Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die discussion

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Genres, Themes, and Topics > Hard/difficult to read books

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message 1: by J_BlueFlower (new)

J_BlueFlower (j_from_denmark) | 370 comments Several people mention Ulysses as a hard to read book – maybe even the hardest. What other books on the list are hard/difficult to read? I am not thinking so much about the length as understanding the book's content.


message 2: by Amanda (new)

Amanda | 191 comments To that end Finnigan's Wake. I saw the first page and was already annoyed. Also Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Poor James Joyce! I, too, wish I found him easier to read, but then he wouldn't have the density and the everlasting allure -- the desire to go back and read again, be more open, take in more.

I find, too, I don't know if you all do, that there are several types of "difficulty." I have more trouble with books that touch me very personally, maybe take me deeper into places I'd like to forget, than I have with densely written, erudite books. At least with the latter type of book, I know I can research and be a better reader; whereas with the very truthful, personally evocative books, I have to bear my own discomfort if I am going to take in the author's view of a familiar situation and maybe learn how to see my personal experiences in a clearer and maybe less hurtful way. Which is ultimately helpful to me, makes life more universal. This type of difficult book is more of a challenge to me, but almost in a therapeutic way. Art as healing.

But I wouldn't give up my struggle with writers like Joyce, either. Because when I feel that we've connected on some level, it's such a joy.


message 4: by Kat (new)

Kat (ceratopsians) | 57 comments House of Leaves can be difficult, you have to be very attentive to it. Pale Fire can also take some getting used to, especially if you're not used to reading a story that is told mostly through its footnotes.

And while I enjoy streams of consciousness I can understand why some hate it. I loved Summer in Baden-Baden, but it flowed in such a way that sometimes it was difficult to clock on when the narrator had changed.

I haven't even looked at James Joyce's work - I may need them to be read to me!


message 5: by Danya (new)

Danya | 2 comments I just finished Infinite Jest, It was definately a challenge..took me 6 weeks to finish


message 6: by Marina (last edited Aug 18, 2015 11:54AM) (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) I agree, Infinite Jest IS a challenge. I couldn't make it and gave up around 400 pages in. I even swapped the book, so much I disliked it. But I believe it's a challenge even if you enjoy the read.


message 7: by Abram (new)

Abram | 17 comments Danya wrote: "I just finished Infinite Jest, It was definately a challenge..took me 6 weeks to finish"

Took a while to read IJ and was worth it. I have The Pale King downloaded and I'm reluctant to read it because from what I understand. it's incomplete.


message 8: by Feliks (last edited Aug 20, 2015 08:58AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) GR's Listopia has a list specifically for especially difficult books. 'Gravity's Rainbow', etc


message 9: by Winter (new)

Winter (winter9) | 199 comments The Iron Heel


message 10: by Masanobu (new)

Masanobu | 110 comments Celestial Harmonies by Péter Esterházy.

It is weird and difficult, and almost isn't a novel. I never see it on those hard to read book lists, so I figured it was time to add it.


message 11: by J_BlueFlower (new)

J_BlueFlower (j_from_denmark) | 370 comments The Iron Heel: Jack London hard to read? Why do you say so? I haven't actually read the book, but it is on my to-read list.


message 12: by Winter (new)

Winter (winter9) | 199 comments Masanobu wrote: "Celestial Harmonies by Péter Esterházy.

It is weird and difficult, and almost isn't a novel. I never see it on those hard to read book lists, so I figured it was time ..."


It is hard and not hard. The language isn't hard, he writes easily enough. But it's nothing at all like his other books.

It is written not much like a novel, but as a series of conversations about economy, society with heavy footnotes as a part of the diary or such that this is "taken from".


message 13: by Winter (new)

Winter (winter9) | 199 comments Woops, quoted the wrong post..


message 14: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendyneedsbooks) | 154 comments J_BlueFlower wrote: "The Iron Heel: Jack London hard to read? Why do you say so? I haven't actually read the book, but it is on my to-read list."

Iron Heel is one of the few list books I gave up on, and it's not even that long. Mainly, it's just one long (200 page) political rant about socialism. I don't even think there's a story, or at least I don't remember it. As for the politics, all the hamfisted soap-boxing seemed very quaint, and I had a hard time relating to anything that was going on.

Too bad, because the idea of a dystopian novel by Jack London sounds really interesting. It just...isn't.

Though if anyone did read and enjoy it, I would love to hear why, and what you got out of it.


message 15: by Winter (new)

Winter (winter9) | 199 comments You described it perfectly.

I would love that too!


message 16: by Tasha (new)

Tasha | 84 comments Wendy, you have intrigued me. I'm going to seek out this book. I've never read London, and am surprised that he had a book like this. Even if it is this bad and dull; 200 pages? I could read that standing on my head. I think I may stay interested just because this is the guy who writes about wolves, right? AND it's on the list? Seems odd.


message 17: by J_BlueFlower (new)

J_BlueFlower (j_from_denmark) | 370 comments Me too. The book was already on my to-read list, but now I really want to give it a try.


message 18: by Winter (new)

Winter (winter9) | 199 comments Over half-way! Good luck you two;)


message 19: by Winter (new)

Winter (winter9) | 199 comments Get used to footnotes ^^ very very interested to hear if someone else can make some more sense out of this one.


message 20: by Winter (new)

Winter (winter9) | 199 comments And don't dismiss his other books based on this one, White Fang at least is really good.


message 21: by Feliks (last edited Sep 02, 2015 11:41AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) 'the guy who writes about wolves' oy vey. lol


message 22: by Wendy (last edited Sep 03, 2015 03:58PM) (new)

Wendy (wendyneedsbooks) | 154 comments Hey all you readers taking on The Iron Heel: please report back with your thoughts! I'll even take another whack at it if I hear good things :)
Lucky for us, it's in the public domain and can be downloaded for free on Gutenberg and elsewhere.

Winter: agreed, White Fang was quite good. And Jack London's unfinished novel, The Assassination Bureau, Ltd about a mob boss hired by his own employees to assassinate himself, looks interesting too...(more so than Iron Heel anyway! At least there must be more to it than a lengthy political pamphlet.)


message 23: by Tina (new)

Tina | 39 comments I thought 1Q84 was tough to get through. It took me 6 renewals at the library to get it done. But I did!

I think because I had a great professor, I find Joyce actually enjoyable to read. For me, he made reading Joyce not so scary.


message 24: by DustyTorus (new)

DustyTorus | 2 comments J_BlueFlower wrote: "Several people mention Ulysses as a hard to read book – maybe even the hardest. What other books on the list are hard/difficult to read? I am not thinking so much about the length as ..."


Oh gosh, so recently I went to Dublin for Bloom's day with some friends who are James Joyce fan girls, and I'd never read it, so I got it to brush up beforehand. I was warned it would be hard to read, but I thought, "..nah it'll be fine..."...I got it, and spent AN HOUR literally on the first page, because I got so wrapped up in the sheer amount of allegories and symbolism he uses.

Plus...NO SPEECH MARKS!

I just laughed and put it away.

Went to Bloom's Day, and came back and just had the biggest urge to read it.

I just realised I needed to push past all the difficult bits and just read. Then re-read it again at some point to take in the finer details...it's definitely one for multiple reads.

People seriously ADORE James Joyce, and Bloom's Day was AMAZING!


message 25: by DustyTorus (last edited Sep 03, 2015 04:55PM) (new)

DustyTorus | 2 comments I found Sons and Lovers by D.H.Lawrence pretty hard to get through, but I don't know if that's just because I couldn't take it in properly?

Another re-read probably :)


message 26: by Amy the book-bat (new)

Amy the book-bat (batkisses) | 30 comments Annie wrote: "I found Sons and Lovers by D.H.Lawrence pretty hard to get through, but I don't know if that's just because I couldn't take it in properly?

Another re-read probably :)"


I haven't read that one yet, but I did read The Rainbow and it was a bit of a challenge. I found that Lawrence had moments of amazingly brilliant poetics and then moments that trudged along painfully. I am hoping this one is more even and a little better.


message 27: by J_BlueFlower (new)

J_BlueFlower (j_from_denmark) | 370 comments Challenge accepted: I have started The Iron Heel


message 28: by J_BlueFlower (new)

J_BlueFlower (j_from_denmark) | 370 comments Discussion tread for Iron heel here:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

Do you accept the challenge of reading a hard/difficult to read?


message 29: by Wendy (new)

Wendy (wendyneedsbooks) | 154 comments Bully! I had originally tried to read it with a group of GR friends, but only one of us actually finished. And he wrote a scathing review, to which the rest of us contributed in the comments section. I was reading the review again the other day as I wondered if I could try to take this one on again, but then the memories came rushing back and I just...can't. Not for a long while yet. Good luck though! I hope it's worth the effort :)


message 30: by Winter (new)

Winter (winter9) | 199 comments Almost 70 % into Iron Heel! Won't exactly call it entertainment, but I will finish I hope:)


message 31: by Karen (new)

Karen Hoehne | 827 comments Mod
Great article on Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl by Uwe Johnson in the New York Times -- "A Masterpiece that Requires Your Full Attention -- and a Lot of Time."
(https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/18/bo...).

This is a new translation of Johnson's complete novel by Damion Searls just released in October 2018.

1700 pages -- WOW!!!


message 32: by Simone (new)

Simone | 6 comments I found Neuromancer by William Gibson a difficult, but fabulous read. It is full of techno garble, and you really need to read between the lines to get the gist of the story.


message 33: by Petra (new)

Petra Meadley | 62 comments Mod
I find any/all of the Russian texts difficult. Not sure why. Is it a cultural thing? A translation thing? A subject matter thing? I just know I struggle to 'get into' them and struggle to finish them. It feels like a chore. There have been other non-Russian books I found challenging, but these seem to stand out as a trend rather than stand-alone difficulties.

What do other people think?


message 34: by Alastair (new)

Alastair McAlpine | 2 comments I'm busy slogging through Gertrude Stein's 'The Making of Americans.'
Probably the 'hardest' book I've ever read because the language is so weird, and the story moves so slowly, and it's nearly 1000 pages of tiny text.

By almost any standards, it's an incredibly difficult book to read (and I've done In Search of Lost Time, Dance to the Music of time, Infinite Jest, USA, Celestial Harmonies, etc.)


message 35: by S.L. (new)

S.L. Berry | 92 comments City of God by E.L. Doctorow - Between the long sentences that border on being run-ons and the fragments of many different stories there seems to be no path through it. I’m just starting it though.


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