I did have a hard time coming up with one answer to this. Challenging can mean different things to different people. The content might have been hard to swallow or it made you change your mind on something. It also could be challenging because, like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, the prose is harder to read or it is very dense. There could be a bunch of characters to keep track of. It could be big books that took a significant time commitment. Russian literature tends to be a challenge for me in general. Challenging reads can feel rewarding to get through or not, depending on the book or the person.

I have a disturbing reads recommendation post with a few books that could be deemed challenging because of their content.

Spoilers ahead!

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld stands out from that list. It is set in a prison and doesn’t hold back on what horrors go on there (and also what got some of them locked up in the first place). In addition, it takes a swing at multiple issues surrounding prisons. One of the main character’s jobs is to get people off death row and instead get them life in prison. This brings up a lot of discussion. Regardless of how the character feels about the prisoner she is looking into, she does her job to the best of her ability.  There is also a character who gets the maximum sentence, as an example. Right away he catches the eye of a prisoner who then rapes him regularly and a person in charge lets it happen because that prisoner gives him a cut of the drug money he still earns. Plus there is a prisoner there who makes everyone flinch and shudder but reading from his perspective you wouldn’t think he is the same person.

The man on death row ends up dying still because when the woman gives him a choice that is ultimately what he wants. And the boy kills the man in charge who was handing out favors for bribes. This is also a magical (?) prison so we figure he’ll get away with it because the prison allowed him to do it. Also the woman and the priest finally have a real talk about their romantic feelings. I don’t think that took away from how challenging this book is but it made me feel rewarded when I finished.

Tell me about challenging books you’ve read in the comments below.


2 thoughts on “What is the most challenging book you’ve ever read?

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