What was the most unusual (for you) book you ever read? Either because the book itself was completely from out in left field somewhere, or was a genre you never read, or was the only book available on a long flight… whatever? What (not counting school textbooks, though literature read for classes counts) was furthest outside your usual comfort zone/familiar territory?
And, did you like it? Did it stretch your boundaries? Did you shut it with a shudder the instant you were done? Did it make you think? Have nightmares? Kick off a new obsession?
The fiction I read tends to be realistic, usually about regular people, sometimes historical. I also enjoy books like the Harry Potter and His Dark Materials series. The book that stretched me the furthest from my reading “comfort zone” was JPod by Douglas Coupland. I read it for a college class on technology and society.
JPod was quite different from the sorts of books I pick up of my own free will. This fact is apparent if you just flip through the book, which is full of spam messages, stream of consciousness rants, dollar signs, gigantic Chinese characters, emails, essays, and so on. It took some getting used to.
Then there are the characters. The main character is pretty average, but no one around him shares this trait. I read the book over a year ago and can’t remember the specifics, but I believe it went something like this: his mother deals pot while his father dreams of being an actor. His brother is in with an international hitman, who turns out to be pretty cool. His coworkers are all bizarre in their own ways. Oh and Douglas Coupland himself makes an appearance and is far from endearing.
The plot is even stranger. Again, I don’t remember specifics, but about half way through I found I was no longer surprised by anything. Dead bodies, Chinese sweat shops, author interference…the chain of events seemed completely random and rather far-fetched.
However, as I began to think about the book’s format, cast of characters, and “out there” plot, I began to realize how similar it is to our modern lives. Our thoughts are constantly interrupted by the latest spam headline in our email or an instant message from a friend. We all know at least one “quirky” person, probably more. And while the average person (hopefully) doesn’t lead quite as random a life as Coupland’s characters do, they certainly aren’t as straightforward as they used to be.
I ended up really liking the book. I’ve meant to read more of Coupland’s books but haven’t gotten there yet. JPod introduced me to a genre I would not have read on my own, and I’m not scarred for life. In fact, I rather enjoyed it!