Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read.
It’s ironic that I’ve had a hard time with a TTT topic about books that were hard to read, but my pleasure reading doesn’t usually fit that category. I choose my leisure reading pretty carefully to avoid books I’m not going to enjoy, and if I misjudge, I don’t always finish the book. I also don’t choose my leisure reading to be intellectually difficult, because I get plenty of intellectual challenge and stimulation from the books I write indexes for.
I have had a hard time with some of the books I’ve indexed, for various reasons (one on genocide was particularly rough emotionally, for instance, and a few on philosophy proved quite the brain workout.) However, aside from mentioning that I’m an indexer, I try to keep my professional and blogging life separate. . . which means I don’t review or discuss the books I’ve indexed, here on the blog. So I couldn’t include any of them.
Here, then, are the books I’ve read, either for fun or back when I was in school, that ultimately proved hard to read for one reason or another.
Assigned reading which I found depressing
- The Outsiders – assigned for middle school. I hated it. I couldn’t relate to it at all; it was so far from what I had experienced in my rural county elementary school and my tolerant Quaker upbringing, and so far from anything I ever wanted to experience.
- A Streetcar Named Desire – As a theatre major, I read a lot of plays. And I have to wonder: why is so much of what is considered great literature or great theatre flat-out depressing? Streetcar is brilliant, but it’s also incredibly pessimistic about the human condition.
- Death of a Salesman – ditto everything I said about Streetcar, and then some.
Read it before I was really old/mature enough to enjoy it
- Watership Down by Richard Adams – I tried to read this much too young, and couldn’t get into it at all. I never finished it. (I probably should try again.)
- La Guerra de las Galaxias by Geoge Lucas – Yes, I know it’s Star Wars — but I read it in Spanish with only a year plus of college Spanish under my belt (and that year had been crammed into a single semester. The plus was a few weeks spent studying in Mexico.) I had to use a dictionary, but I got through the entire thing.
- Bright’s Old English Grammar – Much more than a grammar, this contains a number of passages in Old English (think Beowulf, not Chaucer) which we had to translate as part of a college course in Old English. Excellent and thorough book, wonderful course – but don’t try it on your own. A teacher is essential. Learning Spanish and modern German were both easier than this!
- And, of course, several of the books I’ve indexed, which I really can’t discuss here.
Wonderful, but emotionally difficult
- At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald – Parts of the story are so beautiful, but the main character, a little boy, dies in the end, in typical Victorian fashion. I found that enormously sad as a child.
- An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson – A very well-written mystery, but the solution (the murderer’s identity, motive, and relationship to the victim) were unexpectedly disturbing to me, and haunted my thoughts for days afterward.
- Roots by Alex Haley – wonderful book, great storytelling, but the horrors of slavery were really brought home to me. Even though I read it after I’d seen the TV miniseries, I found parts of the book heart-wrenching.
Didn’t want it to end – ever
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling – I waited and waited for this book, and when it came, I was torn between wanting to plow through it and not wanting to read it at all, because it was the last one.
Bonus books: The pet dies
- Cleo: How an uppity cat helped heal a family by Helen Brown – Not only does the pet die at the end, the author’s 9-year-old son dies at the beginning of the book. Every parent’s nightmare, and particularly mine.
- These three weren’t at all hard to read — until close to the end. (Why does the pet always die?)
- Dewey by Vicki Myron – I loved Dewey, and I dreaded finishing the book. Sure enough…
- Marley & Me by John Grogan – I actually didn’t expect Marley to die in the book, so that came as a bit of a surprise (and not the good kind.)
- Paw Prints in the Moonlight by Denis O’Connor – Not told in the most thrilling prose, but this half-breed Maine coon cat got under my skin anyway. Wouldn’t you know it. . .