Struggle books. We all have them, right? Books we pick up and immediately go “no whyyyyyyy”. Where the characters is ultimately horrible or there are SO MANY words you feel like your head is going to explode? For today’s Top Ten Tuesday, the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish encourage us to find those difficult to read books and share them. For me, I wanted to pick the ones where I got over the hurdle and ended up enjoying them, at least enough to say I was glad to have read them once.
I’m going to list these in no particular order because chaos is my thing today.
by Ryan Gebhart
This is my unpopular opinion book. This book gets a solid 2 stars on Goodreads, but I gave it a 4. It was a really difficult book to get into, but I pushed through the beginning of it and let the characters settle so I could get used to their horrible ways. At the end, Of Jenny and the Aliens actually ended up being a really refreshing book to read in the middle of a lot of fast-paced, unrealistic love scenario, fantasy books. It brought me down to earth and gave me a reset… and I really thought it ended up being a decent book. The characters are terrible, the humor is crude, but it felt so gosh darn real that I liked it.
I could go into this one further, giving you the ups and downs, but I just read this last month, so I’ve talked about it quite recently. You can read the review here.
by J.R.R. Tolkien
I think it’s fair to say that any of Tolkien’s books is a challenging read. I chose Fellowship because of the The Council of Elrond, which is some of the most detailed, BORING reading I’ve ever done. I’m one of those people who saw the films before reading the books (I was in 7th grade when the films game out – I think it’s perfectly fair I did it in this order) so I knew what was coming and I could have put the book down at any time. But I didn’t, and here’s why.
At the beginning of Fellowship, you immediately get teased with some really great scenes that never made it to the film. From a screenwriter’s standpoint, I understand the reasons for this: these books are extremely long and dense and the needed to prioritize the scenes most integral to the story or it would not make it to the silver screen at all. It’s understandable, but it’s a shame. What we missed included:
- Tom Bombadil. If you were following these films at all when they came out, you know the diehard Tolkien fans were miffed about his exclusion.
- Merry and Pippin being swallowed by a tree. If memory serves, actually, the forest enchants more than just these two, and it’s up to Samwise to get help (cue Tom Bombadil).
- The Barrow Wights. Want to hear about a freaky aspect of fantasy that doesn’t get used anymore? Lets talk about BARROW WIGHTS. These guys lure you into their tombs through hypnosis and illusion and wrap you up in their burial linens to take their places in death. All the while you’re thinking that you’re being given riches and it’s the best. CREEPY.
All these things happen before the hobbits reach the Prancing Pony, so if you don’t want to commit to the whole trilogy, or even the whole books, I’d strongly encourage folks to read that far. There’s a lot more danger in the Shire than the movies let on, and they spend quite a lot of time on very narrow misses with the Nazgul.
You can read my review of Fellowship here.
by Margaret Mitchell
A complicated book to love, but I really do love it. I’m just going to start off right away and say that this is during the civil war, so aspects of slavery are in play and there is some racist terminology used and definitely bad treatment of POC. That said, Gone with the Wind is a classic and if you’ve heard of it, you already know all these things. I won’t comment on that piece of it further, as I don’t have the cultural right to say if contextually the treatment of POC in this novel was fair for the time period represented. I will say that it’s a part of our nation’s history and while I won’t erect statues to it, we cannot pretend it didn’t happen.
Okay. Done with that. This book isn’t about slavery, though. It’s about Scarlett.
I read this book first when I was in fourth grade and honestly? My mind wandered and I skipped whole chapters. I remembered nothing from reading the book and only recalled bits and pieces from the film with Vivian Leigh. I reread it a few years ago and IMMEDIATELY fell in love with Scarlett. Don’t get me wrong – she’s a selfish person who has done horrible things. But she is an incredible survivalist and what she did to survive, and to help Melanie survive takes incredible strength of character.
I would recommend this book to anyone (and have, often to receive looks of incredulity). Doubly so, I’d recommend the Recorded Books audiobook because this is a LONG book to read, but Linda Stephens (the narrator) does an incredible job with all the voices and really draws you into the story.
Despite having read this book three times, I have yet to write a review on it. I do encourage you to take a look at all the reviews on Goodreads – despite age, racism, and length this book continues to get high ratings.
by Emma Cline
This book was chosen for a book club I used to do through work. It was difficult through and through for me. First of all, I couldn’t find the darn thing for two weeks. Well, that’s not fair. I could have used Amazon, but I really wanted to BORROW it, not BUY it. I didn’t know if I would like it yet, and this was about the time I naively thought I could minimize my library. Eventually, I buckled and bought a signed hardcopy from my local indie bookstore (it was the only one they had). Then I started reading.
And I was bored. SO BORED in the beginning. I don’t read a lot of regular fiction and it doesn’t hold my attention as well. I usually can get into crime and thriller eventually, but given the choice if I’m craving that, I tend to gravitate to NCIS and Psych. Finally one day I sat myself down and made myself read for an hour. After that, it was a breeze! The novel was really well-written and I enjoyed it. I found myself looking into historical facts afterward, to see how well it matched up. As far as I can tell, Cline did a pretty good job on her research. I’d read another novel by her, and this was her debut.
I reviewed this one briefly on Goodreads in a single paragraph, not very helpful. This was a BIG book last summer, and you’ve probably all heard of it, right?
by Stephen King
Has anyone out there read the entire Dark Tower series? I love those books. King traditionally likes to tie his book worlds together, and ‘Salem’s Lot is the one that ties most closely into his Dark Tower series. That said, I knew I had to read it eventually.
On the other hand, I hate horror.
I’m in my late 20s now, and I still get really nervous about the idea of ghosts in shadowy corners and vampires in the basement. I watched the film adaptation of ‘Salem’s Lot when I was younger and got so freaked out and paranoid that I started wearing a necklace with an ankh at all times just in case vampires came in while I was sleeping. Superstitious, much? There was literally NO reason for all this because a.) Vampires don’t exist; and b.) the film version was so bad, it shouldn’t have scared me. We’re talking B-movie bad, here.
Finally I sucked it up and read the book. It was actually pretty horrible. Not even scary, just sort of lame and boring and I wanted it to be over? It’s not one of his books I’d largely recommend BUT I’m glad I read it, because now I have Pere Callahan’s story and it enriches the background of Wolves of the Calla.
If you like King’s books, and quick horror reads, you can check it out here.
by Anne Rice
If I need mainstream vampire books, Anne Rice is my goddess. Her Mayfair witches, on the other hand? This tome took me MONTHS to get through.
I read this book in high school. Having just finished Servant of Bones (also really good), I was dying for more of her gothic creatures lurking in the dark. I managed to pick up a whole bunch of her books earlier that year at a library book sale and just grabbed the next one on my shelf: The Witching Hour. I did NOT know what I was getting into.
The story is interesting, but it is really dense. It didn’t turn me off her writing, and I even had the second book of this series on my TBR for a while because even though it was a really long and unwieldy book, the STORY was good. I like her characters and I like her stories, a lot! This one just took me forever.
Now a little over ten years have gone by, and I haven’t read the second book. It’s been so long that I’m actually thinking I’d like to re-read the first. I’m going to go put it on my TBR again – audiobook, this time – because it has been way too long since I’ve read a proper Anne Rice novel. See it on Goodreads for more information.
by Patrick Rothfuss
DON’T GET ME WRONG.
I 100% LOVED THIS BOOK.
It’s just… Kvothe, guys.
My husband doesn’t get it, but Kvothe stresses me out so much, and I STRUGGLE. This book is marvelously well written and Rothfuss has won me over as a lifetime fan, but the main character makes so many bad decisions. After spurts of reading, I get so anxious for him that I feel like I have to go make a camomile tea and soak in a long bath just to relax. FROM READING. I’ve never had a book before that I feel like I needed to wind down from.
This is one of the reasons I’ve been procrastinating on The Wise Man’s Fear aside from the fact we have a good while until book three comes out. I’m just not sure my heart is ready for that right now.
I finished this one at about the time I shied away from the blog and OMG WHY DID I NOT REVIEW IT. THERE IS SO MUCH THAT NEEDS REVIEWING. *points helplessly over to Goodreads*.
by George R. R. Martin
To be honest, I’m pretty sure 50% of the people who have read this book have struggled with it. Not because it’s badly written, but because it’s DENSE. There’s a lot going on and there are SO MANY NAMES to remember. Fans of the HBO show will sympathize as well.
As the success of the TV show has made pretty clear, this is an excellent story. That said, I’m going to do a CRAZY thing for any book nerd and suggest people skip book 1 and watch the first season of the show instead. It’s spot on, sometimes dialogue is word-for-word from the books (that never happens) and you can watch it with friends. AFTER THE FIRST SEASON THOUGH things begin to change and if you’re a diehard Game of Thrones fan, you should be reading A Song of Ice and Fire starting with the second book, A Clash of Kings, because things start going in a different direction there.
Where we’re at waiting for The Winds of Winter, there are a few different people alive verses dead, and it’s started snowing in Riverrun and things are getting REAL. Also your favorite character may still be alive! All of mine are. Err, in both the books and the show, so I’m winning either way. Well, except one, but she’s still alive in the books.
While I’d like to make it clear I don’t actively watch the show (so probably don’t talk to me about it because it’s so far off the books right now, I can’t generally contribute), my husband does and I walked in on him a couple Sundays ago just at the point where Sansa… and spoilers… but seriously, if you’re watching it, Sansa? Thank you, he needed to go. A LONG TIME AGO. I don’t like her character AT ALL, but now I respect her.
I reviewed this one eons ago, you can check it out here.
by Leif Enger
This is not my kind of book and that’s why I struggled with it. My department director passed the book forward to me. Thanks, Mark! Peace Like a River is a must-read book. I never came across it, so it was off my radar at the time. As soon as he handed it to me, I knew I had to read it. Classics, you know.
This book started really slowly. I didn’t care about the characters. It took several chapters before I was able to fall into the rhythm. Once I did, I enjoyed the characters and the questions asked. I enjoyed hunting for Davy and the moral struggle he and the family faced. Peace Like a River asked some important questions and definitely led me to some philosophical thinking I would not have otherwise done. I’m glad I read it. It ended up being a 5 star book for me.
For more details, check out the Goodreads page.
by Dante Alighieri
While I’ve read Inferno multiple times and would recommend it (translation depending), I’ve only read the entire Divine Comedy once. I figured I ought to have the ending. To be perfectly honest? Once you get past Inferno, it gets a lot less interesting. I think it would be fascinating to see a modern recreation of this story, using figures and celebrities more recognizable to this time rather than long dead Greek philosophers and the like. Where Inferno caught my interest by describing the levels of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise failed. These two levels relied more heavily on their “celebrity” names to define separations. There was much more conversation on theology and philosophy as well. I found it all boring.
I’m glad I read it. Now I know what happens beyond Inferno.
SLIGHTLY off topic, but has anyone every played the video game Dante’s Inferno? I think it’s only available for PS3 (maybe XBOX?) but it’s one of my favorite games. Great storyline, great gameplay. Recommended for fans of Prince of Persia or Uncharted based on gameplay similarities.
Also once there were conversations of developing a sequel, but I bet they discovered (like me) there’s not a lot of stuff going on in the next two levels. Also the whole killing-people-constantly things that video games excel at would not go over well in Purgatory or Paradise.
OKAY I DIGRESS.
I haven’t done a review on the full series, but you can check it out on Goodreads. Also, that picture is my gorgeous Barnes and Noble leather-bound edition and SO PRETTY.
These are my picks for serious struggle books! Even if I didn’t love the book at the end, I did appreciate it and I’m glad I read it. Actually, I’m glad I did this list. I’d forgotten about The Witching Hour and excited to reread it someday.
I hope you all have a glorious Tuesday! Today is my anniversary so I probably won’t be around… hanging with the hubby and whatnot, like we do. 🙂