Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Were Hard for You to Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Were Hard for You to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a book meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. This week’s topic: Top Ten Books That Were Hard for You to Read. I decided to poll some of our English majors and students in my British Literature survey class to find out what books they’ve found hard to read. Surprise: Twilight made the list–twice!

english major

Melissa‘s choice: The English Major by Jim Harrison.

Since I’m a not a conventional, or very good, English major, I would count most of the traditional assigned canon as difficult books to read, but the books I’ve had the hardest time finishing are novels that include incorrect details about things or places I have experience with.
Jim Harrison’s book The English Major took a road trip through north central Nebraska where I live and got details wrong about places and used language that didn’t ring true about ranching and farm equipment. I finished the book because I love Jim Harrison’s work but threw the book down in disgust more than once.
The late Stephen J Connell, the television producer, wrote a series of detective stories that weren’t great works of literature but were fun to read. Until one including a lengthy chase scene through a dairy farm that was so unbelievable that I didn’t finish that book or read another. I can live with unrealistic car chases and shoot outs or ridiculous sex scene language, but anatomically impossible cows standing placidly in the pasture while three guys belly crawl under them and then shoot at the bad guys was a book-thrower.
Tristen has some strong words about Twilight:
The hardest book I ever read was Stephanie Meyers’s Twilight. Everyone else was reading it saying it had a strong female character and I didn’t want to be that guy who wouldn’t read it just because it was cool. Turns out it was 300 pages of a girl whining because she couldn’t date a vampire. I got through it, and now I feel justified in saying that it’s terrible.
Twilight was Amanda‘s hardest book too:
Oh my goodness, I felt like my brain was dying with every word and each scene made me splutter in female outrage.  I wanted to punch the people who had recommended that trash to me really hard in the throat.  This book encourages young women to not only enter into risky relationships, but that their existence is only validated when they have multiple guys chasing after them.  Granted this is not a new literary concept, but the least she could have done was write it with more style than a melodramatic seventh grader!  I swallowed my pride and hazarded reading the next two sequels in the hopes that it would improve.  Needless to say, IT DID NOT!!!  I absolutely refuse to pick up the final installment in her incredibly awful series, and I can say with certainty that I am neither Team Edward nor Team Jacob.  Frankly, I’m team I Don’t Understand Why This Was Ever a Bestseller.
Zach nominates Dune:
The hardest book I think I’ve read is Dune by Frank Herbert. What made Dune so difficult was the number of new terms and phrases that the author did not define until later in the book. It was like reading a book with two different languages and not being able to read one of them.
varieties of disturbance
Holly selects a book that I assigned in Contemporary Literature last year (Sorry, Holly, and I’m kind of right there with you on this one!):
The first thing that popped into my mind was Lydia Davis’s short story collection Varieties of Disturbances. I get frustrated just thinking about it. The writing isn’t poor, but the content is. It’s dry, it’s pretentious, and overall I didn’t see the point. I’ve never been more relieved to put a book down after I finished reading (most of) it.
great expectations
Jeff decides that Great Expectations is the hardest book he’s read:
Describing a book as “hard” is pretty multi-faceted, but the hardest one I’ve had to read to date has probably been Great Expectations. The thing is so draconian in length that keeping track of all of the characters and their changes, the thematic material, and even the plot can become a chore after awhile. But, that’s just me!
waiting for godot
Christian targets Waiting for Godot:
I have a great play! It’s about two people, Vladimir and Estragon, who wait for a man named Godot, who (spoiler!) never shows up. Tragicomedy in two acts!? I don’t know what was so funny about wasting my time, but it sure was tragic!
heart of darkness
Analise has bad memories of studying Heart of Darkness in school:
The story didn’t appeal to me, but we were forced to read and analyze the story. It was a terrible book that had me wanting to chuck it out the window.
divine comedy
Clint had to read the Divine Comedy in school! That’s one ambitious classroom!
The hardest book that I’ve ever read was The Divine Comedy because it was originally written in Italian and later translated to English, and when something old like that is translated into English it tends to be hard to read.
Maggie chooses Civilization and Its Discontents:
I had a lot of trouble tracking what Freud was trying to say. It became too lofty at times for me to understand as easily as I normally do. Freud also has a really challenging writing style that is hard for me to get into.
around the world
Kelsey struggled with Around the World in Eighty Days:
The hardest book I’ve ever read was Around The World in Eighty Days, recommended to me by my younger brother. I didn’t find the characters or plotline relatable but I still finished the book just to say I finished it. Although the end of the book was significantly better than the beginning, I finished the book widely disappointed.
What book has been the hardest for you to read?
My Name Is Elisabeth and I’m a Book-Startaholic

My Name Is Elisabeth and I’m a Book-Startaholic

I will be the first to admit I have a problem: I’m a book-startaholic.

That’s different than being a bookaholic. I’m one of those too. And I know I find myself in good company in an English department, working with English majors as colleagues and teaching English majors as students.

But I’m not sure that too many other people suffer from book-startaholism, which I define as the compulsive need to start new books even when you’re reading five (or ten or twenty) perfectly good books that you’re enjoying and actually want to finish.

Right now, I’m reading these books:

photo (29)

And these books:

photo (27)

Oh yeah, and these books too:

photo (28)

And these stacks don’t include what I’m reading on my Kindle or for my classes.

I’ve always read more than one book at a time, but lately the compulsion to start new books seems to have gotten much worse.

Partly it’s the classic problem of the bookaholic: so many books, so little time. Despite research that proves the contrary, I want to believe that multi-tasking really works, so surely I can finish more books if I read more books at the same time.

Partly it’s “grass is greener” syndrome. I’m reading a lot of books I like right now, but not one of them is changing my life. So I keep searching until I find that life-changing book that I have to stop everything to finish.

Often, it feels like it takes less mental effort to start a new book than to try to re-immerse myself in a book I’ve already started.

And certainly my condition is exacerbated by my apparent inability to stop buying books. The arrival of a box of books from Amazon almost guarantees that I will start two or three new books before bedtime. And don’t even get me started on library hauls.

I have every intention of finishing at least one of the books in those stacks tonight. But those books have a lot of competition. The six new middle-grade novels I just got from the library beckon. The stack of new picture books that are already getting Caldecott buzz. The clinical textbook on attachment that I’m pretty sure contains just the nugget I need. The volume of Mary Oliver’s poetry I unearthed this afternoon. The graphic novel I borrowed from a student. Any one (or more) of those books may prove more alluring than the couple of dozen books I’m currently in the middle of reading.

Is it just me? Or do other readers also have a habit of starting far more books than they finish?


Featured Photo CC-BY Silke Gerstenkorn

What are you reading?

by B. Lee Miller

I’ve been tasked with the first round of weekly departmental blogging and have settled on beginning with the meme, “What are you reading?” I’ve wondered, at times, whether students might be curious about what their professors choose to read and how they choose what they read. In fact, a student asked me those very questions just yesterday in class.

My own current list may seem lengthy. I don’t just read one or two things at a time, but typically have a running list of around a dozen books going at any one time. Some of these are for classes I’ve taught, am teaching, or will teach. Some are typical professional literature. Some are related to projects I’m working on, whether that involves research of some sort or another, or if I am reading in the kind of literature I’m trying to write.

So, for example, the books related to birth, post-partum, menopause, etc., relate to an essay I’m trying to write (emphasis on trying) that examines masculinity through my own experiences as a husband, present with my wife through pregnancy, birth, post-partum, and eventually menopause, and as a father of an eleven-year-old daughter just entering adolescence.

One other comment about the number of works on this list. I have trouble staying focused for very long. I know, an odd thing for a professor to say. It’s the rare work that will maintain my undivided interest for very long, if for no other reason than that I am usually hyper-aware of all that goes on around me, but also because I get bored easily (and because, with five children, I am usually sleep-deprived, which doesn’t help concentration). So, I constantly switch between books, reading a section of one book and then switching to another book, and so on. But I also constantly move from one book to another because it forces me to deal with the dialogue created by the constant switching of authors and their perspectives.

So, all that said, here is my current reading list (this is the order in which they appear on my iPhone list!):

  • Plato, Republic. (Books II, III, & VII)
  • For a class I am teaching called “Gender and Literature”
    • Rich, Adrienne. Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972.
    • Morrell, David. First Blood. (yes, that First Blood!)
    • Faludi, Susan. Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. (Chapter 7 on David Morrell, First Blood – the book and the movie, Sylvester Stallone, and issues of fathers, sons, and masculinity)
  • Macrorie, Ken. Telling Writing, 4th
  • Hoover, Paul, ed. Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology, 2nd
  • Kinzie, Mary. A Poet’s Guide to Poetry.
  • For the essay I’m working on that I have titled, “With Woman” (“Midwife” means “with woman”)
    • Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique.
    • Rimm, Sylvia. See Jane Win for Girls: A Smart Girl’s Guide to Success.
    • Wertz, Richard W., and Dorothy C. Wertz. Lying-In: A History of Childbirth in America.
    • Dick-Read, Grantly. Childbirth without Fear.
    • Armstrong, Penny, and Sheryl Feldman. A Midwife’s Story.
    • Bennett, Shoshana S. Postpartum Depression for Dummies.
    • Jones, Marcia L., Theresa Eichenwald, and Nancy W. Hall. Menopause for Dummies.
  • Two holdovers from when I was teaching a course on the literature and practice of world religions:
    • 122 Zen Koans: Find Enlightenment.
    • Moran, Elizabeth, Master Joseph Yu, and Master Val Biktashev. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Feng Shui.
  • Schwartz, Jason. “End Game” (In The Best American Sports Writing 2013).