This week of Top 5 Wednesday is all about the novels that inspire book timidation in us. Every reader has a few, whether it be based on content, length, or something entirely unique. And even though I like to consider myself a fairly adventurous bookworm, I’m notorious for avoiding classics based on a deep seated fear of all things pre-1970. So in the hopes of upsetting this seemingly unbreakable track I’m paying homage to why exactly these five novels give me the bookish shivers.
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
I love the 1992 movie adaptation of The Last of the Mohicans, and since watching it for the seemingly tenth time it’s always been my goal to read it in the original form. I’ve tried and failed once (it’s actually the only book on this list that I ever even attempted to finish), but rest assured this won’t be the last time James Fenimore Cooper’s classic see’s me. The main thing holding me back is that cumbersome Old English, nearly 400 pages worth of it. While a more gutsy, younger version of me would attempt to just power through guns ablazing, I no longer have it in me. And honestly I think I would be ruining myself towards a really great story by just stumbling through it, similar to my failed time reading As I Lay Dying– of which I likely digested none of it. I’ve always wondered how comparable it is to the evergreen film, and would love to know if the axed sections of the story are priceless details…or pointless monotony describing Colonel Munro’s wanderings in the forest. I’m an inquiring mind, and my readers input is thoroughly appreciated.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Basically this whole list could’ve been a compilation of Bronte sisters writing (none of which I’ve ever actually read from cover to cover), but in the spirit of diversity I thought it best to choose just the second sisters moody and melancholy Wuthering Heights. The classic of marriage, passion, and Heathcliff has always intrigued me; despite knowing far less of it than others like Jane Eyre. My main intimidation is the writing, of which I practically need a translator to understand. It, at times, consists of nothing more than dialogue back and forth on the history of the moors, the state of 1700’s England, and Catherine’s gossipy opinions on those around her. I’m hardly a natural at breaking down old texts, and no amount of Sparknotes can save my sinking ship. Besides, a Buzzfeed quiz says my spirit author is Charlotte Bronte, “a romantic, yet plain individual”…as if. Also, as a random tidbit for your Wednesday entertainment, Charlotte celebrates her 200th birthday tomorrow; so plenty of reason for me to celebrate by reading her sisters book instead.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
On a list full of 400 page plus heavy hitters, Anna Karenina is a man among boys. The Russian classic is double that length, and even that pales in comparison to author Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I adore the Keira Knightley flick that came out a few years ago (notice a theme?), but because I appreciate my sanity I’ve always put off reading the sordid affair of Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky. I always got the feeling though that there were certain very important aspects of the source material that obviously had to be cut from the two hour movie, and I want to have the whole fictional experience. Unlike other books on this list though, the gargantuan size actually isn’t actually holding me from this 19th century Desperate Housewives. No, it’s a fear that my limited understanding of Anna’s era will be a hindrance for a writer who also spent 1,300 pages discussing the Napoleonic Wars. Needless to say that’s a little above my intellectual capacity. I want to have a fully formed opinion, but similarly don’t want this favorite of mine to be ruined.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Roots and The Thorn Birds are two of my favorite books/television programs ever, so needless to say I’m quite the fan of decades-long family sagas. However, as I frequently bemoan here on the blog, magical realism is just not my jam, and this 1967 classic practically pioneered the genre. I just don’t know if my logical reading brain could take hundreds of pages of nonsensical happenings without going into overdrive. And though I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone who’s read it in its entirety, there has to be a reason it’s endured all this time, right? I mean no one’s going to talk about average, run of the mill, 2016 magical realism 50 years from now, so there has to be something special setting it apart. I also really enjoy it when books have a lot of symbolism, motifs, etc. and judging from my Sparknotes paroozing Gabriel Garcia Marquez appreciates all those things as well. It’ll be a while before I can fully commit to such a story, but I am confident this Nobel laureled tale will make it onto my read shelf at some point.
1984 by George Orwell
Compared to the other four books I mentioned on this list, 1984 may seem like child’s play. It was published just the blink of an eye ago (in relative fiction terms), and is of a decidedly ordinary length. There should be nothing at all intimidating about it to me, yet I’ve never read the book. It’s far more comfortable for me to read the reality Tv show that coins its name from the classic than to actually attempt the arduous portrayal of power and corruption. I think the plot would definitely hold my attention, as novels with similar themes rank high on my lists of favorites, but that’s exactly the reason I haven’t read it. I’m afraid that Mr. George Orwell’s thoughts are of too high a level for me to fully comprehend and absorb right now to their fullest potential, and I don’t want to half-way read a book that has the chance of being deeply profound and moving. That’s like the aforementioned As I Lay Dying, that I read when I was way too young to fully appreciate the character studies and irony that William Faulkner is known for. Nevertheless, I can see myself buddy reading this one in a group setting with lots of discussion opportunities.
Have you guys ever put off reading a novel based on book timidation? Do any of the books I mentioned inspire similar feelings of fear in you? Let me know in the comments!
-Keep Calm and Read On