Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Intimidation Factor

Some books are just downright intimidating.  Be it size, subject matter, or something else entirely, some books are infamous for their intimidation factor while others hold their intimidation obscurely.  Size alone isn't the thing that turns my stomach cold--I've read War and Peace and loved it (read Anna Karenina in high school and loved it)--but it's definitely a factor.  1000+ pages is quite a commitment...if you are one of those persons who doesn't quit a book easily.  Of which I am one.

I'm generally intimidated by books that threaten to replace valuable, thought-provoking book reading time with dreadful amounts of long boring boringness.  Let's see if I can come up with a list [in no particular order] of 10 books that intimidate me for The Broke and The Brookish and their Top Ten Tuesday.

1. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand.  1000+ pages? Check.  Subject matter?  Not so straightforward.  People I know who have recommended it to me? None.

2. Finnegan's Wake, James Joyce.  I want to read James Joyce at some point, but I'm not so excited about the trudging and dissecting and re-reading and analyzing that I fear comes hand in hand with this one...or with Ulysses...hmmm

3. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov.  Somewhat disturbing subject matter, right?  And honestly...I'm a little worried I'll like it and feel like I shouldn't.

4. Don Quixote, Miguel De Cervantes. Again with the 1000+ pages, but this time let's add in the fact that it was written more than a couple hundred years ago--with a twist of translation on top.

5. Paradise Lost, John Milton.  Great epic poems in their original originality make my ears hear static.  I wish it weren't so, because this is on my shelf TBR.

And then let's add anything by:
6. Johann Wolfgang van Goethe...just an unknown to me--who is he? where do I start?
7. Marcel Proust.  Right.  ditto #6
8. Dante Alighieri.  See #5

9. anything paranormal teen thriller romance-ish
10. anything super sci-fi with characters having weird unpronounceable names

Whew.  Do those even count?  It was a fun exercise, I'll say.  It's made me realize that the thing that intimidates me the most is the fear that a book will be a waste of time, or will otherwise be a drudgery or downright painful.  It'll be interesting to see if that changes in a decade or so when I'm able to reclaim some of my daily allotted time which has currently been requisitioned by my kiddos.  Have you read any of these?  Any advice?


  1. Proust! That is one that should have made my list! I've read Lolita. I shouldn't have been intimidated by it!

  2. Atlas Shrugged is difficult- her philosophy best appeals to teenaged rebels (re:me, who loved it at 16) but there are literally 90 paged speeches in there. If you want to read Rand, I would stick with Anthem. It's about 120 pages, and says the same things.

    Lolita is FANTASTIC. You will like it, but Nabokov never makes what Humbert does acceptable. You never feel sorry for him. The Milton and the Dante are also worth it. I would recommend going the audiobook route with the epic poems. Hearing them spoken with all their lyricism brings out the flow, makes the action easier to follow.

    Goethe is a German romantic philosopher who is most famous for Faust, which I've not read...Proust is a modernist French novelist who wrote In Search of Lost Time- which is actually 7 (I think) novels in one. I haven't read that either! I've also not done the Wake or Don Quixote. Hmm. Book club suggestions, here I come..

    Oh, oh, if you care to jump into sci-fi, there are two that are actually amazing: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, and Dune by Frank Herbert. They're very literary and really amazing stories.

  3. I'm so glad to hear about Lolita. And the audiobook/epic poem idea is a good one, too.

    Thanks for the great input!

  4. Hoooly crap you've got some great, great books on this list. Lolita, Paradise Lost, Proust, Dante, and Goethe are among my favorites!! Don't be too intimidated, this is quality stuff. :) Great list!


  5. I've been putting off Lolita too. I want to read it but am afraid I'll get half way through and not be able to stomach anymore. It's still on my list though. I tried to read Don Quixote but to tell you the truth it made me think of "Dumb And Dumber". Someone said I didn't get the good translation, so if you find a good one let me know. I feel like a failure for not finishing it, but I wasn't enjoying it and I'm now at an age where I've decided not to waste any more time on books I don't like. I also have Proust on my shelf. I just keep dusting it...


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