The Sunday Salon.comToday is the second in a three-week series of Sunday Salon posts in which I also reviewed my 2011 reading goals and will be shifting my reading focus a bit.

As I promised last week, today I’m unveiling a new project. Reading projects have been, by far, my most successful and enjoyable reading endeavors. They encourage me to explore books I may never have picked up without the project to encourage me. The Classics Reclamation Project has gotten me reading and enjoying classics alongside my other books, and Reading Buddies has allowed me to finally pick up some long-standing TBR books along with fellow readers. These two will, of course, continue, alongside a third. So what is this new project, you ask?

Introducing: just READ it.

just READ it badge

just READ it (JRI) is about tackling the “hard” books. “Hard” might mean long, or dense, or confusing, or intimidating, or far outside my comfort zone, or written by a “hard” author, or so universally beloved I’m afraid I’ll be the only person in the world who doesn’t see their brilliance. I have a bunch of these on my shelf, and without fail, my hand passes them by when I’m choosing my next book.

What are these “hard” books? For me, they include: The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, Possession by A.S. Byatt, Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, The Aeneid and The Inferno, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, and anything by Orhan Pamuk, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison or Salman Rushdie. There are others, of course, and I’m working on a Goodreads shelf to keep track of them, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind. Some of these overlap with my classics project, and if I read them, I’ll count them toward both.


There are a couple of reasons I’m singling out these “hard” books. First, I want to make myself admit why I’ve been avoiding them and then face them. I don’t want there to be any book I’m afraid to try, and by pushing myself, I hope to reach that goal.

I also want to read these books because some of the “hard” authors I’ve read recently have become my favorites. Margaret Atwood, José Saramago, David Mitchell and Kazuo Ishiguro all struck me as “hard” initially, but I’ve ended up loving their work. War and Peace is one of the scariest-looking books I’ve encountered, yet thanks to Jillian’s readalong, I’ve undertaken to read that tome this year and thoroughly enjoyed the half of it I’ve gotten through so far. So, I want to focus on these “hard” books because I do believe many of them will end up becoming life-long favorites.

The Technical Stuff

I’m not setting rules for this project the way I did initially with the Classics Reclamation Project. I don’t want to push myself too hard or stress myself out by setting deadlines or requirements. Instead, I’ll aim to read one of these books a month but will not feel guilty if I don’t. My posts about these books will be less formal reviews and more exploration, the way Classics Reclamation Project and Reading Buddies posts are. I’ll also try to say why each book intimidated me and whether my fear was justified!

These books will also show up on occasion in Reading Buddies book selection polls. If they are chosen as monthly reads, I know I’ll be glad to have the company!

Your Turn!

What books or authors scare you?

Join the Conversation


  1. This sounds a lot like my scary authors project that I started and abandoned at the beginning of this year (because you know me, I abandon all projects eventually – I don’t like to be tied down!). Good luck to you as you read these! I’ll look forward to the posts.

  2. I liked A Suitable Boy a lot when I read it, but there were some parts that I skimmed, because they dealt with Indian politics, and frankly, the book was so long that I thought I might never get through it. It was a really interesting book though, as are a lot of the others on your list. I really like this project, and may have to think about tackling a few of those harder reads for myself!

  3. This probably says something bad about my character, but the books that I keep passing by don’t tend to be books I consider “scary”, but books I suspect are going to be boring. Salman Rushdie is one, and The Ground Beneath Her Feet has become one of my favorite books of all time. I don’t view them as scary reads but as books I don’t want to read and would only read out of a sense of duty to Lit’rature. Sometimes they surprise me though! I think I would probably fail at a structured attempt to knock such books off of my TBR pile, but I do one or two a year and that’s fine for me, I think.

    (I’ll be interested to see what you think of Moby Dick. I had to read it for school (twice!), and I think that skewed my perception of it.)

  4. Possession isn’t hard at all – I’ve been meaning to retread it for ages so let me know when you pick it up! “Hard” books for me include things like Foucalt’s Pendulum and Beloved. Great idea for a project!

  5. I’ve been avoiding Toni Morrison since high school and Beloved, but I recently read A Mercy and loved it. Now I’m reading Sula, but I was still afraid to start it. I was worried A Mercy was a fluke, and I wasn’t going to enjoy it at all. Fortunately, as soon as I started it all my fears went away. Now I’m encouraging everyone to read more Toni Morrison 🙂 I’m glad to see she’s on your list, and I hope you get around to tacking something of hers in 2012.

  6. That’s a good challenge. I find a lot of the books that “scare” me are ones I bought thinking “wow!” and then saw how detailed they were or how different it was to how I thought it would be. So I’ve a history of Indian cinema that has sat on my shelf for five years now, and an in depth Cleopatra biography that’s less old but still not been read. Then I’ve tomes like Shogun. Not only does it have over 1100 pages, but the print is small and the margins pretty much non-existent.

    Wolf Hall scares me too! I want to get a copy but I know it’ll just sit there.

  7. This sounds like something I should definitely do myself. Maybe not this year as I’m not sure how things will go with a new baby in the house, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for books I also have waiting for Reading Buddies! And if I’m lucky Possession (one of my “hard” books too) will pop up on the list!

  8. For me, books by Russian authors are the most scary, although I love Anna Karenina.. But The Brothers Karamazov (or something like that) I started this year but didn’t finish it.
    Good luck with your challenge!

  9. I hear you. There are some books that I just shy away from. But I have started to tackle them throughout my project, and I have found, more often than not, that they are far more accessible than I thought. It just takes me a little while to get the courage to pull them off the shelf!

  10. This is a great idea, Erin, I really like it. A few of the authors you named are on my “scary” list and, off the top of my head, Balzac, Goethe and Roberto Bolano but there are others. I signed up for a group read of The Savage Detectives byu Roberto Bolano in January and I’m nervous about it!

  11. Toni Morrison is an awesome writer! Start with Beloved. It’s amazing. I think I’ll join you. There’s a ton of books on my tbr shelves that I could possibly classify as hard.

    Moby Dick is another great book. There are some boring parts though. Will look at your shelf on Goodreads.

  12. I have picked up ‘A Suitable Boy’ many times and started but end up putting it down. I am sorry to say that I may never read it. I am reading from the 1001 list and some of the books I look at on the list just scare me because I don’t like other books by the same author. I hated ‘Love in the Time of Cholera” and García Márquez has two more books on the list. I guess since I don’t expect to ever completely finish the list, it won’t matter!

  13. Good question! I’m not sure, actually, what books/authors scare me. I tend to stay away from books I think will be boring, but all it takes is one good review and it’s on my list. I guess if I had to say, it would be any book that’s usually described with the word “experimental” somewhere in connection. I like a good old-fashioned narrative!

  14. Love this idea! I just read my first Morrison this year, The Bluest Eye, and was in awe of the gorgeous writing. Possession is on my list, too, along with W&P, anything by Rushdie or Pamuk, Henry James later novels, and Virginia Woolf.

  15. We share several of the same “scary” titles. I am always avoiding Moby-Dick, Half of a Yellow Sun, Virginia Woolf, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Thankfully, Reading Buddies has forced me to pick up some of the scarier titles on my list — Little Women, A Tale of Two Cities, The Poisonwood Bible, The Woman in White. I hope some of the titles on your list are selected for RB! I’m also happy to read some of these titles with you in addition to RB as long as my school schedule allows me to.

  16. Very few books scare me, but some don’t seem to ever fit my state of mind when I actually have the time to read them.

    I would love to read War and Peace, but who has time for that? LOL.

  17. You’ve mentioned some of my ‘scary’ authors. I want to read Byatt’s Possession and I keep saying I want to read Rushdie but my enthusiasm is waning.

  18. I think I’ll be doing something like this eventually — focusing on the works I’ve been avoiding. Or maybe I already am. 😀

    Anyway, sounds like a great project, Erin! I’ll be eagerly watching to see what you read.

  19. This sounds like a noble endeavour! :D….I wish I had the courage to start or do something like this. However, I suspect, with all the enthusiasm going around the book blogging world to tackle all the “tough” books I’m likely to try some of these anyway. For example, I’m finally going to read War and Peace this year, and I’m hoping to read Les Miserables should I finish War and Peace by June.

    Some of the writers you’ve mentioned in this post I am not familiar with, nor have I heard of their works before.

    All the best with this new project of yours! 🙂

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