Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read

September 30, 2014 Top Ten Tuesday 12

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 Outsidersassigned 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.)


Intellectually Challenging
  • 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. . .


12 Responses to “Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read”

  1. Selah @ A Bibliophile's Style

    I loved The Outsiders for exactly the reasons you didn’t. It was completely different from everything I’d experienced, but it opened my eyes to what other people experience. I don’t like books that leave me feeling depressed, but The Outsiders, although sad, is a hopeful book.
    Watership Down is one of my favorite books! Despite being about rabbits, it’s not a kid’s book, so I can understand it being hard if you read it too young. I read it in my early 20s.
    I’ve seen Deathly Hallows on several lists, and I remember feeling the same way.
    Selah @ A Bibliophile’s Style recently posted…Top Five Tuesday: Bookish “B”My Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I know a lot of people who really loved The Outsiders. Maybe it just came at the wrong time for me. I was already off-balance from moving to a new state, new school, few if any friends, and new stepfather (whom I love, but living with him was an adjustment after years of it just being Mom & me.) I really wanted comforting books, and The Outsiders wasn’t it.

      I really should try Watership Down again. I think I was eight or nine when I tried to read it. Oddly, I had no trouble with The Lord of the Rings about a year later, but WD was just too soon.
      Lark_Bookwyrm recently posted…Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To ReadMy Profile

  2. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    I sobbed through the end of Marley and Me. I kind of knew what was coming because my dad who I have never seen cry admitted he had teared up at the end and it reminded him of Duncan – a Sheltie we had had for almost 20 years who was basically his best friend. So I was expecting emotional but not as emotional as I got. I was crying so hard I woke up my husband who really didn’t believe I was crying so hard because of a book. I’ve been kind of wanting to read Dewey but I’m not sure I could go through that again.
    I actually read The Outsiders in a theater class in high school and really enjoyed it but part of it may be because we were doing the play and reading the book so it made it sink in a bit more. Plus I was a little older than you so that probably helped.
    Also, I do wish the Victorians didn’t love killing off kids so much. It makes it very difficult!
    Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Books that Were Hard to ReadMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      It’s so hard to read books about pets, because it’s almost inevitable that they’ll die, and then I cry. Still, Dewey was almost worth it! I really appreciated Gwen Cooper’s Homer’s Odyssey, because she ended it with Homer still alive.

      And yes, I’m with you on the Victorians. But At the Back of the North Wind is a beautiful book – or at least I remember it as such. I don’t think I’ve actually read it since early high school, but I read it several times as a child, and still own my copy. Hmm, sounds like a Treasures from the Hoard re-read is in order…
      Lark_Bookwyrm recently posted…Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To ReadMy Profile

  3. Elisa @ Leopards and Dragons

    OMG! That little picture of Bright’s Old English Grammar sent a shiver down my spine. Goodness – I still have a visceral reaction to that one.

    My BS is actually in geotechnical engineering so I was taking a course with that text *for fun* – it was killer! I took Shakespeare and Linguistics classes for the same reason. I didn’t even think of including something like that in my mental list.

    BTW – What happened to your Wyrm???
    Elisa @ Leopards and Dragons recently posted…Midnight Blue-Light Special and Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuireMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Omigosh, you took Old English, too! I was taking it for fun also; if I’d been an English major it would have counted, but as a theater major, it went toward my distribution requirements instead. (I should have just minored in English; I had enough credits, I think.)

      The bookwyrm, or something like him, will be back as soon as I have a chance to play with the theme. I just migrated from Blogger to a self-hosted blog (actually, Ashley of Creative Whim did the migration – she’s fantastic!) so I’m having to get up to speed on WordPress and themes and such, all at once. I probably need to take a new photo of the wyrm, anyway; the last one is blurrier than I like. 🙂
      Lark_Bookwyrm recently posted…Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To ReadMy Profile

  4. Romi Foster

    I’ve never had assigned reading, as such, but I’ve heard it can really ruin reading/a story, if you feel pressured to read and think about it critically, and I wonder whether you would have ended up feeling differently about any of the books you were assigned had you just picked them up?
    I’m hoping to read Watership Down for the first time very soon! I saw the most delightful cover for it recently, an anniversary, watercolour edition. It definitely made me want to read it sooner and see whether I like t enough to buy that beautiful copy. I hope you end up getting into it this time around!
    Romi Foster recently posted…The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski…My Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I certainly agree that having a book assigned can kill the joy of reading it for any number of reasons — if the student isn’t ready for that particular book, or if the teacher isn’t open to interpretations other than his/her own, for instance. OTOH, I’ve had teachers really fire me up about a book or play that I might not otherwise have tried. I also find that even when I can appreciate the writer’s craft and recognize the worth of a book, I often don’t enjoy it if it’s pessimistic, cynical, or depressing — which unfortunately describes some of the classic literary canon.

      A new edition of Watership Down? I should check that out!

  5. Rita @ My Home of Books

    Oh my goodness, what a great list! I love how you divided it up into categories, because really, our choices were not all equal. I also put on my list books that either had real life horror (holocaust), pet abuse or death, boring to me, etc. Thanks for sharing these; I enjoy reading folks’ lists– it gives us more insight into the person behind the blog.
    Rita @ My Home of Books recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday 9/30/14My Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Holocaust books – yes, those are definitely hard to read from an emotional standpoint. Some of the WWI- and WWII-era mysteries are hard, too, when they deal with the horrors of those wars. I like reading other people’s lists, too, for the same reason.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      My thoughts exactly. I guess the pet has to die because, well, pets die. But I wish sometimes the author would let me keep my little illusion that Dewey or Marley or whoever is still hanging around with them.