Hi! Today I want to talk about books that were three or three and a half stars for me, but for some reason, I still think about a lot.
A three star rating for me is basically a ‘neutral’ rating. I didn’t dislike it but I don’t know if I liked it, either. It was alright. A three and a half for me is a solid ‘I liked it’. But still, I didn’t ‘really like’ it, nor did I love it. Books in these two categories for me are in the dozens and hundreds. A lot of books I read end up around a 3.5. And most of the time my positive feelings for them aren’t really enough to make a lasting impression. Nothing emotionally charged me while reading them.
But for some reason, occasionally, I’ll come across one of these books that I thought was just okay, but it’ll pop into my head over and over, sometimes for years after I’ve read it. It’ll either be the characters that stick with me or the plot or some plot twist, but something, something keeps bringing me back to them. And who knows, maybe that ‘thing’ that keeps pulling me back to them will make you just absolutely love them.
And these are those books:
A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (3.5 stars) – This one is the book that inspired my post. Mostly, because I tend to purge books that I don’t really like. Unless it’s part of a series where other books were rated higher, I tend not to keep books with this rating. But every time I have this in my hand, and am contemplating getting rid of it, something, something keeps it on my shelf.
When I think about this book, it’s the narration that comes to mind. There was something almost whimsical about it, while at the same time being very pragmatic. It’s really strange. Part of me wants to reread this, another part of me remembers how much I disliked the ending, and doesn’t want to. It’s weird.
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.
Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
we are never meeting in real life by Samantha Irby (3.5 stars) – I think the reason this one has stuck with me was being of the time in my life when I read it, plus one particular part of the book I can’t get out of my head. When I read it, I picked it up on a whim at a bookstore in Connecticut. I was there visiting a friend and it was the day after Christmas we’d gone out. I just… remember that trip so clearly. I remember my mindset, I remember the time I spent with my friend that year, and this book was just dotted throughout. And the scene I remember – which I can’t really detail because spoilers – was the one scene in the book that made me laugh out loud in mortification. It was so awful but so hilarious.
Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire. With We Are Never Meeting in Real Life., “bitches gotta eat” blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette–she’s “35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something”–detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms–hang in there for the Costco loot–she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (3.5 stars) – I feel like my tie to this one is obvious, so I don’t know if it truly counts: I love the movie. I’m a huge Miyazaki fan (who isn’t) and I’ve probably seen his rendition of this story about thirty times. So when I read the book itself last year I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately I found it just alright. I didn’t much care for the difference in characterization and this is blasphemous but I prefer the movie. Sue me.
Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.
Rook by Sharon Cameron (3.5 stars) – Out of all the books on this list, Rook is probably the one I mention the most. And what’s stuck with me is both the setting and the tone. Rook was just so immersive. It’s set in regressed-Earth Paris, long after the city has fallen and people have forgotten what ‘modern’ technology even is, so they find ‘relics’ from our time – cds and art and machines – and have no idea what they are. It was just so fascinating, and I think about it a lot. The reason I didn’t love this book was the pacing. It was a bit slow for me. But man, the world was really a great one.
History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?
Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.
As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (3 stars) – This book makes me feel sad. And honestly, I listened to this on audio book, and the narration – the way the main character changed and then changed again, was just devastating to listen to, and it was the way I felt during this that’s stuck with me. Man, that narrator really knocked it out of the park.
With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?
And that’s it! Maybe this’ll become a series, who knows. I know I had to cull this list to make it smaller, so I already have material for a post number two.
If you have any books that left an impression on you, good or bad, years after reading them, do lemme know. I like books that stick.