An Ode to Books Outside My Comfort Zone

Hi friends!  Today, I want to talk about why it's worth exploring books outside of our comfort zones. This post was inspired by today's Top Ten Tuesday topic over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Did you know that one of the very best books I've read so far in 2019 is outside of my comfort zone? And that I still recommend a book from a few years ago that I never thought I'd read and enjoy? You never know what books you'll fall in love with unless you try.'

I was thinking about it and I don't often read outside of my comfort zone, so it was hard to make a list. At first, I was going to fill it with a bunch of contemporary books I love because I'm really a fantasy reader. But the thing is, I do read quite a few of those. I just find it harder to fall head over heels for them, so when I do, I highly treasure them. (In fact, just yesterday, I reviewed a fantastic book over at BroadwayWorld that releases today entitled WELL MET by Jen Deluca -- go pick it up this week!). If I have multiple books within a genre I love and treasure, then it obviously isn't outside of my comfort zone, right?

True books outside of my comfort zones are ones I don't really want to read or pick up. Ones whose genre have no interest to me. I could say that I don't normally read non-fiction, but loved books such as THE DAY THE WORLD CAME TO TOWN by Jim DeFede. But again, that's a book I would normally pick up because it was the catalyst for the Broadway musical Come From Away, and after seeing that, I wanted to know so much more about the topic. So it's a nice interest.

Instead, I want to focus on two books that I had absolutely no interest in reading. Two books so sheerly brilliant that they still haunt me. Books I recommend All. The. Time. Books I almost missed out on because they weren't my thing. To me, that is a true book that is Outside of the Comfort Zone.

The first book I want to feature is one I read at the beginning of the year. Several months later, I am still obsessing over it and recommending it to friends so that I can talk about it with somebody. I've put the author on my auto-read list for whatever he comes out with next. The book is THE 7 1/2 DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE by Stuart Turton. I received this book at the 2018 Book Expo Conference during a Speed Date with the Publicist panel. It sounded intriguing, but I grabbed moreso for my colleagues than I did myself. It sat in a pile from June until January, when I picked it up on a lark. I was just planning to skim-read the beginning, to get a taste, and I wound up hooked, unable to put it down. Why did I wait so long to read it? This book....oh, this book! It is, without a doubt, one of the most brilliant and thought-provoking books to come my way in recent years. It's reminiscent of Groundhog Day and David Levithan's EVERY DAY, and diving into this world will also make you think you've fallen into a game of Clue.

The layers that make up this plot are so intricate and complex and kept me turning pages. I can usually figure out a good chunk of the twists and turns before they happen, so I don't usually read mysteries. When I do, I tend to lean more toward psychological thrillers than I do other sub-genres of mystery, but I often get annoyed with all of the unreliable narrators coming out of the woodwork since the wild success of GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins (Psychological thrillers were also once a genre outside of my comfort zone, and while I still don't read them frequently, this is usually the style that intrigues me and is my go-to now, so it's not outside it anymore, you know what I mean?)  I'm fairly good at figuring out mystery plots early on, picking up on small clues, so I don't frequently read the genre. I thought I had this figured out less than a hundred pages in, then came up with a new theory a couple of pages later. I was constantly questioning and theorizing and completely blindsided as the book hit its climax. This is one of those books. You know the ones. The book you need to instantly talk about with other people, but can't, because nobody else has read it.

The other book I want to bring up that was far outside of my comfort zone is ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. I don't read a lot of historical fiction. When I do, it doesn't really revolve around the World War II era. This was a book that I kept hearing about. It made every single best seller's list you can think of. It won a Pulitzer -- a Pulitzer! It is a National Book Award finalist. It won the Goodreads Choice Award in its category. The New York Times Book Review listed it as one of the year's top ten books. On and on goes the list. I was trying to read all the "Best" books of the year for my yearly wrap-up and figured I'd at least read the beginning. I downloaded a free sample on my e-reader. On Christmas Eve. I got through the sample and needed more immediately. Stores were closed because it was Christmas Eve. They were closed the next day for Christmas. I wound up paying full price to buy the e-book, which is something I never do. (I also bought a physical copy last year when I saw it at the library book sale.) 

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE was impossible to put down. The writing was gorgeous and nuanced. I loved that the focus wasn't the concentration camps, but split between a smart German boy forced to become one of Hitler's Youth if he wanted to go to school and a girl escaping France during the bombings.  I liked that the focus was on aspects of WWII that we don't hear about as much and was fascinated with their experiences.

Sometimes, taking a chance on something outside your comfort zone opens you up to a whole new world. Maybe you'll start liking that thing more now that you've been exposed to it. Maybe you'll learn and grow. Maybe you would have missed out on something amazing. Not just in the world of books, but the world at large. Referring to books, of  course, these are two books that vastly impacted me and became forever favorites in their genre, and I would have missed out on something amazing if I only stuck to the tried and true.

What have been some of your best Out of Comfort Zone Moments?