Books that are hard to read can be fiction or non-fiction. I'm not referring to books that I refuse to persevere with, through being badly written, or which fail to engage me in some way—life's too short.
As I write crime novels, which have gruesome details, I need to do a lot of research to get the facts correct; the success of the various CSI television series makes readers think that they're experts in forensic medicine. In recent years, I've read learnèd tomes on autopsy procedure, psychopathy, post-traumatic stress disorder, body decomposition and United Nations reports about genocide in Bosnia. All of these were unpleasant reading, if occasionally fascinating and startling.
I read widely, challenging my arty-farty brain with subjects that are out of my comfort zone. I don't know if this a mind-expanding activity, but it appears to awaken brain cells that spend most of their time snoring! I make an effort to read several science-fiction and fantasy stories every year. Last year, I enjoyed Robin Hobb's Farsee Trilogy, before realising that they were part of a series in The Realm of the Elderlings saga which includes seventeen other novels and six short stories!
I may return to that fantasy world one day, but, more recently I've ventured into The Dark Is Rising Sequence written by Susan Cooper. I know that several members of the Colony subscribe to Dove Grey Reader's blog and after she mentioned reading them, I decided to investigate. I've read the first two titles, and though enjoyable, they're very dated in content and writing style. Published in the 1970s, they could have been set in the 1940s. Still, it's fun to read stories without computers and smartphones! The children have to work stuff out by themselves, rather than Google it.
On a more cerebral level, I'm currently reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari, after seeing it mentioned in all sorts of lists of ten favourite book by authors and media stars. It's a stimulating read, though what Harai says about the rather oafish Neanderthals has recently been challenged by findings about their contribution to cave art.
Such are the risks of scientific writing.
I'm next going to be dropping a depth charge into my brain, by reading Nobel prize winner Richard Feynman's Surely, You're Kidding Mister Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character
It would be remiss of me not to mention a challenging book written by our own Agent Pete. I read You Don't Need Meat in various stages of disbelief. It affected me, to such an extent that I had a nightmare in which I was pursued through a wood by an avenging mob of angry pork chops, which were hurling hot gobbets of apple sauce at me! It was enough to turn Homer Simpson vegetarian!
Have you tackled any challenging reads?
Are there any books that affected how you saw a subject?
Have any of you suffered nightmares from reading something disturbing?