Tag: GeofferyChaucer

the canterbury tales

12 Challenging Books Readers Struggle to Finish

As a former English major, I’ve had the misfortune pleasure of coming across some of the most intellectually challenging literary works. Believe me, I love to read and I enjoy challenging myself but when it’s Friday night a week from finals and you’re assigned to read Paradise Lost, no one should fault you for turning to SparkNotes. It just so happens that a lot of literary titles that are put on the pedestal of the best literature in history happen to be complicated AF (though very much worth reading). Yes, no one can deny that Moby-Dick is an American classic, but if you’re telling me you’ve never once yawned or snoozed when you read it, I don’t quite know if I can trust you.


From puzzling allusions (including religious references easily missed by people unfamiliar with religious texts) to drawn out plots to overly complicated language, here are 12 literary works that readers have struggled with finishing (let alone understanding).


1. The Canterbury Tales | Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales are a collection of the funniest, most complex, and most awarding tales. Chaucer’s use of Middle English language, however, make them hard AF to understand.


2. Moby-Dick | Herman Mellville


Through the plot of Moby Dick is pretty forward, the actual story, comprised of overly-described prose and complex biblical and mythological references set in a slow pace of it can be particularly hard to grasp. By the last page, you may not understand what just happened.


3. King Henry IV | Shakespeare 

While Shakespeare’s witty works comprised of Early Modern English have proven to be difficult for many bookworms to get through, King Henry IV is particularly challenging. There is a lot going on, schemes from left and right, and (in my opinion) it’s not quite exciting enough to be a page turner. Titus Andronicus, on the other hand, is definitely filled with a ton of shocking action to carry you to the finish line.


4. Paradise Lost | John Milton

This epic poem is naturally long enough to keep you reading for weeks, but throw in Milton’s obscure language, endless biblical references, and run-on sentences and you may give up half way in.


5. Infinite Jest | David Foster Wallace 

With a whopping 1, 079 pages, Infinite Jest is among the longest novels ever written. Known for its unconventional narrative style, this experimental book is filled with complex ideas and language, immense detail, and endless footnotes which will keep you busy for awhile.


6. War and Peace | Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace is brilliant. It’s also really long. Period.


7. Atlas Shrugged | Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged can be eye-opening, but its philosophical and political ideas presented in lengthy monologues can be tough to grasp. The novel use of elements from multiple genres – mystery, romance, and sci-fi – may further confuse readers.


8. Ulysses | James Joyce

The most experienced, intellectual, and seasoned reader can come to a crossroads when they pick up this book. It’s widely known as one of the most difficult novels due to Joyce’s layered allusions, stream-of-consciousness technique, and rich vocabulary.  Ironically enough, those same qualities have made it one of the most revered book in history, and many readers who have managed to finish it have argued that the struggle is worth it.


9. Finnegans Wake | James Joyce

Like Ulysses, Joyce’s experimental attitude reflects on the pages of Finnegans Wake. Written over the course of seventeen years, it experiments with the English language, incorporates stream-of-consiouness technique, and has a lack of structure that can take readers just as long to finish as the author did writing it.


10. Gravity’s Rainbow | Thomas Pynchon

Named by Time Magazine as one of the all-time American novels, Gravity’s Rainbow has managed to dazzle and complex readers since 1923. Its 700-plus pages introduces readers to over 400 characters amidst a backdrop of World War 2 action giving readers a lot to deal with before they reach the last page.


11. The Brothers Karamazov | Fyodor Dostoyevsky

If you’ve noticed a theme on this list, it appears that many readers often struggle with literary works containing religious and/or philosophical ideas. The Brothers Karamazov has both. The novel deals with complex ideas, such as right vs wrong, human conscience, moral responsibility and other religious matters written over the course of 700-plus pages, enough the challenge many readers.


12. The Bible

One of the most widely read books, The Bible contains a series of complex stories written in intricate language whose meanings have lead to various interpretations and debate around the world. Given that stories from the Bible were originally passed along orally, its no wonder that that it can be more challenging for people to read it on paper versus hearing it aloud.



Let us know if you’ve managed to finish any of these titles and which you’d highly recommend to your fellow readers!


Featured image shows illustration from The Canterbury Tales via Three Gold Bees

Harry Potter

12 Of the Most Expensive Books Sold In the World

How much are you willing to spend on the first edition of a book? Most would never go through the trouble to obtain original copies, especially when reprinted versions contain the same information. Amongst this list of expensive books, most are ancient texts that bear significant historical value and some are literature works by hugely celebrated authors.


12. The Tales of Beedle the Bard$3.98 million

A collection of children’s stories by British author J.K. Rowling, The Tales of Beedle the Bard also appears in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a farewell gift from Dumbledore to Hermione  Having grown up in a family of pure-blood wizards, Ron is familiar the book and its fairy tales of wizardry. Hermione and Harry had no idea since they both had non-magical upbringings. Most importantly, this book acts as a medium that facilitates Xenophilius Lovegood’s retelling of The Tale of Three Brothers


During an interview, Rowling revealed that Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale acted as a source of inspiration for the her Tale of the Three Brothers and their grim fate.



Via http://bit.ly/2tzIkmk


This book was originally produced through handwritten notes and illustrations by Rowling herself, who intended to donate the profit to The Children’s Voice charity campaign. While six of them were bequeathed to those who were very involved in the Harry Potter series, one of them, referred to as as “The Moonstone Edition” was sold for auction at the Sotheby’s in 2007. Later in 2016, another copy was auctioned for £368,750.


11. Traite des arbres fruiiers (Treatise on Fruit Trees)$4.5 million



Via Investopedia


By far the most expensive book on fruit trees, Traite des arbres fruiiers includes a five-volume set of illustrations and text by Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau.


10. Gutenberg Bible – $4.9 million


Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia


This is the first ever book printed with the movable print in the West, this book symbolizes the commencement of print and a moment of revolutionary change in the history of communication. Despite its status as a literary icon, it only earned a 10th place on this list. However, the purchase occurred in 1987 and it is estimated to value at $25-35 million nowadays.


9. First Folio: Mr.  William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories & Tragedies – $6.16 million



Via Flavorwire


This  collection of Shakespeare’s plays published in 1623 originally had 750 copies but fewer than one-third are believed to still exist. 82 of the copies can be found at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The most expensive one was sold at an auction in 2001 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.


8. The Canterbury Tales – $7.5 million



Via Medievalists.net


Only 12 copies of the original draft of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales still exist and this one was purchased by London book dealers in 1998.


7. The Birds of America – $11.5 million


Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia


This is a book by naturalist and painter John James Audubon that includes a vast array of bird species, 6 of which have become extinct since the time of illustration. Amongst the 119 available copies throughout the world, three of the most expensive ones were sold at prices of $11.5 million, $8.8 million and $7.9 million.


6. Gospels of Henry the Lion – $11.7 million


Henry the Lion

Via http://bit.ly/2vLIhkd


Considered as a masterpiece of Romanesque book illumination, it has been the most expensive book in the world until Bill Gates purchased Codex Leicester in 1994. It is now kept at the Herzog August Bibliotek in Wolfenbuttel and for security purposes, its display is only available every two years.


5. Rothschild Prayer Book – $13.4 million


Via The New York Times

Via The New York Times


This is an important Flemish illuminated manuscript book of hours as compiled by a number of artists. Purchased by Australian businessman Kerry Stokes from Christie’s New York, it is now on display in the National Library of Australia.


4. Bay Psalm Book – $14.165 million


New York Times

Via The New York Times


This is the first book ever printed in what is now known as the United States and it was created in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts twenty years after pilgrims had arrived. Nowadays, a total of 11 copies are believed to be distributed throughout the country in universities such as Harvard and Yale and libraries such as the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress. American financier David Rubenstein bought a copy of the printed book for $14.165 million  from Boston’s Old South Church. 


3. St Cuthbert Gospel – $14.3 million





Also known as the Stonyhurst Gospel or the St Cuthbert Gospel of St John, this is an early 8th-century pocket gospel written in Latin. It’s page size is only 138 by 92 millimeters (by 5.4 in x 3.6 in). Nevertheless, it is the most well-protected book of this age. Since 2012, it has officially become a property of the British Library.


2. Magna Carta – $21.2 million


Via Encyclopedia Brittanica

Via Encyclopedia Brittanica


Magna Carta Libertatum, commonly referred to as Magna Carta, is a charter agreed to by King John of England on June 15th 1215. In an attempt to limit the King’s powers, the federal barons of England created this treaty to be signed by the royal highness himself. This agreement that promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice and many more eventually developed into the rule of constitutional law. 


1. Codex Leicester – $30.8 million



Via http://bit.ly/2uLUOXN


In this 72-page long journal, scientific writings by Leonardo Da Vinci document ancient findings such as where to locate fossils and why the moon is luminous. Written single-handedly by the mathematician himself, this volume was sold at Christie’s auction house in 1994 and now belongs to Microsoft founder Bill Gates. He scanned numerous pages and created digital copies that later became screen savers for the Windows 95.


Featured Image Via Harry Potter Wikia