T hey are infamous. They are intimidating. They sometimes impress us. And they often annoy us. But there they stand, looking at us, accusing us, taunting us. They are the hard books. Some are difficult just because of their length. Some are difficult because of the density of their thought. Some are difficult on purpose, while others just couldn’t have been written any other way. But as much as we would sometimes want to, we can’t completely get away from them.
A couple of different websites have made lists of famously difficult reads. (Publishers Weekly and The Millions) And to be honest, I haven’t heard of many them. “Moby Dick” of course is almost always mentioned. And Faulkner gets plenty of votes too.
What books would be on your list of difficult reads?
Now, surely to be counted in such a list, a book needs to be worth the effort. Just because some hack puts out a 900 page door stop doesn’t mean anyone should take the time to read it. So what would make someone slog through a dense treatise on philosophy, or poetry so obscure that scholars can’t agree on what it means? To be inspired? To find wisdom? To show off for your friends?
What makes you consider reading a particularly difficult book?
There certainly does seem to be a bit of esteem that accompanies reading one of the big bad books. I know a few folks who play that card with more than just a little pride, quoting works they know darn good and well no one else has, or has any inclination to read. While readers as a group can properly be accused of being a bit elitist, there are some folks who make something of an art form of it. Difficult books make great fodder for intellectual and literary elitism.
Do you know any reading snobs?
Have you ever been guilty of it yourself?
Some of these infamous books are considered classics. They are books that are indeed a part of the library of western civilization and referenced so often that they are properly considered important reads. As interminable as Moby Dick may be (to me), it is nice to know what someone is talking about when they bring it up.
On the other hand, most of us read for fun and relaxation. Difficult reads can rarely be called either of those. Do you feel guilty for skipping the difficult stuff? Or do you feel justified in only reading things that you enjoy? Do you have any need to make your reading productive? Or is it enough that it makes you happy?
Do you have any difficult reads in your to be read pile?
What would encourage you to bring it up to the top?
Good books don’t have to be hard, but some of the best ones are. Anyone want to take up the challenge, and read one of these monsters? Let us know, and we will cheer you on!
If you read it, it is yours.
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