Hard to read. What exactly does that mean? Is it written in a language with which the reader is unfamiliar?
Of course, I am being facetious. I think a more accurate term would be "doesn't interest me" (Moby Dick), "is too long" (War and Peace) or "is hard to follow" (The Odyssey).
There are lists that are titled "Books that are Hard to Read". Should these be renamed "Books in which the Majority of Readers are not Interested in enough to Finish"? Yes, I think that would be more accurate.
Here are a few "hard to read" books from various internet lists:
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes: I can't even say the author's name, so I am at an immediate disadvantage. From a review: 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.
Nutshell: Haha! No, thank you very much.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: Anything described as a "magnum opus" is going to take some effort to read. However, Ayn Rand was groundbreaking in her government vs. middle class. No, she was not a socialist and no, she was not an atheist (more of an agnostic). Her idea of less-government came at a time when government was flexing its muscle into more and more of American life.
Nutshell: Read it.
Anything by Shakespeare: Ridiculous. Most people struggle with the rhythm of the writing. Much of his writings are written to have a beat, or rhythm, just dive in and go with it. You'll get it.
Nutshell: Read it. And read A Clockwork Orange, too. That will make you appreciate Shakespeare.
Ulysses by James Joyce: This book was on so many lists that I am now going to have to read it. What makes this book difficult to read? Also found on the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century list, the novel is written as stream-of-consciousness. It is also a bit verbose at just under 300,000 words. That will put anyone off.
Nutshell: Think of it as trying to talk to an adult with ADHD and press on with the reading of it.
Carmen's Hard to Read:
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan: A great premise! The very last werewolf in existence (thanks be to God!) is struggling with whether or not to go on. He is 200 years old, has seen so much, has done so much, and is really just weary. What to do? Instead of good writing, depicting the inner struggle of immortality (and what man has not, at some point, wished to live forever?), this author chooses to fall back on fast living and a lot of anal sex. Ugh. I didn't even finish this stinker. Not because it was hard to read, but because it was insulting to my intelligence.
Nutshell: Skip it.
White Oleander by Janet Fitch: Not really a horribly-written book, but when I was finished, I wanted to slit my wrists. And forget about the movie, with terrible casting as Michelle Pfeiffer as Ingrid, the dark, exotic poet, imprisoned for life. If you saw the movie, you know that Pfeiffer is pale, a photographer and is freed.
Nutshell: Skip it and the movie, and any other book Oprah has suggested.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Not hard to read at all. Just a terrible and atrocious waste of time. It's a mere retelling of my nutshell short story. Besides, I am going to have an issue just on principle since people can't even agree on how to spell the last name of this author.
Nutshell: Read The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe instead. It is better written, more succinct and was penned 23 years earlier.
Now, go therefore read a Hard Book to Read!