Culture

Books You'll Never Finish Reading  

Amy Boal
1.8M votes 97.2k voters 1.1M views 170 items

List Rules Upvote 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."
list ordered by
1
The Bible is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Daniel Arana added
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 ...more
2
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Herman Melville
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
3
War and Peace is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Leo Tolstoy
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 ...more
4
Ulysses is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
James Joyce
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
5
The Canterbury Tales is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Geoffrey Chaucer
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
6
Gone with the Wind is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Scott Shafer added Margaret Mitchell
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 ...more
7
A Tale of Two Cities is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
AnnaKorba added Charles Dickens
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 ...more
8
Iliad is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Stephen James Richard Rodda added Homer
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 ...more
9
Anna Karenina is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
PaulArdoin added Leo Tolstoy
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 ...more
10
Wuthering Heights is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
secretigoo added Emily Brontë
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 ...more
11
The Grapes of Wrath is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
John Steinbeck
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 ...more
12
Les Misérables is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
RodneyBlair added Victor Hugo
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 ...more
13
The Red Badge of Courage is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
John R. Bair added Stephen Crane
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 ...more
14
Atlas Shrugged is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Ayn Rand
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 ...more
15
The Scarlet Letter is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
coyotedoorknob added Nathaniel Hawthorne
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
16
Jane Eyre is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Pam Smith added Charlotte Brontë
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 ...more
17
The Good Earth is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Chester Angelico Mercado added Pearl S. Buck
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
18
Don Quixote is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Le Roy added Miguel de Cervantes
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
19
The Bridges of Madison County is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Siersha 2 added Robert James Waller
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 ...more
20
The Last of the Mohicans is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Kimber Highfill added James Fenimore Cooper
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
21
The Oxford English Dictionary is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Miranda Rose Glaser added John Simpson
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 ...more
22
Crime and Punishment is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Robert L. Schreiwer added Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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 ...more
23
In Cold Blood is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Danielle McAfee added
24
Walden is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Lynn Sabin added Henry David Thoreau
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, ...more
25
David Copperfield is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Books You'll Never Finish Reading
Avada added Charles Dickens
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 ...more