Ten Books That Were Hard To Read

Today with Top Ten Tuesdays we discuss books that were hard to read, for whatever the reason. I also just want to add that I suggested this topic so yay! But admittedly, BookRiot did it first. Heh. Anyway. I’m focusing on books that were hard to read due to subject matter, not due to style or difficulty grading.

1. Coconut by Kopano Matlwa

This book, set in South Africa, follows two seemingly different young women: one wealthy, new money, removed from her culture and floating along, wondering about her roots; the other working herself out of poverty, doing her best to rid her of the dregs of her culture. This book was hard to read for me because I have friends like both these girls, and I realise that there is so much in their cultures that I can never try to understand, and I was unsure what I could DO. It is a beautiful book, though.

coconut quote

2. Because We Are by Ted Oswald

Although this was not my first book set in Haiti, it was still very hard for me to read about such young children suffering. I realised again that South Africa could be considered privileged compared to many other countries. The book also made me ANGRY at the way that governments and politics treat their own people.

3. My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi

After my exposure earlier this year, I was very tearful and scared of HIV. Reading a book about a teenager and HIV was very hard for me to read without getting anxiety attacks, but it was a gentle and well-done story.

4. Postmortem by Maria Phalime

I think one of the scariest things must be to have devoted a large portion of your life to a certain career and then realising that you are out of love with that career. I was so scared that this book would make medicine even harder for me, but in fact it gave me a lot of insight and made me more realistic.

5. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

I would rather have strong feelings about something than be ambivalent, and incest is one of the few things that I really don’t have much of an opinion about (unless it’s non-consensual of course). I know it’s supposed to be “wrong”, but I really don’t have the desire to dictate people’s romantic/sexual lives to them. My real qualm is the congenital issues of offspring from such relationships. I’ve never had the slightest attraction to a relative and I’ve never known someone who does, so I just… had no understanding of it. The book was really dark for me and hard to read. The whole situation was sad. I do feel that I have some hard-won empathy now, but… I still don’t really have an opinion.

6. In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

I’ve read many accounts of war and genocide, but there was something about this book that made me interminably sad and horrified. Maybe because just before reading it I had been to Vietnam and met a lot of Cambodian students. Maybe because of the way it is witnessed through young Raami’s eyes.

quote in the shadow of the banyan

7. Saving June by Hannah Harrington

To be in Harper’s position… I just can’t.

8. The Garden of Evening  Mists by Tan Twan Eng

This book is so intense. There’s this whole reconciliation between a former Prisoner of War and a Japanese National and it is HEAVY and stunning.

garden of evening mists

9. A Change of Tongue by Antjie Krog

This made me face a lot of questions about my culture and heritage, and it was a difficult journey; but ultimately one that made me more sure of who I am and what I stand for.

10. A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer

I read this for a book report in Grade 8. I thought I could handle it, but it was really painful. Even now thinking about it makes me want to seriously hurt people who hurt children. It is good that I read it, because it gave me a better understanding of child abuse, but it is definitely one of the hardest books I have read.

Have you read any of these books? What makes a book difficult for you to read?


  1. rumadak says:

    Surprisingly I haven’t read any of these. Would like to read few based on what you wrote about them.
    For me I can’t continue reading a book which has a subject i don’t like or is boring (according to me of course).
    Some of the books I left halfway recently include Wolf of the Wall Street and Lolita!

    1. I haven’t read either of those because they don’t sound like my cup of tea at all. I agree: I don’t read boring books. Difficult books I can push through, but not boring books.

  2. Cait says:

    Oh #10 sounds really really hard… 😐 I think I would have a lot of trouble with that too. But that’s still seriously awesome that you suggested the prompt! WOOT! Go you!! 😉
    Here’s my TTT!

    1. Heh, thanks duuuuude!

  3. Nish says:

    Coconut actually sounds like a lovely book, and I should pick it up sometime. I read The Garden of Evening Mists last year and it was so, so intense, just ripped my heart out.

    Thanks for suggesting this topic title, it was a great one to write about 🙂

    1. Aw thanks! Yeah, Coconut is so unique and beautifully written. I would highly recommend it.

  4. harveylisam says:

    I feel like #10 is something I should definitely read, though I’m sure it would be really difficult.

    1. Ya, especially with your current elective, I think it would be an appropriate read! I mean, his story is still classified as the third worst case of child abuse in America (the first two didn’t make it), so… yeah. But it’s a tough book. The second one is okay, but I didn’t really like the third book to be honest. Granted I was young, so maybe it was too mature for me.

  5. cmfought says:

    Forbidden was super hard for me to read. Between the conflicting feelings I had regarding their relationship… I’ve never had an opinion on incest other than it’s “wrong,” as I’ve been taught for various reasons. It was just difficult. Because you want to root for them but at the same time it’s like, “Ummm, but… this isn’t really actually okay.” But, surprisingly enough, it’s the ending that I really hated. I really, /really/ hated it. When I finished it I wanted to throw the book across the room. /sigh

    Nice list 🙂
    Chelsea @ Books Turn Brains

    1. I totally would have thrown the book against the wall, except I was reading it on my iPad. Totally agree: the ending was THE WORST.

  6. Liesel Hill says:

    Haven’t read many of these, but they sound intriguing. I’ll have to check them out. 😀 My TTT

  7. I haven’t read any on your list but I’m going to have to. They sound good! Also: Can I just say I lovvvve your blog title. I always thought mine was off-the-wall and random and people thought it was weird but I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in it!:D

    Thanks for stopping by my post!

    Alexandra @ SleepsOnTables

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Hah, you do have a pretty random blog title, BUT it’s awesome. I actually have a few photos of me sleeping on tables 😛

  8. ChrissiReads says:

    Brilliant, thoughtful comments! I love how you’ve carefully considered everything! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I also featured Forbidden and understand exactly where you’re coming from.

  9. Vanessa says:

    Forbidden has been on my list forever, I’ve seen it on a few lists today which only makes me want to read it more!

    1. Hah, I can see why it would make you want to read it. 😛

  10. Rachel says:

    Great list. Forbidden is on my TBR, and A Child Called It made my list today. Sometimes I like to challenge myself by reading books about tough subjects because they seem more “real”, they reflect the darker aspects of life.

    On a side note, I will have my response to your post on feminism up at some point, I just have so much more to say now and need to organise my thoughts!

    My TTT: http://confessionsofabookgeek.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/top-ten-tuesday-difficult-reads/

    1. Thanks! And I look forward to reading your post!

  11. Such a fascinating list! Coconut sounds phenomenal, but I can see why it’d be tough!

  12. AWildDog says:

    Oh wow, this really one I have to think about before I answer. All the books you listed look really interesting though I can see why they would be difficult!

  13. Broc's Bookcase says:

    I read A Child Called It a few years ago and totally agree with you that there were times it was extremely hard to read. I haven’t read any of the other books but they sound intense and exactly the type of books I would find hard to read too. Have added a few of them to my TBR! 🙂

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