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The Benefits of Reading Books that Intimidate You

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As young professionals, many of us are often lectured on the importance of stepping outside our comfort zones. After all, facing our fears often leads to personal growth, and we’ll never know what we can accomplish if we refrain from doing things that intimidate us. This advice is just as valuable to us in our reading lives.

Fall is the perfect time to add some layers to our wardrobe, enjoy a seasonal latte, and curl up with a good book. After the “beach reading” we all did this summer, it’s time to dig into something a little more challenging and pick up a new book, even if it seems intimidating.

If you’ve always wanted to read Dickens, Chaucer, or Proust, but have never had the guts to dig into the unfamiliar prose, what time is better than the present? It’s time to dig deep through your TBR (To Be Read) pile and settle in to something you’ve always wanted to read. You might even find unexpected benefits of reading books that intimidate you.

You can think more critically about what it means to be “well read.”

We all have different viewpoints on what the term means, as BookRiot asks in their popular reader question, “So…How Do You Define “Well Read”?”  Some readers find value in reading exclusively from the canon, while others think it is more important to read books across several genres. The term is highly subjective and will vary in definition from reader to reader.

Opening yourself up to books that intimidate you, or that fall outside of your comfort zone, can open you up to new ideas and allow you to think logically about what forms of literature are most beneficial to you.

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You might discover a new favorite genre or category.

Intimidated by poetry, novellas, or flash fiction? Try reading several different authors across genres, and you may be pleasantly surprised to find something you love. Leaving your comfort zone can be difficult in any situation, but in reading, the risks are minimal.

If you don’t love a particular book, you can always set it down and pick up something else. You might even find new favorites in the most unlikely section of the library. Not sure where to start? Check out our reading recommendations across genres.

You may discover that they aren’t all that intimidating after all.

I always thought that Herman Melville’s masterpiece, Moby-Dick, was complex and dense. That is, until I actually read it. As it turns out, the prose is surprisingly easy to follow, and much of it reads like a timeless adventure tale. Even the chapters on whaling practices aren’t too dense (even if they are a little boring). I never would have known this had I not faced my fears and actually read the book.

I thought the same thing about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw before I picked them up and gave them a fair shot. A lot of the books that intimidate us may actually be fairly easy to access and enjoy, but we won’t know that unless we actually take the time to read them. Classic literature can often seem intimidating–and some of it certainly is—but there are several reasons to indulge in a classic novel and be thankful for these challenging books.

Whether you’re intimidated by Victorian classics or Stephen King novels, few things are more satisfying than conquering your fears and broadening your horizons.

Reading books you’d normally avoid is a great way to discover different authors and expand your own interests. You open yourself up to new experiences and can cultivate your own definition of “well read.” What’s more, you might even discover that a book you’ve been avoiding for years isn’t so difficult after all. Reading intimidating books is a great way to get out of comfort zone, but with minimal risk required.

Which intimidating books are your favorites?

About the Author

Dana Johnson

Dana graduated from Central Michigan University with her B.S. degree in English-Creative Writing and Broadcasting. She enjoys dancing around in her bedroom, reading and writing poetry, and going for long walks. She'd like to work in the publishing industry, and be surrounded by literature always.