Oh, the hard ones (snicker). Those books that are so terribly difficult to get through that at the end, you either feel a little Rocky-on-the-steps jubilant, or Rocky-in-the-ring-with-Apollo exhausted. Maybe both.
Honestly, I don't think I've had this experience with anyone other than Virginia Woolf. Her books are very dense, sorta non-linear, and not heavy on the narrative, so skimming or lightly reading are not possible. BUT I wouldn't say they're the hardest book I've ever read, and here's why: the hardest books are the most boring or gross books, and hers aren't either.
SO. What are the two hardest books I've ever read? It's a two way tie, and up first is Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. This book was the scourge of my high school reading experience. It was the thing that most singlehandedly scarred my innocent brain for life. It was both the grossest and most boring and pointless thing I had ever read up to that point...and may still be. For those of you who are unfamiliar, GOOD FOR YOU IT'S AWFUL, and also, here's what it's about: drugs, having sex while on drugs, maybe dying while having sex while on drugs, and doing more drugs while dying while maybe having sex while on drugs. I'm sure there are people out there who find this book "important" and I have a feeling they're the same people who think those elephants who paint pictures with their trunks are artistic visionaries. Doing a bunch of heroin and then writing about your fantasies about autoerotic asphyxiation= not important, and also, you need therapy.
The second hardest book I've ever read was hard because it was so effing boring, and that would be The Sorrows of Young Werther by Geothe. Essentially, boy loves girl, girl marries someone else because boy is annoying. Boy WHINES FOR A MILLENIA, then (spoiler) kills himself. And the audience says: GOOD RIDDANCE. I later learned that Goethe himself disliked the book intensely in his later life, and tried to distance himself from it. It's histrionic and melodramatic, but not in a fun, Real Housewives of New Jersey way. More in like a watching Heidi cry on The Hills way. Shiver.
Note: Never actually seen either of those shows and am basing opinion purely on commercials.
Note 2: I have a problem with having to spend an entire book with nasty protagonists, and of that I am not ashamed.
To see what other tomes the literary blogosphere finds difficult to wade through, check out this week's literary blog hop at The Blue Bookcase where the topic is: what I just said.
So what's the hardest thing you've ever read? Seems like most people automatically go to the LONGEST thing they've ever read. Is that true in your case?