Tough Reads – classic books that challenge readers

Winter can be a season when life slows down and more people are inclined to curl up with a good book or two.  For New Year’s resolutions a person may say that they are finally going to read that classic or book that has always evaded them.

  Well, I once again turned to my fellow workers to ask which books had most challenged them. are a lot of reasons that a classic book can be a struggle, but two of the most common reasons in my opinion are being forced to read something (especially if you are not mature enough for it) and having a poor teacher. My bad experience with Can Lit was Ernest Buckler’s The Mountain and the Valley (M).

Similarly, a wonderful teacher can turn things around. I must give my high school teacher, Ms. McNutt, credit for that.

Sometimes it is the era the book was written in and that the language is hard to understand, like much of James Joyce and William Shakespeare, The Faerie Queene by Spenser, The CanterburyTales by Chaucer, etc…

Here are some of the personal tough reads mentioned by library staff: Dick (M) by Herman Melville is one of those books that you are forced to read for school.  Maybe that is why so many resist it.  Or maybe there is only so much you can take of reading about whaling techniques and crazy, obsessed men.  Mind you I think school has ruined a lot of books and authors.   Mind you I did have one of my fellow workers stating that they loved the novel.
Most people list War and Peace (M) by Leo Tolstoy as their Mount Everest of reading.  This novel is so long and so “foreign” both in language, place and time period that it actually has become a joke that this is the year it will be read. (M) by Chuck Palahniuk is my challenge book. While I read all his other novels this is one that I just cannot get through.  The language is so stilted and he uses twenty words when three might suffice. I know that the language in the book is part of the whole premise but it eluded me. of Leaves (M) by Daniel Z. Danielewski.  This is one confusing book.  It is not even straightforward on how to read it.  It is not that it reads from the back; like manga.  It reads from the front, the side, it circles, etc.  I wanted very much to read it but it took way too much effort.

Infinite Jest (M) by David Foster Wallace – I know that this is supposed to be one of the best books ever, but I just cannot get into it. 
Blood Meridian (M) by Cormac McCarthy.   Like all of McCarthy’s materials, this is one that has a beautiful way with words but you have to have a strong heart and stomach to read this nonstop nihilistic rampage of bloody scalps and other violence. (M) by Irvine Welsh is a movie that I have seen but have never read.  It takes a stronger stomach than mine to read. In 1993 it was long listed for the Booker Prize but was barred from the shortlist after it offended the sensibilities of two of the judges. Of course Welsh was not content to sit by to this.  He launched an attack calling the Booker a “highly imperialist-oriented” literary award and that they failed to deal with a problem of “anti-Scottishness”.  Julian Barnes has also called the Booker Prize selection  “posh bingo”. Sound and the Fury(M) by William Faulkner is a classic but is also  confusing steam of consciousness narration that keeps changing place, time and narrators on you.  Even Faulkner must have felt so because he had originally intended to use different coloured inks to signify different temporal spaces.
So, Dear Reader,  put on your “hiking” gear and go climb some book mountains!

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