Intimidating and Unread

Inspired by this post that I randomly ran across, I’m creating a list of the most intimidating (read: long and/or difficult) books that I haven’t yet read- but plan to.
I’m very proud to admit that of their ten, I’ve read six- but also a bit ashamed because I’m reminded of my tendency to put off the longest and scariest of books for as long as possible. It’s hard to make that kind of commitment.

the last long book I read was Swann’s Way, and I’m waiting for my next break (coming up in a week!) to approach part two of Remembrance of Thing’s Past, In The Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.

And while I have no desire to read Ulysses and Ayn Rand is anathema, a few are ones that I share with the list originator. Thanks to Parchment Girl for this idea!

  1. The Tale of Genji, 1216 pages
    I had to edit this post to add this one in when I realized I had omitted the longest of books on my ‘to read’ list.  “Written in the eleventh century, this exquisite portrait of courtly life in medieval Japan is widely celebrated as the world’s first novel.” Sounds lovely.
  2. David Copperfield, 1024 pages
    I love Dickens so I have to read this, right? Even if it starts with the narrator’s birth? I want to read to but it feels like getting out of bed on a cold morning. You know you’ll get used to it, get into the swing of things and maybe have a great day, but for now… just ten more minutes (years?).
  3. Tom Jones, 1024 pages
    It’s one of those early novels. I have to check it out, at least from a History of Western Literature aspect.
  4. Belle du Seigneur, 992 pages
    Sometimes I completely forget how a certain book got on my list. A satire of middle class manners. Cool.
  5. Camilla, 992 pages
    By Fanny Burney, our first book here by a female author. Matrimonial concerns, intrigue, contretemps! Another of the early novels.
  6. Don Quixote, 976 pages
    I saw the ballet so I know the general gist- it’s such a classic, I need to take a peek at it, and satisfy my curiosity (and pride- have to tick it off the list!).
  7. The Recognitions, 956 pages
    I have no idea what this is about of why it was on my list, but here it is and I trust myself (Ha, no, but this is a low risk game). Apparently this is mighty pretentious, but the writer is under-praised?
  8. Vanity Fair, 912 pages
    “No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp…” Excellent, she sounds fun.
  9. The Forsyte Saga, 912 pages
    Confession, I always confuse Vanity Fair and the Forsyte Saga. It’s a compilation of three novels, so maybe this is cheating or maybe I should be playing a more even-handed game and including the complete Remembrance of Things Past.
  10. Parade’s End, 912 pages
    I really enjoyed The Good Soldier (also by Ford Maddox Ford), so if this is better I will be very happy to (eventually) read it.   “A profound portrait of one man’s internal struggles during a time of brutal world conflict…”
  11. Middlemarch, 880 pages
    I love George Eliot and I’ve heard good things about this book so it’s definitely on the list and will hopefully be read before the end of the decade. I could have also included Daniel Deronda on this list, but I decided one book per author.
  12. The Brothers Karamazov, 824 pages
    I have a beautiful copy of this book and still haven’t read it yet, in part because I’m afraid of messing it up (most of what I read comes from the library and is either sturdy or already mid-destruction.  “Filled with human passions ― lust, greed, love, jealousy, sorrow, and humor ― the book is also infused with moral issues and the issue of collective guilt.” Sounds like my man Fyodor Dostoevsky.
  13. The Second Sex, 800 pages
    Simone de Beauvoir and a seminal work of feminism. Self explanatory.

I cut it off at 800 pages, because there appear to be a bunch in the 700- range. Of course this is no guarantee that I’ll read all of these, or that they’re next up on my list (probably the opposite, because procrastination). And looking over them I’m not sure how many I’m authentically excited about.
I’ve always been very good (if it is good?) at discarding a book if I’m not getting into it. Sometimes I’ll recognize that it’s the wrong book at the wrong time, and it will stay on my list until a more suitable moment- so much of your reading experience depends on the emotions and needs that you bring to the table. And then sometimes you can tell the book isn’t for you. The voice sounds like the voice of someone you wouldn’t want to talk to. The diction is so simple you forget that you’re reading. The plot is contrived. I’m usually good at setting a book aside when I have those feelings- life’s too short to waste on unhappy and unrewarding reading. If you’re doing something for pleasure it should be a pleasure. And if I hadn’t realized it now I was definitely reminded after investing time into The Quincunx (800 pages).

4 thoughts on “Intimidating and Unread”

  1. I really want to read The Second Sex but I had no idea it was that long!

    I highly recommend Parade’s End. It’s one of my favorites, which surprised me when I read it. I didn’t really expect to like a modernist novel about a guy who contemplates having an affair. Ford writes surprisingly compelling female characters.


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