The Top 10 Most Confusing Books Of All Time

The Top 10 Most Confusing Books Of All Time

Published 11th February 2021
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Many of us pick up a book to take a break away from the daily grind and escape, but sometimes after reading a book we end up with more questions than answers. From unclear symbolism to hidden messages, there’s been many times we’ve struggled to understand the author's intentions. 

Interested in finding out which books are the most confusing, we at took to search tool, Ahrefs, to investigate which titles Brits ask Google about the most.

The top 10 most confusing books of all time

1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Topping the list with a whopping 49,810 searches is the war novel, Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. Before even opening the cover, it seems many people had questions on what “Catch-22” actually means, with 45,850 Google searches being made each month for that alone. 

The plot also seems to raise many questions for fans, with 1,610 searches wanting a summary and explanation regarding the ending. Now that’s what we call a cliffhanger!

2. Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell

In second place is Animal Farm by George Orwell, with 27,790 searches relating to it. We found that people needed the most help with summarising the book, with Brits making 17,300 related searches each month on average.

Our research discovered that the hardest chapters to understand are chapter nine (350 monthly searches), chapter five (450 monthly searches), and chapter seven (600 monthly searches).

3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Coming in third is Lord of the Flies by William Golding, with a total of 24,270 searches made every month for this book. Known for its symbolism and rich metaphors, it’s one that may require re-reading to understand. 

In total, 700 searches are made each month to gain a further understanding of the meaning of Lord of the Flies, and 15,820 are made by people needing help with summarising the book - especially chapter two (1,600) and chapter nine (800).

4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë takes fourth place as one of the books people seem to struggle with most (22,060 monthly searches). A major point of confusion for Brits seems to lie with the plot of the story, as 600 searches are made monthly for “Wuthering Heights plot”, a further 200 searches for “Wuthering Heights timeline”, and 600 searches for “What is Wuthering Heights about”.

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

In fifth place is Charlotte Brontë’s romance novel, Jane Eyre. Known for its rich language and mixed character reviews, there are many reasons to struggle with this classic, so it’s unsurprising that 18,340 searches related to this novel are made each month.

On average, there are 13,000 Google searches made each month seeking a short and concise summary of this novel. “How does Jane Eyre end” gets around 90 searches each month on average from people wanting to find out how the book ends.

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6. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Following behind is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, with 9,080 questions relating to this book in total. It seems many people needed help to further understand the classic, as there are a total of 7,350 searches relating to the plot and summary. 

Other areas of the book that seem to leave people with questions are the ending (200 monthly searches) and the symbolism used (30 monthly searches).

7. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes takes seventh place, with a total of 8,650 searches seeking further knowledge on the book. Originally written in Spanish and known for its long-winded chapters, it seems this book left people needing help with summarising what they had read (6,300 monthly searches). Some people even took to Sparknotes (a platform providing free study guides for literature) for further help with the book (1,450 monthly searches).

8. Ulysses by James Joyce

Ulysses by James Joyce

Ulysses by James Joyce came in eighth place, racking up 6,330 questions on Google each month. Unsurprisingly, due to its layered stream of consciousness, rich vocabulary and length, many readers find it a mission to complete, resulting in 40 searches being made monthly for “How to understand Ulysses”. What’s more, 300 searches are made for “How to read Ulysses'' each month, as well as 2,740 searchers wanting a summary of the book.

9. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

In ninth place is Moby Dick by Herman Melville, with a total of 5,600 searches made every month for this book. Said to use overly descriptive prose and complex references to the bible and mythology, it’s no wonder there are 4,400 monthly searches asking for a summary of this book. A further 500 searches are made monthly for “Moby Dick meaning” and 300 for “Moby Dick Metaphor”.

10. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Completing the top 10 most confusing books of all time is Life of Pi, with a total of 5,080 searches a month. One element that Brits struggled to understand was the ending, with 1,000 monthly searches made. A further 1,300 searches are made each month for the book’s explanation, as well as 630 searches seeking a summary.

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Why do we struggle to finish books?

hard reading

Interested in finding out the main reasons why Brits struggle to finish a book, we surveyed 3,205 people from around the UK.

Disliking characters is the main reason many of us struggle to finish a book, with 8 in 10 agreeing that this prevents them from reaching the end (83%). It’s unsurprising really, as identifying with and feeling empathy towards characters is one of the main features that draw us into a story and make readers want more.

Sometimes, books can be slow burners and, for some of us, it’s a major turn-off - so much so that three-quarters of Brits (78%) admitted they often don’t finish books because they lack patience!

From using inconsistent writing styles to sloppy sentence structures, the language used in a book can also prevent a reader from finishing a book, with 71% of participants in our survey agreeing.

Completing the top five reasons for readers struggling to get from cover to cover was the concept going over their head (66%) and the length of a book (64%).


1. surveyed 3,205 avid readers on which books they found the most confusing and from the list the top 10 books were taken.

2. was then used to look at a variation of searches related to the book which required more information. This included searches such as “name of book”, “meaning”, “summarised”, “explained”, “SparkNotes”, as well as many other keyword variations.

3. The varying searches were then totalled to rank which books confuse people the most, based on the volume of searches made monthly on Google.

4. also surveyed the 3,205 participants to gain further knowledge into why some people find books confusing or hard to finish.

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