Top Five Tuesday: Top 5 Intimidating Books

Top FiveMost IntimidatingBookson myTBR

I’m super new to the world of book blogging, but I’ve been doing some poking around, and I’ve discovered some great recurring features hosted by book bloggers all over the internet. Top Five Tuesday, hosted by Bionic Book Worm, is a fun one: there’s a different topic each Tuesday, and bloggers make their own Top 5 lists. I love lists and I love books, so I figured I’d give it a go.

Today’s topic is intimidating books. I decided I’d pick five books from my TBR that, for various reasons, I have trouble getting myself to actually pick up and read. A book can be intimidating for so many reasons–maybe it’s super long, maybe it’s notoriously dense (I’m looking at you, Ulysses), maybe the subject matter is important but really intense. Sometimes a book is intimidating just because you’ve been staring at it for so long it starts to feel like it’s judging you (for reading that delicious new fantasy novel instead of it).

Sometimes not finishing a book feels downright incredible. I don’t have infinite time on this planet; I can’t be wasting it reading boring, mediocre, uninspiring, unentertaining books. But sometimes intimidating books are worth it. Sometimes those endless pages, those long paragraphs, those challenging ideas and complicated narratives are deeply rewarding.

I’m hoping these five books fall into that category.

Anna-KareninaAnna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

It’s 923 pages. You gotta admit that’s a lot of pages, and I have always been somewhat terrified of thick books. But I’ve got a new reading project going that I’m super excited about: slowly working my way through challenging books 20 (or 10, or 5) pages at a time. My goal is to always have a challenge book going, one that I read every day, but in tiny chunks. Anna Karenina is next up.


The-Federalist-PapersThe Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay

Yes, when I discovered Hamilton, I became obsessed. Yes, I still think Hamilton is a staggering piece of art, although I’ll be the first to admit it’s not without its problems. I spent two weeks in the spring of 2016 listening to it nonstop, and then I reread Between the World and Me. First and foremost, Hamilton inspired me toward books and art that examine race and systemic racism in America. It did not inspire me to read much about colonial history, although I did check The Federalist Papers. Two weeks later I returned it unread.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever actually read it. There are a lot more important/enjoyable books out there. But I can’t quite bring myself to take it off my TBR. So there it sits, being all potentially interesting and inevitably problematic and definitely intimidating.

A Little Life by Hanya YanagiharaA-Little-Life

I’ve heard this book talked about, debated, analyzed, scrutinized, lauded, and denounced more than just about any other novel in the past five years. People have told me I must read it, but I must be prepared to be utterly wrecked. People have told me I will love it, but it will break me. Every person who has told me to read this book has also told me how long they spent crying during and afterwards. So: eventually, I’ll read it. But 720 pages of darkness and intense, heartbreaking sadness? It’s nothing if not intimidating.


Pale Fire by Vladimir NabokovPale-Fire

I mean, half of this book is an epic poem, and I’m not even sure what the other half is. I’ve heard it’s incredible and I want to find out. But it’s not hoping to the top of my TBR





The-Emperor-of-all-MaladiesThe Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

After listening to The Gene on audio, this one is a lot less intimidating than it seemed at first. I adored The Gene, and I actually can’t wait to read this book. I’ve found audiobooks to be an incredible tool for getting through long and challenging reads, especially nonfiction. I’m forced to engage differently than I do with print books, and since I’m usually doing something with my hands, it’s a lot harder to fall asleep. Still, at over 20 hours, this one’s a commitment.


What are the top five most intimidating books on your TBR?

8 thoughts on “Top Five Tuesday: Top 5 Intimidating Books

Add yours

  1. I was trying to read Black Reconstruction by WEB DuBois from the library and somehow over Christmas I lost it. Maybe that’s a way to deal with challenging books!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Welcome to Top 5 Tuesday! Glad to have you 🙂
    A Little Life is one that I’ve considered for years but intimidates me in the same way it does you – I know it’s going to wreck me and I’m not sure I’m ready! But people have recommended it to me so many times and I know I’ll love it. I’ve been wanting more emotional reads this year so maybe it will happen soon! Great list!
    Thanks so much for participating – added you to the participants list 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! I’m glad to participate–it’s a fun prompt! Yes, I have been staring at A Little Life for ages…but I know that sometimes the best books are the most emotionally difficult, so I know one day I’ll get there. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve read two of these and I’m so glad I did, both in the last year. I recently finished Anna Karenina and I really enjoyed it. Theres so much to unpack and I thought about it for a long while after finishing it. It’s not one of my favorite books but I did enjoy it. The other one is A Little Life, and I would agree with the summary you wrote for it. It is the saddest, darkest story I have ever read, it is shocking and disturbing. But it is also so beautiful and so real. It’s a story about love as much as it is about pain if not more so. It’s about family, friendship, and about how some things in life are just unredeemable. It is so so beautiful. Just don’t read it before bedtime and make sure you’ve got something lighter to read alongside it. Trigger warning for sexual abuse and assault.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I’ve heard so many good things about A Little Life. I’m hoping that I’ll get to it this year, because even though I know it’ll be hard, it also sounds right up my alley—long saga about friendship and family and all the complicated things. I’m still working my way through AK….although the last few weeks I’ve gotten a bit distracted. But it’s nice to hear that it was worth it for you!


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