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BBawlight's avatar

What are the most mind-numbing books you have ever read?

Asked by BBawlight (2183 points ) September 26th, 2012

I need something that can completely wipe out your mind with it’s boredom. Like… Around The World In 80 Days (Original). I could barely get through that book because it was so hard to read!

So, what are the most mind-numbing books you have ever read?

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30 Answers

filmfann's avatar

Briefing for a Descent Into Hell by Doris Lessing was highly recommended, and was tortuous reading.
I am still amazed it won anything, other than an award for curing insomnia.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

A Faulkner book. Eugh.

SuperMouse's avatar

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers and Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

rojo's avatar

Calculus ones.

fremen_warrior's avatar

High Expectations by Charles Dickens (although some manage to actually find this entertaining)...

and

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sallinger (must have been banned due to its coma-inducing qualities…)

Fly's avatar

Pride and Prejudice should do the trick.

@fremen_warrior Did you mean Great Expecations?

janbb's avatar

The Alienist by Caleb Carr was the most recent.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t finish books that have that effect on me. I ditch them.

One fairly recent example in the realm of fiction was The Adventures of Augie March, by Saul Bellow. I tried, but I just couldn’t.

In my history, though, the top awards for spontaneous mental annihilation would have to go to textbooks in botany, physics, chemistry, and political science.

I liked The Alienist. And Pride and Prejudice. Didn’t love them, though. What we like and don’t like might be as inexplicable when it comes to reading matter as it is when it comes to vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts…yum.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Great Expectations. I really wanted to beat (some/most/all/+the author) of those characters with a stick. There were others too, most high school required reading but I’ve since buried their memories. More recently I had a miserable time getting into Anathem and Speaks The Nightbird but I’ll give’em another go at some point. Dune has always been a slog for me, but I can’t say it’s “mind-numbing”.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Chaucer tied my brain into knots on some days.

fundevogel's avatar

I second Chaucer, with a few exceptions the Canterbury Tales are a difficult read. Though I liked it more than Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.

filmfann's avatar

@fremen_warrior You mean Great Expectations wasn’t great?

blueiiznh's avatar

in a very literal sense it is The most boring book every written

For me it was Moby Dick

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Wuthering Heights It was bad enough having to plow through it in high school. When the SO decided to read it a year or so ago, I picked up up again. I just cannot understand the draw.

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

Atlas Shrugged. The women I was dating kept telling me in college this Ayn Rand person had neat ideas.

So very painful and there is a 50 page speech in the middle.

I did have an epiphany as a result reading the book about the kind of women I am drawn towards.

Fred931's avatar

@Fly I was so sure someone would beat me to Jane Austen.

Summer reading this year. Good God. It was like trying to watch one of those 80’s sitcoms they play on local news in the afternoon. “Oh no, your daughter’s run off with a man, of all people?! Grow a pair, Bennet.”

SavoirFaire's avatar

The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant.

linguaphile's avatar

Faulkner. I just can’t do Faulkner, not even for a grade.

Jeruba's avatar

Your mention of Faulkner emboldens me, @linguaphile.

Sometime in my twenties I happened to attend a party where a lot of the guests were intellectual types. The subject of literature came up, and someone mentioned Faulkner. I remarked that I had tried to read three books by Faulkner and hadn’t been able to get more than halfway through any of them. A young Scandinavian woman of about my age turned a withering gaze on me and said in a charming accent, and not at all softly, “Faulkner is one of your country’s greatest writers. If you can’t appreciate him, you are either very stupid or very naïve.” (She said “na-eef.” Somehow it sounded even more scornful that way.) I cringe at the memory, and I haven’t told anyone since that I couldn’t read Faulkner.

So. There you are.

linguaphile's avatar

@Jeruba I should venture to say I’m not surprised a Scandinavian liked Faulkner… I’ll be naïve right with you, if that’s okay, because I don’t think we’re stupid :D

YARNLADY's avatar

The Gormenghast series by Mervyn Peake are the most boring books I have ever read.

fundevogel's avatar

@Jeruba & @linguaphile I’ve got a collection of Faulkner on my shelf waiting for attention. I’m hoping my love of Southern Gothic will spare me the agony you experienced. But if it doesn’t at least you’ve given me a safe space to not like it.

Sunny2's avatar

@Michael_Huntington & @linguaphile My first experience in trying to read Faulkner’s The Town, scared me to death. I read the first three pages and found my mind wandering, so I started again. The same thing happened. So I told myself to go back again and find the first sentence. That first sentence was 3 pages long and I realized I didn’t know how to read that book. I then took a summer school course that included reading Absalom, Absalom. I could only read it for an hour at a time. It was such a physical experience to read it. It seemed that large fans were waving across my eyes, teasing me and allowing me to see only a little of the story at the time. When the fans finally parted and let me see the main meaning of the book, because of the way it was written, it was truly shocking. The way it was written made it much more suspenseful and awful!. I then read all Faulkner’s books up to Absalom, Absalom. But I didn’t try to go further. The style was too taxing for my reading ability. I have to hear the words I read, and those long sentences were hard to keep track of.
If you want to sample what I’m talking about as far as style goes, read the short story Faulkner’s short story, A Rose for Miss Emily. You’ll begin to wonder why you’re wasting time on it, but hang in there for the finish. See what contrast can do to a story.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

My math textbooks were guaranteed to ensure I ended up with my face plastered onto its pages, drool trickling out of my open mouth, snoring all the while… ;-)

A book that I found exceedingly difficult to get through, though, was a book we read (or more accurately, did not read) for my book club, Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. None of us finished the book. Earlier, another member had selected Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, another book that most, if not all, abandoned. After Foucault’s Pendulum, it was unanimously agreed that Eco was permanently banned as a choice for our reading.

I did like The Name of the Rose, though….

ucme's avatar

Hypnotic Hell Whores by Helen Back.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@Fly and @filmfan yes and yes. Thank you. I mean the plot in itself has potential but the book needs some serious page trimming, give or take 200.

@wonderingwhy your comment about my holy text has earned you Groundskeeper Willie’s response to principal Skinner’s comment regarding Scots!

linguaphile's avatar

@Sunny2 I’ve read A Rose for Emily. I forgot Faulkner wrote that—I do like it even though it’s really creepy. I agree about the contrast—its an interesting structure with how he goes on and on, then wraps the story up on a strand of hair! I think it helps that it’s a short story, not a novel. I’ll give Faulkner another try and let you know what happens :)

@AngryWhiteMale I couldn’t get through The Name of the Rose. I was in high school when I tried to read it—maybe that’s why. Nevertheless, it’s one of my favorite movies. Sean Connery=yum!

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I read Watership Down in the ‘80s and enjoyed it immensely. I tried to read it again about a year ago and just couldn’t get through the first ten pages. I guess I’ve changed a lot.

Recently I read Sailing Alone Around the World (1900), by Joshua Slocum. It’s basically Slocum’s journal kept concurrent with his log during his 36-month (1895–1898), 46,000 mile solo circumnavigation in a 37 foot, gaff-rigged yawl: the Spray. He is supposedly the first person ever to successfully accomplish solo circumnavigation of the earth.

At his home in Fairhaven, Mass. between 1892–1894, Slocum rebuilt the former Chesapeake oysterman fore and aft, improved her balance (without mathematics beyond a carpenter’s arithmetic) and rigged her for self-steering. He took pride in the fact that the Spray, with helm lashed, sailed 2,700 miles west across the Pacific (Thursday Island to the Cocos), requiring him to be at the wheel for no more than 3 hours during that 23 day stretch.

This book is a must read among serious blue-water sailors. I was especially interested in reading Slocum’s contemporary accounts of certain Caribbean islands and points on the US east coast; places I’ve been to in the past few years. So one night I pulled it off Project Gutenberg.

Captain Slocum was one helluva sailor, navigator and boat builder, but he was no writer. He took the story of a great voyage and turned it into a truckload of Quaaludes through his flowery, late Victorian journalistic style. No. I can handle late Victorian. This was really bad late Victorian style journalism. I know he couldn’t help it. He was a man of his time and he did the best he could. And it was a literary era infamous for unnecessary filigree and saccharin sentimentalism. But what a buzz-kill. It took me a month to get through the 164 pages.

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve been hearing that young woman’s remark over and over in my mind since recalling it and posting it (above) a month ago, and I’m certain I wrote it wrong. She didn’t say “you are either very stupid or very naïve.” She said “you are either very naïve or very stupid.”

It was even more cutting that way because of the cadence of the words.

In the interests of accuracy I felt bound to post this correction.

linguaphile's avatar

@Jeruba Your interests of accuracy is one of the reasons I appreciate you!

I still disagree with that woman—you are not naïve or stupid.

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