Themes & Treats Book Club: A Book That Intimidates You

Intimidation concept.

What makes a book intimidating? It could be how big the book is. I’m sorry, Moby Dick is how long? Or maybe it’s the subject matter. Let’s face it, a book on philosophy is not everybody’s cup of tea. Whatever the reason, there are millions of books that intimidate readers of all ages and backgrounds, and there is no shame in this! The point of this month’s themed book club was to embrace those books, shatter the stereotype of a “scary” book, and broaden our horizons to try something we normally would shy away from. Also remember that what is intimidating to you may be an easy read for someone else. Our readers had a great time exploring new books and sharing their reading experiences.

paris in the present tense
Shellie’s Book: Paris in the Present Tense by Mark Helprin
Intimidating Factor: Time Restriction
As leader of the group, I started us off with my book which is not due to be released until October. I received it as an Advanced Reader’s Copy from the publisher and my review was due by a certain date. As a librarian of a two-staff, one-room, hectic tiny library, my time to read at the desk is slim to none and as a soon-to-be-married, wedding planning crazy woman my personal time is also highly precious. As the days crunched down and got closer to the deadline, I was panicking that I was not going to be able to finish on time, and my ability to receive more ARCs was riding on me finishing on time. The book is thick and the author is very wordy which made it hard to get through. Once I got into it, the book ended up being well worth the read. My full review can be found here.

100 years
Bette’s Book: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Intimidating Factor: Foreign Writer
Bette joined us from our main library book club and her book was intimidating to her because sometimes she has issues with foreign writers. Mostly this is attributed to translation issues, but she has a few she likes so she gave this book a try. The book itself was dense so she found herself Googling SparkNotes to help her understand what she was reading at times, but overall she enjoyed the book. She even recommended it to the group. She gave it a four-star review.

winter people
Laurene’s Book: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Intimidating Factor: “Scary” Book (literally!)
Laurene is not a fan of spooky books so that is why she chose one of Jennifer McMahon’s creepiest novels. I recommended it to her and raved about it. Laurene, unlike me, read the book on a bright sunny afternoon on the beach. Trust me when I say atmosphere plays a big role in your perception of  a book. I was dumb enough to read the book at night in the dark of my room with my cat scratching on my bathroom door. There is a scene in the book where something spooky scratched at a door. I could have peed myself. Laurene was much smarter than I was. She gave the book a four-star review, and only withheld the final star because she was not a fan of the evil in the book.

i know this much
Shannon’s Book: I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
Intimidating Factor: Subject Matter
This is actually one of Shannon’s favorite books so we were all surprised to hear that she was intimidated by it. The book is about twin brothers, one of which takes his own life. The subject matter of mental illness and suicide is a very dark one and it can be very intimidating to read and overcome. The book itself was also rather thick (almost 900 pages) so that too was intimidating. She highly recommended the book to the group and Lisa also admitted she enjoys Wally Lamb’s books as well.

pride and prejudice
Sam’s Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Intimidating Factor: Language
We were all very proud of Sam for reading this one since it happens to be a group favorite. Jane Austen’s classics are classic for a reason. She writes with purpose and dignity and manages to make us laugh. Sam was afraid that the language of the 18th century writer would deter her from finishing the book but it didn’t and she plans on reading more Austen novels. Sam brought in a book that contained several and Debbie recommended Sense and Sensibility while I recommended my favorite Austen novel, Northanger Abbey.

roanoke girls
Melissa’s Book: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Intimidating Factor: Subject Matter
When I recommended this book to Melissa and followed it up with “Loooooots of incest going on in that book,” she looked at me like I was nuts! She most certainly did not want to read about incest, and that is a subject most other people steer away from, too. Not Melissa. She tackled the book which was about the life of a young woman whose mother commits suicide when she is young and she sent off to live with her grandparents and cousin. Years later as an adult, she receives word that her cousin is missing. The thriller follows her attempt to uncover family secrets and to find out if her cousin is alive or if she followed the fate of the many Roanoke women who came before. Melissa loved the book and gave it five stars. Once you get past the whole incest thing, it really ended up being a good book!

not giving a
Sarah’s Book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** by Mark Manson
Intimidating Factor: Profanity and Subject Matter
Sarah says she’s not really a feelings kind of person. She also never curses or swears. This book made her confront both which is why the book was intimidating to her. She found that the book was quite the disappointment, created for frat boys who just want to read the F-word every other sentence and not actually accomplish anything by the end of the book. We gave her an A for effort in attempting to read outside her comfort zone, even if it ended up being an epic fail of a read.

history of everything
Debbie’s Book: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Intimidating Factor: Subject Matter
This book was 478 pages of science…..Debbie is an ex-English teacher. We English folk are quite intimidated by math and science. Thankfully, this book was written by someone who wanted to learn about science and for people who have no clue about most everything involved with science which made it an easier read. Debbie did admit that her brain is now full of tiny bits of information she will probably never use again and she dozed off at night several times trying to plow through the book over the course of three weeks, but overall she enjoyed the book. She graced us with some disgusting information about the creepy crawlies we all sleep with every night and for that information we can never remove from our heads we are grateful….But overall rating was four stars!

Lisa’s Books: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Intimidating Factor: Genre/Author
Lisa does not generally enjoy fantasy and she has put off reading the Harry Potter series for years for that very reason. Now that she has read them (and ENJOYED them) we can all gladly chant “I told you so!” followed by the I Told You So Dance perfected by Debbie Reynolds in her role on the sitcom Will & Grace. So far, her favorites are the third and fifth books (also my favorites) and her least favorite is the fourth book (also everyone’s least favorite of the series). Her reason for choosing A Moveable Feast as her second book is because she typically does not like Ernest Hemingway. Debbie agreed with her assessment and could not stand reading Hemingway in school, except that her favorite Hemingway book was A Moveable Feast. Funny how that worked out. They both enjoyed his descriptive writing and his portrayal of Paris.

beneath my mothers feet
Natalie’s (always unfinished) Books: Beneath My Mother’s Feet by Amjed Qamar and Survivor by Denise Jenkins James Connors
Intimidating Factor: Subject Matter
Both novels that Natalie chose deal with some heavy subject matter. The first book is a juvenile book and is even on the North Carolina Battle of the Books List for middle school students, but it still deals with the Muslim culture of arranged marriages. The second book dealt with a woman’s true story about her search for love in a world that sees not love, just body parts and women as objects for sex. Her stories are heartbreaking but they are true and full of emotion. Natalie was glad she read them (or at least parts of them) and would recommend them to the group.

Well that’s it for the Themes & Treats Book Club for September. Our theme for next month is Banned Books, which is always a favorite. There are tons of books that have been banned from libraries or challenged at one time or another for subject matter including (but certainly not limited to) profanity, explicit sex scenes, LGBT content, and a variety of other crazy reasons that people insist a book has no place on a public bookshelf. My challenge to book club readers is to pick a book, research the reason it was banned or challenged, then form your own opinion and present it to the group. I, unfortunately, will not be leading next month’s meeting because I, fortunately, am getting married that week! However, I am hoping that notes will be taken so I can post about it when I get back from all my post-wedding insanity. Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts about a book that you’ve read that intimidated you, please share it in the comment below!

3 thoughts on “Themes & Treats Book Club: A Book That Intimidates You

  1. It’s funny how we develop comfort zones in our reading habits! I was thinking about this just yesterday while at the library, wondering why I was re-shelving some “horror” books, some “19th-century British” books, some contemporary titles piled-high with difficult subject matter…..Your post makes me want to make my own short list of “intimidating” books to read in the coming years🙂.

    1. Leslie, I’m glad you are inspired to tackle some intimidating books! I did another theme last year in January called “New Year, New You” with a similar concept. I encouraged people to just read something they normally would not pick up. It was a big hit and everyone was really glad they branched out of their comfort zone. Good luck!

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