Extreme Reading: A New Olympic Sport?

Over on one of those list-making hip sites there is a new list of 50 incredibly tough books for extreme readers. I looked through the list, found I’d never heard of most of the books, but found the list carried some weight. There are some tough books out there. Of the fifty listed, I can comment on five. Two I’ve read, and three I own and intend to read.

The Two I’ve Read:

1. The Sound & the Fury by William Faulkner. 1Mom mentioned she liked Faulkner a lot. So I read S&F having never read Faulkner before. Who knew it was the hardest one? Oh well. I enjoyed it. It is difficult, but once you pick up the place and space cues, you are ok. I think.

2. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Read on the bus while working a summer job at an aircraft manufacturing plant back in my aero engineering days. True story. I read the Tales on the bus to work, and on my lunch breaks. I read a couple of difficult things that summer that still stick in my head and make me think of the 58 Malton bus: Canterbury Tales and Eusebius’s History of the Church. I read both in translation.

The Three on the Shelf:

3. War and Peace by Tolstoy. See my true confessions on this one.

4. Divine Comedy by Dante, Dorothy L. Sayers translation. I searched high and low for used copies of the Sayers translation, but haven’t had the courage to read it yet. I should just start.

5. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. I totally just found a mass market paperback copy at my local used bookshop. When I was purchasing it the guy who owns the bookshop (and kind of knows me) laughed and said to me, “It almost looks readable in this edition, doesn’t it.” I laughed and agreed. It sits in a to be read pile, but I have hopes of turning to it this winter.

What about you? What incredibly difficult books have you read?


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