Monday, September 29, 2014

Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read

Let's kick this off by linking up with The Broke and the Bookish!

This topic is open to interpretation, so I went with books that I had a hard time getting through for a specific reason but still stuck it out to the end. I didn't include books that were so hard to read I abandoned them (90 Minutes in Heaven), books I hated just because they were stupid or annoying (Love Does, Milkrun), books that I sailed through even though they were ultimately super disturbing (The Hunger Games, Every Day), or books that were just kind of boring and thus somewhat of a slog to read (many).

1. The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIV and Howard C. Cutler
The stuff the Dalai Lama has to say is awesome. But the book is actually written by Cutler, a psychologist who tries to do this whole "East vs. West philosophy" thing but is not at all good at explaining Western psychological research. He also does a terrible job of actually understanding and putting into practice the things the Dalai Lama tells him. I spent the whole book wishing he would just get out of the way so I could listen to the good stuff the Dalai Lama had to say. On top of that, the Kindle version of this book was a total mess, like someone had taken an OCR version of the printed book and not bothered to proofread it.

2. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
Besides the really long, stupid plot of this book (which I like to describe as Byatt creating more characters than you could possibly keep track of, making them all have sex with each other, and then killing most of them off), Byatt could not keep her character's stories straight, particularly their ages. Why go to the trouble of specifying exactly when a character was born if 10 years later you're trying to pass them off as 12 years old?

3. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
You would think it would be the "ultra-violence" of this book that would make it so difficult to read, but it's really the ridiculous language that Burgess has his main character use. It took forever to read this slim book because I couldn't remember what any of the words meant and had to keep stopping and looking them up in the glossary in the back. Once I'd finally gotten the hang of most of them, I started mentally substituting the definitions into the sentences and found that the writing is actually kind of boring and terrible, it's just hidden behind all these made-up words.

4. The Cross in the Closet by Timothy Kurek
Kurek is a straight man who decided the best way to understand the LGBT community was to "come out" as gay for a year. I didn't necessarily think that was the only approach he could have taken, but the story was still interesting. The book, however, was horribly edited. The only way I could make myself get through the whole thing was to start recording the typos and mixed-up homonyms, and I ended up with around 40 of them by the end.

5. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
This book was unlike anything I'd ever read, and for that reason I actually understand why so many people like it. But there was a lot of rough subject matter to get through, ranging from rape to self-mutilation to incest to murder. This was a book club pick, and a lot of people in the group abandoned it partway through because of the grotesque subject matter.

6. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
This book turned me off David Sedaris' writing for a long time until I was finally brave enough to pick up another one of his books. The stuff that he considers fodder for humor here, I just found really sad or disturbing. I still have to mentally block out some of the things I read in this book because they turned my stomach so much.

7. This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl and family
What I learned from this book is that even a teenager with cancer still writes like a teenager, and reading a teenager's unedited, stream-of-consciousness diary entries sets my teeth on edge. I appreciated the (more coherent, thoughtfully composed) reflections from Esther's friends and family, but it was a struggle to get through her overly dramatic, abbreviation-laden journal entries, and the whole book turned out to be a not-terribly-well-organized document dump so I didn't always know what I was even reading.

8. Stolen Lives by Malika Oufkir
Oufkir's story is fascinating, and I wish it had been told more coherently. But it was hard to read not just because of the brutal treatment she and her family received after they were "disappeared" by the Moroccan government, but because I had a difficult time keeping track of their situation at any given time since the book jumped around so much. Circumstances shifted constantly without explanation and it was difficult to become fully immersed in her story when I was confused all the time about their present condition.

9. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
This book was difficult to read for a number of reasons. One, it's completely bizarre and I didn't know what was going on half the time, and Murakami doesn't ever explain things. Two, there's some really graphic stuff, including points where I had to skip several pages because it was talking in detail about someone's skin being cut off. ::shudder::

10. The Woman Warrior Maxine Hong Kingston
I spent most of this book being confused. I'm sure that was probably my fault, given how popular this book apparently is. But I went into it thinking it was a memoir (because it says it is), whereas it's mostly fiction, and it jumps around all over the place with strange transitions and odd endings. So I kept stopping while reading and going, "I think I'm missing something here..."

What are some books that were hard for you to read?

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