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Hardest english book?


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I don't know about books, but plays... Shakespeare's plays are quite difficult, to say the least. I'm proud of myself for finishing The Merchant of Venice. It was grueling work, but at the end I felt like I'd achieved something, and was proud of myself.

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I agree with the above poster that Shakespeare's plays can be really hard to get through, and a lot of the time you have to read the same line 3 or 4 times before you actually understand what it means. Anything written in old-fashioned, outdated language is difficult I think.

I also found it quite challenging to get though all the Lord of the Rings books, though I was quite young when I read them.

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I would say by far it was Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales."  I read it in high school and later in college.  The language is so vastly different from contemporary English that it was very much like reading a book in a foreign language. 

It was helpful to have classroom guidance and study guides.  Otherwise I would have found it extremely frustrating.  But the characters and stories were so fascinating, and I was also quite amazed to read something that is so many centuries old. 

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Reading through Hamlet in a version without annotations was definitely difficult and frustrating. I will never do that again. I can, however, recommend getting the Oxford School versions, which are very nicely annotated and made reading Othello a much more fun and rewarding thing.

The hardest I haven't finished was definitely Milton's Paradise Lost. The endless hypotactic sentences with latin word order and countless biblical allusions were just too much for me.

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Well the thing about Shakespeare is that he isn't meant to be read, but performed. I read a few in my teens and liked them okay but didn't get the actual effect until I saw some movies and plays.

The same is true of a lot of older poetry, on the page it's just not the same, it's like reading a script or lyrics, the effect is muted and incomplete.

The hardest book I finished was probably Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed, granted that I was 15 at the time :)

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I don't know about books, but plays... Shakespeare's plays are quite difficult, to say the least. I'm proud of myself for finishing The Merchant of Venice. It was grueling work, but at the end I felt like I'd achieved something, and was proud of myself.

Totally agree with you, and to make Shakespeare's plays harder to read, I had to go to the local library to borrow Macbeth, time when Internet was not yet part of our lives.

The local library had one copy, but it was a book from the early 20th century with unusual typography, like trying to make it look like the original manuscript.

Took me longer than expected, but I'm proud of being able to read such book.

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  • 1 month later...

Hardest one...well, 1 I am yet to finish- The Karamazov Brothers by Dostoyevsky. Classic Russian literature is just not meant for English translation. Plus the book is over 700 pages.

I'm sure it's a great book and will one day be worth finishing, but it was a very slow read for me, and I was busier at the time. Some day, I guess.

I haven't yet went through Shakespeare in English, but I'd be curious to see how much I'll understand.

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I would say Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", which is a great book to read. The language is different in the book, which I have really paid close attention because it was difficult for me to read. I still like the book because it is classic, plus it has a great storyline. I would like to read it again someday when I have time.

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It does seem as though it is a big issue for everyone as it was for me to read Shakespear's novels. I read them in high school but never the entire book. The teacher gave us different scenes to read which to me made it much easier to appreciate :smile:.

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The hardest books I read in English are books out specific content like engineering, biology, chemistry, ... They all use terms that are very specific and most of the words aren't taught in any English course unless you take engineering courses in English.

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I think any English literature books are hardest to read especially the books by Shakespeare like some have said. The sentences are so convoluted and the words used are so confusing that it takes multiple times of reading to grasp its meanings. Some also like to use a lot of flowery words and fluffs that it makes me sleepy just by looking.

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Not a book necessarily but any essay by Nietzsche is extremely complicated and difficult. Specifically, his "On the Genealogy of Morality". It is so complex and long winded, it's a miracle I made it through. Similarly, any work by Heidigger, such as "The Thing". I had to read single sentences over and over just to get them to make any sense.

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I haven't finished it yet, but if I do, I will be very proud at having completed Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It's over 1000 pages long, it has footnotes with their own footnotes and it follows numerous different story lines in a near future world. I'm loving it so far and highly recommend it - requires some effort though!

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I just finished reading "Crime and Punishment", which is quite a long book! I am very proud of myself for finishing it. I found it to be a little bit difficult to start, but there were definitely parts of the book that were very interesting. Unfortunately, I didn't think that the book had a very good ending. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in taking on a classic novel.

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Not a book necessarily but any essay by Nietzsche is extremely complicated and difficult. Specifically, his "On the Genealogy of Morality". It is so complex and long winded, it's a miracle I made it through. Similarly, any work by Heidigger, such as "The Thing". I had to read single sentences over and over just to get them to make any sense.

I agree! He's really hard to comprehend. I'm read his texts in my philosophy class last semester and I had to read it about 10 times to really understand it.

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Not a book necessarily but any essay by Nietzsche is extremely complicated and difficult. Specifically, his "On the Genealogy of Morality". It is so complex and long winded, it's a miracle I made it through. Similarly, any work by Heidigger, such as "The Thing". I had to read single sentences over and over just to get them to make any sense.

Nietzsche was the first author that came to mind too. His works are just way too deep for me. Never finished any of his works to be honest.

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I always thought Ayn Rand's works to be quite difficult. But then again, I tried to read it when I was quite young (and ambitious).

A novel I found very challenging was actually The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. It's definitely worth the challenge, but there are 4 narrators, and the first two first-person narrators are considered two of the hardest to follow narrators in English. One has no sense of time or chronology due to a mental handicap, and the other is going insane. The latter is essentially a mind trying to communicate as it breaks down and it is a very difficult chapter to get through, but when you do, you find that the language is beautiful and wonderful, some of the best I've read.

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As some have mentioned, I'm extremely proud of finishing ANY Shakespeare novel. He's such a brilliant writer, but he's too much 'old English' for me. If I complete the book without spark notes, it's most definitely a celebration for me.

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I don't know about books, but plays... Shakespeare's plays are quite difficult, to say the least. I'm proud of myself for finishing The Merchant of Venice. It was grueling work, but at the end I felt like I'd achieved something, and was proud of myself.

I tried so hard to finish any of Shakespeare's play. Oh, I really did. But it stressed me out. I gave up even before I reached half of the book.

I've read once that Shakespeare is more easily understood when his plays are, well, played. I mean presented on stage, or in theatre or something, rather than be read. I agree.

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