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 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 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 Yanagihara
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 Nabokov
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 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?