Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Even More Conversation about Reading Challenging Books . . .

Challenging Books This conversation began on September 12th and continued on September 14th & 17th

We’ve had a total of 8 reader comments that have moved the discussion along; and, here’s the one that let us continue from the 17th:

“Re: challenges we used to have—as a teenager, I wouldn’t have been able to work through a romance novel if you paid me—they just didn’t interest me. I found them implausible and dull. Now, I see them as light and frothy; but, fun like a movie romcom.

“I’m not sure what changed. Maybe I matured a little and began to take the world less seriously? At least, that’s what I want to think ;-) “

Very interesting, how we all can differ in what challenges us… I used to like certain “romance” writing; but, wouldn’t now touch it…

And, as far as maturity—I’m going on 73 and it’s looking like I’m as ripe as I’ll ever get; but, still, there’s other reading that’s “light and frothy” for me, like many of the articles in the new journalism periodical, Popula, which also has some definitely challenging essays…

Though, if a work is “romantic” like this definition from my Oxford dictionary, I could definitely give it a try:

“A medieval vernacular verse, or later prose, narrative relating the legendary or extraordinary adventures of some hero of chivalry.”

But, I have to qualify that with this definition of the word that gave birth to chivalry—chevalier:

“A horseman, esp. a mounted knight.”

Though, to be yet more specific, the job of “knight” must also include women; and, that consideration brings me to a four-book-adventure woven around an amazing female “knight”, written by the most Challenging fiction writer I know—The Morgaine Cycle

So, yeah, challenges in reading can be good for the soul…

I just went travelling with my uncle Google and found an article entitled, Top 10 Difficult Literary Works; and, I’m hoping we all realize that any Internet article’s title with “Top” at the beginning is, at best, some concerned person’s opinion; still, with part of my job here being to encourage these conversations to continue, I’ll make a list of those “Difficult” Literary Works, which must, by definition, be Challenging and ask you to, perhaps, comment on any of them you’ve read ( I’ve read three of them; and, I just wrote a very long sentence :-)

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce


Two suggestions

Share a comment on any of those listed “Challenging” books (perhaps some weren’t all that challenging for you…)…

Or, share whatever you’d like about Reading Challenging Books

It only takes one comment for the discussion to continue… :-)
If you don’t see a way to comment, try the link at the upper right of this post…
Our Blog Conversations are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays—the rest of the week, I share valuable posts from other blogs

For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

9 responses to “Even More Conversation about Reading Challenging Books . . .

  1. martinaseveckepohlen September 19, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    The Scarlet Letter was my subject for final exams in my English class at university. I didn’t think it was “difficult”, but “challenging” is a good term to describe it. There are so many layers of meaning, and not all of them are easily accessed by a young person.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Yet More Conversation about Reading Challenging Books . . . | Notes from An Alien

  3. Pingback: Further Conversation about Reading Challenging Books . . . | Notes from An Alien

  4. Pingback: Even Further Conversation about Reading Challenging Books . . . | Notes from An Alien

  5. Jessica Donegan September 26, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    I know we’ve moved past this point in the conversation but, I still wanted to stop by and add a thought.

    From the list above, I’ve read “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Scarlet Letter”. I loved both other them and had no trouble reading either. Now to be fair: both books were read for class assignments and I had varying levels of help getting through the books.

    With “Atlas Shrugged” I had a libertarian teacher who lived and breathed the libertarian philosophy. We went through about two chapters a class and we read some of the longest monologues out loud as a class. And she often admitted that we were reading the book to explore the IDEAS not to explore the writing (which helped me immensely because Atlas Shrugged was the first time these ideas had been presented to me this way, but the writing itself is a swamp). For me, reading this book was very exciting. We started here and then our teacher applied the philosophy of “Atlas Shrugged” to several other books, and it was an interesting academic exercise. I know why people have trouble reading it, and I understand why people don’t like this book, but there are simple ways around some of “Atlas Shrugged” challenges if you really want to read the book.

    “The Scarlet Letter” was very hard to get into. I had the hardest time reading it, even for class, until I started listening to it on CD and following along as the reader spoke. After listing to a third of the book this way, I was hooked and consumed the rest without further aid. Here the language, diction, and repetition was tricky for me. Listening to some one else’s cadence until I adjusted really helped. Hawthorne is one of my favorite classic authors, but I always start reading one of his books out loud until I’ve adjusted to the rhythm of the story.

    I wonder if challenging books are just dense books that need more direction than a leisure reader brings? Focusing on themes, group discussions, and reading parts a loud seems to alleviate many problems challenging works present.


    • Alexander M Zoltai September 26, 2018 at 12:42 pm

      Well, there’s no such thing as “moving past” any part of these discussions—unless someone adds a comment to a post in the series ( not the last post… ) and I’ve already begun another conversation—must ponder what to do in such a situation…

      Lovely points raised in your comment & you’ve definitely moved this conversation forward…

      Your words will appear in the post this Friday, the 28th :-)


  6. Pingback: Still Further Conversation about Reading Challenging Books . . . | Notes from An Alien

  7. Pingback: Blog Conversation about Reading Print Books or Ebooks? | Notes from An Alien

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