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What is the most mentally chanllenging novel you've ever read?

For me, it has to be watership down.

by Anonymousreply 19601/11/2013

Ulysses. Can't even finish 2 pages.

by Anonymousreply 102/24/2012

I agree. Ulysses.

by Anonymousreply 202/24/2012


by Anonymousreply 302/24/2012

I would say Ulysses but I couldn't get past page 2.

by Anonymousreply 402/24/2012

Anything fucking Russian.

by Anonymousreply 502/24/2012

My Pet Goat

by Anonymousreply 602/24/2012

Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury."

by Anonymousreply 702/24/2012

"For me, it has to be watership down."

Perhaps you should stick to Nancy Drew mysteries, hon.

by Anonymousreply 802/24/2012

That's not mentally challenging, it's just badly written R7.

Finegan's Wake seems harder than Ulysses to me.

by Anonymousreply 902/24/2012

Yes, Ulysses. When I was in high school, The Sound and the Fury.

by Anonymousreply 1002/24/2012

DUNE is actually fairly straightforward. Some big ideas but essentially it's a coming-of-age tale with a dash of soft science fiction.

by Anonymousreply 1102/24/2012

Lick 'Em In The Rear.. Its a page turner though.

by Anonymousreply 1202/24/2012

Harold Brodkey's "Profane Friendship". I found the prose largely impenetrable (thouh some passages were beautiful).

by Anonymousreply 1302/24/2012


by Anonymousreply 1402/24/2012

tons of dummies on this thread

by Anonymousreply 1502/24/2012

"To Spell Challenging"

By. The OP

by Anonymousreply 1602/24/2012


It's sad that so many people with very strong opinions about this book don't even understand its purpose or understand that the characters were carefully, and somewhat narrowly, constructed as expositions of particular philosophical outlooks.

by Anonymousreply 1702/24/2012

"Kritik der reinen Vernunft" by Kant

by Anonymousreply 1802/24/2012

Green Eggs and Ham

by Anonymousreply 1902/24/2012

Who's the dummy, R15? You didn't even answer the question!

The Bible.

by Anonymousreply 2002/24/2012

R9, I didn't find "The Sound and the Fury" badly written at all. It's challenging because it's written in three distinct voices, which all have their own views about the events that transpired.

I always thought "Finnegan's Wake" was the gold standard for incomprehensibility.

by Anonymousreply 2102/24/2012

In DUNE, the reader had to learn a new vocabulary dealing with futuristic, unknown concepts.

I think the unworldliness of it adds to it appeal.

And you had to read and process what you just read before you carried on because the whole book was definitely accretive.

Lastly, you had to read it sober as my 22-year-old self learned while reading the book one weekend after wisdom teeth surgery. Pain pills and/or beer do not make for a successful reading session.

I thought DUNE was challenging.

by Anonymousreply 2202/24/2012

I thought At Swim, Two Boys was almost incomprehensible.

by Anonymousreply 2302/24/2012

I've never had a problem with any of these books, but then again I probably read more than most people.

Also, if you don't get "Watership down" you're a sorry sack.

by Anonymousreply 2402/24/2012

You can spot the insecure types easily in this thread. They'll jump on it as an opportunity to criticize the choices of other people.

by Anonymousreply 2502/24/2012

R19, I want to have your baby.

by Anonymousreply 2602/24/2012

But "Watership Down" is a children's book. let's be real

by Anonymousreply 2702/24/2012

The Fuzzy Duckling

by Anonymousreply 2802/24/2012

I personally found Amelia Bedelia very taxing.

by Anonymousreply 2902/24/2012

If you want to get into Ulysses, do two things:

1. Buy it on mp3 and listen chapter by chapter.

2. Buy the New Bloomsday Book and read the (simple and clear) explanations of what you're hearing.

by Anonymousreply 3002/24/2012

BTW, It's "Finnegans Wake," I think.

by Anonymousreply 3102/24/2012

Two that I've never been able to get through, despite more than one attempt:

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

by Anonymousreply 3202/24/2012

"Ulysses" isn't for high school students, but it's not a hard read at all for an adult. "Finnegan's Wake," however, is ridiculously and intentionally impossible. What's the point, Mr. Joyce? You realize it's wonderful and often you can follow threads of it and when you work through the annotations and such you see the shape, but so what? riverrun yourself upstream to accessibility, darling.

by Anonymousreply 3302/24/2012

Pilgrims Progress, I couldn't get past the first page.

by Anonymousreply 3402/24/2012

Have never come across a "mentally challenging" novel. The only work of literature that was challenging for me is Martin Heidegger. I simply am unable to grasp what he is saying. When I was in college, I think it took me an hour to read just 4 pages.

by Anonymousreply 3502/24/2012

I've tried Paradise Lost a couple of times and I find the pacing to be a challenge. It's almost hypnotic and so I find myself coming around after a moment or two and realize I wasn't really engaged with what I had just read.

Also (not a novel), I tried A Brief History of Time a couple of brief times. I just can't grasp the concepts. I tried Dr Hawking's dumbed down version, The Universe in a Nutshell (complete with pictures and animation no less!), and still struggled.

by Anonymousreply 3602/24/2012

Foucault's Pendulum

by Anonymousreply 3702/24/2012

Is Dune worth reading?

by Anonymousreply 3802/24/2012

Foucault is horrible, at least in English. It's not that his concepts are difficult. They're not. It's just that he makes his points with such imprecision (probably to avoid challenge) that's it's difficult to even know what he really thinks.

by Anonymousreply 3902/24/2012

[all posts by tedious troll]

by Anonymousreply 4002/24/2012

I agree with you completely about Foucault, which is why I hate him.

My book would be 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,' which is why I never made it to 'Ulysses. I didn't find it challenging in a good way, either, just deliberately dense and obscure.

by Anonymousreply 4102/24/2012

Oh Dear.... "chanllenging" ARE YOU SERIOUS???

by Anonymousreply 4202/24/2012

If you can't spell Finnegan's Wake, no wonder the text was challenging.

Watership Down posed a problem? Just forget about Charlotte's Web, then. Even if you realize that each of the characters was carefully drawn as an allegory of certain kinds of belief systems.

I like talking animals. And blue.

by Anonymousreply 4302/24/2012

R42, do you have nightmares about bad grammar/spelling?

by Anonymousreply 4402/24/2012

I have, R44. That's why I'm staying up.

by Anonymousreply 4502/24/2012

"Atlas Shrugged".

by Anonymousreply 4602/24/2012

"I still haven't finished 'Atlas Shrugged' which I began in 1912." - Emory

by Anonymousreply 4802/24/2012

"Finnegan's Wake" by James Joyce, "Of Grammatology" by Jacques Derrida, and anything by Julia Kristeva!

by Anonymousreply 4902/24/2012

R38, Dune is definitely worth reading. It's not very challenging, but it is a beautiful book about intrapersonal and larger-scale politics. It presents a fundamental understanding of all conflict, especially the way in which language plays a role. The sci-fi elements work as a great alienating effect to allow the author to get at the core of these conflicts in an allegorcial way. It also speaks to the spiritual nature of man in a very godless way.

It's soft sci-fi, but one of the greatest in the genre. Only Clarke can really rival it, in my opinion.

by Anonymousreply 5002/25/2012

After watching the movie version, I have no desire at all to read "Dune."

by Anonymousreply 5102/25/2012

R47, Rand had that problem in general. For a couple of years, the New York Daily News ran a commercial in which she said, "The Daily News is the best read newspaper because it is the best written." Unfortunately, being well read is not the same as being widely read. She had no ear for idioms at all.

I am, incidentally, the kind of liberal who can ONLY deal with the idea of free people.

by Anonymousreply 5202/25/2012

FINNEGANS WAKE - no apostrophe.

by Anonymousreply 5302/25/2012

The Making of Americans. Not as willfully opaque as Joyce, but you actually follow a new way of writing developing and have to alter one's own usual habits of perceiving.

Most of the great novels (In Search of Lost Time, War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov) are actually not very challenging because they take the reader along though a complex understanding of human life. But The Making of Americans demands that you meet it--in a way that is not common in novels.

by Anonymousreply 5402/25/2012

"Island of the Day Before" Eco followed by "Daughters of Aduyoye" or some shit like that. It was a spiritual/feminist/African cross between a grant proposal and a UN manifesto.

Physically challenging: "To the Lighthouse". My brain riffs like that and the book makes me hyper.

by Anonymousreply 5502/25/2012

Physically challenging -- I hadn't thought of that, R55. I'd have to say Remembrance of Things Past. Holding all of those volumes at the same time is really tricky, particularly when it's time to turn the page. It's mentally challenging too. I had to think practically all of the time. But that's okay; I think practically all of the time anyway.

Otherwise my brain gets real starved.

by Anonymousreply 5602/25/2012

Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. I've started Swann's Way several times and I can get about 50 pages in and then give up. But I keep it around because I'm hoping that one day I'll dive right in and won't come up for air until I've read all the volumes.

Any helpful advice from those full-fledged Proustians out there?

by Anonymousreply 5702/25/2012

"Atlas Shrugged" is worthless crap, not even suitable for use as toilet paper.

by Anonymousreply 5802/25/2012

Brilliant, challenging, life-affirming, almost impossible:

"The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman"

by Angela Carter

by Anonymousreply 5902/25/2012

r57, Just make it to "Sodom and Gomorrah" and you are home free. It really flies from there and it is the funniest and gayest book you will ever read.

by Anonymousreply 6002/25/2012

William Gaddis owns this thread.

by Anonymousreply 6102/25/2012

I agree. The thing that makes Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time so readable is the humor. I remember sitting on the subway and laughing out loud at Swann's Way.

Proust sucks you in with the humor and then hooks you with the character.

And EVERYTONE is gay or gay-ish in this book.

by Anonymousreply 6202/25/2012

The Faerie Queene

by Anonymousreply 6302/25/2012

Anything by Dostoyevsky - I had to keep charts of the characters, their multiple names and nicknames and gender. Thank god for Sparknotes!

by Anonymousreply 6402/25/2012

R57, the first chapter "Combray" is the most difficult to overcome. Once you reach SWan's Way you become used to the language, the story begins and you start to enjoy it. It is worth it, specially the 3rd and 4th books.

by Anonymousreply 6502/25/2012

I tore my copy of Henry James' "The Ambassadors" in two and then ran over the pieces with my car. How I hated that book.

by Anonymousreply 6602/25/2012

Finnegans Wake, for sure. Recently got half-way through 1Q84 and just gave up. Not incomprehensible, but stultifyingly boring.The challenge was staying awake while reading it.

by Anonymousreply 6702/25/2012

Kant is not a novel, and not hard at all, if you are trained in logic. The hardest to get through are Catholic philosophers like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas because they are the Karl Roves of their day and everything they say is twisted counterfactual propaganda. I prefer simpler Catholic theologians, where you can just say, oh, he's wrong, like Duns Scotus.

For novels I have to say I'm struggling a bit with Nathalie Sarraute's "Planetarium."

by Anonymousreply 6802/25/2012

r 68 how do you get trained in logic; is there a special book you read.

by Anonymousreply 6902/25/2012

A Hundred Years of Solitude

Paradise by Toni Morrison


by Anonymousreply 7002/25/2012

It's not a novel... but it's an amazing book. Mind-blowing. Horizon-expanding. Educational and informative. Brilliant in every way.

It's also very challenging to read. I would never recommend anyone read more than two chapters in any one day, as your brain might explode if you do. And some chapters take effort to get through, they're so dense.

But it's beyond worth it.

Check it out:

"Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas R. Hofstadter

by Anonymousreply 7102/25/2012

[quote]"Atlas Shrugged" isn't mentally challenging, [bold]unless you're some kind of liberal who can't deal with the idea of free people.[/bold]

You have GOT to be kidding me.

by Anonymousreply 7202/25/2012

Go Dog Go

by Anonymousreply 7302/25/2012

"Atlas Shrugged" is laughably bad, with its endless descriptions of people's mundane actions, their appearance, etc. Ayn Rand had evidently never heard of "Show, Don't Tell."

Mary Gaitskill sends Rand up in one of her novels, where "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" are renamed "The Bulwark" and "The Gods Disdained" and the characters all have preposterous names.

by Anonymousreply 7402/25/2012

V by Thomas Pynchon

by Anonymousreply 7502/25/2012

For any of you who actually thinks "Atlas Shrugged" is a good book (or movie), or that Ayn Rand is a great philosopher or writer, or that Randian Libertarianism is logical and meaningful... you MUST read this essay by David Brin, noted Classical Libertarian, where he completely deconstructs the movie,the book, and Ayn Rand herself.

Wake up, people.

by Anonymousreply 7602/25/2012

Pat the Bunny

by Anonymousreply 7702/25/2012

It is always weird to encounter someone who actually considers Ayn Rand a philosopher. Usually its people who have not read much philosophy.

Rand's ideas are half-baked and her critique of philosophers seem to be based on Cliff Notes. If I recall she is always going after Kant, but seems to be completely ignorant as to what he actually wrote.

by Anonymousreply 7802/25/2012

What work of literature did Martin Heidegger write, r35.

What do you mean by "mentally challenging", OP? Some novels can be boring, need editing and cutting, be badly written, but I don't know what you mean by "mentally challenging".

by Anonymousreply 7902/25/2012

The Poky Little Puppy

by Anonymousreply 8002/25/2012

Just because writing is impenetrable and difficult to follow does not make it deep or good. Twisted, convoluted writing is bad writing, not deeply nuanced with hidden meaning. It's taken me years after having been brainwashed at a "top tier" university as an English Literature major to overcome the bandwagon mentality that has elevated certain authors. Shakespeare has stood the test of time.

Get back to me on the likes of Joyce and Somerset Maugham who have fallen in and out of favor among the literati. Virginia Woolf - experimental fiction writing, my sweet tuckus - would not last five minutes going toe-to-toe with the likes of George Eliot.

by Anonymousreply 8102/25/2012

"Daddy's Roommate"

by Anonymousreply 8202/25/2012

Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

by Anonymousreply 8302/25/2012

While much of Woolf may not stand the "test of time" (whatever that means) but Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse are hardly impenetrable fortresses and are quite wonderful.

Many writers - including Eliot - have ponderous works but wholesale dismissal is hardly the answer.

by Anonymousreply 8402/25/2012

I waded through War & Peace ( not even for school, just thought it was one of those great works everyone should read). The plot and dialogue were not difficult but all those damned Russian names... hard to keep them all straight.

by Anonymousreply 8502/25/2012

I love you, R81!

by Anonymousreply 8602/25/2012

R51, the movie of Dune is a mess. Read the book. You can't even compare the two.

by Anonymousreply 8702/25/2012

Beowolf in middle English. Yeah, not a novel but still...

by Anonymousreply 8802/26/2012

Elementary logic

by Anonymousreply 8902/26/2012


Try Beowulf in Old English. Those Middle English translations are for scite.

by Anonymousreply 9002/26/2012


by Anonymousreply 9102/26/2012

Definitely "Ulysses" by James Joyce.

by Anonymousreply 9202/26/2012

R85, I had the same problem reading Tolstoy & Dostoevky: those long Russian names made it so hard to keep track of who did what. After I studied Russian and became semi-fluent speaking it, I found those long Russian names to be no problem to read anymore. But now I have the same problem reading CHINESE-themed book.

by Anonymousreply 9302/26/2012

I never made it through "My Pet Goat."

by Anonymousreply 9402/26/2012

I took a class on James Joyce in college in which we read about half of "Ulysses." Then a few years later when a new, supposedly more accurate edition came out I read it cover to cover. It was like reading something in a foreign language. You had to translate it as you went and occasionally you'd run into something you had to look up, but I wouldn't say it was necessarily more challenging, just a little more work. The fact that it's got funny and dirty parts and the entire thing is so unpredictable and out of left field helps maintain your interest, if you're into that kind of thing. In some ways "Under the Volcano," which is also written in a stream of consciousness style, is more challenging to read because rather than being all these crazy little random bits that you can pick up and put down whenever you want, it's a sustained, continuous, intense experience that's actually leading you on a meaningful narrative arc.

by Anonymousreply 9502/26/2012

I am taking a university course on "War and Peace" this semester taught by a history prof and a Russian lit prof. The course is in remembrance of the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's war with Russia.

First, I was not very aware of how much I missed when I first read W&P five years ago, especially the info about Russian society and the difference between the characters who live in St. Petersburg vs. Moscow.

I am also enjoying reading about the battles much more (assigned reading: RUSSIA AGAINST NaAPOLEON by Dominic Lieven). As to the Russian names, write down as many names as possible as they come into the story and memorize like crazy. It sounds like a small thing, but to essentially know almost everyone by name by page 200 can make a huge diffence.

by Anonymousreply 9602/26/2012

"Ulysses" is hard because it reflects a daily sociability that it is inaccessible in our atomistic antisocial world. Anomie is the norm nowadays, and "Ulysses" has little to teach our world.

by Anonymousreply 9702/26/2012

Do epic poems count? The Iliad. I found The Odyssey enjoyable though.

by Anonymousreply 9802/26/2012

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance was THE badly written pop sensation novel of the late 70s(?) which no one finished except the insane, the drugged or the grimly determined. I managed it. But the 70s had a heap of such popular 'impossibles'. Mervyn Peake and Herman Hesse were carted round like Harry Potter is now. Which indicates how far things have fallen.

by Anonymousreply 9902/26/2012

I don't know which of those categories I fell into, R99, but I read it. Remember it came out in different colored book covers?

For me, the archetypal pseudo-whatever novel from that era was "The Teachings of Don Juan" by Carlo Casteneda.

by Anonymousreply 10002/26/2012

"Justine" - Lawrence Durrell

More recently, "The End" by Salvatore Scibona. Goes off on tangents, but in the end a truly gorgeous work.

by Anonymousreply 10102/26/2012

I dare anyone to try to read just a few paragraphs of this book and tell m,e how before the words "mentally challenged" pop into your mind.

by Anonymousreply 10202/28/2012

[all posts by tedious troll]

by Anonymousreply 10302/28/2012

[quote]As to the Russian names, write down as many names as possible as they come into the story and memorize like crazy. It sounds like a small thing, but to essentially know almost everyone by name by page 200 can make a huge diffence.

Thanks R96, a college professor friend of mine gave me similar advice, he said to cross out the Russian names in the book and write in a more common named like Steve, Brad or Cheryl and keep doing it throughout the book.

Sounded like even more work LOL

Here is my favourite Tolstoy quote, it always reminds me a datalounge.

“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” ― Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata

by Anonymousreply 10402/28/2012

House of Leaves

by Anonymousreply 10502/28/2012

I found the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of "War and Peace" very readable. As far as the name confusion, it's no big deal once you get used to the idea that Russians have three names instead of two (the patronymic second name, which means "son of" or "daughter of," is especially helpful in a big Russian novel because it helps you keep track of family relations) and that they use nicknames or call people by their last names just the same way that we do.

I think also one of the things that throws people off about "War and Peace" is that there are so many princes and princesses running around from different families that are not in the immediate family of the Tsar, and we're used to the European system where you're only a prince or a princess if you're a child of the country's supreme ruler.

by Anonymousreply 10602/29/2012

"I dare anyone to try to read just a few paragraphs of this book and tell m,e how before the words "mentally challenged" pop into your mind."

I dare anyone to read the above post and explain what the hell r102 was trying to say.

by Anonymousreply 10702/29/2012

The Unfortunate Traveller: or, The Life of Jacke Wilton by Thomas Nashe. I hated this book - it is basically written in another language in another time and just not interesting. The Unfortunate Reader.

by Anonymousreply 10802/29/2012

Mentally challenging novel?

Any Dl thread about gay-for-pay porn. Pure fiction, convoluted and endlessly novel every time.

by Anonymousreply 10902/29/2012

I've never been able to get through Ulysses. I've read and enjoyed all the other challenging books mentioned here. Joyce just gets on my last nerve.

by Anonymousreply 11002/29/2012

I have tried to read "The Ambassadors" many times and never made it past the first paragraph. Has anyone made it all the way through?

by Anonymousreply 11102/29/2012

Infinite Jest comes to mind.

by Anonymousreply 11202/29/2012

THE AMBASSADORS is actually amazing, R111, and I found it less difficult and more...tactile...than THE GOLDEN BOWL. I think for me it was just a matter of committing to the time it's going to take to get through it. Or, more practically, start with earlier James, which is far more accessible (PORTRAIT OF A LADY comes to mind). That's good training for his later, denser work.

by Anonymousreply 11302/29/2012

The Golden Bowl is dreadfully boring.

by Anonymousreply 11403/01/2012

I'll second Foucault's Pendulum, but VERY worth it if you get past the first 50 pages or so. I have read it 3 times or so over the years and enjoy it every time.

by Anonymousreply 11503/01/2012

The "Seth" books.

by Anonymousreply 11603/01/2012

Perfume by Patric Suskind.

What was the whole point of Grenouille, after having the world at his feet, pouring the perfume all over himself and being devoured by the nasty crowd of bums? What does the entire story have to say bout humanity?

by Anonymousreply 11703/01/2012

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon is unreadable.

by Anonymousreply 11803/01/2012

R114, I thought that there were several thrilling scenes in THE GOLDEN BOWL. Loved Charlotte Stant's confrontation of Mrs. Assingham, Maggie being a bitch to Mrs. Assingham once she realizes her complicity in the deception, and finally Charlotte's confrontation of Maggie. Maggie herself was an annoying character, though.

I'm glad I read it but probably won't attempt it again for a couple decades.

by Anonymousreply 11903/01/2012

I never could get through David Copperfield. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it.

by Anonymousreply 12003/01/2012

I 'umbly beg to differ with your opinion, R120.

by Anonymousreply 12103/02/2012

Les miserables, the text is hard to wad through.

by Anonymousreply 12203/02/2012

Lord of the Flies.

It bored me so much, I couldn't get through more than about 10 pages at at time. And then the next time I picked it up, couldn't remember what had happened previously.

Finally gave up about 100 pages into it.

by Anonymousreply 12303/02/2012

Enter Talking - Joan Rivers bio

by Anonymousreply 12403/02/2012

During a long lazy weekend for which I had made no plans, I decided I was going to wade through Ulysses if it killed me. It's hard to explain, but I sort of forced my mind to wrap itself around what he was saying. Once I did that, I was able to comprehend the rest of the novel. I've read it again with no difficulty, so it must have stayed with me.

Finnegans Wake is a whole different story. I totally failed there. Part of the problem is that it didn't interest me enough to drag myself through the mire.

I went through a phase where I read only the Russians. I could see where listing the cast of characters might be helpful, but eventually I began to recognize them.

A couple of Joyce Carol Oates' books have seemed impenetrable in the beginning but ended up being worth the effort.

by Anonymousreply 12503/02/2012


by Anonymousreply 12601/08/2013

Has anyone managed to finish Nabokov's "Ada"?

by Anonymousreply 12701/08/2013

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

by Anonymousreply 12801/08/2013

50 Shades of Grey

by Anonymousreply 12901/08/2013

Like many of you, I've never found a novel overly difficult. (From Pynchon to "Finnegan's Wake" to William H. Gass... All are feasible.) I read a lot, though, so I'm never too surprised by variation in form.

Philosophy, on the other hand, can be truly challenging. I agree with the earlier poster who mentioned Heidegger. I can't tell if he's a charlatan or brilliant... His comprehensibility and relevance changes from paragraph to paragraph.

by Anonymousreply 13001/08/2013

50 Shades of Grey.

by Anonymousreply 13101/08/2013

Couldn't figure out Woolf's To The Lighthouse or Stein's Tender Buttons. Damn modernists.

by Anonymousreply 13201/08/2013

Les Miserables. The first 100 pages are about the bishop and I'm bored.

Marcel Proust, "In Search of Lost Time".

by Anonymousreply 13301/08/2013

I've read several Toni Morrison novels, but I couldn't get thru Beloved. I can't get thru Proust and I can't get thru Ulyssees. Now that I'm 57, I've given up trying. I don't care. I tried to read "Possession" (they made a movie of it with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam) for a lit class about 10 years ago and couldn't.

by Anonymousreply 13401/08/2013

R120. Because most people find Dickens easy, if long-winded.

by Anonymousreply 13501/08/2013

Another one for The Sound and the Fury. A friend of mine who is an English prof turned me onto Light in August, which I loved. S&F was a whole different experience. After like 20 pages, I was completely frustrated and called my friend. "Whats going on? Who are these people? Are they old, are they young? Are they poor? Are they rich? Are they black? Are they white? Did I become retarded overnight? I don't understand what the fuck is going on" Then he told me the whole premise, how its in these different voices and in different order. I put it down and told myself I would get back to it later. I never did.

Over the summer I started reading Tender is the Night. It wasn't challenging, but I think because the Occupy movement was so much in the news and on my mind, I found I had no patients to read about a bunch of lazy rich Americans who do nothing but eat lunch and have parties and fuck while lounging around the south of France.

by Anonymousreply 13601/08/2013

Beloved is my favorite novel, but my Ph.D. is in English with an emphasis on postmodern theory and cultural texts, which in current literary parlance has since been usurped by "liquid modernity." FAP, FAP, FAP. . . .

I think anything by Jacques Derrida qualifies as challenging, though he didn't write novels.

by Anonymousreply 13701/08/2013

Ulysses is easier heard than read: Buy it as an audiobook and also buy the New Bloomsday Book to help demystify things.

by Anonymousreply 13801/08/2013

R137 OMG I LOVE Beloved! What a work of art. Its one of those books where I found myself reading the same sentences over and over because they are so wonderfully crafted. R137, is there anything else by Morrison you would recommend?

by Anonymousreply 13901/08/2013

For those of you who find Heidegger challenging, try reading Husserl. I never understood what phenomenology actually is.

As for literature, I agree with those who have mentioned Gravity's Rainbow. I read it in college and don't remember a word of it. I just recently bought the Kindle edition, and have made it through the first 75 pages with more than 600 pages still to go. Not sure how far I will get.

I gave up on Infinite Jest after a few hundred pages. It just wasn't worth the effort.

But Ada, War and Peace, and Swann's Way are among my all time favorites.

by Anonymousreply 14001/08/2013

[quote]Les miserables, the text is hard to wad through.

Are you trying to use it as jack off material?

by Anonymousreply 14101/08/2013

I was an English majo"course I had to read The Education of Henry Adams, which I found shockingly difficult," although I guess I finished it more or less since I had to write papers on it. Nobody's mentioned that one. (although now with Google you could find out who all those English prime ministers like Palmerston, etc. were and it would be much easier).

There were many others (of course I couldn't read Ulysses), but I do remember tackling Middlemarch more than once and always getting defeated pretty early on.

by Anonymousreply 14201/08/2013

Only Revolutions by Mark Danielewski. Had to have been written under a crack-and-absinthe induced haze. Back to Rowling for a while. Oy.

by Anonymousreply 14301/08/2013

r142: That was my post. Sorry bout that. Not sure what happened, but it should read: I was an English Major. In my first freshman English course I had to read "The Education of Henry Adams," which I found shockingly difficult...etc.

by Anonymousreply 14401/08/2013

R143 - More so than House of Leaves?

by Anonymousreply 14501/08/2013

"Back to Rowling for a while. Oy."

You can do better, R143.

by Anonymousreply 14601/08/2013

I don't quite know why.. but it was the biography of Truman Capote. It had joyous moments, but all in all I found it a difficult undertaking.

by Anonymousreply 14701/08/2013

Yes, R145. It's as if he's amping up his literary S&M with each new novel.

Trust me, R146. After reading it, you [italic]won't want[/italic] to do better.

by Anonymousreply 14801/08/2013

[quote]I don't quite know why.. but it was the biography of Truman Capote.

I think I know why. It may be the same reason I had a hard time with a bio of Warhol I read last year (Capote figured a lot in it too). The subject, while seeming so glamorous and having such and exciting life is really very tragic, very much an asshole and very much doomed. You get into someones life, know what they think and feel, you grow attached to them even though you know that in the end its all going to end very badly. From everything I have read about Capote, he was a horrible person, ugly inside and out. Warhol was the same way. Bitter, vindictive, manipulative, irresponsible and constantly needing validation. Its not easy feeling sympathy, much less interest in people like that.

by Anonymousreply 14901/08/2013

[R149] Nailed it!

by Anonymousreply 15001/08/2013

Joan Rivers autobiography, "Enter Talking". The worst read ever!

by Anonymousreply 15101/08/2013

It has taken a long time for anyone to mention Thomas Mann's "Doctor Faustus," so that's my pick as the most difficult book I actually read.

I took "Finnegans Wake" to the beach once, and gave up very soon. But, I like Joyce's other books.

by Anonymousreply 15201/08/2013

Obama's birth certificate, hands down.

by Anonymousreply 15301/08/2013

To Serve Man.

Oh, wait ... it's a COOKBOOK!

by Anonymousreply 15401/08/2013

Ulysses was the biggest drag, War and Peace and Dostoevsky novels were challenging just for the names...I am better at this now.

I loved the Fountainhead but not so much Atlas Shrugged. They are challenging mentally and I guess to many out here, morally. English majors and others in the humanities are taught how to think and interpret, not censor.

Lately I find Lionel Shriver's books to be dense and rewarding reads, challenging in the material and in her style.

"We Need to talk About Kevin" and "So much for That" are engrossing books that require a great deal of verbal know how. Moral and ethical dilemmas presented as fact, with determined and complex characters and detail. She is a fascinating writer and not at all dull or scholarly.

Within her complex structure and very realized characters, she maintains a central voice that questions everything while creating this great fiction to lay her ideas upon.

"We need to talk about Kevin" is a brilliant book about american culture and gender roles, the unspoken ambiguity of motherhood and the current cultural approach to children. Don't go by the film. It is also a heartbreaking read and very good fiction.

Perhaps like Ayn Rand, Lionel Shriver is a literary fascist?

"The Fountainhead" is a great book regardless and the Russians (Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) are worth the work.

"Ulysses", meh.

by Anonymousreply 15501/08/2013

I liked The Fountainhead. I had no idea what it was about going into it, other than it was about an architect. And I like architecture so I thought I would give a try. The weird thing is, I didnt get any of what is supposed to be Rand's political philosophy that everyone says she promoted. If anything, I got the opposite. IIRC, it wasn't the government that was oppressing Roark, but a big business concern.

by Anonymousreply 15601/08/2013

[quote]"Kritik der reinen Vernunft" by Kant

That's not a novel, dear.

by Anonymousreply 15701/08/2013

[quote]If you can't spell Finnegan's Wake, no wonder the text was challenging.

Honey, I wouldn't cast stones at glass houses. You incorrectly punctuated it. There's no apostrophe in the title.

by Anonymousreply 15801/08/2013

[post by racist shit-stain # 2 removed.]

by Anonymousreply 15901/08/2013

I've read a couple of Chuck Palahniuk's books and they are rough going. I'm not sure if I've even made it to the end of one. Still, I may try to read Fight Club one day.

by Anonymousreply 16001/08/2013

Anything by Doris Lessing.

by Anonymousreply 16101/08/2013

"They are challenging mentally"

No. No Ayn Rand novel is mentally challenging for any adult with an IQ above 100. Her prose and characterization have less artistry and wit than a Berenstain Bears book.

by Anonymousreply 16201/08/2013

Home decorating shows and curbs and decks and DYI's, "historical" colours and making all kitchen counters look like a bank tellers window. Stainless Steel. Restoration Hardware and all that aspirational crap.

Home is a sentimental place, but the constant reconfiguring and fucking with peoples sense of it based on nothing but magazines HGTV and retailers is nauseating.

I hate granite and stainless kitchens, open concepts and spa bathrooms. They will go out of style cuz that is the way but that doesn't make me right. I know what I don't like. Can't sell me on an idea of home that doesn't fit, and call it my dream. Don't succumb.

I have more serious examples of twee and sentimental things that make me nauseous, but this is what is pissing me off today.

I am Italian, my bf is Trinidadian and we require a separate room kitchen, among other things......

by Anonymousreply 16301/08/2013


I suggest that Ayn Rand is mentally challenging since so many can not interpret her work well. I agree that the prose is not difficult.

You, sir are some reactionary. The Fountainhead is a fine and rewarding book, for those who can think. It is a good book for discussion and is still used as such.

It has it's challenges which clearly you have encountered.

by Anonymousreply 16401/08/2013

R156 - The Fountainhead is a better book than Atlas Shrugged. Rand's anti-government paranoia isn't yet omnipresent, and the speeches are shorter.

by Anonymousreply 16501/08/2013

"The Sound and the Fury" is definitely not badly written r9. It's written in stream of consciousness, much like Mrs. Dalloway. Whereas I found Mrs. Dalloway quite boring, Sound and the Fury was beautiful prose. Almost all of Faulkner's novels are written in the same way, but Fury is a masterpiece.

I've never found any novels to be mentally challenging. Most of the difficult ones were nonfiction, written by German philosophers like Heidegger. I think it took me an hour to read 10 pages of Heidegger's book (I can't remember the title). To this day, I'm still not sure if I even read it because I certainly did not understand it.

by Anonymousreply 16601/08/2013

If it's a 'mo reading it, it would be "Fun with Dick and Jane."

by Anonymousreply 16701/09/2013

The Fountainhead is an ok book, but does not belong on a thread called most mentally challenging book you've ever read...not even a close call!

by Anonymousreply 16801/09/2013

F&F for r167

by Anonymousreply 16901/09/2013

"It has it's challenges which clearly you have encountered."

While you find basic English grammar a challenge...

by Anonymousreply 17001/09/2013

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - I was 15 or 16 when I tried reading this. Had I been just a bit older, I think I would have gotten more out of it.

by Anonymousreply 17101/09/2013

The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass was horrible, but I'm not really sure if it was difficult or not because I read it in translation and sometimes translators don't measure up.

Saul Bellow's first novel was difficult although I can't recall what it was called. Before Augie March.

I found Wuthering Heights a bit challenging because I could understand Heathcliff but Cathy and Edgar just didn't seem like real people.

No novel taught me more than my favorite, Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, which had probably 400 words that were new to me. Of course, my mind isn't what it was so I've already forgotten them, but for a few weeks I had a dazzling vocab.

by Anonymousreply 17201/09/2013


The only thing 'mos read is the bathroom stall.

by Anonymousreply 17301/09/2013

Green eggs and ham

by Anonymousreply 17401/09/2013

The cheese grater.

by Anonymousreply 17501/09/2013

It was a classic philosophy book I had to read in college. It was horrible. I guess I blocked out the title and author but I would know it if I heard it.

by Anonymousreply 17601/09/2013

The Divine Comedy.

by Anonymousreply 17701/09/2013

The Unfortunate Traveller, or The Life Of Jack Wilton, by Thomas Nash

by Anonymousreply 17801/09/2013

can someone start a thread titled "Unbelievable Facts" where posters can share some really unbelievable facts with us?

by Anonymousreply 17901/09/2013

'Dyke Rapes Gay'

by Anonymousreply 18001/09/2013

The brilliant "Wuthering Heights."

by Anonymousreply 18101/09/2013

Ulysses seems to be winning this thread and deserves to. My only caveat would be that it is so impenetrable so fast that it is easy to give up immediately.

A 'challenging' book might be one that I forced my way through and wrestled with the difficult text. Using that criteria, I might say The Canterbury Tales, which was a tough read and a slow one, but I was able to get through it.

I also read Sound and the Fury. Not sure I got anything out of it nor that I had any idea what the hell was going on, or who was saying what about what.

by Anonymousreply 18201/09/2013

I read Ulysses in the 9th grade and loved it.

But I loved mythology, so that probably explains it.

by Anonymousreply 18301/09/2013

Is that the same Ulysses?

by Anonymousreply 18401/09/2013

Dos Passos can be challenging too.

So I like to take a hard novel, and read it at the same time I read a dirty easier novel, like something from Jerzy Kosinski.

by Anonymousreply 18501/09/2013

Remembrance of Things Past. No, that wasn't mentally challenging. It was mentally taxing. And not worth it.

Ulysses is mentally challenging. And well worth it.

by Anonymousreply 18601/09/2013

Novels which were not hard to read but were thought provoking and therefore challenged me in that sense were books like Sophie's World and The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder which I read when I was younger.

I believe a book should challenge you in the sense that it leaves you asking questions about the world rather than being just ridiculously difficult to read. Joyce is a nightmare.

For those who struggled with 'Lord of the Flies' I'm not sure why. It's quite short and it was one of the books I had to read for school when I was around 13. It wasn't a 'nice' book but it was interesting and thought provoking. As were Animal Farm and 1984.

by Anonymousreply 18701/09/2013

I didn't take "mentally challenging" to mean necessarily "struggled with," but to mean a novel of depth and complexity, with symbolism, etc.

TLotF is one such book, but it is too often taught superficially to youngsters.

by Anonymousreply 18801/10/2013


by Anonymousreply 18901/11/2013

V. by Thomas Pynchon.

by Anonymousreply 19001/11/2013

Watership Down. It was challenging figuring out why this book was so popular.

by Anonymousreply 19101/11/2013

Philosophy books which are tough to read are tough to read because their authors don't think clearly.

by Anonymousreply 19201/11/2013

An Eternal Golden Braid is one of the best books ever written, but I agree it is challenging.

Gravity's Rainbow is actually my favorite book ever.

The only books I really struggled with were Lacan and Foucault, which I had to read for a class I took last year. I just couldn't really grasp all that signifiers, signified stuff.

by Anonymousreply 19301/11/2013

Umberto Eco is challenging too, but again, it could be the translation.

by Anonymousreply 19401/11/2013

Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

by Anonymousreply 19501/11/2013

Hop On Pop

by Anonymousreply 19601/11/2013
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