Let’s face it, we all have them: those books we’ve been dying to read for years, yet for some reason they still sit on our shelves collecting dust after all this time. Some books, no matter how interesting their synopses make them sound, are just intimidating as heck. In this list I’ll talk about 10 books on my personal TBR that intimidate me for one reason or another. Most of them are large high-fantasy novels or even series, but some of the later entries might surprise you with the reasons they’re on this list.
The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch First on my list is the one that haunts me most of them all: The Lies of Locke Lamora. I’ve technically already read and enjoyed this novel before, but I wasn’t in the best headspace at the time and don’t remember too much about it, other than that I enjoyed it. I desperately want to continue the series, but that would mean rereading this little beast of a book. It’s been nr. 1 the longest resident on my TBR for years now, yet I can’t seem to get past my intimidation for this series of tiny-printed-600+-pages-mass-market paperbacks. Synopsis: An orphan’s life is harsh—and often short—in the mysterious island city of Camorr. But young Locke Lamora dodges death and slavery, becoming a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist. As leader of the band of light-fingered brothers known as the Gentleman Bastards, Locke is soon infamous, fooling even the underworld’s most feared ruler. But in the shadows lurks someone still more ambitious and deadly. Faced with a bloody coup that threatens to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the enemy at his own brutal game—or die trying.
The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson I have a complicated relationship with Brandon Sanderson: although I’ve loved everything I’ve read by him, I’m still intimidated to no end by his books. All of them are massive and dense high fantasies where I know I need to have my head in the game in order to keep up with them. The Way of King takes the crown for being the most intimidating though, boasting a whopping 1000 pages in length. This book had to be released in 2 volumes on the European market… Let that sink in… Synopsis: I long for the days before the Last Desolation. The age before the Heralds abandoned us and the Knights Radiant turned against us. A time when there was still magic in the world and honor in the hearts of men. The world became ours, and yet we lost it. Victory proved to be the greatest test of all. Or was that victory illusory? Did our enemies come to recognize that the harder they fought, the fiercer our resistance? Fire and hammer will forge steel into a weapon, but if you abandon your sword, it eventually rusts away. There are four whom we watch. The first is the surgeon, forced to forsake healing to fight in the most brutal war of our time. The second is the assassin, a murderer who weeps as he kills. The third is the liar, a young woman who wears a scholar's mantle over the heart of a thief. The last is the prince, a warlord whose eyes have opened to the ancient past as his thirst for battle wanes. The world can change. Surgebinding and Shardwielding can return; the magics of ancient days become ours again. These four people are key. One of them may redeem us. And one of them will destroy us.
The Wise Mans Fear – Patrick Rothfuss It’s not necessarily the size of this sequel to one of my favourite books of all time that scares me; it’s the fact that book 3 still has no definitive release date. Just knowing that I might have to wait years for a resolution to this trilogy has made me put it off for quite some time now. Blurb-text (book 1): My name is Kvothe. I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me...
The Queens of Innis Lear – Tessa Gratton Despite also being a large high fantasy novel, The Queens of Innis Lear is on this list mainly for a different reason. I really want to love this book… It’s character-driven, slow build, literary high fantasy: check. It’s a Shakespearean retelling: check. One of my best friends loves this book: double check… All of those things however, combined with some mixed reviews make me a little fearful. Will I be knowledgeable enough about The Bard to be able to appreciate this (probably no)? Will the lush writing go over my non-native English speaking head? There’s only one way to find out, yet I’m scared to try… Synopsis: Tessa Gratton's debut epic adult fantasy, The Queens of Innis Lear, brings to life a world that hums with ancient magic, and characters as ruthless as the tides. The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes. The king’s three daughters – battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia – know the realm’s only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted. Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war – but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided.
The Library at Mount Char – Scott Hawkins Both this book, as well as the next share a similar theme as to why they’re intimidating to me: they are strange… Both have blurbs that after reading, I still don’t quite know what to expect. Both also have very mixed reviews, with the single unifying factor being that everybody describes them as “unique” or straight up “weird”. Both these books could be the biggest hit or a major miss, and I’m desperately hoping for the former. Synopsis: Carolyn's not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts. After all, she was a normal American herself once. That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father. In the years since then, Carolyn hasn't had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient customs. They've studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God. Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation. As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own. But Carolyn has accounted for this. And Carolyn has a plan. The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she's forgotten to protect the things that make her human.
Vita Nostra - Marina & Sergey Dyachenko Synopsis: While vacationing at the beach with her mother, Sasha Samokhina meets the mysterious Farit Kozhennikov under the most peculiar circumstances. The teenage girl is powerless to refuse when this strange and unusual man with an air of the sinister directs her to perform a task with potentially scandalous consequences. He rewards her effort with a strange golden coin. As the days progress, Sasha carries out other acts for which she receives more coins from Kozhennikov. As summer ends, her domineering mentor directs her to move to a remote village and use her gold to enter the Institute of Special Technologies. Though she does not want to go to this unknown town or school, she also feels it’s the only place she should be. Against her mother’s wishes, Sasha leaves behind all that is familiar and begins her education. As she quickly discovers, the institute’s "special technologies" are unlike anything she has ever encountered. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, their families pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.
Imaginary Friend – Stephan Chbosky I debated if I even wanted to put this one on the list, as I still haven’t decided whether I want to read it enough to overcome my hesitations about it. Although the premise and the hype surrounding it intrigue me, and I’ve been getting more into horror/thrillers lately, there are many reasons I have my doubts about this one. It’s a 700-page beast that hasn’t gotten the best reviews, and I frankly don’t have a good track record with the author, as I’m in the small minority that hated Perks of Being a Wallflower. Still something about this book intrigues me enough to put it on here, although I see the possibility of this being a quick DNF if I’m not feeling it after the first 100 pages or so. Synopsis: Imagine... Leaving your house in the middle of the night. Knowing your mother is doing her best, but she's just as scared as you. Imagine... Starting a new school, making friends. Seeing how happy it makes your mother. Hearing a voice, calling out to you. Imagine... Following the signs, into the woods. Going missing for six days. Remembering nothing about what happened. Imagine... Something that will change everything... And having to save everyone you love.
How to make Friends with the Dark – Kathleen Glassgow Objectively I should have no reason to fear this novel: it’s YA-contemporary, not that long and has great reviews online so far. The reason I haven’t picked it up yet is the content however: How to Make Friends with the Dark centres around a girl going through depression after she’s lost her mother, with whom she had a very special relationship. Since this is something I’ve personal experience with, this is probably going to hit close to home. Although those can be the best kind of books, they’re also the most scary to me. Synopsis: Here is what happens when your mother dies. It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart. That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone. Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.
The Overstory – Richard Powers The Overstory won quite some literary awards upon release, praising its unique structure and unconventional narrative. Although this is the exact reason I’m interested, it’s also what intimidates me. As with many of these highly literary fiction novels, I’m a little scared this will go over my head, yet I’m still eager to give it a try. Synopsis: The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.
Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand Yes, I saved the worst to last: top of my intimidating list has to be this highly political, philosophical 1957, 1200+-pages beast of a book. Most of you will be able to relate to why this one scares me, and in all honesty: I questioned plenty of times whether I even wanted to read this. I have read quite a lot of works based off Ayn Rand’s classic, and do enjoy thinking about philosophical questions like this enough to want to read the source material for myself. Just wish me luck by the time I actually get to it… Synopsis: Why did he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies, but against those who needed him most, and his hardest battle against the woman he loved? What is the world’s motor — and the motive power of every man? You will know the answer to these questions when you discover the reason behind the baffling events that play havoc with the lives of the characters in this story. Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life — from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy — to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction — to the philosopher who becomes a pirate — to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph — to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad — to the lowest track worker in her Terminal tunnels. This is a mystery story, not about the murder — and rebirth — of man’s spirit. It is a philosophical revolution, told in the form of an action thriller of violent events, a ruthlessly brilliant plot structure and an irresistible suspense. Do you say this is impossible? Well, that is the first of your premises to check
I’m hoping that putting this list out there will help motivate me to pick up more of these books soon. If you’ve read any of them, feel free to share your thoughts with me, or let me know what your most intimidating TBR-books are. I hope to see you all in my next post, and until then: happy reading!