I am obviously a bad boy (or a slacker) for I have read but one of these books - To The Lighthouse byVirginia Woolf . And I didn't find it difficult at all - in fact, I've read it twice. And I have been planning to read Finnegans Wake for decades. Really, I have. As for philosophy - well, I have a wee treat at the end for you.
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The Top 10 Most Difficult Books
By Emily Colette Wilkinson & Garth Risk Hallberg
Back in 2009, The Millions started its "Difficult Books" series--devoted to identifying the hardest and most frustrating books ever written, as well as what made them so hard and frustrating. The two curators, Emily Colette Wilkinson and Garth Risk Hallberg, have selected the most difficult of the most difficult, telling us about the 10 literary Mt. Everests waiting out there for you to climb, should you be so bold. If you can somehow read all 10, you probably ascend to the being immediately above Homo sapiens. How many have you read? What books would you add? Let us know in the comments!
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes - Dylan Thomas called Nightwood "one of the three greatest prose books ever written by a woman,” but in order to behold this greatness you must master Barnes' tortuous, gothic prose style. In his introduction to the novel, T.S Eliot describedNightwood’s prose as “altogether alive” but also “demanding something of a reader that the ordinary novel-reader is not prepared to give.” Nightwood is a novel of ideas, a loose collection of monologues and descriptions. What will keep you going: The cross-dressing Irish-American "Dr. Matthew-Mighty-grain-of-salt-Dante O'Connor," who, when not wandering Paris, drinking heavily, or dressing in nighties, rouge, and wigs of cascading golden curls, is expounding great rambling sermons that fill most of the book. These are funny, dirty, absurd, despairing, resigned—even hopeful in a Becketty I-can't-go-on-I'll-go-on kind of way.
A Tale of A Tub by Jonathan Swift - The first difficulty: The superabundant references to obsolete cultural squabbles (some obscure even in Swift’s eighteenth-century England) and then there’s the narratorial persona: an impoverished, syphilitic madman who cuts pieces out of his manuscript and his fellow citizens remorselessly. His compulsive digressiveness is deliberately baffling, but more baffling still is that this satire, aimed at “the Abuses and Corruptions in Learning and Religion” and written by a conservative, Anglican clergyman, ends finding nothing sacred. If you can bear it (and the 100s of footnotes you’ll need to understand its historical context), it’s the ultimate expression of cultural alienation and despair.