I asked this question in my last post, and figured it might be more fun for it to have its own thread.
Obviously “hard” is subjective. And things are hard for lots of different reasons. (Sometimes things are just BAD, not hard!) But I suppose there must be general consensus about at least the top ten or so.
I can’t say as I have an exact list of Really Hard Novels because I haven’t read all of the ones on my list. So I can’t really rank them. But in general.
- Finnegans Wake (So hard I won’t even bother)
- Gravity’s Rainbow (I wouldn’t have thought so until the last section)
- The Recognitions (by virtue of it being so frikkin big). I read this decades ago and I don’t remember much about it sadly, so I’ll have to try again
- The Sound and The Fury (which I tried once and may have finished but if I did it was just seeing words, not really reading them)
- Tristram Shandy, (I’ve read this twice. Once in college when I loved it and a second in the last few years when I found it really confusing–I think you need serious unimpeded time for it)
- Infinite Jest
- The Tunnel (man I had a hard time with this beast)
- Underworld (I loved the opening section but found the middle really difficult)
- Moby Dick (it’s not a hard book, but i can see why it’s hard to finish).
- Naked Lunch (if that’s even a novel)
- Foucault’s Pendulum (I read this ages ago (my first big book). I wonder if I would understand more about now).
- The Satanic Verses (I was dying to read this and I had NO IDEA what was going on)
- Pale Fire (which I loved and cant wait to read again)
- The big Dostoevsky/Tolstoy books. I haven’t read enough Russians, and I’m intimidated by both of them.
- Trainspotting (only for the accents)
- Ada (I’ve heard this is hard, although i haven’t tried yet. I’m working my way through Nabokov
- All of the Epics in Middle English (although that doesn’t really count, right?)
- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (I remember being really confused by this, although it can’t have been that hard as I’m looking forward to reading it again someday.)
I know there’s a few other books that I should add. This is based on my remembrances and some online searches. It may not be fair to include translations (Don Quixote would be on there, although I understand the most recent translation is supposed to be wonderful).
I’m inclined to throw Tolkien’s The Simarillion on there, but I can’t say for sure as I haven’t looked at it since high school. And my Faulkner knowledge is really limited so there could be more from him. A number of online lists cite Gulag Archipelago, but I read that recently and didn’t find it hard at all. Even if it is considered hard for the brutality, Elie Wiesel’s Night is much more brutal.
Anyone else have some good additions?