I have an ever growing pile of what I would call ‘project books’. My definition for these goes something like this…
project books (n., plural)
- books that are hefty in their number of pages and, often, in their weight
Les Misérables is such a project book, I don’t have the time for it right now, but I am using it to prop my door open.
- books that are ‘heavy’ in their subject matter or narrative style, requiring the ‘right’ (whatever that may be) frame of mind before tackling them
I don’t think I’m quite ready to read Moby Dick, it aint half a project book.
- books that are such classics that their considerable weight is also burdened with the weight of readers’ good opinions
I would read Anna Karenina today but it’s such a project book that I’m worried I might not like it.
So we have the three main prongs to my idea of project books. First is the sheer intimidating number of pages (see The Pickwick Papers, War and Peace etc. etc.) and second is the intimidation of their content. And it is because of these two things, very often the two combined, that these books continue to fester on my shelves for months and months. It is all too easy to hover between finally picking up Melville’s Moby Dick and then opting for a re-read of Harry Potter. It’s familiar, it’s comforting, it might have some incredibly distressing scenes (why Fred, wHY?) but I expect them and I know what I’m getting.
And when it comes to these project books they are very often not only lengthy but also very much loved, which brings me onto my third and final prong. That’s a lot of pressure for one not-so-tiny book to hold. It’s the intimidating feeling I felt the first time I read Jane Eyre, which I think drastically affected what I thought of the book in the end. I was mildly impressed by the novel but categorically did not understand the fuss. But I’d put the book off for months and months until finally caving and deciding I was ‘ready’ (whatever that was) to read it. Maybe I wasn’t, maybe that’s what actually affected my conclusion on it, maybe if I read it again now I would have gained some extraordinary real-life insight in the interim. Who’s to say?
All of this combined means any book with these qualities gets dubbed, in my mind at least, a ‘project book’ which then results in it laying unloved and untouched for potentially years. This year I have tentatively made it my mission to get past this categorisation in my head and tackle some of these projects head on*. After all, a project might seem like a lot of work and it might seem daunting at the initial stage, but it very often reaps rewards and ends up being a lot of fun. I hope I can say the same for these books.
What books do you put off because of their weightiness? Do you have a similar list?
*For anyone at all curious, I keep a list of these project books for my own amusement/horror which you can see here.