I should probably start by clarifying these aren’t horror books that I find really scary, but books that have been on my TBR or my shelves for years, and that for one reason or other I’m too afraid to start reading. I’m interested in these books, but I also find them daunting, for whatever reason.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This is the book that motivated this whole list, really. It’s been sitting on my shelf for around three years and I still haven’t found the courage to start reading it. I picked it up on a whim without knowing much about it. After reading up on it I realised it dealt with some hard themes, like child abuse, paedophilia and rape. That made me reticent to read it because those are issues I tend to steer clear of — I realise the importance of writing about them, but often I find them too upsetting. I can deal with them being one part of a character’s journey, but reading a whole book about the traumatic life of a character who these things constantly happen to, feels like more than I can handle. Recently I also learnt, that what happens to the protagonist, Jude, is more similar to a trauma conga line than to the actual experiences of a survivor. Apparently that was Yanagihara’s intent, to exaggerate Jude’s abuse to grotesque proportions in order to start conversations, and highlight the horrific nature of all sexual violence. I’ve read that some people think it has the opposite effect — they can’t take the events seriously because they’re so exaggerated. I’m very unwilling to read a book dealing with such sensitive subject matter if there’s a chance I won’t find it respectful. On the other hand I know some people really love this book, and found it absolutely moving and that’s why I haven’t completely given up on it.
South of Broad by Pat Conroy
This is another book that scares me for some of the sensitive themes it deals with. Like with a Little Life, there’s paedophilia in this one, and rape, and child abuse, and at least one severely mentally-ill character who I’m not sure won’t be vilified. So that’s the main reason why I’m reticent. I really have to think long and hard before delving into books like these, and while I have in the past, they were usually recommend by people I trusted and who knew how important it is to me that these topics be dealt with in a sensitive manner, and not exist merely for shock value. If I remember correctly I bought this book in some type of book fair, it was buy 3 for 10€ or something and I picked this one up randomly just to have three books. I haven’t touched it since, and I’m not sure I ever will.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
To be honest I’m scared of this book because of its size. It’s 1000 pages long, and while I usually like large books, in this case it seems a bit excessive for the premise. This is a fantasy book, but not high fantasy, so the length is more daunting than exciting. This is also set in Victorian England which is probably the time period I hate the most, it’s been beaten into the grave. I can’t find it in myself to care about it. Books either focus on how dreary things were for the poor and marginalised or sing praises to British Imperialism — and while I can sometimes stomach the former and deal with the overdone cliches, I have no patience for the latter, and I’m afraid this book will focus on exactly that. So, those are the reasons I’ve been putting it off for years, because while parts of it sound exciting, I’m afraid it will be a slog to get through on top of being set in a time period I really could not care less about.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
Well this one is easy. I love Harry Potter and by all accounts this book will ruin that. A well-intentioned family member gave it to me as a gift, otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it myself. I know the whole plot and I guess I could say this one is actually horrifying.
And’t that’s my list of intimidating books (and one legitimately scary). I’d be interested in knowing if some of you own similar books, that feel like unclimbable mountains for some reason. Ping me back if that’s the case, because I love this kind of list. And also if you have any arguments why I should read any of these books please let me know!