Top Ten Tuesdays: Ten Hardest Books That I Read or Attempted to Read


Today, the bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish have asked us to list ten books that were hard to read.

I usually don’t have any strong feelings about sex and violence in books, so the only thing that can make a book hard to read is the language. Here are some books that were really hard for me to get through.


  1. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer – I struggled with the archaic language, and the rhyme in the book. However, overall I am glad I read this book. One suggestion though for anyone attempting it – try an audio book version. I listened to bits and pieces of the book on Audible and it was much easier listening to it than actually reading it. It took me a good 3-4 months to finish this book though.
  2. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – The Nadsat lingo in the book was hard, damn hard, and I read this book during my teenage years where my patience for this sort of stuff was pretty low. Honestly, though I don’t think I would like this book much if I read it now either.

    I later heard that a large part of the lingo was derived from Russian. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.

  3. The Silmarillion by J.R.R.Tolkien – I started and stopped this book many, many years ago, and I don’t plan to visit it again. I found this excerpt on the web, and this is a fair example of the style of the rest of the prose:

    With Manwë dwells Varda, Lady of the Stars, who knows all the regions of Eä. Too great is her beauty to be declared in the words of Men or of Elves; for the light of Ilúvatar lives still in her face. In light is her power and her joy. Out of the deeps of Eä she came to the aid of Manwë; for Melkor she knew from before the making of the Music and rejected him, and he hated her, and feared her more than all others whom Eru made.

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  5. Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon – Slow book with seemingly very little going on. One of the dullest things I ever read.
  6. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – Language wise, this book wasn’t bad but it’s really heavy going, and it wasn’t entertaining enough to make it worth reading. This was one of my DNFs last year.
  7. Underworld by Don deLillo – This is the first book of his I read, and it’s probably the most difficult of his books. His other books like Libra and Mao II were much easier, or more likely that I was used to his writing style. Still he’s not an author I’d recommend for some light reading.
  8. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco – I read this book after seeing the movie (was a big fan of Christian Slater back in the day >.< ), I enjoyed the mystery aspects of it, but all the symbolism left me a little cold. I haven't attempted another Umberto Eco book since.
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  10. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – In the end, I enjoyed this book a lot, but there’s no denying parts of it were too verbose.
  11. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – I have started and stopped this book so many times. The language is not tough, but the sheer number of characters kill me, and somehow page 50 has ended up being the spot where my patience runs out. I know I will probably end up loving this book if I give it more time and attention but as I grow older, it seems my patience with big books is getting lesser.
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  13. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – I am not a huge fan of books with no plot, plus the stream of consciousness style, while not difficult to read, put me to sleep. Here’s an infamous example of her writing style:

    But—but—why did she suddenly feel, for no reason that she could discover, desperately unhappy? As a person who has dropped some grain of pearl or diamond into the grass and parts the tall blades very carefully, this way and that, and searches here and there vainly, and at last spies it there at the roots, so she went through one thing and another; no, it was not Sally Seton saying that Richard would never be in the Cabinet because he had a second-class brain (it came back to her); no, she did not mind that; nor was it to do with Elizabeth either and Doris Kilman; those were facts.

    It was a feeling, some unpleasant feeling, earlier in the day perhaps; something that Peter had said, combined with some depression of her own, in her bedroom, taking off her hat; and what Richard had said had added to it, but what had he said? There were his roses. Her parties! That was it! Her parties! Both of them criticised her very unfairly, laughed at her very unjustly, for her parties. That was it! That was it!

    How come I would never get away with writing like this? What was her editor thinking? By the way, this whole chunk of prose is one paragraph, I have broken it into a couple of paras to spare your eye-sight.

So, these are the books that I remember as the most heavy-going. Which books were an uphill slog for you?


    I have read Atlas Shrugged. It is a good book for 650 pages or so, until the irritating John Galt comes into the picture. IMO, Ayn is a better story teller than philosopher. I am currently reading a difficult to read classic called The Secret Garden. It’s not actually difficult to read, but there is nothing much story-wise, and its too long!

  • Oh, Lord, the Silmarillion! I read (some of) that in a spate of Tolkien devotion in high school, and it was…not good. Not a good situation, that book. It’s sad that he thought that was his masterwork. Silly Tolkien, it was obviously Lord of the Rings.

    • Nishita

      @readingtheend:disqus poor guy, I think he got a bit too caught up with the world he created

  • cocoonofbooks

    A Clockwork Orange was on my list as well. I had to keep looking the words up in the glossary. War and Peace and Mrs. Dalloway I did as audiobooks, which helped. I actually enjoyed War and Peace quite a bit, but not so much Mrs. Dalloway

    • Nishita

      @cocoonofbooks:disqus I didn’t even bother looking up the words of A Clockwork Orange, I just skimmed through the entire book. I think I might find War and Peace tough even as an audio book, my attention span for listening to books is pretty low.


    I could not finish Atlas Shrugged. One of the most boring books I have ever read. Silmarillion was tough in the beginning for first 100 pages or so, after that it was a breeze.

  • I tried The Silmarillion as well, with no luck.;)

    My list:

  • La Coccinelle

    I think I might’ve tried to read Gulliver’s Travels at some point, but I don’t think I finished.

    I also have a vague recollection of reading (or trying to read) The Silmarillion at some point… but whether or not I actually finished, I couldn’t tell you. If I did, I guess it wasn’t that memorable.

  • Stefanie Hollmichel

    The Silmarillion is a tough one. I made it through in my second attempt and actually ended up loving it. Mrs. Dalloway is one of my favorite books and Woolf one of my favorite authors. Both author and book are tough but well worth the effort in my opinion. The book gets better each time I read it.

  • I don’t ever think I’ll get through War and Peace. It’s too overwhelming for me!

  • Oh myyyyy. Some of these books just sound… I couldn’t. I also DNF’ed Atlas Shrugged. I thought I would enjoy it but I really didn’t. I haven’t read Mrs Dalloway but I have read On Being Ill which was equally verbose and un-paragraphed!

    • Nishita

      @barefootmeds:disqus Ugh! I just hate those long paragraphs. Somehow I can tolerate, sometimes even enjoy long sentences, but paras going on and on just seems so inconsiderate.

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