Have you ever really enjoyed a book by an author that you were too intimidated to try?

Welcome to Page Turners!

Thanks for dropping past Page Turners on this weeks book blogger hop. If you are new to Page Turners, why not consider joining in my fun Friday meme: BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAY.

I have three great posts to share with you from this week. A review of 84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff, two great books - about books!

A review of French Fried by Chris Dolley.

Finally, I had the very lucky opportunity of interviewing Australian author Kerry Greenwood.

Intimidating Authors

Have you ever been really scared of reading an author because their work intimidates you? It might be because of the quality of the writing, or the size of their books or all the accolades they have received. 

Have you then actually read one of their works and been pleasantly surprised that not only could you read it but you enjoyed reading it and want to read more of their works?

This happened to me recently when I read and enjoyed Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (read my review here) and it got me thinking about other authors that I have really enjoyed despite initially being too intimidated to read their work. 

Here are my top three intimidating authors that I have really enjoyed reading:

Franz Kafka
What I knew about Franz Kafka was that he was supposed to be one of the most talented writers the world had ever produced, and that his most famous and successful work, Metamorphosis, was often heralded as one of the best pieces of literature ever written. 

As a result, although he was an author that I had often heard about but had always been too scared to try.

Instead what I found when I read Metamorphosis was an extremely readable story that was packed with so much meaning and subtlety that I was floored by Kafka's sheer talent. This is an author that I can't wait to read more of.

Leo Tolstoy

When I talk about being intimidated by Leo Tolstoy, I think it would be more accurate to say that I was intimated by reading Anna Karenina, which had been sitting on my sisters bookcase daring me to try it. 

I think that was I was most intimidated by was it's size. I also think that I expected that because it was written in Russian in the 19th Century it would somehow be difficult to read. 

When I finally read it, I found that I really enjoyed it. In fact, I couldn't put it down. I just wanted to read and read and read until it was finished. It wasn't half as challenging as I expected it to be and now I can't wait to try more Tolstoy.

Salman Rushdie
I was mainly too intimidated to try reading Salman Rushdie because of all the furore surrounding his novel The Satanic Verses. I had always had the impressions that his works were extremely challenging in terms of concepts and language.

Although I had always been keen in theory to attempt his works, I was also very apprehensive. I didn't want to fail in my attempt to read his books.

The first Rushdie book I read was Midnights Children, the winner of the Best Ever Man Booker Prize Winners. I absolutely loved it, couldn't put it down. Having surprised myself, I then moved on to The Satanic Verses, the reading of which was an invaluable experience to me.

Why do I say that? Well, of all this authors that I was initially too intimidated to read, Rushdie was definitely the hardest in the end. I had to read very slowly, especially The Satanic Verses. I also found that at the end of the book, I didn't entirely understand everything that I had read, again particularly with The Satanic Verses. You can read my review of it here; the quality of the review reflects my limited understanding of what I read.

Given the difficulty I had reading and understand these books, I am proud of myself for reading them and finishing them... and enjoying them. Completing The Satanic Verses taught me that I shouldn't under-estimate myself and my reading ability.

What is my next challenge?

The other reason that I bring this up is because I am about to embark upon my next challenge - A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. 

I have owned this book for some time now, but have always been too intimidated to read it. Like Anna Karenina, this aversion to reading it is largely to do with its size.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth is the longest novel ever written (in one volume) in the English language. 

Quite something. And quite something to attempt to read. But I am going to start it as soon as I can.

What about you?

Are there any authors that you have really enjoyed once you have read their works, despite being intimidated by them? Do you have any exciting reads coming up that you have been putting off because of the challenge that they pose?



  1. Cool topic! For me, I've always been intimidated to start Gone With The Wind. Partly because of its age, and partly because it's a huge, huge novel. I can see myself taking weeks and weeks to finish it... with the tiny print and hundreds of pages. One day, though, I want to give it a try! Like you said, I might end up loving it.

  2. My husband goes on and on about James Clavell. He loves all his novels. Finally after fours years of badgering I read Sho Gun. I'm NOT a history buff but this was great. I thought all the Japanese names would confuse me too much but once I got into it, it was an amazing story. I hope to start Tai Pan one of these days.

  3. Tolstoy, has always intimated me too. The fear is probably due to the size of his novels and translation. Although, I saw The Last Station last year and inspired me to read him, but I have yet to take the plunge.

    I'm not sure if I'd call it intimidation, but I was wherry to try Elizabeth Gaskell. I believe because she had been compared to Jane Austen, but I ended up loving Cranford.

    Emidy-- It took me about six weeks to read Gone with the Wind, but frankly my dear, it was worth it.

  4. The Mists of Avalon was pretty intimidating for me...the thing is, while I managed to get through it, I didn't particularly enjoy it. I haven't had the nerve to even try Gone With the Wind yet...Maybe when my TBR pile gets shorter...Currently I'm trying to pshych myself into reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It's not the length that's intimidating to me, it's the dark subject matter and the fact that this isn't the normal kind of book I go in for. Dark thrillers just don't do it for me. But I'm really intrigued by it...

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  6. I am so surprised to see that Gone with the Wind intimidates people. I read it last year and love love loved it. It looks thick, but the writing is not challenging at all! I think I read it in about 5 days on the train to and from work, which all up would only be about 5 hours together.

    Try it - I am with Whitney - it is sooo worth it!!

    Baby - haven't heard of James Clavell but i am glad that you enjoyed him

    Fantasy Lover - I hope you give GWDT a go, once you start you can't put it down, specite the sometimes confronting content

  7. I tend to get intimidated by size rather than author so a Suitable Boy is up there even though Ive heard very good things about it.

    Some of the english victorian writers I do find a little intimidating but purely because I dont get on with flowery lanuage so much.

  8. Happy Friday!!!--Stopping by from the hop!--I'm a new follower!!!!--Great post!!!

    I remember hearing about Lolita, and wanting to read it, but being nervous about what was in it. I'm glad I read it--Nabokov does a great job of telling you unsettling things, but letting your imagination interpret everything, instead of the vivid details--Actually MUCH MUCH more tame than a lot of things out there, but the subject matter is still controversial--Very glad I read it, though--I feel like I got a lot of insight (in a non-creepy way)


  9. Becky! Awesome, awesome, AWESOME post :)

    You're probably well aware that 19th Century classics scare me. Anna Karenina for example.

    I think it was just the idea that the language might be dense, flowery and be like Dickens - you get to Chapter 17 and someone has done something Really Exciting. Like blown their nose.

    Well, now I'm reading Anna K and it's really easy and very, very enjoyable. The characterisation is incredible and I'm looking forward to falling in love with it completely.

    I was scared of reading Foucault when I was at uni. But I started reading his Birth of the Clinic and it was so much easier than I thought it was going to be... I breezed through it and really enjoyed it.

    BTW - you Q about commenting set up for Blogger.... I think the Discus plugin might be the answer to your problems.

  10. Jessica - I totally understand the fear of Victorian authors - although I have to admit that i love them. The writing is challenging and you have to focus when you read it. I enjoy that aspect of reading those authors though - I feel like I am achieving something.

    Nymfaux - Lolita is something that I have wanted to read since I read a review of it very recently. It seems seriously full on. I am glad you mentioned that one!

    Amanda - I have a secret - I don't like Dickens!!! Normally I love those types of books but you are so right about the nose blowing thing, you have to wait so long for something to happen that when it does it is a total let down, lol. Glad you are enjoying Anna Karenina, its not nearly as hard as you expect it to be is it! Thanks for the tip on the comment thing, I will check it out. Someone else suggested one called intensedebate as well - so i will compare them

  11. Yes, Intensedebate also looks good. I'm not sure what the differences are between them - just haven't had much time this week to check them out.

    I was a bit sick early in the week, overwhelmed with work when I got back in the office... and then one of our dearest Elders passed away last night and I'm devastated today - thus the Wizard of Oz post to cheer myself up.

    I'm wishing I'd gone to Adelaide with Gary cos I'm feeling :(

  12. Great post! I'm not sure authors intimidate me as much as certain books. War and Peace, for example. Cliche, I know, but I am scared of it. Perhaps that shall be my own personal challenge!

  13. Happy Friday! Just hopping by and am a new follower!

    have a great blogging day!

  14. Amanda - Thanks for your tips, I have loaded a new comment system thanks to your motivating post - thanks for your help! I hope that you start to recover from your loss soon. I sent you an email I hope cheers you up a bit

    Small World - I am the same. Sometimes it is the specific book rather than the author. War and Peace still intimidates me somewhat, but I feel better about tackling it one day.

    Thanks for stopping by iamjenai

  15. Hi there! First of all, thanks so much for stopping by my blog.

    I think James Joyce is an author I was intimidated to read (and still am, a little bit). Of course, I read Dubliners and loved it, and I'm working on The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which isn't too intimidating. But Ulysses. That book is BIG. And rather complex. I'm making slow progress, but I'm really enjoying it.

    Anyway, I've started following your blog because I really like it. :) Happy Friday and happy hopping!

  16. This is such a great question. Most of the authors on the Modern Library list that I am reading initially intimidated the hell out of me. I mean, these were chosen as the 100 greatest books of the last century...they've obviously got something profound to say, and a bunch of people obviously liked it. Some of them are like 8 million pages long! What's NOT to be intimidated by?? :)

    So far on the list, I would have to agree with you on Salman Rushdie. Midnight's Children captivated me. I was a bit afraid to read Hemingway and Joyce, but A Farewell to Arms turned out fabulous. Joyce..well, let's just say his appeal is a bit over my head. Or I can be honest and say Finnegans Wake sucked!

    The most important thing is to read with an open mind!

  17. I'd say maybe Thomas Hardy. I first read Tess of D'Urbervilles for a book group and didn't really expect to enjoy it but I LOVED it.

    Now I'm reading Far from the Madding Crowd and really enjoying that as well.

    His books are densely packed and rather tragic - but he was a brilliant writer.

    Great topic!

  18. Great post.

    Loved Midnights Children. Someone also mentioned Shogun which is a bloody great novel (I am going be rereading it soon).

    What scares me now is Bolano's 2666

  19. Hey Becky, thanks so much for stopping by The Blue Bookcase! I've been reading your blog for awhile now and really enjoy it. Keep up the great work!

  20. Great topic! I felt the same way about Kafka, but also loved Metamorphosis. I was also really intimidated by Henry James, but ended up really enjoying Portrait of a Lady. I'm hoping to tackle Anna Karenina and Tess of D'Urbervilles this summer... both have been daring me for far too long now. Rushdie, though... I tried. Once. Just didn't work out for me. I'm giving it a year or two before I try again - everyone LOVES him!

    Really great post. You've got me itching to get going on my own intimidating reads.

  21. There are some authors that intimidate me, but mostly I worry I'll be bored or feel like I'm wasting my time. I like to finish a book once I start it! (btw, thanks for coming by my blog)

  22. Can you believe I have read A suitable Boy, but don't remember anything about it? That was pre-blog, eons ago. If you like it, I might reread it!!

  23. Hey Becky, thanks for coming to my blog! Oh I have LOADS here. I was really intimidated by George Eliot but that worked out well. I was also really intimidated by DH Lawrence and Faulkner, and it turned out, rightly :) People I'm toying with at the moment despite intimidation include Henry James, Simone de Beauvoir (sp?) and Thomas Hardy.

  24. @Becky--I'd love to hear what you think of Lolita!!!

    Also, I totally just remembered, a few years ago, I heard about a great new translation of War and Peace, and so I thought I'd give it a try...I got home and realized I'd bought Crime and Punishment instead!!!--lol--Still working on that one!!!

    --Oh, and I have a slight fear of Jane Austin--I LOVE old movies, but I had seen a really horrible adaptation of Pride&Prejudice, kind of antebellum style--with huge hats and big hoop skirts, I don't know what it was, but I was absolutely scarred by it--I've seen much better adaptations since then and so now I'm trying to work on my fear ;)

  25. Oooo--Just saw your comment on Gone With the Wind!!!--I read it in high school and really enjoyed it!!!--I'm curious if you've read Scarlett? I really enjoyed that one, too--I would comment further, but don't want to spoil it, if you haven't read it!!!

  26. I'm working through Proust. His books take time but they are worth the effort.

    Happy Friday. Come see how many books I have on my TBR pile.

  27. Thomas Hardy - I can't include him in this list. I found him intimidating and when I read him at last, I wasn't able to get into it at all. I am still intimidated!!!

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