Top Ten Tuesday — Most Intimidating Books

July 2, 2013 Top Ten Tuesday 17


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s topic is Top Ten Most Intimidating Books (might be intimated by size, content, that everyone else loves it but you are sure you won’t, etc.)

Some of these books are intimidating because I see them as very intellectually challenging, or very dry (not necessarily the same thing).  A few are just (or also) really, really loooong, and a few are likely to be very depressing.  At least half of them combine two of those characteristics.  [Edited to add: Most of these are not on my TBR list, mostly due to the intimidation factor.]

As usual, these are in no particular order:

The Story of Civilization, by Will and Ariel Durant.  Easton Press edition.

  • The Story of Civilization (Durant, 11 volumes)
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Gibbons, 4 volumes)
  • The History of the English-Speaking Peoples (Churchill, 4 volumes)
  • Godel, Escher, Bach (Hofstadter)
  • Republic and other writings (Plato)
  • Communist Manifesto (Marx and Engels)
  • Les Miserables (Hugo; unabridged)
  • Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky)
  • War and Peace (Tolstoy)
  • The Gulag Archipelago (Solzhenitsyn)


Incidentally, the Durant series is actually pretty readable, at least when I’ve dipped into it.  It’s just so incredibly long! 

That’s my list… what books most intimidate you?

17 Responses to “Top Ten Tuesday — Most Intimidating Books”

  1. Lianne @

    Gibbons! Yeah, I’d love to read his book one of these days…

    I remember reading Plato’s Republic in-depth for my political theory course. Pretty intriguing/intense stuff! I can’t remember if I read Marx’s The Communist Manifesto though…

    I read the Russian titles you’ve mentioned, though only parts of Solzhenitsyn…War & Peace was good, need to re-read Crime & Punishment to clarify a few things though

    My TTT

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      You are very well-read! I didn’t have to read any of these for school or college. Instead I read almost every Shakespeare play, which was a lot of fun. And selections of medieval philosophy and theology, which was quite challenging (and which, I’m embarrassed to say, I don’t remember very well.)

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I should clarify — most of these are not on my TBR list! I may read Les Mis someday; of all the books on here, it’s the one I’m most likely to tackle. And I can see reading some of the Durant series, particularly for research.

  2. Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous

    I’m with you on Gibbons and Churchill–I sort of feel like I should want to read them…but I don’t really.

    Les Mis is 80% readable. Hugo is absolutely brilliant when he’s focused on the characters on the plot, and then he isn’t at all difficult to get through. It’s only when he suddenly goes off on historical background for chapters at a time that it’s a challenge. I skipped those bits…

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      That’s good to know! Like I said in my reply to chrissireads, I may get to Les Mis eventually. It’s the only one on the list I’m likely to ever read — though I have a single-volume abridged version of the Churchill that I might try someday.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Definitely. Which is part of why I find them intimidating. I’m used to reading quickly, so sometimes find the slower, more deliberate pace needed for the nonfiction books (in particular) to be frustrating. (Not always, just sometimes.) And I always feel a bit pushed for time, which makes tackling a book or multi-volume set that’s going to take me weeks or months (or years, in the case of the Durant series) feel a bit overwhelming. Perhaps when my life slows down a little?

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      There’s something in that, too. It’s often uncomfortable to be pushed out of our comfort zones. If like me, you read in large part for fun, comfort, and/or escape, pushing the envelope can indeed seem a bit intimidating.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      I should add — I read nonfiction for my freelance job, and often very challenging nonfiction at that. So I tend not to want to challenge myself quite so much when I’m reading for my own pleasure.

  3. George

    A bit late to this. Here are just a few books that have intimidated me.

    War & Peace by Tolstoy (although I did finally read it about a decade or so back)

    The City of God by St. Augustine

    Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

    The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

    The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (although I read it in college for a philosophy class & was enriched by it, it’s still fairly intimidating to re-read)

    And I find most books by Charles Dickens to be intimidating.