Tough Reading

Is there a book that you really think you should read but just can’t get through in spite of trying? For me it is James Joyce’s Ulysseys and Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I got through about 30 pages or so of the former and about half way through Swann’s Way of the latter. Both have been strongly recommended to me by people I greatly respect. I think I will try to slog through both when I retire. It’s a goal anyway.

Any of James Joyce’s books :wink:

Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. I’ve picked this up on at least two separate occasions and could not get past page 50 either time. DH had the same problem. :shrug:

I had a hard time getting through Crime and Punishment but I made it eventually. I never did finish East of Eden nor do I ever intend to.

tried all those listed in college lit courses and gave up, changed my major to history. I took War and Peace to the hospital every time I gave birth, and on every vacation for 20 years, an finally realized I was bored with the characters and the story. Anna Karenina makes me so mad I just want to slap her (felt the same way when I saw Garbo in the movie).

Even Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man? I didn’t think this was too bad.

I read Anna Karenina first and enjoyed it so I thought I would read War and Peace - I couldn’t keep track of all the characters in it! It has to be the first book I started but didn’t finish - I was about 18 at the time. I could try again now that I am older, maybe the story line will keep me interested :shrug:. I will need a large print copy though so I guess no reading it in bed:eek:.

Brenda V.

Hello! Forget Joyce’s “Ulysses.” I got about 18 pages in and was wondering what I had read. I even bought one of those reference books for it and that didn’t help. I did read “The Dubliners” and “Portrait.” William Faulkner is also difficult for me. I read “Light In August” and tried another one of his other novels and couldn’t get anywhere.


Funny you ask – I’ve been picking up and then putting aside Dickens’ s “Martin Chuzzlewitt” for a few years now. If I could just get stranded on a desert island I’m sure I could finish it. After all, I read both “Tristram Shandy” and “Infinite Jest” (not at the same time).

The first one I ran across was Moby **** in high school. Couldn’t handle it, even though I’d read Dante in sixth grade. I, too, have an unread copy of Ulysses—perhaps there are more unread copies of this book in existence than ones that have actually been read.

Say, you might enjoy Triumph, the history of the Catholic Church. It’s really, REALLY well-written; very enjoyable.

OK. Moby D-i-c K . I eventually picked it up as an adult and really really enjoyed Melville. This said, I’m a Jane Austen and George Elliot fan.

I have the impression some think “Moby ****” is the finest American novels ever written. Also, I have heard it is a boring classic.

Has anyone one checked out The Modern Library Association’s top 100 novels for the 20th century written in English? There’s quite a few gems on that list. I have read about 35 of them.


I feel guilty because I have a very hard time following Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. I still haven’t gotten through even half of it.

I wish that someone would re-write it in modern U.S. (American) English, because I think that it’s the “Queen’s English” that is making the book difficult for me.

The other possibility is that Chesterton refers to events in UK history that I have no knowledge of, and so I can’t follow his train of thought and conclusions.

Possibly someone could write Chesterton’s Orthodoxy for Dummies–that would be cool!

Summa Theologica by Aquinas

It took me five times to get through Jane Eyre (sp?). The first time I read part of it was when I was ten since there wasn’t anything left in the school library to read that was at my level. I finally got through it when I was 17. Could not understand why people love Bronte or Jane Austen books. They’re so insipid. Tried Wuthering Heights, got about half way through and just gave up since it was like watching paint dry. Couldn’t get through Anna Karenina either. I have no plans on reading any of these books and don’t want to.

I am on the finest side of this dispute. I take Moby D. on every vacation and always find new insights and I love the detail and asides. Melville never bores me. I almost did my dissertation on Moby D. but too many folks thought I would be mistaken for and English major. Another author I just cannot read is Anthony Trollope. I’ve tried but just cannot get through him, much to the dismay of one my best friends who has read and re-read ALL of Trollope. It is a shame he is not Catholic because he should get some Purgatory points for this.

The Silmarillion. by Tolkien. I tried reading it over and over and over again, but it was like trying to read a history textbook. I usually love to read history textbooks, (I’m a nerd, I know) but this one…wow.

Some parts of it are much better than others; he does have a habit of wandering off on tangents. I think I skipped or skimmed a chapter or two three-quarters of the way through. Since it’s not in any way linear, you might want to skim a bit over the seemingly opaque bits until you find something that’s compelling to you.

But there’s that amazing part where he’s describing how being a theist is like being a patriot on behalf of life (and a nihilist is a traitor to life). That’s something I think about nearly every day.

I gave a non-believing friend an audiobook version of Orthodoxy hoping it would explain my point of view to her. Maybe you could give that a try, or would that be cheating?

As for me, I feel sheepish admitting that despite trying to get through St. Augustine’s Confessions a number of times, I can never seem to make any headway.

Like I said, I think a lot of times, it’s the language. These people were high and mighty writers. And as embarrassing as it is to admit it, most of us read mostly newspapers and magazines, which are at a 6th grade reading level!

It would be fun if someone would do a “satire” of People Magazine written as though from some of the great authors in history. Can you imagine an analysis of Angelina’s latest addition to her family written by St. Augustine? Or a description of the latest celebrity wedding written by Bronte? Or an Iraq war story analyzed by Belloc?!

Last year I re-read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I read this book when I was a CHILD of 12 and understood it. But now that I am 51 and have a lifetime of Good Housekeeping and Glamour in my brain, I had a hard go of it with J and H! I did understand it, but I wondered if my brain has gone mushy!

It’s a good story, but Melville’s entirely too fond of dropping entire chapters on cetacean biology in the middle.

The book it took me longest to get through was Dostoevsky’s The Possessed (now, I think, retranslated as Demons). It’s amazingly good, but incredibly harsh stuff. I whipped right through C&P and reread his short stories every now and again, but that one was just grueling to read. Still haven’t gotten around to The Brothers Karamazov.

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