Culture
99.8k voters

Books You'll Never Finish Reading

Updated September 13, 2019 1.6m votes 99.8k voters 1.2m views169 items

List RulesUpvote the books that might be great, but no one will ever finish them and find out because who has the time and/or patience?

As Emily Dickinson famously said, "There is no Frigate like a Book / To take us Lands away," but sometimes you get halfway there and are all "Frigate, WTF, where are we even going?" There are some books that you will just never finish, no matter how many times you try. Maybe the authors of these hardest books to read are laughing at all of us right now, or maybe they didn't even mean to make the book so tough, but here we all are, slogging through these book swamps, trying to figure out what the hell James Joyce is even on about with Ulysses.

Hard books to read run the gamut. Some are just too long, like War and Peace. Others are just perplexing and no one will ever know what's really going on in them, even that kid in your Honors College literature class who thinks he is so cool. Still others of the most difficult books ever written aren't even really that complicated, they just happen to be as boring as listening to anyone, anywhere, at anytime, talking about traffic.

What books have you put down after just one chapter? What books sit proudly on your shelves, 90% unread because life is more than sticking it out with a book that is just too much? Sure, a lot of these books you are never going to actually read are classics, written by famous authors and some of the most influential writers of all time, but let's get real, Jonathan Franzen, there aren't enough hours in the day to wade through The Corrections.

Upvote the books and novels below that you have sidelined for whatever reason and be sure to add any great books you have started, and then immediately been like, "NOPE."
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  • 1
    Daniel Arana added
    21,184
    13,550
    The Bible is a canonical collection of texts sacred in Judaism and Christianity. There is no single canonical Bible and various religious traditions have produced different recensions with different...  more
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  • 2
    Herman Melville
    17,028
    12,336

    First Published1851-10-18

    SubjectsWhaling, Popular literature, Literary, Education, Literature

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Sea story, Adventure fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is a novel by Herman Melville considered an outstanding work of Romanticism and the American Renaissance. Ishmael narrates the monomaniacal quest of Ahab, captain of the...  more
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  • 3
    Leo Tolstoy
    14,461
    10,695

    First Published1869

    SubjectsPopular literature, Name day, Napoleonic Wars, Russia, History

    Genres (Book)Romance novel, War novel, Historical novel, Philosophical fiction

    Original LanguageFrench Language, Russian Language

    War and Peace is a novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1869. The work is epic in scale and is regarded as one of the most important works of world literature. It is considered...  more
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  • 4
    James Joyce
    12,968
    10,281

    First Published1922-02-02

    SubjectsIreland, Men

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Ulysses is a modernist novel by Irish writer James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its...  more
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  • 5
    Geoffrey Chaucer
    13,585
    11,319

    First Published1475

    SubjectsStorytelling, Astrology, Pilgrimage, Middle Ages, England

    Genres (Book)Anthology

    Original LanguageMiddle English

    The Canterbury Tales is a collection of over 20 stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century, during the time of the Hundred Years' War. The tales are...  more
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  • 6
    AnnaKorba addedCharles Dickens
    14,936
    13,057

    First Published1859

    SubjectsLiterary, French Revolution, Revenge, English Language, German Language

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Novel, Historical novel, Social criticism

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    A Tale of Two Cities is a novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The novel depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralised by the French...  more
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  • 7
    Scott Shafer addedMargaret Mitchell
    14,897
    13,131

    First Published1936-06-30

    SubjectsWomen, Plantations in the American South, United States of America, American Civil War, History

    Genres (Book)Historical fiction, Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Gone with the Wind is a novel written by Margaret Mitchell, first published in 1936. The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia, and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. It...  more
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  • 8
    PaulArdoin addedLeo Tolstoy
    12,041
    10,941

    First Published1877

    SubjectsMusic, Upper class, Literature, Russia, Adultery

    Genres (Book)Literary realism, Novel

    Original LanguageRussian Language

    Anna Karenina is a novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger. Tolstoy clashed with editor Mikhail Katkov over...  more
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  • 9
    Stephen James Richard Rodda addedHomer
    4,529
    4,099

    SubjectsMusic, Poetry, Trojan War

    Genres (Book)Poetry

    Original LanguageAncient Greek

    The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it...  more
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  • 10
    secretigoo addedEmily Brontë
    13,011
    11,862

    First Published1847-12

    SubjectsPopular literature, Classics, England, Unrequited love

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Novel, Gothic fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Wuthering Heights is Emily Brontë's only novel. Written between October 1845 and June 1846, Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 under the pseudonym ″Ellis Bell″; Brontë died the following year,...  more
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  • 11
    John Steinbeck
    14,599
    13,545

    First Published1939

    SubjectsCalifornia, Great Depression in the United States, Dust Bowl, Oklahoma

    Genres (Book)Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Grapes of Wrath is an American realist novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939. The book won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it was cited prominently...  more
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  • 12
    RodneyBlair addedVictor Hugo
    9,832
    9,153

    First Published1862

    SubjectsSociety, June Rebellion, Convict

    Genres (Book)Historical fiction, Epic, Novel

    Original LanguageFrench Language

    Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is...  more
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  • 13
    coyotedoorknob addedNathaniel Hawthorne
    15,007
    14,170

    First Published1850

    SubjectsMonarch, Popular literature, Literary, Revenge, New England

    Genres (Book)Romance novel, Children's literature, Romanticism, Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Scarlet Letter is an 1850 romantic work of fiction in a historical setting, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and is considered to be his magnum opus. Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston,...  more
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  • 14
    12,069
    11,395

    First Published1957-10-10

    SubjectsLiterary, Literature, Capitalism, Classics, Adventure

    Genres (Book)Romance novel, Speculative fiction, Dystopia, Mystery, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Atlas Shrugged is a 1957 novel by Ayn Rand. Rand's fourth and last novel, it was also her longest, and the one she considered to be her magnum opus in the realm of fiction writing. Atlas Shrugged...  more
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  • 15
    Miranda Rose Glaser addedJohn Simpson
    6,186
    5,855

    First Published1884-02-01

    SubjectsDictionary, English Language

    Genres (Book)Non-fiction, Reference

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Oxford English Dictionary, published by the Oxford University Press, is a descriptive dictionary of the English language. As well as describing English usage in its many variations throughout the...  more
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  • 16
    John R. Bair addedStephen Crane
    10,885
    10,365

    First Published1895

    SubjectsComing of age, United States of America, American Civil War, History, Virginia

    Genres (Book)Fiction

    The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane. Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees...  more
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  • 17
    Pam Smith addedCharlotte Brontë
    10,575
    10,131

    First Published1847-10-16

    SubjectsPopular literature, Social class, Morality, England

    Genres (Book)Romance novel, Bildungsroman, Fiction, Novel, Gothic fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Jane Eyre is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It was published on 16 October 1847 by Smith, Elder & Co. of London, England, under the pen name "Currer Bell." The first American edition was...  more
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  • 18
    Le Roy addedMiguel de Cervantes
    7,399
    7,101

    First Published1605

    SubjectsMusic, 16th century, Literary, Literature, Classics

    Genres (Book)Picaresque novel, Satire, Farce, Parody

    Original LanguageOld Spanish language, Spanish Language

    Don Quixote, fully titled The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. It follows the adventures of a nameless hidalgo who reads so many...  more
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  • 19
    Chester Angelico Mercado addedPearl S. Buck
    3,921
    3,818

    First Published1931-03-02

    SubjectsChina, Literary, Literature, Classics, Family

    Genres (Book)Children's literature, Historical fiction, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Good Earth is a novel by Pearl S. Buck published in 1931 and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1932. The best-selling novel in the United States in both 1931 and 1932, it was an...  more
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  • 20
    Siersha 2 addedRobert James Waller
    5,198
    5,080

    First Published1992

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Bridges of Madison County is a 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller that tells the story of a married but lonely Italian woman living in 1960s Madison County, Iowa. She engages in an...  more
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  • 21
    Lynn Sabin addedHenry David Thoreau
    7,815
    7,727

    First Published1854

    SubjectsHome, Ecology, Music, Literary, Walden Pond

    Genres (Book)Nature, Philosophy, Speculative fiction, Children's literature, Fiction

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Walden, by noted transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, is a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. The work is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of...  more
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  • 22
    Kimber Highfill addedJames Fenimore Cooper
    7,740
    7,672

    First Published1826-02

    SubjectsMusic, French and Indian War, United States of America, History

    Genres (Book)Historical novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 is a historical novel by James Fenimore Cooper. It is the second book of the Leatherstocking Tales pentalogy and the best known to contemporary...  more
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  • 23
    Robert L. Schreiwer addedFyodor Dostoyevsky
    9,171
    9,148

    First Published1866

    SubjectsPopular literature, Conscience, Classics, Murder

    Genres (Book)Crime Fiction, Suspense, Fiction, Novel

    Original LanguageRussian Language

    Crime and Punishment is a novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments during 1866. It was later...  more
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  • 24
    Debby Crespo Frisk addedHarriet Beecher Stowe
    8,686
    8,719

    First Published1852-03-20

    SubjectsSlavery, United States of America

    Genres (Book)Novel

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War", according...  more
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  • 25
    Avada addedCharles Dickens
    8,095
    8,147

    First Published1850

    SubjectsComing of age, Child labour, 19th century, History, England

    Genres (Book)Fiction, Novel, Künstlerroman

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    David Copperfield, . is the eighth novel by Charles Dickens. It was first published as a serial 1849–50, and as a book in 1850. Many elements of the novel follow events in Dickens' own life, and it...  more
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