The 10 toughest books in literary history

Online literary magazine The Millions says it has identified the 10 most difficult books in English-language literature. Project curators Emily Colette Wilkinson and Garth Risk Hallberg have spent three years poring through the most "legendarily difficult books — books that are hard to read for their length, or their syntax and style, or their structural and generic strangeness, or their odd experimental techniques, or their abstraction" to come up with the list, which was recently revealed on PublishersWeekly.com.

The toughest literary challenges include:

tale-of-a-tub-125.jpgA Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift. Wilkinson described it as containing "superabundant references to obsolete cultural squabbles (some obscure even in Swift's 18th-century England)."

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. Hallberg said it's "long, dense, and linguistically knotty, yet hugely rewarding, if you're willing to learn how to read it."

to-the-lighthouse-125.jpgTo the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. This 1927 novel is "both intellectually and psychically difficult," according to Wilkinson. "Not only is it hard to tell who's who and who's saying or thinking what, it is also disconcerting — even queasy-making — to be set adrift in other minds, with their private rhythms and associative patterns."

The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein. It's a monster of a novel, clocking in at more than 900 pages. "I keep getting several hundred pages in, switching to something else, and then...returning to find I've lost the thread," Hallberg said.

Here are the other books on the list:

Nightwood
by Djuna Barnes

The Phenomenology of the Spirit
by G.F. Hegel

Clarissa, Or the History of a Young Lady
by Samuel Richardson

Being and Time by Martin Heidegger

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser

Women and Men by Joseph McElroy

Have you read any of the books on The Millions' list? What books have you found exceptionally challenging to get through? Let us know in the comments below.




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