Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Found Difficult to Read

Each week, The Broke and the Bookish hosts Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly booking meme. This week, we’re talking about books that were difficult for us to get through.

And oh man, do I have a list. I have several lists, based around several reasons. I’m going to have a difficult time keeping this down to 10. As a life-long reader who has also spent 10+ years in college studying English, I’ve read a lot of books, and I have a very difficult time not finishing one that I’ve started. (Incidentally, I’m the same way about movies or TV shows that I’ve started watching. It’s a compulsion to see it through.) But I’ve definitely been subjected to some things that I didn’t fancy or that were so difficult on an emotional level that I didn’t want to keep reading.

So here, at least, are the 10 that I can think of first, which I take to mean they were some of the most difficult, and the varying reasons I found them difficult3:

1. New Moon, Stephanie Meyer.

I read this, and the other books in the series, pretty quickly. This was the one that I found the most tedious with the fewest moments of redeeming quality, mostly because there’s so much whinging and brooding in the first 3/4 of the book.

2. Moby Dick, Herman Melville.

It’s long and tedious, and it took me so long that the class I read it for was over before I finished the book, but I read it. There are beautiful moments of prose, and there’s all sorts of neat stuff to be found in the book, but it’s complex. It meanders for hundreds of pages at a time.

3. American Psycho, Brett Easton Ellis.

When I was assigned the book for a class called “Masculinity in Contemporary Literature,” I was pretty excited. I’d loved the film version for years already, and I knew it would inspire an interesting seminar meeting. But I was unprepared for the descent into Bateman’s character, and I found the last 75 pages so disturbing that I had to convince myself to keep reading.

4. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien.

I took a Tolkien class in college, and sections from this were required. I wanted to gobble up everything Tolkien wrote, though, so I started reading this. It took me a while, and it was really difficult, but I very much enjoyed the reading.

5. Nightwood, Djuna Barnes.

I read this one for comps. It’s very short but so very dense, too, a modernist novel with prose that is beautiful but enigmatic.

6. Deliverance, James Dickey.

I’ve read this twice, both times for a course, and it was difficult to read both times. Like the film version, the novel is a masterpiece of timing and character. The book, though, manages to be somehow more sinister. A Southern Gothic masterpiece.

7. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn.

I really didn’t like this book. Every character was despicable, and I just couldn’t make myself care about what was happening.

8. Gender Trouble, Judith Butler.

While the ideas are fascinating and well-reasoned, Butler’s syntax and academic prose are really hard to navigate, especially as they’re used to explain such complex ideas.

9. Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault.

Postmodernist theories about power, punishment, and historical narratives. I was 19 when I first read it and had a very difficult go of it.

10. Dune, Frank Herbert.

I’d heard a lot of positive things about the book, and I wanted to give it a go. I’d enjoyed other sci-fi and fantasy works, but Herbert’s work was just too dry, too awkwardly paced.

***

Look for Wordless Wednesday and Thirteen Thursday this week! I missed last week’s coffee post due to being out of town, but we’ll be back this week. 🙂

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20 Comments

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  1. Sad to see Dune on your list. Dune was actually the book that got me into reading, lent to me by my vicar at the time, no less!
    I fell in love with Frank Herbert’s work and have hunted down every one of his books that I’ve been able to find. I have loved all of them and really find him easy to read.
    What his son has done with the series is a travesty. I saw it through to the end and was deeply disappointed.

    The Silmarillion, though? I take my hat off to you if you were able to finish that! I gave up about 10% of the way through.

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    1. I can understand how Dune can be a compelling read. My ex-husband, much like you, really got into reading because of the Dune books (and funnily enough, as most fans seem to, shares your opinion on what the series became). I just found the first one tedious, full of meandering descriptions and odd pacing, though the actual plot is fantastic.

      And yes….I am, alas, too much of a Tolkien nerd not to have read The Silmarillion.

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  2. Whenever I fail to finish Moby Dick, I remind myself: “It’s a book about whaling. How interested are you in whaling?” Same with Dickens, but replace “whaling” with “London.”

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      1. Really, they should all be in the back like an appendix. Moby Dick, and the supplemental bits that prove Melville knew far more about whales than anyone else. 😉

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  3. In high school I tried to read “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens on my own. I had stumbled upon the book at my grandparents, having once belonged to one of my aunts. It was a very difficult read, confusion and complex. I wonder if going back now at a more mature age I will be able to grasp it better.

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    1. Perhaps so. I tried to read Wuthering Heights when I was young, and I had a very difficult go of it. Years later, I picked up the book and just breezed through it. Years of reading practice and life experiences can be really useful in trying to get through complex books. Of course, some authors just don’t catch some folks interest. Personally, I find Dickens to be one of the least compelling authors in the literary canon, even if I do recognize the significance of his work.

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  4. I had a hard time reading American Psycho as well, so brutal. Moby Dick is one that’s on my TBR but I’m intimidated by it. I remember seeing Nightwood on a flavor wire or Millions list of the most difficult novels of all time. Also, agreed on New Moon 🙂

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    1. Moby Dick is really intimidating, but the language really is very lovely. I read the first half or so of the book when I was on a trip to the beach, which probably helped—reading long diatribes about the ocean is best accomplished near an ocean, I think.

      And Flavorwire was right—-Nightwood is damnably difficult. That said, it’s also really fascinating and worth the effort of the read-through.

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  5. The one that I believe should be on everyone’s unreadable list is “Finnegan’s Wake” by James Joyce. I also think there should be a special award for anyone who can get through more than one page.

    I tried to get through “Moby Dick”. There were parts I very much enjoyed, but the meandering proved too much for me.

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    1. Oh, I totally agree. I didn’t put it on here only because I’ve never made it all the way through the book. lol

      And I tried three times to read Moby Dick before I finally made it all the way through.

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      1. Your level of persistence is admirable! One time was enough for me. But then, I suppose books and music and other consumable media are sort of like vegetables. Just because you didn’t love them as a kid doesn’t mean you should avoid them through the whole of your adulthood. 😀

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  6. I made it through the first 4 books of the Dune series, but then lost interest. I agree completely with New Moon and especially Gone Girl – every character was despicable.

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  7. I read American Psycho when I was in high school, before the movie the came out, when I worked at the local library. I like reading about serial killers, and psycho-thrillers are my favorite “horror” movies, so I actually…enjoyed this book? Enjoyed doesn’t seem right, given its content. I was so angry when the movie came out and they left out his obsession with U2.
    My mom and I believe Sammy love the Dune series. I tried. Really high fantasy books are just too much for me sometimes.

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    1. I really enjoy hearing/learning about serial killers, but there was something about the descent into Bateman’s madness that just became very difficult for me to stomach. The author definitely did his job.

      And I had forgotten about the U2 obsession, but I remember being glad to read the Huey Lewis scene in the book and the film both.

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  8. I didn’t even make it to New Moon, having failed to finish Twilight. Have you read The Cardturner by Louis Sachar? It’s a brilliant book, but there are parts of the book where he goes off on a bit of a tangent discussing the finer points of the card game Bridge. However, those bits of the book are flagged up with a Moby Dick-inspired whale icon so you know you can skip those parts if you’re not interested, the idea being that Moby Dick is full of whole sections that you can do without.

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    1. I haven’t read The Cardturner, but I have enjoyed some of Sachar’s other work, so I’ll have to give that one a try. I already like it for the play on convoluted literature a la Moby Dick. 🙂

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