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Footnotes 2017-2018 > Hardest Book You Ever Read

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message 1: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6304 comments So Book Riot has an interesting article today, and it made me curious about PBT Members. What is the hardest book you've ever read and actually finished?

http://bookriot.com/2017/01/27/the-ha...

For me, I don't really relate to the subject matter being hard. I like books that cope with tough subjects. So I must restrict myself to books that were just hard to get through and comprehend. Off the top of my head, I have to agree with Infinite Jest (can't believe I read the whole thing), but Foster's The Pale King may have been worse. I also really struggled with One Hundred Years of Solitude because so many people had the same name. I need to think some more, but interested to hear your thoughts!


message 2: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments So this might be the perfect opportunity to invite any interested people to join me in doing a buddy read of Infinite Jest. We will be starting on feb 1- may 31 and will read together and post musings, questions, images of our emotional reactions, snacks that are helping us make it through th book, and more

I'm doing this on Litsy. You can find me JenP over here or search hashtag #infinitejestbuddyread


message 3: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments As as for my hardest book: Ulysses. I made it but it was very difficult and required constant encouragement and self-praise to move forward.


message 4: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Read the post and I agree about Brother K. Quite a challenging read to fully understand given the long theological and philosophical monologues but I loved it.

In Search of Lost Time also took me a long time but I didn't find it that hard.

For me, like Anita, it's not the topic or subject matter that makes something a hard read for me, it's usually more the style and accessibility of the embedded symbolism.

I didn't find house of leaves hard to read at all - it was like a fun puzzle for me but I can understand why many struggle with its structure and style


message 5: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6304 comments Jen wrote: "As as for my hardest book: Ulysses. I made it but it was very difficult and required constant encouragement and self-praise to move forward."

I really don't think I could do it! I bet it gives you confidence for Infinite Jest.


message 6: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Anita wrote: "Jen wrote: "As as for my hardest book: Ulysses. I made it but it was very difficult and required constant encouragement and self-praise to move forward."

I really don't think I could do it! I bet ..."


I probably wouldn't have made it if not for the fact that it was a group read.


message 7: by annapi (last edited Jan 27, 2017 08:47AM) (new)

annapi | 4916 comments Actually finished - probably Atlas Shrugged, at 15. Most of it went over my head at that age, and I can't remember any of it today, LOL.

Other than that, probably Shakespeare - on my own I slogged through The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet (which was the easiest), As You Like It, and I can't remember what else. I was determined to have something to brag about. But of course most of the language went over my head (I was in early tweens I think) - probably if I'd read annotated versions or been in a class it would have helped. (I don't count here what we read in high school - Julius Ceasar, Merchant of Venice, Macbeth & Hamlet.)

Nowadays if I'm finding a book a slog, I just DNF. I did try Don Quixote way back when in my youth but gave up about halfway through.


message 8: by Jenni Elyse (new)

Jenni Elyse (jenni_elyse) | 1268 comments I think the hardest book for me to read was The Bible. I'd read verses here and there in my religious study, but I had never read it from front to back until about 5 years ago. It took me 3.5 years to do it, but I did it.

I think it was hard for me to get through because of the language, but also partly due to it not being very riveting, lol.


message 9: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6304 comments Jenni Elyse wrote: "I think the hardest book for me to read was The Bible. I'd read verses here and there in my religious study, but I had never read it from front to back until about 5 years ago. It took me 3.5 years..."

Ok, that's a pretty impressive feat!!


message 10: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6304 comments annapi wrote: "Actually finished - probably Atlas Shrugged, at 15. Most of it went over my head at that age, and I can't remember any of it today, LOL.

Other than that, probably Shakespeare - on my own I slogge..."


Yeah, lots of Shakespeare would definitely qualify in my mind as a hard read. I didn't think about considering books I read for school.


message 11: by Elise (new)

Elise (ellinou) | 524 comments War and Peace. I'm still not exactly sure why I read it, lol.


message 12: by Ladyslott (new)

Ladyslott | 1880 comments I know I've read a lot of difficult books over the years, but the most recent hardest book was Tess of the D'Urbervilles - I struggled with that book and wanted to throw it at the wall in the end. If I want to be depressed (for some odd reason) that is the book I'd pick to help me on my way. The book that was filled with misery.


message 13: by Nicole D. (new)

Nicole D. | 1478 comments Probably The Idiot. It took me a year, and I really did like it, but the names .... the names, the names ...


message 14: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1545 comments Nicole wrote: "Probably The Idiot. It took me a year, and I really did like it, but the names .... the names, the names ..."

Sigh, that is a seasonal read right now for the 1001 group. I had just finished brothers K and didn't want to to the Idiot right after. Maybe I will read it later


message 15: by Sara (new)

Sara (mootastic1) | 770 comments A Clockwork Orange was incredibly difficult for me to get through. In the end I really liked it, but between the dialect and extreme violence it was not an easy book.


message 16: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8300 comments I can't even remotely think. There must have been many excruciating reads in a lifetime. I'm thinking I must have repressed each and all of them.


message 17: by Diane (new)

Diane Zwang | 485 comments I am reading The Idiot now and I am rather enjoying it. I read Jane Eyre a long time ago and struggle through it but it was not difficult literature. I also read Anna Karenina a long time ago, it took me a whole summer to get through. Since I have been tracking my books on Goodreads some of the longest books have been my favorite. A Suitable Boy is a book I brag about since it was 1400 pages.


message 18: by Denizen (new)

Denizen (den13) | 1138 comments Ellie wrote: "War and Peace. I'm still not exactly sure why I read it, lol."

It was a tough one and I tend to enjoy Russian lit.


message 19: by Karin (last edited Jan 27, 2017 03:56PM) (new)

Karin | 6930 comments Having read both The Bible and Atlas Shrugged from that list (haven't even tried some of the others due to lack of interest), I would have to say that they are not the hardest books I've ever read, and I read The Bible first in the RV and later the KJV (plus other versions), plodding through the chronologies, lists, genealogies and laws, etc.

I don't have one hardest book I've ever read, and will probably not remember the hardest ones I've finished (or at least not all of them). However, reading through Don Quixote in print a few years ago was very difficult (it's much easier this second time with the audiobook since it's easier to get some of the humour, but it still won't become a beloved novel). Reading the entire 1000+ pages of The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah was challenging. Another slog was The Ethics of Authenticity by Charles Taylor. I'm sure there are more

However, I quit reading some of the ones that pained me the most (Pilgrim's Progress, for eg, and I tried very hard to finish it).


message 20: by Karin (new)

Karin | 6930 comments Ladyslott wrote: "I know I've read a lot of difficult books over the years, but the most recent hardest book was Tess of the D'Urbervilles - I struggled with that book and wanted to throw it at the wall..."

Yes, that one was hard to get through!


message 21: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments I think Les Miserables was probably the hardest book I have ever read. I read it at a very young age and found the large chunks of historical subject matter really difficult to get through. I wonder what I would think of it now.

Like annapi, they go on the DNF pile if I'm not enjoying them now. Too many books in the sea!


message 22: by Denizen (new)

Denizen (den13) | 1138 comments Like Jen, I have to go with a James Joyce but for me it was A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I'll never pick up another Joyce.


message 23: by annapi (new)

annapi | 4916 comments Karin wrote: "Ladyslott wrote: "I know I've read a lot of difficult books over the years, but the most recent hardest book was Tess of the D'Urbervilles - I struggled with that book and wanted to th..."

Aww, that was a great book for me! I had resolved to read more of the classics and picked that, and was amazed at how readable it was.


message 24: by Karin (new)

Karin | 6930 comments annapi wrote: Aww, that was a great book for me! I had resolved to read more of the classics and picked that, and was amazed at how readable it was. "

Tastes vary! For me it was just the tragedy of it that made it hard. I have never read another book by Hardy because of it.


message 25: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 1182 comments In order of reading: Atlas Shrugged (ugh, who cares about John Galt?), War and Peace (way too much battle detail), and Ulysses (stream of consciousness isn't my thing). I tried to read Proust, but couldn't get past the madeleines. And really tried Posession by Byatt this month-nope. Maybe someday.
I thought Don Quixote, Anna Karenina, and Brothers Karamazov were wonderful, so even though they were tough reads, they were worth it!


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

The hardest book I have read since joining Goodreads is Lolita, not due to the language used but instead the subject matter. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity was also a hard read because of the content and the non-fiction narrative using minimal dialogue.


message 27: by Nicole D. (new)

Nicole D. | 1478 comments Sara wrote: "A Clockwork Orange was incredibly difficult for me to get through. In the end I really liked it, but between the dialect and extreme violence it was not an easy book."

Yes! that was very difficult


message 28: by Nicole D. (new)

Nicole D. | 1478 comments Jen you have a better handle on Russian lit than me, and it is really good, so I think you'll be OK. I barely made it through Notes from the Underground.


message 29: by Ladyslott (new)

Ladyslott | 1880 comments "annapi wrote: Aww, that was a great book for me! I had resolved to read more of the classics and picked that, and was amazed at how readable it was. "..."

I thought I would never read another Hardy book ofter Tess. Then this year I read Far from the Madding Crowd which I absolutely loved.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Ladyslott wrote: " "annapi wrote: Aww, that was a great book for me! I had resolved to read more of the classics and picked that, and was amazed at how readable it was. "..."

I thought I would never read another Ha..."


I read and really liked Far from the Madding Crowd, then attempted Tess of the D'Urbervilles. That was a shocker and I ended up setting the book aside after 4 chapters.


message 31: by Red52 (new)

Red52 I had to think about this for awhile and the hardest book for me to read is the one I HAD to for English. I cannot read something someone else has decided I should, no matter how good the story or the prose may be, I cannot manage to read that book. This is the same reason I can't manage to join in a group read! Even if I voted for the book now it's a must read not a want to read. Just to be clear this somehow is different that reading textbooks for imperial knowledge. But there you have it. Anyone else? Or no?


message 32: by Ladyslott (new)

Ladyslott | 1880 comments Rina1775 wrote: "I had to think about this for awhile and the hardest book for me to read is the one I HAD to for English. I cannot read something someone else has decided I should, no matter how good the story or ..."


I don't have big issues when a book is voted on by a group but I understand that feeling.,which is why I love Play Book Tag. We set out from the very start to have a "group read" based on subject rather then a singular book.


message 33: by LibraryCin (new)

LibraryCin | 8132 comments I can't think of anything particularly "hard", but if we were including school reading, probably Shakespeare. I've never been good with understanding Shakespeare, so that might be it for me.

Not including school reads, I don't know. I probably don't really choose hard books to read.


message 34: by JoLene (last edited Jan 27, 2017 10:32PM) (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1532 comments I think I really struggled with William Faulkner in high school, but I'm not sure that I actually finished them or not. The most recent difficult book for me was A Tale of Two Cities. It was not that it was overly difficult, but i had high expectations and it was sort of boring.

I also agree that A Clockwork Orange was hard both for language and content. I did actually end up listening to the audio and I do think it made it a bit easier.


message 35: by Michael (new)

Michael (mike999) | 569 comments Faulkner takes such extreme concentration because of his long and abstruse sentences. I learned not to balk at the first doubts of understanding but keep skating like going out on thin ice, then come back and try to catch the groove and flow. Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow I had to set aside for a couple of decades, always feeling like a failure. It took a playful attitude and tolerance for what slips by without really comprehending. I had enjoyed Crying Lot of 49 and muddled through Ada, which I at least had a focus on one life and not a whole war and human civilization.

Sometimes the big challenge for a book is a sense of being trapped in one mind which may be headed for madness or which has the narrator almost speaking a new language. A lot of books are like that, such as Lolita and Clockwork Orange. The latter adds lingo of a future language, while Riddley Walker takes to an even further extreme. I recently reviewed one where people talk to each other in a very difficult dialog full of philosophy and elliptical thinking that was rewarding at the end, Djuna Barnes Nightwood.


message 36: by Ferris (new)

Ferris Mx | 11 comments I loved Infinite Jest, as you know! The Pale King was clearly not what DFW intended.

For me, Proust. So long and so tedious and so misogynistic.

I see Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow listed several times. I have halfheartedly tried those and abandoned them but am gearing up to get through them in the next few years.


message 37: by Denizen (new)

Denizen (den13) | 1138 comments Michael wrote: "Faulkner takes such extreme concentration because of his long and abstruse sentences. I learned not to balk at the first doubts of understanding but keep skating like going out on thin ice, then co..."

Faulkner was tough for me, too. I will never quite understand the accolades. I have to admit, however, to adoring the movie The Long Hot Summer loosely based on several Faulkner short stories.


message 38: by JoLene (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1532 comments I'm wonder if Faulkner might be more palatable in audio ---- since you wouldn't actually see the paragraph that lasts for a page :-D


message 39: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 5521 comments Faulkner is difficult to read and I'm not sure I would attempt to read him again.

Two that I've read in the past few years which were difficult were The Marlowe Papers which was written in verse andThe Wake which was written in a type of old English, it reminded me a bit of reading Clockwork Orange, but more difficult.


message 40: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 1182 comments Michael wrote: "Faulkner takes such extreme concentration because of his long and abstruse sentences. I learned not to balk at the first doubts of understanding but keep skating like going out on thin ice, then co..."

I have Riddley Walker, and have started it several times, but haven't been thrilled by the invented language. I wonder if this would be better as an audiobook.


message 41: by Karin (new)

Karin | 6930 comments Lisa Ann ✿ wrote: "I read and really liked Far from the Madding Crowd, then attempted Tess of the D'Urbervilles. That was a shocker and I ended up setting the book aside after 4 chapters.

Good to know. Perhaps not all of his novels are ones I don't want to read.


message 42: by Red52 (new)

Red52 Ladyslott wrote: "Rina1775 wrote: "I had to think about this for awhile and the hardest book for me to read is the one I HAD to for English. I cannot read something someone else has decided I should, no matter how g..."

I agree as other groups I'm in also choose that way. You would think it would be broad enough catagory and yet say for instance the topic is France. And I voted for France and then I'll find something I'd rather read more in Australia. *sigh*


message 43: by AJ (new)

AJ Timberlake (ajtimberlake) | 823 comments The hardest book I ever read was when I was a young child (I don't think it would be hard anymore but it was when I was little) and that was The Secret Garden


message 44: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8300 comments Now that I think about it, I took a two year seminar class as an adult to read Heidigger's Being In Time with about 15 other clinicians. Fabulous seminar. Would never have gotten through the book otherwise.


message 45: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6304 comments Ironman wrote: "I loved Infinite Jest, as you know! The Pale King was clearly not what DFW intended.

For me, Proust. So long and so tedious and so misogynistic.

I see Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow listed several..."


I can definitely understand loving Infinite Jest even though I didn't . . it has a brilliance to it that I do think some readers would really embrace.

My desire to kill myself trying to read Ulysses is definitely low . . .so look forward to hearing what you actually think when you finish.

I've never read any Faulkner I must admit . . .sounds like no one is thinking he is easy.


message 46: by Nicole D. (new)

Nicole D. | 1478 comments JoLene wrote: "I'm wonder if Faulkner might be more palatable in audio ---- since you wouldn't actually see the paragraph that lasts for a page :-D"

marginally


message 47: by Regina Lindsey (new)

Regina Lindsey | 1005 comments Sara wrote: "A Clockwork Orange was incredibly difficult for me to get through. In the end I really liked it, but between the dialect and extreme violence it was not an easy book."

I have this audio on hold at the library! Interesting to hear your perspective.


message 48: by Regina Lindsey (new)

Regina Lindsey | 1005 comments I agree with One Hundred Years of Solitude! Ugh! (Sorry Nicole!) That's time in my life I will never recover.

The House of the Seven Gables was also difficult. I started reading it right before Nicole R and I went to visit it. Had it not been for the fact I felt I owed it to myself to read it after visiting the house I probably wouldn't have finished it. I was disappointed because I love The Scarlet Letter


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