Colo. authors spurned these books and later loved them

November 4, 2014
Photo: Book Club: Jones, Heller, and Thorpe
Colorado authors Lisa Jones, Peter Heller and Helen Thorpe.

Everyone deserves a second chance, the saying goes. 

Especially since even the most open-minded readers are sometimes guilty of dismissing a particular literary work or author that doesn't grab their attention.

For this month's Book Club, award-winning Colorado authors Peter Heller, Helen Thorpe and Lisa Jones, found that taking a second look can offer great rewards. The trio discussed books or authors that proved their negative original feelings wrong. 

Heller tells us he was turned off by William Faulkner’s long-winded writing style as a teenager when he was assigned to read “Light in August” in high school.

Years later, Faulkner became one of Heller’s favorite writers after he read the southern author’s 1940 novel, “The Hamlet,” a book about the fictional Snopes family of Mississippi. Heller says this book has a lighter tone than many of Faulkner's works.

“What I realized is in every line, every paragraph, he’s just having the most fun he can as a writer," Heller says. "I just so appreciated that."

While Heller was initially turned off by Faulkner’s writing style, Thorpe initially passed on Katy Butler’s “Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death” because of the book’s topic.

“It’s on the subject of parents dying,” Thorpe says. “For me, that was what was off-putting. The subject material seemed so dark.”

But Thorpe said that Butler’s keen abilities as a story-teller ended up surpassed the book’s grim topic.

“She writes in this way that’s really dramatic and beautiful, and really captures you as a reader,” Thorpe says. “You want to know what’s going to happen in this family.”

For Jones, the first sentences in Ruth Ozeki's novel, “A Tale for the Time Being,” immediately seemed gimmicky, which was enough to earn a spot at the bottom of her book pile.

The book opens like this:

"Hi. My name is Now and I am a Time Being. Do you know what a Time Being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you."

Weeks later, Jones gave the book another shot and, after getting past the offending sentence, was enthralled with the story.

“This is such a weighty, beautiful book,” Jones says. “And it’s also really funny. I just love this book.”


Lisa Jones is the author of the memoir “Broken: A Love Story”.

Peter Heller’s latest novel, "The Painter," is just out, and he’s also the author of the best-selling novel "The Dog Stars."  

Helen Thorpe’s non-fiction books include “Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America,” and “Soldier Girls,” which was released earlier this year.

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