5 books that exceeded my expectations (& 5 that didn’t…)

5 books that exceeded my expectations (& 5 that didn’t…)

My reading fortune comes in waves. Sometimes I feel that everything I pick up that I’d been really looking forward to turns out to be a flop. But then – there are those gems that totally take you by surprise, and end up becoming firm favourites. This post is for the books that I went into without preconceptions or expectations of brilliance and ended up loving, and those that I was so looking forward to but ended up being a disappointment.

5 books that exceeded my expectations

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

I’m wary of judging books by their titles. This is such a good title I wasn’t sure if the book would live up to it – but boy is this a stunning, intense debut about heritage, addiction and love that took me by surprise in the best way possible.

Thin Girls by Diana Clarke

Finding this was a stroke of luck – I’d never heard of the book or Diana Clarke, but one day I was browsing on Edelweiss and it caught my eye. And I’m so glad it did – this ended up being in my top 10 of 2020.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

It’s no secret that I love a good psychological thriller, and this is Ruth Ware at her best. I wasn’t sure what to expect after enjoying, but being underwhelmed by, her previous two novels – but The Lying Game really hit the spot for me.

Followers by Megan Angelo

Contrary to what this chick-lit-ified cover would suggest, this is a darkly funny and clever book about the commodificiation of our online selves. A random Netgalley pick that ended up being utterly engrossing.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

I had the excellent fortune of finding this in a Little Free Library in our neighbourhood. The reviews were mixed so I wasn’t sure what to expect – but I owned a shiny, like-new hardback copy so had nothing to lose. I loved the incisive, precise writing style and the insights into the nature of interpretation.

…and 5 books that left me disappointed

Animal by Lisa Taddeo

I loved Three Women and was psyched when I got an advanced copy of Animal – but after several failed attempts to get into the detached, caustic and pretty depraved narration, I relegated it to the DNF pile.

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Sad times that this book wasn’t all it could have been, after the utter brilliance of All The Light We Cannot See. I finished it because I didn’t want to do it a disservice by not giving it a proper chance, but whilst it definitely had its merits, it fell short for me.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

There’s a mythology around some classics that makes you feel that they’re untouchable. And this is by no means a bad book. It just wasn’t the masterpiece I was expecting.

Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler

I want to be clear that I’m not trying to join the pile-on for this book (I actually rated it 3*s, ever-so-slightly higher than the Goodreads average). I loved it at the start, the irreverent voice and sharp social commentary – until it became rambling and incoherent. But I’d still give Lauren Oyler another chance.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Having been in a non-fiction slump for a while, I decided to try one of the most revered modern thinkers. The problem I had with this book was that I was unconvinced by his central premise, and many of the anecdotes he includes to support his theory feel shoe-horned in. It was pretty forgettable for me.

Opinions my own, and I appreciate and respect that many readers may feel differently!

Have you read any of these? What’s been your biggest reading surprise?

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4 thoughts on “5 books that exceeded my expectations (& 5 that didn’t…)

  1. Hi there, the only one of these I’ve read is On Earth we’re briefly gorgeous-what a title!! And I absolutely loved this book which I read in early 2021. I found the language absolutely, breathtakingly… well, gorgeous !

    Liked by 1 person

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