99.6k voters

Books You'll Never Finish Reading

Updated September 13, 2019 1.7m votes 99.6k 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."
  • 1
    The Bible is a canonical collection of texts sacred in Judaism and Christianity. There is no...  more
  • 2


    Herman Melville

    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...  more
  • 3

    War and Peace

    Leo Tolstoy

    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...  more
  • 4


    James Joyce

    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...  more
  • 5

    The Canterbury Tales

    Geoffrey Chaucer

    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...  more
  • 6

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

    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...  more
  • 7

    Gone with the Wind

    Margaret Mitchell

    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...  more
  • 8

    Wuthering Heights

    Emily Brontë

    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,...  more
  • 9

    SubjectsMusic, Poetry, Trojan War

    Genres (Book)Poetry

    Original LanguageAncient Greek

    The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to...  more
  • 10

    Anna Karenina

    Leo Tolstoy

    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...  more
  • 11

    The Grapes of Wrath

    John Steinbeck

    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...  more
  • 12

    Les Misérables

    Victor Hugo

    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...  more
  • 13

    The Scarlet Letter

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

    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...  more
  • 14

    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...  more
  • 15

    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...  more
  • 16

    Jane Eyre

    Charlotte Brontë

    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...  more
  • 17

    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...  more
  • 18

    Don Quixote

    Miguel de Cervantes

    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...  more
  • 19

    The Good Earth

    Pearl S. Buck

    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...  more
  • 20

    First Published1992

    Original LanguageEnglish Language

    The Bridges of Madison County is a 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller that tells...  more
  • 21


    Henry David Thoreau

    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...  more
  • 22

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

    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....  more
  • 23

    Crime and Punishment

    Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    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...  more
  • 24
  • 25

    Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Harriet Beecher Stowe

    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...  more