5 On My TBR #13

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook. Every week, we get the chance to rave about 5 books on our TBRs that fit the prompt, and this week’s prompt is…

Challenging Read.

I love how vague this prompt is. Is the challenge just in regards to the sheer size of the book, or due to the density of the subject matter, or because I know that the book will put me through an emotional wringer? We just don’t know. Actually, we do — all of those reasons and more are covered in the books below.

The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori by Mark Ravina

This is the shortest historical book on this list, since it’s less than 250 pages, but it’s also the one I have the least background information on. My historical education has been incredibly Western-centric, so I had never heard of Saigo Takamori before watching The Last Samurai (2003) and deciding to dig into the actual history that the movie was inspired by. A friend of mine recommended this book to me, and I managed to find a free ebook, but it’s one of those historical books where I’ll need to take very detailed notes as I read in order to keep track of who’s who and what’s happening — which is not exactly the most motivating feeling in the world.

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

I have not read The Pillars of the Earth, so Ken Follett’s writing is totally new to me. However, I really like pre-Norman conquest British history, so I am prepared to be impressed; I confess that my expectations for this book are very high. It sounds like there is going to be a lot of scheming and plotting and whispering (i.e. political intrigue) which I tend to either really like or really hate. Not only that, but this book is over nine hundred pages, which… when it comes to books of this size, I just have to read them physically, because otherwise my stamina peters out too quickly without that tactile element.

The Terror by Dan Simmons

This is another chonker with 750+ pages. I’ve watched part of the TV series that was based on this book, but it was so grim and bleak that I had to put it down and watch something else. A friend of mine started reading The Terror, but says that the European characters are so racist and abusive towards the indigenous woman they find that he struggled to keep reading. (I have been assured that the European characters get what they deserve in the end, however). If you didn’t know, this book is a fictional re-imagining of the disastrous Franklin Expedition of 1845 into the Canadian arctic — I’m not expecting any of the characters to survive the freezing cold, the lead poisoning, the starvation, or the monster that is lying in wait out on the ice.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

And finally, we have a non-historical book — just kidding, this is historical fantasy! I’ve enjoyed P. Djèlí Clark’s Egyptian steampunk novellas, so what makes this book intimidating for me is just that my expectations are very high. Astronomically high, even. As far as I know, Clark has only ever written novellas before, so it remains to be seen whether he can work the same wonders in a longer form.

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (Transl. by Anne Carson)

Poetry is… difficult for me. I often need a long time to really chew on each poem, sometimes even each line, to understand what the author is trying to convey. And this poetry is a collection of fragments from 2,500+ years ago! (Also, yes, I did feature this exact poetry collection on my previous 5 On My TBR post, but I cannot convey in words just how intimidating I find poetry to be. This is the most challenging read for me on this list of “challenging reads”).

And that’s that! I hope you found some interesting books on this list, and that they don’t seem too challenging. Happy reading, everyone!

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