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Overcoming the Fear of Reading Challenging Books

My biggest struggle as an avid reader: the daunting task of delving into intimidating books.

To be more specific, back in the day, it was Dostoevsky’s very intricate masterpieces.

  • How will I grasp the sheer magnitude of his works?

  • I don’t know where to begin, so what book of his should I start with?

⬆ Two questions that always come to mind when I think about fully engaging with the rich tapestry of literature.

I refer to this as “The Myth of “I don’t know where to begin” / The Myth of Certainty.”

Anyone reading this who has the same struggles, here’s my advice (from the guide):

1. Recognize that true knowledge lies beyond the confines of “certainty.”

What this means: there’s more to learn beyond what you may currently know for sure as a reader and about reading.

Søren Kierkegaard argues that it’s in the midst of doubt that true knowledge exists.

2. Bertrand Russell also echoes similar sentiments i.e. to acknowledge the limitations of being human.

What this means: applied to reading, we all have certain books we find tough and confusing, just know it’s normal, and over time, it will get easier.

3. Accept that it’s perfectly okay not to know “exactly” where to begin.

What this means: let the narrative itself guide you.

The knowledge you seek is rarely found in “predetermined” destinations, rather it emerges organically along the way.

4. Allow your keen sense of curiosity to be your compass.

What this means: surrender to the unknown.

As overwhelming as this sounds, it really works when you wish to transition from a passive consumer of literature into an active participant.

My curiosity for Dostoevsky’s writing and his spot-on understanding of the human mind and behavior is what helped me overcome the “dread” of actually picking up one of his books.

Once that happened, I realized IT WAS NO BIG DEAL, really.

P.S.: I started with Notes from Underground and The Double. How much I enjoyed reading both!


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