Top Ten Tuesday: Most Intimidating Books

Alrighty, y’all, I’m going to do my best to stick to this commitment to participate in weekly Top Ten Tuesdays. The Broke and the Bookish has been so kind as to make this week a Freebie Week; naturally, I’m going to take this time to flex my creative muscles (aka dig through their archives) to find a topic that will entertain the masses. On my search, I found a topic that’s sure to leave an impression: Most Intimidating Books. Oh here go hell come.


While I mostly only have the time and the spoons to knock out your average YA novel, I do like to pick up something thicker and more complex from time to time. The following books are either ones that I’ve either finished in the past, ones that I’ve attempted, or ones that I’m actually too intimidated to even pick up yet. It’s mostly Anna Karenina. Maybe.

  1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – I have a copy of this. It’s literally sitting in the trunk of my car waiting for me to sit down and read it. It’s actually my sister’s copy, but she gave up on it, too. Here’s the thing about Infinite Jest, though, if you weren’t aware: it’s over 1000 pages and has footnotes on footnotes on footnotes. This monolith will probably take me several months to work through, and that’s when I do find myself with the time to devote to it. Maybe I’ll have time when I’m in grad school.
  2. Gender Trouble by Judith Butler – Philosophy has never been one of those fields that has really piqued my interest, but I had to take Philosophy of Feminism in my senior year of college to round out my Women and Gender Studies minor. Most of the texts were easy enough to understand, but Gender Trouble definitely gave me nothing but trouble. Butler’s writing style is pretentious to the core, and required literally every student in my class to look up Sparknotes or something to make sense of our readings. It’s been three years since I took that class and I still couldn’t tell you what Butler said about gender.
  3. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – The thing about this book isn’t that its content or writing style is intimidating; it’s the length of this book that throws me off. Just like Infinite Jest, I own a copy of this where it currently resides in the trunk of my car, but I’ve yet to get further than a couple of pages. I feel like I need to set aside an entire week to do nothing but read this book in order to accomplish it, because it’s so jam-packed with information that I don’t want to miss out on anything.
  4. Pretty much anything by Michel Foucault – Again, one of my greatest weaknesses falls within the realm of philosophy. Foucault was an author that we touched on very briefly in my Philosophy of Feminism class (Discipline and Punish, to be specific), but his works are something that often came up in conversation amongst my anarchist friends. As a socialist, I understood that a lot of the themes that came up within his works echoed those within my own line of political thought, but when it came down to reading it: oof. I’m not sure if every translation I’ve come across has been particularly dense, or if Foucault’s philosophies themselves are just incredibly circular and hard to get through, or if it’s a combination of both. Have I mentioned I don’t like philosophy?
  5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – Again, this is one of those books that sets me off due to length. From my understanding, though, this is a story that I’d particularly enjoy if I could just get over my fear and hop into this epic saddle. The thing is, I usually balk at books of this length due to their complexities in plot, character development, and passage of time; Anna Karenina is no exception to that rule. I really do feel like I have to set aside a ton of time to devote solely to this book. With the way my work schedule goes now, that’s not likely.
  6. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski – So imagine a book the length of Infinite Jest, with not only hella footnotes, but extreme digressions, gradual changes of legibility, and an overarching horror theme. There you have House of Leaves. While I would love to be able to sit down and enjoy this, from what I’ve heard from other people is that this is a particularly mentally and emotionally exhausting book. Given my current mental state of Just Barely Making It Because Panic Disorders Ain’t Nothin’ to Fuck With, this is going to be a hard pass until I’m more stable.
  7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – I remember being in middle school and browsing the aisles in Barnes and Noble, then always stopping at Rand’s works because they’re all so damn thick. This one, however, took the cake because, at the time, the book blurb itself never quite made it clear what the story was about. Now in my adulthood (and far, far, far from Rand’s political ideologies), I recognize this as a complete waste of paper and ink. Next.
  8. Ulysses by James Joyce – Waaay back in the day — fall semester of my sophomore year of college — I took a British Literature course to fulfill a general education requirement. One of the passages we went over was from Joyce’s master work, Ulysses. The section we read was entertaining, easy to consume, and I do love a good retelling. However, the professor warned us that if we were going to try to read the rest of the book on our own time, that things shift dramatically after the first four episodes and that it might be better for summer or winter break when we didn’t have classes. LET ME TELL YOU NOW THAT SHE WAS NOT WRONG. Luckily, I only picked it up from the library, so once I realized that if I devoted all of my coursework time to reading this book for funzies, I was going to fail, I turned it right back in. One day, Joyce. One day.
  9. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin – This is two fold: the length and the sheer amount of blood and gore in these books. I’ve seen Game of Thrones, so I thought an idea of exactly what to expect in the novles. However, I got the first few books for my partner for his birthday a few years back; he reported back saying he was not expecting that sheer level of detail going into the descriptions of death/rape/etc. Given my extreme aversion to anything pertaining to rape, I’m still going to admit that I’m intimidated by these novels, but they’re definitely going to be a hard pass.
  10. The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak – This book is of average length, and above average complexity, so ordinarily I wouldn’t be intimidated. However, what puts me off about The Book Thief is its pure, raw emotional level. As I’ve made plenty clear in this blog, I’m not the most emotionally stable person, so I’m nervous that a book about something so emotionally draining as the goddamn Holocaust will set me off entirely. I think I’m going to have to wait until I’m in a better head space to give this one a go again.

What are your most intimidating novels? Are any of them on this list?


3 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Most Intimidating Books

  1. I am not even going to bother with A Song of Ice and Fire, I just don’t think I can will myself to start ANOTHER series, especially one this high fantasy. I think unconciously, I was intimigated by The Book Thief, but the book is SO GOOD! I can not fault it and though you feel a little bit drained after reading it, it’s worth it. Oh and the book isn’t about the holocaust. I think I remember some chapters about it, but it’s not the main subject of the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve tried three times to get into Song of Ice and Fire and I keep putting it down, so I think I’m going to be skipping that series. I really want to read Anna Karenina, but I agree, that book is intimidating and why I haven’t read it yet either. Great list! Here’s my TTT for the week.

    Liked by 1 person

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