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Ten toughest books to read

Who among us hasn’t struggled with a book or poem that failed to capture our attention? Here's a list of ten toughest reads in literature.

books Updated: Jun 14, 2010 13:23 IST

War and peaceWho among us hasn’t struggled with a book or poem that failed to capture our attention? Here's a list of ten toughest reads in literature.

1. Finnegans Wake, James Joyce: Internet searches on “most difficult” and “hard to read” novels unfailingly recognize Finnegan’s Wake as the most difficult work of fiction in the English language. Written partially in a made-up language of mindbendingly convoluted puns, this novel is often considered unreadable.

2. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner: Some readers have found themselves filled with fury after trying to tackle the near-punctuation-less, paragraph-long, stream-of-onscious sentences.

3. Naked Lunch, William Burroughs: Is it any surprise that a book whose pages were written while the author was high on heroin, then cut into pieces, randomly reassembled, and published is a tough read? The book certainly is a difficult read, as sentences seem to just end without warning and new sentences begin half-way through.

4. The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot: This tremendously dense modernist poem is told in five parts and abruptly shifts between characters, time, place, and languages (English, Latin, Greek, German, and Sanskrit) with nothing more than the reader’s own erudition to make the connection between passages.

5. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne: You may need a dictionary and you can easily get lost in the multiple pages of descriptive digressions. Hawthorne himself admitted to adding a complete chapter (The Custom House) only because the book was otherwise too short to print.

6. Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco: Fans read Eco with a dictionary at hand, raving that his books are “for the strong of spirit, people with perseverance, willing to struggle in order to reach the ultimate truth that only the very few have mastered.”

7. The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: This not-quite-objective-history, not-quite-memoir, “literary investigation” weaves endless depressing narrative threads, using prose seemingly designed to punish. The palpable sense of despair and apathy comes less from the text, but from the reading thereof, and it forces most readers to abandon the fight.

8. Moby Dick, Herman Melville: This 600-plus-page book goes on and on—and on—about whaling techniques while remaining light on plot.

9. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand: Devotees recommend taking on the 1,000 page book in small doses, over a long period of time.

10. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy: Fans say it’s best to read a few chapters at a time, keep notes, rent the film, and then be sure to “do something special” to celebrate after you’ve finished it. In fact, many people have read it just to say they did.

(Info Courtesy: listverse.com)

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