Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Intimidate Me.

The lovely folks over at The Broke and the Bookish have an interesting topic for this week-the top ten books that intimidate us!

When I started out blogging, I was intimidated by most of my list. I had never read anything by the Brontes, I hated Dickens (I have a love/hate relationship with him now), and truthfully, I knew nothing about many of the authors on that list. Now, 4 years later, I feel much more confident about myself as a reader, and I have already conquered many of those intimidating titles (like Moby-Dick, Atlas Shrugged, and War and Peace).

So, to come up with my list of intimidating titles, I decided to base it on the titles I have left to read (less than 100). Some of these books will hopefully be obvious as to why they're here, but others...they require some explanation. :)

Without further delay:

1. Ulysses by James Joyce: When I was looking at other lists this morning, this is a title I found over and over again on lists. I've already decided that it will be the last title I read off my 250 list. I've started it once (got about 50 pages in) and gave up. I'm hoping that by waiting a little longer, I'll be better prepared to tackle it.

2. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad: I hate Heart of Darkness more than any other book. It makes me want to gouge my eyes out. So, the thought of reading another book by Conrad gives me heart palpitations. I've been avoiding this title like it's my job, but I know I'll eventually have to read it.

3. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: This is the last Dickens titles on my 250 list. By this point, I've read the other 6 titles with mixed feelings. Hated Great Expectations and Bleak House, but loved everything else, especially David Copperfield (LOVE MORE THAN ANYTHING). But this title scares me. First, it seems to be a favorite for many. Second, it's Dickens. Again, while I have had mixed success, I'm worried I'll hate it!

4. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding: To be honest, the main reason I'm intimidated by this one is length. It's long. And written in the 1700s...so...complicated language + length = scary.

5. Faust by Johann Goethe: I actually started this one earlier this year and set it aside when school got crazy. Like most books I set aside partially read, I'm worried about picking it back up and starting again.

6. Paradise Lost by John Milton: I remember an old roommate from college reading this for one of her classes. At night she would sit with the book open on her desk and her hands in her hair. That image scares me to this day! I imagine that it can't be that bad, but still...

7. Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov: While I liked Lolita well enough (as much as you can like a novel about a pedophile), I've heard that some of Nabokov's other novels are very experimental in style. I know little about Pnin, so I'm a bit worried about this one!

8. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: I managed to conquer Atlas Shrugged already, and I've heard this one is easier, but still. It's RAND. She's very philosophical in ways that I don't agree with and...ugh.

9. The Aeneid by Virgil: The translation I own is by Fagles, so at least this has that going for it. But this is another one of those ancient, epic tomes that I'm hesitant to take on. Who knows, I might fly through it after I finish The Odyssey.

10. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson: I attempted to conquer this one about a year ago, and failed miserably. My bookmark is still 400 pages in...the idea of rereading those 400 pages to remember what happened makes me whimper. This is one of the longest books in the English language and I just don't know when I'm going to be able to conquer this.

There you have it, the 10 books on my list that most intimidate me. Do we have some in common? Any other books that scare you? Let me know!

34 comments:

  1. Pnin is pretty straightforward. I liked it a lot and read it in my downtime several years ago when I was a writing center tutor.

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  2. I read a few selected chapters of Ulysses for uni and had a disagreement with my lecturer (who, like everyone else, claims this is one of the best works ever writ - but I think they just say that cos they're proud they managed to get through it) and I say it's pretentious twaddle. Every chapter is written in a different style and some of them are just ridiculous. I don't mind the last chapter and even though it's stream of consciousness without any punctuation, it flows surprisingly well.

    I too have a love/hate relationship with Dickens - it's such a struggle to start but usually around the 400 mark I love everything. A Tale of Two Cities has one of the best last lines ever!

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    1. AToTC also has one of the best opening lines. :)

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  3. Oh, don't worry about Pnin! It's short and funny (in that Russian way)--as Andi says, it's pretty straightforward.

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    1. Drat. I just got done saying that I want to read it, if it's experimental. Oh well.

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  4. I find that most classics are intimidating. I am staying clear of War and Peace.

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    1. War and Peace is so, so good. It's long, and keeping track of the characters can be difficult, but other than that - just wonderful. I was very nervous about it, but it became one of my favorites. I think I read it in less than two weeks (but I did have a fantastic translation).

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  5. I enjoyed Ulysses, Pnin and Paradise Lost. Perhaps this was because I approached each text without expecting too much (be it difficulty or enjoyment), or perhaps I'm good at enduring challenging books!

    I found Ulysses to be quite compelling, and far easier to follow than I thought it would be. Saying that, I certainly prefer Dubliners.

    The protagonist of Pnin is a character I really liked reading about, although I did find it to be quite a strange text. I'd recommend it, however.

    Paradise Lost was really poetic and not too confusing, and I surprised myself by reading more than we were required to for university. I did occasionally refer to online study guide summaries to check I was understanding it all, but there wasn't too much I missed.

    I can understand your fear of Conrad... I've never finished a book by him!

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  6. I heard Lord Jim is better than Heart of Darkness, but I liked HoD and haven't tried Lord Jim... so who knows? A Tale of Two Cities was alright, great theme, interesting historically, plenty of quotable lines, but it is not my favorite Dickens. And, compared to Les Miserables, it is underwhelming as a literary-exploration of the French Revolution. I was supposed to read Tom Jones (and also Pamela/Shamela) for a college course, years ago. Didn't do it. None of 'em. And Clarissa? Wow. You get a lot further than I did... I think I'm still on page 160 or so? Faust is amazing but it's been too long since I've read it. Also liked Marlowe's version (Doctor Faustus). Paradise Lost? Haven't gotten through it... I keep trying. I love, love, love Herman Melville's The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, though, and Melville was heavily influenced by (was actually repsonding to) Paradise Lost, so I do need to read it in total. I read portions of it together with Confidence-Man, when I was working on a research paper for it, but yeah. I haven't attempted any other Nabokov work, other than Lolita, which I loved. I tend to enjoy experimental fiction, though, so maybe I'll look into it. I will never read another Ayn Rand book. The thought of her and her brainwashed followers makes me sick to my stomach. I have to read the Aeneid, too! I also have the Fagles edition (it's beautiful) and I've almost picked it up a few times in the last couple years... maybe you should host a read-along for this one over winter break. ;)

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  7. I love A Tale of Two Cities. I just convinced my husband to read it (strange--one of the only Dickens he hasn't read) and he loved it too. It's taught in the BritLit class where my kids went to high school and they loved it. I'll send you a present when you finish it. Tom Jones is funny; long, but funny. You'll like it.
    My husband did Ulysses on his own along with a book almost as big which contains the annotations. I know someone who teaches Ulysses who claims you just have to read it out loud. Ulysses intimidates me. I haven't read the others, but of these books I would put The Aeneid on the top of my TBR pile.

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  8. Woot, I also really disliked "Heart of Darkness." *high-five* One of those classics that I don't get what all the hype is about.

    I couldn't agree more with FBT's comment that Ulysses is "pretentious twaddle." I despise this novel so much...ugh.

    Paradise Lost is actually pretty damn awesome if you can invest a lot of time into it.

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  9. The only one I've read is A Tale of Two Cities -- not my favorite Dickens, but it's not awful -- though I think Lucie Manette is a bore, like most of Dickens' ingenues. The history's interesting and the crowd scenes are wonderful. And it has the best first AND last lines of a book, ever.

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    1. And I'm sorry you hate Great Expectations and Bleak House! They're two of my favorites, especially Bleak House. Oh well, not for everyone.

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  10. Pnin is nothing to worry about. It was so straightforward and pleasurable to read that I had to do some research to make sure I wasn't missing the point. What I found was that it was meant to be an uncomplicated story about a sweet protagonist.

    Reading The Aeneid was thrilling. If you can handle Homer, there's no reason to fear Virgil.

    Happy reading.

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  11. The Aeneid was also on my list. It didn't pick up for me till it got closer to the end. I didn't really like Aeneas, and felt that Virgil was ripping off Homer's stories, only his wasn't as as well-written.

    I actually salivate at the thought of reading something as gloriously, fantastically long as Clarissa. The longer a book, the better!

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  12. Paradise Lost scared me until I figured out that there was actually a plot thanks to Sparknotes :) It's really not that bad. If you can make it through epic poetry, it's actually pretty good. A Tale of Two Cities is one of those books that I didn't like until the very end.

    My TTT

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  13. Pnin is much easier to read than some of his others. Pale Fire is the crazy one!!

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  14. So I hated Heart of Darkness too. It's been about 6 years since I read it and I finally got the courage to read Lord Jim. I'm in the middle of it right now. I definitely like it more than HOD, but I have a feeling Conrad is just never going to be my favorite author.

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  15. Ha -- I was wondering if Clarissa would make your list. A Tale of Two Cities? It's so, so good.

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  16. You have some seriously intimidating ones here. I would never be able to bring myself to read Clarissa. Richardson just makes my brain switch off. I think reading 400 pages is quite the achievement, you should be proud!

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  17. I agree with most on your list! I started reading Ulysses back in high school and I think I gave up on the last 100 pages or so.

    I adore Tolstoy but somehow never got around to War and Peace. Middlemarch seems so long too! They're actually on my nightstand right now ready to be read so maybe this summer will be great for difficult books.

    Also, I bought'Love in the time on cholera' in its original Spanish and while I am not bad at all (I can read Isabel Allende in Spanish with no difficulty) somehow I can't read it without a dictionary and I'm too impatient for that.

    Also, I've been wanting to revive my French reading skills. I miss reading Zola in original although it is quite intimidating to try now.

    I haven't read Dickens in...years. I guess Great Expectation was enough for a long while. Should I give David Copperfield a try? Maybe that is more enjoyable.

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  18. I'm with you on Ulysses but I loved the Aeneid (had to read chunks ion the original at school), Faust and A Tale of Two Cities (one of my favourite Dickens novels).

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  19. I struggle a lot with poetry, but not The Aeneid or Paradise Lost - ok, they're not easy, but they are so lovely to read! And Tom Jones is a lot of fun :)

    If I had have done this list (I wish so much I would remember Top Ten Tuesday!) I would have had Atlas Shrugged at the top :)

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  20. Wow that is a tough list!
    I avoided Conrad like the plague too, but about 10 years happened to see the old movie of Lord Jim starring Peter O'Toole on late night TV without realising what I was watching (I missed the opening titles).
    It was a mesmerising performance and helped me get into the book, which I read (and mostly enjoyed) afterwards.

    I also put Ulysses on my Classic Club lists with dread and trepidation :-)

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  22. Faust and Tom Jones are both excellent, though I enjoyed the first part of Faust much more than the second. It also took me about a month to get through Tom Jones, the same length of time it took me to read Don Quixote.

    Paradise Lost, on the other hand, is the one book I read parts of in an English class where I was glad we only read selections rather than the full thing. Snoozefest. I would zone out and come back in several pages later, and the same thing was still being discussed.

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