Saturday, July 6, 2013

What makes a book "intimidating"?

This past week my Bloglovin feed was overflowing with Top Ten Tuesday posts all about intimidating books. I loved going through all of them and seeing all the different books people found intimidating (I particularly liked leaving comments trying to convince people to read LOTR...), but the biggest thing that stuck out to me was that there are so many different reasons readers get intimidated by a book. When I think of why I'm intimidated by books, I normally just think of size, but reading other blogger's lists made me realize that there are way more reasons for why readers can fear a book than I ever even realized.

So what makes a book intimidating?

That's the thing, you can't just put book intimidation into a box. There are countless reasons why a book can be intimidating to a reader, and the reason any one book is intimidating can change depending on which reader you're asking. 

It's also important to note that being intimidated by a book is not the same thing as being disinterested in a book. Both are similar, but there is one huge difference. 

The difference between disinterest and intimidation

Being intimidated by a book means you actually want to read it, you're intrigued by it, but you just can't seem to push yourself to start reading it because of a variety of reasons. For example, I want to read Moby Dick, but I'm just too intimidated to start because I've heard it's boring and long.

Disinterest on the other hand means that you're not interested in a book at all. Like being intimidated, it could be because of a variety of reasons, but unlike intimidation you're not intrigued by the plot, story, or characters. Not even a little bit. For example, I know that Fifty Shades of Grey is really popular right now, and I know a lot of people are reading it, but nothing about the story intrigues me and I just don't want to read it. Period.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about a few of the reasons that people can become intimidated by a book.

Oh my freaking gosh THAT BOOK IS HUGE

Size is the biggest intimidation factor for me, as witnessed by the Does Size Matter post I did a few months ago. If a book is absolutely ginormous (like War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy) then I am so intimidated. Huge books scare me, and it's especially bad when the type is small. If a book is huge you can bet I'll put off reading it for as long as possible, if not forever. I'm clearly not the only person who feels this way because a huge number of people were citing length as a reason for book intimidation in their Top Ten Tuesday posts. What is it about length that's so darn scary? For me it's the fact that I know it will take me so long to finish. Plus, there's always the fear of not finishing the book at all. I'm the kind of reader who finishes every book they start (okay, 99% of the books they start) and because of that I hate starting a book and never finishing it. There's something so unsatisfying about it, and I honestly feel like a failure every time I do it. That's the biggest reason why size is intimidating to me.

But what if I don't like it?

I was really surprised by the number of people who listed hype as a reason  that a book intimidated them. I was even more surprised that Harry Potter was one of the main culprits of hype intimidation. Maybe it's just because it was banned in my house as a kid, but as soon as I turned 18 I jumped on reading Harry Potter, hype be damned. Personally, hype never really plays a role in whether or not I'm intimidated by a book. Does it raise my expectations? Yes. But does it make me intimidated? No. In fact I'd say that hype normally makes me even more excited to read a book or series. However, I can understand why someone would be afraid that a book or a series couldn't live up to it's hype. That being said, I think everyone should just dive in, hype or not. You'll never really know if you'll enjoy something unless you try it! And if something doesn't live up to the hype or you don't enjoy it like everyone else, big deal. At least you tried. :)

That book is just too (insert adjective here) for me

Too sad, too edgy, too sexy, too violent, these are all things I saw people saying about books in their Top Ten Tuesday posts. I find this element of intimidation interesting because I would normally put books with too much of something in my disinterest category, not my intimidated category. I think it's strange and a little bit sad that some people will avoid reading books simply because they're afraid it might be too sad or too edgy. I think one of the best things about reading is being able to experience those kinds of emotions and having the chance to become educated on difficult subjects. I think if you're really interested in a book you should read it, regardless of the content and what emotions might arise because of it. For all those people out there who are intimidated by The Fault in Our Stars or The Book Thief because of their content, read them. Regardless of the crying that these books might cause I promise you the truth they hold are worth every tear.

So those were the three big reasons for book intimidation that really stood out to me. Size and the fear of not finishing a book are the two elements that really play into my book intimidation. What about you? Do you get intimidated by size like me? How about hype, or a book having too much of something? Or are there other reasons that lead to your book intimidation that I haven't even thought of yet? 

Julia :)


  1. What a super awesome discussion post!!!! And yes I wondered the same thing when I saw all the Top 10 posts this weeks and was surprised when so many people added the Harry Potter books. But it does makes sense. It's easy to be intimidated by these epic hype. I mean imagine the dissapointed when you are the one who doesn#t love these?

    I must say that I am not intimidated by huge books. Before I started blogging I choose book only based on how many pages. If it was a small book I didn't care reading. This changed now.. haha !

  2. I'm mostly intimidated by huge books. I'm currently reading A Game of Thrones and while it's very good, it took me awhile to finally pick it up because it is so long and equivalent to the size of 3-4 YA books. (It also doesn't help that Goodreads oh-so-helpfully reminds me that I'm x many books behind in my challenge every time I log on!) I'm also slowly making my way through the Outlander series, but it's just such a big commitment!

    Hype for a book doesn't intimidate me, but rather gets me excited about it. But when I end up not caring for the book that much, I am left feeling like I'm missing something and that's sad.

    1. Oh man I TOTALLY know what you mean by Goodreads always reminding you of how far behind you are on the yearly reading challenge. I love having a book goal, but I hate feeling like a failure when I'm not reaching it. Sometimes I purposefully avoid Goodreads just so I won't have to look at how far behind I am. >.<

  3. Great post! I saw those Top 10 posts, too, but I didn't really understand them because, for the most part, I would have to say that I'm not really intimidated by reading any books. The only things that really stop me from reading specific titles are the lack of time I have to commit to reading it and, like you said, disinterest.

    I think a huge thing when it comes to whether you're intimidated by anything in life is what's riding on your reading the story. I, personally, read for entertainment purposes alone, and I draw lessons from the book while I lose myself in them. When somebody's reading a book and trying specifically to find out why it's a classic, discover why everyone loves it, draw some sort of theme for an essay, etc., that's when stories, or anything, become intimidating because you have the possibility that you won't understand or will fall short on finding what you're looking for in the story.

    For that reason, I think it's almost better to get lost in a story for the story's sake, not analyze it to the nth degree, and come in with no reservations.

    This isn't to say authors should throw down the barriers preventing the "public audience" to read. A story needs to be long to develop into something and coincidentally takes a bit of time for readers to get through it. Some books are better told in flowery and heightened language because this is how the character thinks and sees the world.

    Books, like any other medium, are to be appreciated for their creation alone. And there's a lot to appreciate. Thus, people should "follow their bliss" when it comes to books, and not just read because it struck somebody else's fancy. I say, "Get out there and read, but not for the wrong reasons."

    If you read for the wrong reasons, that's when you'll be intimidated to fit into a mold that's super unnatural for you.

    Again, great discussion post! :)

    1. Ohhh I love what you're saying here! Especially the bit about how we're setting up ourselves to be disappointed when we allow hype to build up an idea of what a book will be before we even experience it yet.

      I also like what you said about reading for enjoyment, and not reading to specifically find a certain lesson or message. I totally agree! That's part of what ruins so many classics for people; because teachers are pushing students to read and telling them to look for messages and metaphors and it takes out all of the fun of reading. You aren't discovering anymore, you're just being spoon fed the opinions of others and like you said, you're afraid that you won't fit into the mold of what people are expecting of you.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion! :D

  4. So I'm a little late seeing this post--blame the vacation--great discussion post!! I didn't catch anyone's TTT but I know exactly what you are talking about. For me, I think it's size/font, first and foremost, and content, secondly. Hype doesn't usually make me intimidated. If I don't love the concept of the story, the hype makes me more and more disinterested in it (i.e. FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY). THE DIVINERS seems like a really good book to me, but my goodness it's huge. Not as big as WAR AND PEACE but it seems the equivalent. I think size intimidates me because a) I'm worried just how long it's going to take to actually read the whole thing and b) if it's that long, I'm worried I'll get lost or forget what I read 400 pages ago. Does that make sense?

    If I had participated, I probably would've added THE FAULT IN OUR STARS because of the content, too. I agree with you about how content could just mean you're disinterested, but this book in particular to me is something I would love to read. I've heard so many amazing things about it and I know there's a movie coming out. But my younger sister was diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago and any book about a teenage girl going through cancer would bring back way too many hard memories. I probably wouldn't make it 2 chapters into the book. I see it everywhere and wish I could read it but the subject intimidates me, big time.

    Great post!

    1. I'm so glad you were able to see the post now and leave your thoughts! Better late than never. :)

      The Diviners was definitely intimidating for me because of it's size. And yes, I totally know what you mean about getting lost and forgetting what was happening. That kept happening to me when I read The Book Thief. It's such a good book, but it's so long and so popular that I kept having to check it out from the library, and then return it, and then check it out again, and I kept forgetting how far along I was and what had happened in the story. I finally finished it, but it took me awhile. :P

      I can definitely see why The Fault in Our Stars would be intimidating for you because of the history of cancer in your family. If that were the case for me I would definitely feel the same way. I wouldn't want to read anything that would bring up such difficult memories. Maybe someday you'll be able to enjoy it, but I don't blame you at all for not picking it up. :)

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