in medieval Europe. Only with a teeny tiny bit of magic in it. That grows. And I loved it. One of my favourite books ever. I

Stormfilled said...

the Time Traveller's Wife - again! I rejected it as a book choice several times because it had been Richard and Judy-ed, but our school librarian insisted that I take it with my stack of summer reading last year. And luckily, staff don't get over due reminders ;)

And Lightning, by Dean Koontz. I picked this up when I was eleven, and was suddenly and happily catapulted into the world of adult horror fiction. I haven't left it!

jean pierre said...

i can very much imagine card having that effect - i hadn't heard of him and was very pleasantly surprised by how accomplished, intelligent and assured his writing was!

"american gods" is great, isn't it. that book just sucks you in! thats easily the best reading experience i've had for about a year. for me it'd been sitting on my shelf, waiting as reward, my "rainy day" book, my "banker". i can just imagine it must've blown you away if you read it without any expectations!!

carl, similarly i can imagine that happening with "neverwhere". i'd known of it and had looked forward to it for a while before reading it - so i got what i expected. but to read that without any expectations!! oh my, that would've been amazing!

gaiman is so good and drawing you into his little world and that makes a first time experience with him all the better! i just love love love the way i feel so safe with him when i read his books. i feel like i'm sitting softly in the palm of his hand.

the two books that i discovered in this way i actually read right after each other! i was so lucky!

they were "ubik" and "i am legend". "ubik" my wife bought for me as a christmas present. i'd said that i wanted to read some philip k. dick, so should bought me that. but the funny thing is that i wasn't impressed at all when i saw the book. there were loads of dick books i'd heard of and was excited to read and so wasn't too inspired to read "ubik". plus, the cover wasn't very nice - i am sooo fussy!

and then, i just absolutely and truly blew my mind! that surprise was the most wonderful experience.

then i picked up "i am legend". i was browsing a 2nd hand bookstore and picked it up 'cause the cover looked fun and dramatic. i'd never heard of the book in my life.

and again, it too just blew my mind! i thought, "why have i never heard about this!?"

Nymeth said...

What an interesting question :)

I actually discovered quite a few of my favourite books like that. One example is "Fire and Hemlock" by Diana Wynne Jones. I'd read "Howl's Moving Castle" and I liked it, but I wasn't prepared to be completely blown away by this book. I found in the bargain bin of a big bookstore for something like 3 euros (along with some more of her books), and I bought it just because I'd been meaning to read more of her work. I had no idea what I was in for.

Something similar happened with "Middlesex". This was some 5 years ago, not long after it'd been published, and before it became as popular as it is now. I found it at the local supermarket (!!), in English, and I just liked the cover and the plot summary. I had NO idea what to expect. Little did I know I was about to read what remains to this day the most beautiful book I've read in my life.

Chris, you should read "To Kill a Mockingbird" soon! It really is one of those classics that live up to their fame.

Carl V. said...

I am Legend was great. I had seen the old Vincent Price film based on the story (Last Man on Earth) and was curious about the story. I was pleased with how enjoyable it was.

I haven't seen that Alan Campbell book, Chris, but I'll be looking at it.

The John Scalzi sci fi books were also that way. Someone had reviewed his first and given it a good, but not great, rating but it sounded interesting to me so I picked it up. I personally was blown away by the trilogy and it reminded me why I love sci fi so much.

Chris said...

Fence, OK, so The Sparrow is now getting bumped up in the TBR pile ;) This really was a dangerous question! I haven't heard of the other two that you mentioned either...I'll have to check the both of them out. Ash sounds fascinating!

Stormfilled, I agree with you 100% on The Time Traveler's Wife. That book will never leave me. Easily the best book I've read this year. I really can't wait until her next book is published.

I still haven't read any Koontz! I have one of his books...Whispers on my list of books to read for the RIP Challenge this year, so I'm looking forward to that. I'm a big fan of horror fiction

JP, Card is really a one of a kind author for me. I've never found another author that capture his level of depth when it comes to characters. I fall in love with his characters and become so attached to them and his story telling is amazing. His books never disappoint. I've literally never been disappointed by a book of his.

I know what you mean about feeling safe with's true. Much the same as Card, I'll always like what Gaiman writes. Even Interworld, while I don't think it was up to his normal caliber, I still really enjoyed the story.

Philip K. Dick...I've got to give that guy another try. I read Valis and couldn't get past 70 pages...but that was just one book.

Nymeth, I've been wanting to read some Diana Wynne Jones...I think I'll start with Fire and Hemlock since that's your favorite :)

I'm going to go ahead and read To Kill a Mockingbird too..I really need to read that one. I've always wanted to, why put it off any longer!

Middlesex..I've been hearing so much about that book lately for some reason and it sounds like such a cool idea for a book from what I've read of it. I keep seeing it in the bookstore and always consider buying it...I'll do it soon!

Carl...I bought the Campbell book AND Coraline from SubPress last night :/ I've been a bad bad boy! I need to read some Scalzi soon to! I feel like I owe it to you!

Becky said...

Well, the obvious answer for me would be Ender's Game. It was required reading for a course. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it at all. I hadn't read much (if any) science fiction. And I'd never heard of Orson Scott Card. But I loved it. I really loved it. And it set off an incredibly long-lasting obsession with all things Card.

But there have been other books along the way as well. For example, I read The Lightning Thief in galley (ARC) form. The cover was as bad and as bland as could be. And it was again an author I'd never heard of...Rick Riordan. (This was his first young adult book.) But I loved it. It was pure magic. I read it three times in one year. I passed it on to my mom to read. And again to my best friend. It was just something I had to share with everyone.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer is another one. I had never really even considered for one moment that I was capable of loving a vampire novel. But at the recommendation of a friend, I gave it a try...and ended up reading a 500+ page novel in one night.

That's why I love reading. I love to be surprised. I love to find new authors and new genres and just be swept away.

Chris said...

Becky, I definitely share your love of all things Card ;) The Lightning Thief and Twilight both sound great! I love the occasional vampire novel. They tend to be fun reads and every now and then you get one that's actually a really great, solid book. I love discovering new authors as well. It's fun discovering them at the beginning of their careers and following them along, though it's also fun discovering authors like Card who have a treasure trove of novels available...unfortunately, I'm about out of new Card novels...thankfully he's still writing :D

Quixotic said...

There are some fascinating replies to this one!

In the murky waters of years long past, I "accidentally" discovered London Fields by Martin Amis, fell in love and read it till I was almost sick of it.

More recently, The Time Traveller's Wife was a great discovery for me. Like Stormfilled I initially resisted it because of the Richard and Judy factor (and the same goes for another book read more recently - The Memory Keeper's Daughter). I'm glad I caved.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly - this one kept whispering to me from the stacks in, of all places, the cash and carry. I'm glad I listened.

Back in the distant past again - Stephen King's IT and others by the same author. Like Stormfilled, I fell into the awesome world of adult horror, and I'm still happily exploring.

As for Neil Gaiman...well, a long time ago I went to boarding school, and there I read someone's copies of the Sandman comics. Years later I revisited them, and didn't look back.

Chris said...

Quix, I'll definitely have to check out London Fields! I've been wanting to read the Memory Keeper's Daughter as well..glad to hear you liked it...I know it's worth a read now ;)

I felt the same about Book of Lost Things. I really didn't even know what it was about when I picked it up, but I loved it! One of my favorite books of the year.

I'm a big Stephen King fan too. I've read Lisey's Story and Cell this year, and they've both been favorite of the year so far as well. Great answers Quix ;)

Jeff S. said...

Well I had to read The Hobbit as a school assignment in the 7th grade and it launched me into a life long love of reading fanatsy books. After many years of fantasy reading then with less and less pleasure in them I discovered A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin 3 years ago and my love of sowrd and sorcery fantasy was rekindled.

Other books that surprised me: Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey N. and Stardust by Neil Gaiman. They were love stories that really gripped me.

Chris said...

Jeff, same here with A Game of Thrones...I was blown away by that book this year and I'm looking forward to A Clash of Kings later this year for the Seconds Challenge :) Is there a publication date for the next book in the series? I'd like to be caught up by the time it comes out but I don't know if that's possible.

I would've included Time Traveler's Wife here too, but all of you guys prepared me for that one by telling me how remarkable of a book it was...yet it was still better than I expected.