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

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message 1: by Pinelopi (new)

Pinelopi | 2 comments Which book of the list did you find the most difficult and challenging read (but actually managed to finish)?

For me it was Robert Musil's Man without Qualities. It's well over 1,500 pages long (I have the three volume edition), took me an entire summer to finish, and now five years later I can't remember a single thing about the plot or theme, apart from the fact it was this stream-of-consciousness modernist novel... thing.


message 2: by P. (new)

P. (shimizusan) | 96 comments I think I'll leave that one till last then lol!

Seriously... so far for me it's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It was unbearably boring... I had to force myself because it was for class.


message 3: by Anne (new)

Anne (kuritts) | 6 comments For me it was Foucault's Pendulum. I loved The Name of the Rose, & expected a similar experience with this book. I was quite disappointed though & had to really force myself to finish the book.

Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had been able to discuss it within a group, instead of read it by myself in my own personal time. I felt that there were too many references that lost their meaning to me.


message 4: by Judith (new)

Judith (jloucks) | 1203 comments All the titles by Jonathan Swift...I see his brilliance, but just don't have the patience with the style and vocabulary, I guess... It was all I could do to get through even the short "A Modest Proposal".


message 5: by Katherine (new)

Katherine (katats) | 150 comments Oh boy. Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled was easily my most challenging read from the list. I really love Ishiguro, and I saw what he was going for, but it was a very stressful reading experience. I actually abandoned it years ago, and then decided to try again once I discovered it was on the 1001 list (at least the 2006 edition). Normally I find Ishiguro's absurdly polite style endearing, but not in this case at all. It was just frustrating, and the hardest part is I know that was the point. Grr!


message 6: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen (missbelgravia) Malone Dies. I don't think I could ever force myself to read anything by Samuel Beckett again.


message 7: by Valeria (new)

Valeria | 4 comments I agree with Anne, for me it was also Foulcalt Pendulum. Too many references thrown in there.
Also, everything I read by Joseph Conrad (The heart of Darkness and The secret agent).


message 8: by Jay (new)

Jay (jaycadiramen) | 43 comments 'The Rainbow' by D H Lawrence. While I did find Roberto Bolano's '2666' and Umberto Eco's 'Foucault's Pendulum' difficult reads too, this book has lain untouched on my bedside table for the longest time. Repetitive, depressing and self obsessed and glorying in it's own insights, the book is turgid and an experience in self discipline to finish.


message 9: by Chel (new)

Chel | 376 comments Watt by Samuel Beckett. This was an experiment that the author never intended by published and yet it was. It is highly repetitive, non-sensical, and too random to even be called aburdist. It was removed from the list starting with the 2008 edition. Picture reading an author's rough draft notebook and you are getting an idea. It was a difficult read that I was happy to finish.


message 10: by Jeff (new)

Jeff (middleagedwhitedude) | 4 comments I'm currently reading Sartre's Nausea. May not be the hardest book on the list, but it's slow going.


message 11: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey ULYSSES by Joyce. Even with the reader`s guide. Some day when I am a recluse on top of the Himalayan mountain range, I will do it again.


Tanya (aka ListObsessedReader) (listobsessed) | 108 comments So far Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago. I have read another book of his and not been bothered by the writing style. It does take a little getting used to, Saramago uses punctuation very sparingly. But this one for some reason seemed to drag. Felt much more like work than pleasure.


message 13: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely (oldkd) | 248 comments Geoffrey wrote: "ULYSSES by Joyce. Even with the reader`s guide. Some day when I am a recluse on top of the Himalayan mountain range, I will do it again."

I agree. It is one of the two books that I just could not continue reading. I had two attempts already. Aside from the language, it is too thick that my hands get tired just holding it.


message 14: by Vikki (new)

Vikki (vikkijo) | 103 comments Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Too many characters to keep track of properly. I usually love Dickens, but this one was very hard to get through.


message 15: by Audrey (new)

Audrey (audrey_g) For me it is Don Quixote, which is actually two parts put into one. Very interesting story, but also long and intricate.


message 16: by Maryeah (new)

Maryeah Katherine wrote: "Oh boy. Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled was easily my most challenging read from the list. I really love Ishiguro, and I saw what he was going for, but it was a very stressful reading ..."

I've tried to read this book no less than three times. I end up giving up in despair both times, because the dream like quality and absence of realism is just too much for me. I've never had a book that I couldn't conquer before this one.


message 17: by Paula (new)

Paula | 57 comments I haven't attempted most of the books above, but for me it's Les Mis. I stalled about half-way through Les Mis and can't get started again. It's just boring and full of Hugo's 'everyone come see how smart I am' dribble. The book could totally be cut down to about 250 pages and be amazing. The other 1200 pages are rough.


message 18: by Julie (new)

Julie (juliemoncton) | 56 comments My least favorite was Bolano's 2666. I still don't know what the point was of spending hundreds of pages describing the bodies of all those dead women.

Great topic! Now I have books to add to the bottom of the list...


message 19: by Vikki (new)

Vikki (vikkijo) | 103 comments Paula, I do agree with you about Les Mis. I almost finished it about 9 years ago. It was a library book and I had run out of my renewals. I felt that it was more about making a political statement than a story. I actually liked the story and wanted to skip the commentary. Some day I will pick it up and finish it.


message 20: by CD (new)

CD  | 49 comments Les Miserables is worse in French, but it's a great story if rambling. And has been said so many times, 'just how much description of the Parisian Sewer do we need?'

Two others I found especially trying to read were Dr. Zhivago and The Bell Jar.


message 21: by Bárbara (new)

Bárbara (leviathan_) Tanya wrote: "So far Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago. I have read another book of his and not been bothered by the writing style. It does take a little getting used to, Saramago uses punctuation very spar..."

Ha, I read that one for school (I'm Portuguese) three years ago, and I have to agree.

And even though they're not that long - Orlando by Virginia Woolf and Heart of Darkness by Conrad.


message 22: by Anthony (new)

Anthony DeCastro | 167 comments Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson. Boring, repetitive, stream of conscious thoughts of the narrator. Would have made an interesting short story, but 250 pages of it gets tiresome.


message 23: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely (oldkd) | 248 comments Bárbara wrote: "Tanya wrote: "So far Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago. I have read another book of his and not been bothered by the writing style. It does take a little getting used to, Saramago uses punctua..."

I agree. Another book of Virginia Woolf that I had difficulty reading was Mrs. Dalloway. Thin but took me 2 days to finish. For Heart of Darkness, I was inspired by the movie (Apocalypse Now - shot here in Manila) so it was easier to understand. I saw the movie many years ago. So when I picked up Heart, it was a breeze. Saramago's writing is a bit difficult because he does not use quotes for lines spoken by his characters.


message 24: by Laura (new)

Laura (chrstjoy) | 12 comments For me, the first book I put down from the list was Tale of Genji. Oh my goodness I tried, but the plotline seemed to be the same each chapter, Genji meets girl, "conquers" girl (usually by rape), and then girl or someone meets an untimely end. (That's not a spoiler, I only made it 200 pages out of like 1500.) It was just miserable.


message 25: by Mercy (new)

Mercy | 2 comments Atlas Shrugged took me three months to finish. It was interesting but sooo looong.in my opinion, u can get through so many 3 page-long philosophical monologues in tiny print before giving in.


message 26: by Paula (new)

Paula | 57 comments I have a new urge to write down these books and try to get through 1 a year...


Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly (joselitohonestlyandbrilliantly) | 372 comments Please add to the list Donald Barthelme's The Dead Father. Short, but extremely difficult to read/understand.


message 28: by Coqueline (new)

Coqueline | 28 comments I would have to agree with Foucault's Pendulum and anything by Saramago. I tried Foucault's Pendulum twice, and never got further than halfway. With Saramago, it's the writing style that kept blocking me. He used lots of passive sentences which makes the paragraphs sounded choppy with no forward flow to it. Spare punctuations doesn't really bother me, Frank mcCourt also uses them sparingly, but I tremendously enjoyed his books.


message 29: by Ivan (new)

Ivan "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" because I get peeved about all the great books left out.


message 30: by Lane (new)

Lane Willson (lanewillson) | 8 comments Jane Austin always brings the question do I want to turn the page, or just run into traffic and avoid whatever banality is coming next? I don’t understand how hating Jane Austin’s work can bring about such negative karma, but God has seen fit to give me a daughter whose favorite writer is Jane Austin and who enjoys mocking and tormenting her father on a regular basis.


message 31: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 24 comments "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife." ..... such wit, such irony...what's not to love....her humorous character portrayals, the tension of unrequited love, the family dramas and above all the romance....Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice stands as one of the best novels of all time.....I think a man who understands this book will probably increase his understanding of women. What a marvellous daughter you have, Lane. On the other hand the world would be a dull place if we all liked exactly the same things. Some people prefer thrillers or crime fiction. Read what you love most but let your daughter read aloud to you one page per day of Jane Austen...after a while you may get to like it. Meanwhile your daughter will think it's hilarious.


message 32: by Coqueline (new)

Coqueline | 28 comments I'm a woman, and I have only managed to read one book by Jane Austen (and looking back at it with no fond memories). Maybe I was also not looking deep enough at it, but I have to agree that 'banality' comes to mind when it comes to the storylines behind her books.


message 33: by Linda (last edited Jun 27, 2010 03:22PM) (new)

Linda This thread of conversation is always fascinating. Books listed here that people had a hard time reading are also listed among favorites (like Jane Austen for me - how can you NOT like her?) For me, if I see the same title mentioned numerous times (ie. Pendulum), I'm like Julie and will place it at the bottom of my priority list, especially if it's long. One can always manage to get through a difficult or boring book if it's not too long. But then again, why put oneself through that when there are so many great books to read instead? Read what you like!


message 34: by Regine (last edited Jun 28, 2010 02:21PM) (new)

Regine I'm with all the ladies here. Jane Austen is probably one of my favorite authors. I mean let's face the facts: her books are early forms of chick-lit. But the way she writes her characters, the romantic backdrop of the 18th century, the satirical aspect of her work... it's just irresistible to me.

----- SPOILER -------------

I think that so far... Dickens books are the hardest to read. It's not that I find his work hard to understand, but I just get bored to death with his books--that and I find his characters really two-dimensional. I've recently read The Old Curiosity Shop and I actually wanted to cheer when Nell died. lol.


message 35: by Erik (new)

Erik Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

The writing was sooo dense, I would get exhausted after reading a page. Dickens can be the same way, and I imagine that'll be the hardest when I actually have to read one of his books without the aid of a teacher.


message 36: by Judith (new)

Judith (jloucks) | 1203 comments Regine wrote: "I'm with all the ladies here. Jane Austen is probably one of my favorite authors. I mean let's face the facts: her books are early forms of chick-lit. But the way she writes her characters, the rom..."


Oh, Regine, how could you?! (smile)


message 37: by Judith (new)

Judith (jloucks) | 1203 comments Jan wrote: ""It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife." ..... such wit, such irony...what's not to love....her humorous character po..."

Hear, hear, Jan! Well said!


message 38: by Judith (new)

Judith (jloucks) | 1203 comments Joselito wrote: "Please add to the list Donald Barthelme's The Dead Father. Short, but extremely difficult to read/understand."

Why, Joselito? Just refer me if you have already answered this question in a review.


message 39: by Judith (new)

Judith (jloucks) | 1203 comments Zee wrote: "I think I'll leave that one till last then lol!

Seriously... so far for me it's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It was unbearably boring... I had to force myself because it was fo..."


I suffered a bit with that one too, but I've since decided I should re-read it and give it another try.
So many critics have praised it! I must have missed a good deal!


message 40: by Judith (new)

Judith (jloucks) | 1203 comments K.D. wrote: "Bárbara wrote: "Tanya wrote: "So far Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago. I have read another book of his and not been bothered by the writing style. It does take a little getting used to, Saram..."

"Blindness" is a better read...just in case you decide to give him another try. I have "The Double" on my tbr shelf, but keep passing it by because of what others have said about it....I'll get to it one day.


Domino (aka Meme) (bryghtstarr) Erik wrote: "Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

The writing was sooo dense, I would get exhausted after reading a page. Dickens can be the same way, and I imagine that'll be the hardest when I actually have ..."


i agree with ya on this one Erik. i started Madame Bovary like 3 yrs ago and i'm still only halfway through. it was probably the only novel i really ever read and didn't mind not finishing. i heard it was supposed to be passionate. it was extremely dull to me.


message 42: by Cait (new)

Cait Poytress (caitertot) | 34 comments Regine, will you please please please edit your post? I'm so bummed that I read it! I'm making my way through Dickens's catalog but have yet to read The Old Curiosity Shop. It's too late for me, but I don't want anyone else to get spoiled.


message 43: by Regine (new)

Regine Cait wrote: "Regine, will you please please please edit your post? I'm so bummed that I read it! I'm making my way through Dickens's catalog but have yet to read The Old Curiosity Shop. It's too late for me, bu..."

sorry. will do.


message 44: by Erik (new)

Erik Meme wrote: "Erik wrote: "Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

The writing was sooo dense, I would get exhausted after reading a page. Dickens can be the same way, and I imagine that'll be the hardest when I a..."


It got better toward the end... sort of. I couldn't have done it without sparknotes. I would have loved one of those No Fear modern translation things for it.


message 45: by Cait (new)

Cait Poytress (caitertot) | 34 comments Thanks Regine, I appreciate it.


Domino (aka Meme) (bryghtstarr) Erik wrote: "Meme wrote: "Erik wrote: "Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

The writing was sooo dense, I would get exhausted after reading a page. Dickens can be the same way, and I imagine that'll be the har..."


haha. maybe i'll get back to it someday =)


Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly (joselitohonestlyandbrilliantly) | 372 comments Judith wrote: "Joselito wrote: "Please add to the list Donald Barthelme's The Dead Father. Short, but extremely difficult to read/understand."

Why, Joselito? Just refer me if you have already answered this ques..."


I reviewed the book judith. I just don't know how to post the link here. Basically, I likened Barthelme's prose to the English of an intelligent alien from outer space who is learning English for the first time. Enigmatic plot too. Peter Esterhazy like Barthelme very much, however (see his Celestial Harmonies).


message 48: by Max (new)

Max Regine wrote: "I'm with all the ladies here. Jane Austen is probably one of my favorite authors. I mean let's face the facts: her books are early forms of chick-lit. But the way she writes her characters, the rom..."

Re: the Dickens hate. It saddens me! Dickens is one of my favorite authors. I've yet to read The Old Curiosity Shop, but his books are some of my favorites. A Tale of Two Cities? Gold! He can be hard to get through sometimes -- yes, he writes in tangents sometimes -- but the way he pieces the characters and events together, it's just good old fun. I may get some heat for this, but I'm reading Infinite Jest right now and DFW kind of reminds me of a contemporary Dickens. He goes off describing the tennis matches, buildings, etc. in so much detail it can get boring, but it's gripping and seems like it'll be worth it in the end.

As for the book I've had most difficulty with so far... none of them! I've been fortunate enough to just have read ones that fly by.


message 49: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (posiedonsdaughter) | 4 comments So far every book that i have read are my level :)


message 50: by Felina (last edited Jun 29, 2010 02:07PM) (new)

Felina I think Jane Austen in a talented writer I just wish she had better topics to discuss. And I get that in her time finding a husband was the most important thing in a womans life, but its not now and since I can't relate I simply don't care. I'm struggling through Pride and Prejudice and while I appreciate her humor I find the meat of the story to be weak.

Crime and Punishment has been the hardest for me. I'm 1/4 of the way into the story and basically nothing has happened. Come on, move it along.


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