Too Intimidating? A Top Ten List

I am on vacation this week in Telluride, so nothing particularly fancy about this list. These are the books that intimidate me, which naturally means I gravitate towards them. I like books that challenge or discomfort me, it makes for more interesting reading.

Future in Books
Why is this vintage library ad here? Aside from being awesome, I strongly suspect these ten books are in my future.

As always, in no particular order (except no. 1 is really no. 1):

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The pressure I’m facing to love this is intense. My contrary nature usually prevents me from doing so; therefore I am waiting for my mind to be completely clear before I start reading (and until I need a good cry, because I’ve been assured that I will cry).

9. Drood by Dan Simmons. So much potential. With so much potential to be disappointing.

8. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I don’t think anything could surpass the miniseries, but I am willing to give this a try…eventually. That scene at the end when Richard Armitage is so surprised she stayed melts my heart every single time. I would be crushed if that were not in the novel.

7. King Rat, Tai Pan, and Shogun by James Clavell. I own these. The lengthy volumes sit on my shelf and mock me. They’re also supposed to be really good. I want to read and love these, I’m just too nervous to get started (and there’s a certain amount of time constraint).

6. Maldoror and Poems by Comte de Lautréamont. How odd can it be? Apparently very, very odd…

5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I can’t be the only one who feels that Dickens was prone to rambling. However, I am intrigued by this one.

4. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Because I feel like I should. But I also feel like I’m old enough to read for pleasure and the Russians generally don’t do it for me. My mind’s quite bleak enough without their influence.

3. The Passage by Justin Cronin. Simply the size and the fact that the sequel is already out makes me feel a bit overwhelmed. Owned and unread.

2. Cakes and Ale: or, the Skeleton in the Cupboard by W. Somerset Maugham. Where one of my favorite British authors mocks another of my favorite British authors… I’m generally not fond of personal mockery, I find it mean – don’t make me hate you W. Somerset Maugham.

1. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. I’ve wanted to read this since I read a review that suggested a celebrity death match between this tome and Infinite Jest. To see the review, go here, it’s good fun.

So what intimidates you? Faulkner? Joyce? Or, like me, does the sheer length of Dickens make you shudder?


51 thoughts on “Too Intimidating? A Top Ten List

  1. I totally forgot about Faulkner (I think I’ve tried to completely eliminate him from my memory), but Joyce made my list.

    I started following you on Instagram- Telluride in the summer actually looks better than in the winter!


    1. I don’t hate Faulkner – mostly.

      I’ve never been to Telluride in the winter, there are so many closer ski areas that I enjoy. Plus, the drive to Telluride is awful (minimum 7 hours). Except for the isolation, I’d recommend it!


  2. I recently re-read North & South, lol (and re-watched the last scene in the adaptation <333). Having read the adaptation first, it's hard to read Thornton's sections and not hear Richard Armitage speaking his lines 😉

    Ooh, I can only imagine re: The Book Thief. I was pretty moved by the novel (okay, the eyes got teary, lol) and I lent it to my brother for an assignment and he liked it too.

    lol, you know, I think Victor Hugo takes the cake over Charles Dickens when it comes to rambling/going off on tangents (I’m slowly going through Notre Dame du Paris and it’s on-and-off with the tangents; one reason why I’m staying away from Les Mis for now). Or at least tie with Dickens for that prize 😉

    Despite reading some Dostoevsky, he’s certainly not an easy one to get through; I need to re-read all of his stuff one of these days to really understand all of the themes (definitely not for pleasure! lol)…

    My TTT


    1. I think any novel could be improved with Richard Armitage narrating. North and South is one of those novels I want to really love.

      I’ve tried Victor Hugo once and he’s just as bad, if not worse, than Dickens.

      And Dostoevsky (and Tolstoy), I am sincerely curious if it was actually any fun to write any of their books. Some of the writing process should be enjoyable…


      1. I think Tolstoy might’ve had some fun with it. Dostoevsky on the other hand…

        I’m surprised he hasn’t narrated the North and South audiobook–or has he? I’ve been meaning to track down some of the titles he’s narrated. I’ve never tried audiobooks but if I were to, I might as well go for the really good narrations 😉


    1. When I ever get the courage (and time) to read it, I suspect I will really like it. Apparently the filming just began on the movie adaptation, so sooner rather than later would be best.


  3. Well you know my feelings about The Book Thief….

    I haven’t read Bleak House and probably never will – my husband read it some time ago. It took him a year. It sat next to our bed for TWELVE MONTHS… I kept saying “Just finish that book! I’m sick of looking at it!” Twas a very bleak house indeed.


    1. I don’t know if I’ll ever read The Bleak House. Maybe. Someday. When all the other good books have been read. I applaud your husband though, that’s determination.


    1. The Book Thief is nearly universally loved, I suspect I will like it too. I think I only know of two people who didn’t think it was great. I own it, I just need to get around to reading it!


    1. I find both can be a little difficult to follow. Faulkner especially was fond of very convoluted, long sentences that no human would ever use (probably). Being as they are both ‘important’, I do try and read and appreciate their work. Sometimes I’m even successful.

      Glad to see your surviving the flood!


    1. I don’t think the last half of Great Expectations is forgivable. Or any of Barnaby Rudge. Or anything aside from the visual in the 1998 Great Expectations adaptation (which is what made me read the novel, only to realize they have essentially nothing to do with one another).

      So, apparently I hate Charles Dickens – though I didn’t loathe Nicholas Nickelby (those three represent the entirety of my Dickens reading).

      Someone needs to pay me by the word, my life would be very, very different and I’d have a valuable excuse for being wordy.


      1. If a picture paints a thousand words, one wonders why Dickens didn’t just make drawings.

        So much less labour intensive.


      2. Yeah but serialised, so he wouldn’t have to churn too many out.

        Also, if he’d added captions that would’ve helped towards the total.


      3. You know, the odds of my reading something like that are significantly higher than the odds of my reading the novel version. This is assuming Dickens’ talent level would’ve been on par with Gabriel Rodriguez or the like.


  4. One book that I’m continually intimidated by is Middlesex. People have been suggesting it to me since my pre-Goodreads days (when I actually had to ask for recommendations on what to read next because I didn’t have a TBR list… can you imagine?) and whether it’s the length or the subject or the fear that I won’t like it… I don’t know, but I’ve always been reluctant even though I want to read it.


  5. The Book Thief made me sob uncontrollably for a full ten minutes.

    Shogun is a fantastic book. I haven’t read the other two.

    I just read Bleak House–I loved it. I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite Dickens at this point.

    The Passage is…okay.

    The only book that I can say intimidates me right now is Joyce’s Ulysses. I tried reading it last year and failed. I’ll try again at some point.


    1. I’m generally not a crier, but I’ve been assured by countless others that I will cry with The Book Thief.

      Shogun mocks me from my shelf.

      I’m interested in The Passage for some of the geographic detail. I work in the Capitol Hill/Cherry Creek section of Denver and I gather some of the plot is set there (and in Colorado in general).


  6. Yeah Dostoyevsky is definitely intimidating. I read Crime and Punishment in high school but don’t remember much about it, except that it was hard to get through. I started reading the Passage and never finished (just a due-date-at-the-library thing) but don’t be intimidated by it. It is long, but I found it to be a very easy read and very engrossing. Pretty sure the library no longer has a copy and I’m kinda mad because I can’t wait to get my hands on it again. 😀 Great list!

    My TTT


    1. I typically (though not always) find classic Russian literature to be so depressing that I tend to avoid it. I read Crime and Punishment at 18 and didn’t enjoy, I sometimes wonder if I would enjoy it more now. Though I hated it so much as the time I haven’t been willing to give it another chance…

      The Passage I bought for .25 at a book sale recently, although I have to terrible habit of buying books and not reading them. Why?!?


    1. It would take A LOT to top that miniseries. A lot. I’ve started North and South on multiple occasions, but have never been able to finish it – so perhaps I agree with the prose style not being to my taste (I might know if I made it past page 30).


  7. I feel that I’ve done my duty to Dostoyevsky by having read Crime and Punishment in high school… Dickens can be pretty rambly, although sometimes it’s kind of funny because he makes little jokes in his rambles. Of course, a Dickens, even a short one, takes me a lot longer to read than something more current. Save the Book Thief for when you need to cry. I’m a fairly gushy book crier, but that one was worse than most. Worse in a good way. More FEELINGS.


    1. I appreciate rambling. I myself am a rambler. I should probably give Dickens another shot. Kindred spirits and all…(and I’ve read and mostly liked The Hobbit).

      The last book I cried over….

      I don’t know. And I swear I’m not heartless. 😉

      Proof: I just watched E.T. for the first time and cried!


      1. ET! Awww! You’re definitely not heartless. I’m not a book sobber, I’m a classy quiet tears book crier. If I cry at all. Which is definitely not for every book.


      2. Well, as long as they’re classy tears.

        I, too, only cry classy, glistening tears (when it actually happens). I NEVER sob and end up puffy faced and red. Never.


    1. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness!!!

      Short classics for the win. (Runner up: The Stranger by Albert Camus)

      I get intimidated by the amount of time long books require.


      1. I didn’t love it either, but it’s short! I didn’t love Great Expectations and spent weeks hating that one!


  8. hahaha… The Book Thief made it on my list too. It seems like the more people that tell me I MUST READ THIS the more I revert back to my teenage self and want to instead tell them to piss off. I have it on audio so it’ll happen one day.


    1. Exactly. Or when I finally do get around to reading it, I hate it just because everyone loved it. I sometimes wonder if that’s why I found Gone Girl underwhelming (or if, in fact, I am too dark and twisted inside for my own good).

      The Book Thief looks awfully pretty sitting on my shelf unread.


  9. North and South: The mini series is better. I do not say that lightly, as the book is almost always better! I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.


    1. Someday, someday, maybe. I like The Bleak House miniseries, so I’m thinking about attempting the book (though that certainly didn’t go well after watching Great Expectations and reading the book).


  10. I had 2666 on my list but swapped it out because I realized I’m not even remotely interested in reading it – it just sounds too dark. Plus I think it’s physically the biggest book I’ve ever seen.

    I really enjoyed the Bleak House miniseries, so I might have to try reading it sometime. I finally finished North & South, though, and it was a bit of a letdown. It was much more character-driven (ie, slow) than I was expecting, plus it was the first e-book I’ve ever read, which meant I could never get a feel for the progress I was making. It probably deserves another chance…but I might just re-watch Richard Armitage, I mean the miniseries, again. 😉


    1. I liked the miniseries too! That is what made me curious about reading the novel, though I don’t know if I can’t handle the word count.

      2666. I don’t know if that will happen. I have good intentions, but it is HUGE. I would like to see a showdown between it and Infinite Jest though.

      After nearly a year of owning a kindle/iPad, I am still getting used to e-reading. I like the immediacy of it, but I still prefer a book.

      I just read the other day that claiming to prefer the book is now hipster. That made me laugh.

      Aside from Edward Fairfax Rochester, Richard Armitage’s John Thornton is my ideal romantic hero.


      1. I will say Thornton is even dreamier in the book. I didn’t swoon much while reading “Jane Eyre” because Rochester just gets so damn Byronian (Byronic?) at times, but wow, Book!Thornton? He gets all the swoons.


  11. I totally get what you mean about North and South. Richard Armitage is just soooo . . . well, he’s totally dreamy. I’m sure the book is great, but the miniseries. Sigh.


    1. All the Richard Armitage love is making me quite happy. Everyone is usually all about Mr. Darcy/Colin Firth (and I know you love that too!), but John Thornton needs some love too. The train scene. (Exactly as you ended it) Sigh.


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