What Books Are Hard to Read? | Iris Reading
What Books Are Hard to Read

What Books Are Hard to Read?

Reading can be habitual and entertaining, but you can have difficulty completing some books. If you are a determined reader, then you can undertake such tasks as a challenge that you must accomplish. 

The problem with reading these books results from their complex subject matters and intelligible prose that does not give a reader an easy time. Sometimes, people experience a hard time reading because the book’s style is practically hard to process as prose. 

Regardless, you can undertake the reading experience to give yourself a sense of content and accomplishment once you complete the books. 

Keep reading to discover why some books are hard to read and a comprehensive list that challenges even the most efficient and excellent readers. The following are some of the hardest books you will come across.

Finnegans Wake: Embodying all Author’s Corrections by James Joyce (1939)

Finnegans Wake is one of the most challenging books to read due to its lack of a straightforward plot. People refer to the book as a work of fiction that integrates forms of fables, deconstructionism, and analytical work. 

The book explores all aspects of knowledge expressed using eccentric language. 

Besides, the book’s content is also full of free associations, and the author inclusively tries to capture and convey the sensation of dreams. It has been decades, and James Joyce’s scholars and critics still debate the concept represented in the book.

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury is a novel that executes numerous narrative styles, including stream of consciousness. 

The book contains three diverse narrators and one part where the author narrates in the third person. The primary narrator has a mental disability that affects him such that linear time processing is complicated. 

As a result, he bounces back and forth between past and present events in the same sentences. Consequently, the books are not particularly simple to read as it requires profound attention.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales is a book the author initially published in 1400. It is one of the reads that you explore and discover that the Shakespearean language encompasses contemporary English. 

The original collections of Geoffrey Chaucer are so troublesome to read that experts had to read and translate them.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a classic novel that became famous over five decades ago. 

The story revolves around the Buendia clan that portrays seven diverse generations with a broadly extensive family saga. It also has a complicated timeline with a family tree that is hard to follow, especially since they share names.

The book has no dialogues, making it quite hard to read.

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

The book includes quite hard-to-grasp topics, including quantum mechanics, mass destruction, and speculative metaphysics. 

The author of Gravity’s Rainbow also uses a free-flowing style and flashbacks. Essentially, critics refer to this piece of literature as a postmodernist novel, which explains the book’s complexity.

The Female Man by Joanna Russ


The numerous narrators throughout The Female Man is one of the aspects that make it a challenging read.

With so many narrators comes a distinct change of perspective in each chapter that makes it hard to follow. The constant shifting of point of view also creates confusing alterations in location and time.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Infinite Jest is an 1100-page novel with an unconventional narrative structure. The book’s extensive endnotes sum up to 388, with most of them having footnotes. 

While it is not an entirely impossible read to get through, undertaking it can be quite a profound experience. 

The additional pressure that results from the fact that it is a New York Times bestseller does not do you any mercy. Find a speed-reading tool like Accelareader to help you cover Infinite Jest.

Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet

Our Lady of the Flowers is a free-flowing novel that uses highly poetic language combined with slang. While the original French version of the book may be elegant (even) lyrical to listen to, it is a challenging read to follow.

Moby Dick: The White Whale by Herman Melville

Are you a whale research enthusiast, an ocean explorer, or generally concerned about the concept of a compulsive pursuit of the unachievable? Then Moby Dick should be on your list of reads if you haven’t explored it yet. 

The novel commences as a detailed narrative expressed with a realistic style. However, after a few chapters, the author compositely combines cetology, philosophy, and adventure narrative. He also uses a lyrical figurative style.

Being and Time by Heidegger

Being and Time covers the concepts of existential philosophy, hermeneutics, and deconstructionism. However, if you want a precise and upfront elucidation of the same ideals, reading the book may not be as helpful as you would like it to be.

The book is challenging to process independently due to how dense the author articulates the philosophy.

Ulysses by James Joyce

Ulysses encompasses a 730-page fictional story with a parallel plot. It records an individual’s experiences in one day while building up multiple occasions that you will need to figure out on your own as you read. The book may be one of the hardest to read, but it is entertaining. 

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (1924)

The Magic Mountain is an evolutionary novel initially written in German and then translated and published in English. The book is about a German engineer who gives a social call to his cousin in a tuberculosis infirmary and discovers he (the engineer) has the ailment. 

Hence, he extended his stay in the sanatorium until the WWI eruption. The book has a typical 700-page length. However, it gets monotonous and boring, so the reader gets tired.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand wrote the dystopian fiction novel Atlas Shrugged in 1957. Essentially, the book has a captivating plot that indicates how the dystopian United States of America implements the law in the exact opposite of the expected system. 

A reader can quickly lose their enthusiasm to read Atlas Shrugged since it is an 1168-page novel

Timeline uncertainty in the book makes it hard for a reader to determine if the setting is in the past or the future. Besides, the story’s context refers to when the author was incredibly young and experienced the impact of socialism; it is a theme that most readers find hard to relate to.

The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien

The Silmarillion is a book that provides the reader with a dense and comprehensive mythical background and history of Tolkien’s world. Modern critics refer to the book as too ancient and formidable to read. 

However, you should not just give up on trying to read it, as it forms part of the most fantastic literature of all time. 

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

Blood Meridian is an epic novel about the violence and depravity that occurred in America’s expansion toward the west. It also provides the reader with a brilliant subversion of the Wild West mythology. 

Critics describe the style of the novel as sparse and expansive. Essentially, it would help if you sorted out the book independently, as the author of Blood Meridian does not apply apostrophes or quotation marks in his writing.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro


Never Let Me Go is a dystopian science fiction novel that centers around the idea of human cloning and asserts that replicas can cultivate an emotional state too. 

The book explores the challenges and dangers that might result from meddling with a scientific investigation without consideration of the moral and ethical implications of the process

Although the novel is relatively short, with less than 288 pages, it still manages to be confusing as the author made up many of the words he uses to explain the human cloning concept. It is hard for a reader to relate to the story since it lacks context on the nature of the society it is set in.

The Phenomenology of The Spirit by George Wilhelm Friedrich Hagel

The author of The Phenomenology of The Spirit originally wrote the book in 1807 in German, and its English version remained unpublished until 1910. 

One of its key features is that the book lacks a specific plot since it is mainly philosophical. George Wilhelm Friedrich Hagel used the book to present his theoretical perspective on the creation of divinity, where he reveals that it revolved around the future instead of the past. 

Readers find the text hard to read because of its unique philosophical ideas covered in up to 640 pages. Most of the author’s ideas on the topic contradict the conventional take on the matter, giving most readers a hard time understanding it.

The Society of The Spectacle by Guy Debord

The book, originally known as La Société du Spectacle, is philosophical and was initially published in French. 

The Society of The Spectacle widely traces the expansion of a community where the rightly practiced societal experience undergoes replacement and reduction to a mere depiction. 

The book is short and notoriously tricky since it contains condensed prose. You have to be profoundly acquainted with the Marxism ideals of communism, philosophy, and socialism to comprehend the storyline.

Underworld by Don DeLillo

Underworld is an excellent postmodern novel that explores the challenges of the Cold War era through a powerful work of fiction. The book is notoriously challenging to read due to its non-linear timeline. 

The Underworld jumps from the 1950s to the 1990s with a plot that references modern historical occurrences using tangled themes and a list of incongruent characters. 

What Makes Some Books Hard to Read?

When it comes to some books, like the ones included in this article, your reading proficiency does not matter. These books are just tricky to sort out. 

How do you know that a book is challenging to read? When you start perusing through the pages and get lost in thoughts attempting to understand the book’s content, you’re probably dealing with a book that’s hard to read.

Some of the traits that make a book hard to read include:

  • The book is longer than you expect and has a highly and haphazardly stretched storyline. Some books can have over 1000 pages with extensive endnotes and footnotes.
  • If the book integrates multiple tales, it can prove quite hard to follow. For example, some authors will include various accounts from different characters, which confuses the reader.
  • If the reader is unfamiliar with the book’s set period, this could make it hard to read. For instance, a writer can set their story both in the past and the present within the same sentence.
  • If the book is written in old English or contains complicated terminology, a reader can find it hard to read.


Just because a book is hard does not imply that reading it is not worth your effort. You can take on the challenge to give yourself high satisfaction. Besides, reading such books can help you develop into a better reader than you already are. 

Exploring the challenges of reading books can also equip you with some of the most profound lessons that can transform your life experiences. If you want to have an easy time reading some of these hard books, Iris Reading is here for you with various reading courses.

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