Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Book List Meme: Three Books That Intimidate Me

Well, Rebecca has come up with another Book List topic this week that was easy to answer but rather thought inspiring.  I'm going to answer with the three books that have been in the house for years and yet I have put off reading for various reasons.

Three Books That Intimidate Me

1. Ulysses by James Joyce
Ulysses chronicles the passage of Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day, June 16, 1904 (the day of Joyce's first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle). The title alludes to Odysseus (Latinised into Ulysses), the hero of Homer's Odyssey, and establishes a series of parallels between characters and events in Homer's poem and Joyce's novel (e.g., the correspondences between Leopold Bloom and Odysseus, Molly Bloom and Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus and Telemachus). Joyce fans worldwide now celebrate June 16 as Bloomsday. (via Wikipedia)
I am a big fan of The Odyssey but this one has been collecting dust in the house for years.  I think my hesitation on this one comes from my fear of stream-of-consciousness writing.

2. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Don Quixote has become so entranced reading tales of chivalry that he decides to turn knight errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, these exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote's fancy often leads him astray—he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants—Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together-and together they have haunted readers' imaginations for nearly four hundred years.  (via Penguin Books)
I've always been intrigued by this story.  My mom used to play the soundtrack from The Man of La Mancha.  I know the name of Quixote's horse (Rocinante).  And yet, I just never pick this one up.  I always imagine that it will be slow reading but how would I know, right?

3. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
In the grand tradition of the epic novel, Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece brings to life the drama and immensity of the Russian Revolution through the story of the gifted physician-poet, Zhivago; the revolutionary, Strelnikov; and Lara, the passionate woman they both love. Caught up in the great events of politics and war that eventually destroy him and millions of others, Zhivago clings to the private world of family life and love, embodied especially in the magical Lara. (via Random House)
 This is the only one of three that I have actually started at some point (probably about seven or eight years ago).  I think I read maybe the first ten pages or so and got confused by the number of different names that were thrown at me right away.  It's partly a Russian thing (patrynomics, surnames, nicknames) but not entirely because I have read other Russian lit.  I saw a recommendation a few weeks ago on someone else's blog to just watch the movie first.  I usually don't do that but in this case it could be the only thing that gets me to finally pick up the book or pass on it forever.

So what are the books that either are languishing on your shelves or TBR lists because you're too scared to pick them up?  Or are you so intimidated that there are books that won't even make it to your lists?

Formulating a reading plan as I type,


  1. I've noticed a lot of people are intimidated by Russian Lit. I have Zhivago on my shelf and I will have to try and see...but maybe not for some time longer now:)

  2. I'm never sure if I'm intimidated by Ulysses or just not interested. I do passionately dislike stream-of-consciousness writing, or anyway I have done when I've encountered it in the past, and that's my excuse for not ever even considering reading Ulysses.

  3. ALL THREE OF THOSE ARE ON MY LIST. Along with 267 other books. My number one is War and Peace, though.

  4. I started Ulysses on Daily Lit, and gave up after I realized how much I dreaded the daily dose. Parts were interesting, though, and if you ever tackle it, check out this website:

    I've only ever had a passing interest in Don Quixote myself. But it's a classic, so maybe some day...

    I read Dr. Zhivago forever ago, and thought the movie better than the book, which struck me as fairly dull and plodding. Could have been the translation. I haven't read much Russian lit, but Anna Karenina is on the list for this year.

    Biggest intimidator for me? Canterbury Tales. I started listening to it once, and just couldn't appreciate it. Ulysses is up there too. Finegan's Wake.

  5. Good list! I don't think I would even pretend that I could try "Ulysses." And I saw the movie of Dr. Zhivago when I was 10! In the theater ... my dad took me. I loved it. But I never did try the book.

  6. Lilly - I've only read The Brothers Karamazov so far but really want to read more Russian lit.

    Jenny - Yeah, I have to admit feeling that way too. I guess I want to at least try it though.

    Paige - Haha! I'm sure I could have kept going too!

    Jenn - We should have an intimidating books club where anyone is allowed to quit a book at any time.

    Jane - Well, now I will definitely watch the Doctor Zhivago film and then decide on the book once and for all. And I had to read part of The Canterbury Tales in college and I didn't care for it.

    Jenners - I'm going to try but I can't promise that I will finish!