Sunday, March 21, 2021

11 Books that Intimidate Me

On January 2nd, I posted on this blog for the first time after a lonnng hiatus. In that post, I asked if there were any topics y'all were personally interested in seeing, and two of you made suggestions in the Facebook comments: Danielle and Philip. I took up Danielle's idea in the very next post, but I have conveniently ignored Philip's until now, and here's why:

Philip, essentially, challenged me to tell you what books (or types/genres of books) I find intimidating and why...and then read those books and tell you if that feeling was warranted. So I figured this was a two-post type of endeavor. In this one, I'll tell you about 11 books that intimidate me and why. And then, at some unspecified time I will *mumbles* read those books so I can report back. 

Here are the books:

1. The Final Empire, Mistborn #1 by Brandon Sanderson

I find this book intimidating for really basic and boring reasons. It's quite thick. It's the first in a trilogy of equally thick books. And then there's another trilogy. And then there's another series with even thicker books. And then a smattering of standalones and novellas, all set in the Cosmere univere. It's not that I'm worried I'm not going to like it. I'm fairly certain I'm going to love it, and I'm going to want to read it all, and it's going to take over my reading life, and I'm just not sure when I'm going to feel ready for that. 

2. The Wise Man's Fear, Kingkiller #2 by Patrick Rothfuss

I'm also intimidated by this one for basic and boring reasons. It's over 1000 pages. The first book in this series was so engaging, I found myself in constant anxiety for Kvothe, which is something that's difficult to sign up for again. I've seen mixed reviews for this one in particular, and the third in the series isn't out yet, though it's been years and years in the works. It feels like a lot of uncertainty to take on, and I've tried twice in the past year and gotten only about 20 pages further each time.

3. Artemis by Andy Weir

I really shouldn't find this book intimidating. It is not long. The text is a bit small, which I find unappealing, but that shouldn't matter, considering the fact that Andy Weir's first book, The Martian is one of my favorites of all time. And honestly, I think that's the problem. The Martian was such an incredible experience both times I read it, I feel as if I'm nearly guaranteed to be a least a little disappointed, which is just not the emotion I want going into a read. And it's probably a little more about the small type than I think it is. I hate small type. Makes me feel like I'm bogged down and not progressing through my book. 

4. Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

John Darnielle has written several books, and they all intimidate me fairly equally, but this one I actually took out of the library and then returned without reading a word. I read John's first book, Wolf in White Van, and Wolf in White Van, like The Martian, is one of my favorite books of all time, but I haven't read it twice. I've read it four times. It's incredible, and I honestly don't think a human can produce something that incredible more than once in a lifetime, so again, nearly guaranteed disappointment. Wolf in White Van was also a difficult story with heavy themes, and I have no reason to believe this one won't be too. I'm just scared of it, okay?

5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina is a tragedy, and I struggle to accept tragedies. I struggle to accept heartbreak in my entertainment without the consolation of a happy ending. And it's not as if I don't know what I'm getting into with Tolstoy. It's one thing to read a book you know will break your heart, and it's another to read a book that will break your heart in a familiar sort of way. 

It took me a year to read War and Peace. I read it off and on and slowly, looking up a lot of the French as I went, and by the end I felt as if I really knew the characters, and I really knew the life they lived and the bad decisions they'd made and the things that happened to them that were out of their control. The whole thing was mundane and happy and sad and good and awful. It broke my heart in that mundane way that real life breaks your heart sometimes. I finished War and Peace eight years ago, and I still feel it this way, and War and Peace isn't even a tragedy. I truly don't know what an actual tragedy by Tolstoy would do to me.

But. Lemony Snicket makes a very big deal of Anna Karenina in A Series of Unfortunate Events #10: The Slippery Slope, which obviously means I must read it and soon if I wish to remain a respectable member of the VFD, on the right side of the schism, and all that.

6. The Plague by Albert Camus

In college there were many intimidating professors, but arguably none so intimidating as Dr. Mitchell. At PHC, one does not simply get sick and skip class. You e-mail your professor directly and inform them that you are at death's door. So when I caught the flu that was going around campus, I e-mailed Dr. Mitchell, subject line: The Plague. 

He responded informing me that he had been very excited before opening the e-mail, having assumed I had picked up Camus for a little light reading and now wished to discuss all the burning existential questions with which I had undoubtedly been left. Dr. Mitchell was significantly less pleased to find I was simply not coming to class and proceeded to inform me that I Should read the book, and No he would not be giving extra credit. It's been on my list ever since. 

This book looks. Delightful. I mean just look at it. The cover. The title. Yuck. But. I've been thinking lately that reading it now, in the context of COVID-19, could be particularly interesting. I just haven't talked myself into it yet. 

7. Recursion by Blake Crouch

I really like science fiction, but I don't read much of it, which is a phenomenon in my reading that I do not understand. Recursion caught my attention when it won the 2019 Goodreads award for science fiction. Here's a bit of the summary: 

"At once a relentless pageturner and an intricate science-fiction puzzlebox about time, identity, and memory, Recursion is a thriller as only Blake Crouch could imagine it—and his most ambitious, mind-boggling, irresistible work to date." 

So um. Yes. I think this sums up why hard sci-fi intimidates me. What if. I am not. Smart enough for it?

8. Annihilation, Southern Reach #1 by Jeff VanderMeer

I would be similarly worried I'm not smart enough for the Southern Reach trilogy, but I have heard rumors that no one completely understands this story, and that is its charm. I've heard it's very weird. I'm worried it might be too weird for me. Not that I don't like weird, but I don't tend to like weird that defies understanding. I don't tend to enjoy chaos. I have no actual idea if this story is chaotic because no one I know who's read it has been able to describe it to me, and that's intimidating

9. Patient Zero, Joe Ledger #1 by Jonathan Maberry

Oh dear. Okay. My boss keeps telling me I absolutely must read this book and then, you know, hopefully the entire Joe Ledger series. Every once in a while he checks in and asks me why I haven't read it yet, and the answer is: It Feels Like There's A Lot of Pressure Here For Me To Not Just Like This Book But Love It. 

I could be wrong, but I don't think I've read a single adult action novel in my life. I'm probably wrong, but I can't recall any at the moment. I honestly don't know if it's a genre I'm into. This one is about zombies, and I do love a good zombie story, so I'll probably love it. I'm sure I'll love it. I'm definitely telling my boss I loved it. 

10. Safety Maid: Nancy Rose by William Wire

I'm not sure if intimidated is the right way to describe how I feel about this book or if mildly horrified would be more accurate. Why do I own I book I feel this way about? Ummmm. Well you see. My sister and I have this tradition. We give each other one self-published book each Christmas, but not just any self-published book, and certainly not one we think will be GOOD. No. We look for something extraordinarily bad. Last year I gave Liz a book called Harry Styles and the New York Apocalypse, and she gave me an annotated edition of Belinda Blinked #1 (if you know, you know). This year I gave her a work of "nonfiction" on QAnon (and how it's totally true), and she gave me Safety Maid: Nancy Rose. Thanks, Liz. 

11. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, with letters from C.S. Lewis.

I have read this book before. A long time ago. I think I was 17. My memories of it are somehow connected with listening to Taylor Swift's album Fearless for the first time. It's a love story. A true one. One that C.S. Lewis was involved with both before and after Mrs. Vanauken died. 

I remember deciding that this was the absolute standard in Love and Marriage. If I couldn't have this, I didn't want anything. Preferably minus the premature death of my one true love. The story was equal parts euphoric and horribly sad, and I really want to reread it, but I really want to reread it the way I read it the first time. I don't want to read it differently. I'm hoping my real life experience of true love will validate/mature/increase my experience of the book as opposed to dimming it in any way. But I'm scared.

I am, if you haven't noticed, frequently demotivated by my fear. And that's unfortunate. There's a lot about my life that I think would be better if I weren't so scared all the time of so many things. So, Philip. I'm going to read these books. And it'll probably take a while, I'm not going to lie to you. And at some point. I will come back and talk about them again. And I'm hoping that post will be rather  victorious. 

Until then readers, tell me what you think. Have you read any of these? Think I'm being silly? Or are you scared of them too? What books intimidate you and why?

Up next: I Invented and Completed an Advent Calendar Reading Challenge. In March. 


  1. Tolstoy intimidates me too which is why I HAVE to listen to both books that you mentioned! Sometimes fear demotivates me, but more often than not it tends to motivate me. I've seen what giving in to anxiety does to people I love and so I push against it to live a life where I am TRULY living. It would be so easy to stay home and ignore people and the world around me, but doing the hard thing is so much more rewarding! However, books are my escape. At the same time, they help me wrestle with how I can be a better person. Good stuff!

  2. I love the idea of a list of books that intimidate you. All of these seem to fit.

    1. I challenge you to do the same thing on your blog. Mwahahahahahahahaha

  3. So I didn't realise that I was missing your posts and I've finally caught up :)

    1. Really liked your sci-fi post. Yes, it is weird, and yes, I love it so much.
    2. The Plague literally just arrived like ten minutes ago and I just bought War and Peace a few weeks ago, so excited to tackle them. A little scared, sure, but excited