This week’s Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish is books that are hard to read. At first I tried to think of books I was unable to finish, but then I realised that some books I really, really love are hard to read, so this list is a mix of the two!
1. 2666 by Roberto Bolano
So, you’ve just given birth to twins. You’re looking for something to read between the endless feeds and nappy changes. What better than 2666, a 900 page monster of a novel about the rape and murder of women in Mexico, involving multiple plot digressions, stories within stories, and multiple characters? Was it hard because the book was hard to read? Or was it hard because I was a sleep-deprived, hormone-filled mess while reading it? Who knows? But I’m proud I got through it!
2. Tampa by Alissa Nutting
Anyone who remembers my review of Tampa will know that I am most certainly not a fan of this cold, badly written sensationalist story of a female paedophile. The click bait of books, it was all hype and no substance with sex scenes that were horrible to read. Plus, that cover……
3. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Anyone that can get through this elegant meditation on love, grief and survival without having to take a cry break (that’s an official term) every few pages is a stronger reader than me.
4. Happy Like Murderers by Gordon Burn
Gordon Burn is a great journalist/ author and I had loved some of his other work. I am still amazed that I managed to get through this incredibly detailed account of the lives of Fred & Rosemary West and there are some things I read in this book that I wish I could forget. It is not for the faint hearted, but is a true and necessary work for the victims and for an understanding of how monsters are made.
5. Rabbit Run by John Updike
Oh how I had been looking forward to reading John Updike and his classic Rabbit books. I imagined myself reading and loving the whole series, but after ploughing my way through this dull and meandering tale of ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom and his self-obsessed, juvenile inability to commit to his wife and daughter, I’d had enough. A book that I finished but wish I hadn’t.
6. House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
First there is the form of this brilliant and frightening book – multiple typefaces, footnotes, collage, the insertion of photographs, sketches, a page of Braille, an index, hell at one point you need a mirror to read parts of the text. Then there is the story – essentially a haunted house story but unlike anything you have ever imagined. Reading this book takes serious effort, but it is worth it. And oh my, is it scary.
7. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
I got a lot of things out of my degree in English Literature, but a love for Middle English was not one of them. This was a set text in first year and almost made me question my choice of degree. Maybe I should try the translation by Simon Armitage to see if I can salvage something from this dull, incomprehensible poem.
8. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
I haven’t read it yet. That’s how hard it is. I’ve started it countless times. I’ve read those first 50 pages over and over, each time thinking, ‘yes, this time I’ll make it through’. But no. Infinite Jest is an elusive epic. I’ll have to try again as it is in the 746, so if anyone out there has made it through and can give me some pointers I will be eternally grateful.
9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
I read this when I was 24. I really don’t think there is any other time to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Essentially the tale of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book turns in to a philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to be. I read about half of it in complete bafflement, then finally it all clicked and fell in to place for me. I can’t remember what clicked, or what fell in to place, but I loved it at the time.
10. It by Stephen King
I was 11. My Mum, Dad and I were going to Dublin for the weekend and staying in a B&B. I had insisted I was old enough for my own room. I brought ‘It’ to read. I ended up sleeping between my parents in their room due to the sheer terror that damn clown induced. I never did finish it and my parents never let me live that down!
So there we have it, my Top Ten books that were hard to read for one reason or another.
Have you read any of these? Loved or hated them more than me?