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The Book That Stares You Down

Look at the size of that beast.

Everybody’s got one–that book on the shelf, the one you bought 3 years ago, back when you really said you were going to read that 400 pager, and you really meant it.

But after page 50, you got a little bored, maybe a little overwhelmed, so you sat it back on the bookshelf–and there it stayed, staring you down, mocking you.

For me, that book was Infinite Jest. It wasn’t literally on my shelf, but it’s been a part of my reading to-do list for years now. A good friend and big Infinite Jest fan has been singing its praises to me for a decade, but I couldn’t get motivated to read it. Have you seen the size of this book?

So when I started reading Infinite Jest as part of this project, I felt a sense of relief that I had at least overcome my hesitation to read this massive novel. Now, almost finished, that sense of relief is even more pronounced–mainly because the book doesn’t suck.

After all, who wants to read a 1,000 page book that sucks? Especially since I can’t just skip it, since I have to read every single novel on the Time list. That was my worst fear about Infinite Jest–that I would hate it. I won’t give away my review, but I’ll just say that it’s been worth my time–mostly.

So, anyway, back to the point of today’s post: What’s your book? What book have you always talked about reading but never read?

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35 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cath #

    Almost anything by Charles Dickens. I have only recently had the perseverance to complete ‘Great Expectations’.

    One down, all his other classics still to go…

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  2. Eddie #

    Another good argument for the Kindle. You can’t see how thick the book is. Just avoid the % complete at the bottom of the screen, and you are blissfully ignorant!! To answer the question… The Stand by Stephan King was one I battled with. Finally started over for the 3rd time, and went right through it.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  3. Katie #

    Little Women. I tried a couple times in my preteen and teen years, and I have not tried since then. So maybe I should try to tackle it again!

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  4. bethanychristine #

    The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco. Was first recommended by one of my professors in undergrad, bought it used, and attempted to read it once. I got about 1/3 of the way thru it, before I stopped reading for some reason. I’m pretty sure I didn’t mean to, but the next time I picked it up, I had no idea what was going on, and I haven’t re-started since. Kind of makes me guilty.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  5. Ulysses.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 6, 2011
  6. Stones of Summer for me. We watched the documentary about it at one of my MFA residencies (awesome film, btw) and all I wanted to do was get my hands on a copy of this monstrous book. Then a few weeks later I found a hard cover copy on sale at my library for $1 and bought it. I think I read the first 10 pages before setting it aside. There’s also Moby Dick– I read it in college, but I skipped A LOT and actually enjoyed the parts I didn’t skip, so I’d like to revisit Mr. Melville’s masterpiece.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
    • Yes, Moby Dick. I read parts in college as well, but I’ve never read the whole thing. I much preferred Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”

      Like

      May 6, 2011
  7. Ben #

    Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson (author of Snow Crash from The List). I attempted it two or three times over the course of two or three years before I finally finished it. It was long, dense and fascinating–and the first book of a three book series which I may or may not attempt in the future. Also, I’m currently on book 10 of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and hope to be caught up by the time the 14th and final book is released. I’ve been reading those off and on for the better part of a decade now.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  8. Mine would have to East of Eden by Steinbeck. Also Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I think LOTR is one of the very few brick-sized books that I read every year! Also just wanted to thank you for the link to Wallace’s commencement address – it’s brilliant and makes me want to read his work. Will wait for your review on Infinite Jest.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
    • Anna Karenina. One day. Haven’t read that either.

      You’re welcome for the link. Loved that speech too.

      Like

      May 6, 2011
  9. Not necessarily for length, but just the bad reviews that people had told me – 100 Years of Solitude. Also being a Spanish major, I felt the pressure to read it in Spanish. I read it in English and LOVED it!!! So I think my new one is Don Quijote. I ‘read’ it in undergrad for the class of the same name. This time I’m going to try in English and actually read it. I’ve been meaning to do this for like 6 years. Oh and Les Miserables in English as well. Someday I might get there!

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  10. Moby Dick. Made it about a fourth of the way through a couple of years back. Still want to try to tackle it again, my frustrations with whaling tidbits aside.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  11. Dune has been on my stack of books to read for several years, I’ve just never gotten around to starting it, and I’m still not sure when I will.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  12. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
    I am a Dickens fan, but I have never made it more than a few pages into this book, and honestly, I’m not sure why.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  13. Kim #

    The Last of the Mohicans. I bought it several years ago and got incredibly bored about 10 pages in. I finally read it out of desperation last year when I was snowed in for a week, and enjoyed it…either because there are only so many snow angels you can make or because being a few years older just made me appreciate it more.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  14. One Christmas I received “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” by Eugene Peterson. It isn’t a novel, but a book on the Psalms of Ascent. It is also appropriately titled. I held on to that thing for three years. It isn’t that it is a massive book, it is just over 200 pages. The problem is that the book seemed so dry and uninteresting at times. Sure, there were nuggets of brilliance here and there, but I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it until this year. Upon completion, I promptly sold it.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  15. Holly Vandervort #

    “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. I started reading it my senior year in high school. A private scholarship was offered for the best essay about the book. But I couldn’t get past the first ten pages and at 17 I had much better (er…more fun) things to do with my time. It has been mocking me ever sense. And you just inspired me to finally read it…thanks!

    Like

    May 6, 2011
    • Ayn Rand books have always looked intimidating to me. I almost bought Atlas Shrugged one summer, but never got around to it. Good luck with The Fountainhead!

      Like

      May 6, 2011
  16. I have a few…

    Moby Dick, Les Miserables, Sister Carrie, The Odyssey, and The Age of Innocence. Moby Dick and The Age of Innocence especially- I’ve started them both several times, and always get distracted after about 100 pages or so.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  17. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown… every time I say I going to read it I just don’t and many people had told me it’s a good book but it’s not enough for me I even feel guilty because it was a present.

    Like

    May 6, 2011
  18. romancingforthrills #

    I read mainly contemporary books, but often feel I should try to read more of the classics. But, I always worry that they’ll be just a little bit too much like hard work.

    Like

    May 7, 2011
  19. Patti #

    I have started both Ulysses and The Milagro Beanfield War about 5 times and not made much headway. Tried 100 Years of Solitude as a read aloud and it didn’t work and haven’t tried again. I read and liked Anna Karenina but have not yet managed War and Peace

    Like

    May 7, 2011
  20. For me, it’s Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being”… Man, the first few pages are really ‘unbearable’ for me. It’s like I always try my best to finish the damn thing, but I just can’t go on reading. But yes, it’s just there on my shelf, waiting for the day when I’d take it down again. =)

    Like

    May 8, 2011
  21. Anything by Thomas Hardy. I had to read Tess of the D’urbervilles at university and hated it. I don’t know why, but many, many years later I thought I’d try reading Jude the Obscure (I think because someone mentioned that all the “students” in the old TV show “Room 222” talked about reading it). Awful.

    When my niece-in-law got a tablet reader with “free” books, I told her to keep away from Thomas Hardy: death and despair is all the reader finds.

    Like

    May 8, 2011
  22. 2blu2btru #

    I had two books, but I conquered them. One was Stephen King’s IT. It became a tradition for me to start reading this book on Halloween. I got as far as 646 once. I finally brought it to work and read a bit at lunch each day and a little at home if it was getting good and finished it. The other was Donna Tartt’s A Secret History. It was a bestseller and she was touted at the greatest thing ever. I read a few pages and thought it was overhyped. I eventually finished it using the same methods.

    The current book staring me down is Water for Elephants. The movie came out a little while ago, and I was supposed to read it and treat myself to the movie. That hasn’t gone well.

    Like

    May 9, 2011
  23. Eddie #

    I had forgotten how long “IT” was… 1142 pages. I guess that is the longest book I ever read…

    Like

    May 9, 2011
  24. bba #

    the house of leaves. it’s not only long, but really dense and bizarre. i started it once but didn’t finish. i see it often on the shelf and will read it one day.

    Like

    May 10, 2011
  25. That would be Les Miserables…started several times, but yet to complete. On my “read this year” list now! LOL

    Like

    June 14, 2011

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Looking Back on Infinite Jest | 101 Books
  2. Fess Up: The Book You’ve Never Read | 101 Books

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