Notes from An Alien

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Tag Archives: Hard To Read Books

Are These The Most Difficult Books to Read?

It appears Paulo Coelho has said (according to The Guardian) that James Joyce’s Ulysses has no content worth reading“One of the books that caused great harm was…Ulysses, which is pure style. There is nothing there. Stripped down, Ulysses is a twit.”

Some folks would also rank Ulysses as a difficult book to read.

Two folks at the site The Millions (“an online magazine offering coverage on books, arts, and culture since 2003”) have, since 2009, been working to produce a Most Difficult To Read list

In their 2009 article, Introducing Difficult Books, A Descriptive List (which has their first list), I found these clarifying excerpts:

“There will, doubtless, be those readers who look scornfully on our choices (“Psh. These aren’t that hard, you’re just not smart enough to read them“).”

“This list is for the mere mortals among us—who have found themselves reading and rereading the same paragraph of James Joyce’s Ulysses to no avail…”

“But this is also a list for those who, after breaking the spine, picked up the wounded volume, taped it back together, and finished that infuriating chapter, and another, and another… until, triumph!, it was finished at last. And, perhaps, now that we think on it again, having finished, could it be that it was worth the struggle? Could it be that in the pain of it was a tinge of pleasure, of value (not to mention pride)?”

Publishers Weekly recently posted an updated list of the 10 Most Difficult from the curators at The Millions:

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, A Tale of A Tub by Jonathan Swift, The Phenomenology of the Spirit by G.F. Hegel, To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Clarissa, Or the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson, Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, Being & Time by Martin Heidegger, The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein, and Women & Men by Joseph McElroy.

If you go to that Publishers Weekly link you can read their reasons for listing these books as “Most Difficult”

Have you read any of these books?

Did you think them exceedingly difficult?

Are there other books you think are extremely difficult to read?
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