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How to read a difficult book.

Updated on April 21, 2011


                How to Read a Difficult Book

Many books that exist are difficult to actually read. Classics such as Les Miserable’s, by Victor Hugo, The Trial, by Franz Kafka, The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Glamorama, by Bret Easton Ellis, are intimidating in their lengths, structure and vocabulary. The difficulty of keeping focus on such books can lead many readers to give up on them and miss out on great stories.

In order not to be scared off by a book that might at first seem too difficult, you have to forget about the thickness of the book. Don’t focus on the 900 pages that are between you and the ending, instead really just think about the sentence you’re on at the moment. Worry about the chapter you are currently reading; Don’t think too far ahead into the story to try and guess the outcome as you’ll only bore yourself by waiting to see if you are correct.

Do not try to read too quickly in order to just get through the book. A good book should be savored like a fine wine. If you misunderstand a section go through it again, or if you feel that the mood and tempo is more important than content continue reading anyway as not to disrupt the experience. If reading for leisure, do not make a project out of reading; simply pick up the book when the mood strikes you. If you’re reading for an assignment, assign a certain amount of pages to read a day.

Most importantly do not decide to read a book purely on its reputation. A classic book to one person is another person’s literary trash. Choose books based on your personal interests. Choose Authors that you know appeal to your sensibilities but at the same time don’t be afraid to try out new and varied genres and formats.
A book that is difficult to read is not necessarily fulfilling to read, and you have to be careful not to fall into the trap of the story that seems deeply rich and full of complex themes but turns out to be a self indulgent diatribe sparked by the neurosis of a talentless author. Books that speak of many of life’s issues, often only in rhymes and metaphors but say very little about the issues they claim to explore are not for everyone.

Also, though this is more opinion than fact, the true crime genre tends to attract many weirdoes with a taste for grisly accounts of terrible atrocities. Though these books are inevitably interesting, they lack true merit in the story telling tradition, as they merely tend to recount various facts with the authors opinions on the psychological motives of said crimes, opinions that are often half-baked and therefore misleading.

Reading a book should be a relaxing experience, a time for reflection and contemplation. Just let yourself ease into the world that the author paints for you and you should be fine. If you can’t and you need to do a report on the book, just go and buy the cliffs notes.
I’ve often found that a good way to really get into a story is to sit and read one book for hours at a time at least once. Really immerse yourself in the goings on and the quirks of the characters. Almost try and become the narrator by attempting to achieve a similar state of mind. This can be a transcendent experience and greatly enhance your enjoyment of following sessions of reading.

Lastly, I leave you with a tip on forecasting the enjoyment of a book based on a trial reading. Look at the villain. If the villain is lame, put the book down. Choose something better.


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    • DanielBing1 profile image

      DanielBing1 7 years ago from New Hampshire

      I read as much pre-soviet Russian literature as I can.

      Not really, but I would if I was a much better, more cultured person. The Idiot is the only Dostoevsky book I've read. It's difficult at times to roll with the translation, as any book from any language to another, but the overall themes and scenery made it a worthwhile read.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Good hub. I love Dostoevsky and have read just about everything he wrote. I found a skinny little book of his called "Notes from the Underground" much harder to read than "The Idiot", I think because I liked the protagonist in "The Idiot" so much better.

      I made one or two attempts to read Kafka and never made it through one of his books.

      My little rule of thumb is, if you are not drawn into the story, if the book is going nowhere for you, after 100 pages, then it's okay to drop it and not pick it up again.