7 Classic Books That Made Suffering Enjoyable

Read 'em and squirm

The End Of The Affair by Graeme Greene is one of my favourite stories. It crosses wartorn 1940s London and enters the soul of a deeply selfish and unhappy man.  Result: a thrilling examination of lust, cruelty and the impossibility of fulfilment.  War also binds colourful tapestries of suffering in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, Norman Mailer’s The Naked And The Dead and Erich Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front.  The seven deadly sins are explored in each, as men scrap for survival in impossible circumstances.  If none of this is grim enough, try the 19th-century Russian axe-murderer whose tremendous self-loathing makes Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime And Punishment unbearable yet unputdownable.  A kindred masterpiece is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  So much pain is endured by almost everyone in it, its no surprise Shelley was forever traumatised by her mother’s death shortly after her birth.  And then there is Kafka's The Trial, whose hero was right all along: everyone is out to get you.

The Trial cover

1. The Trial

Franz Kafka
All Quiet on the Western Front cover

2. All Quiet on the Western Front

Erich Maria Remarque
Crime and Punishment cover

3. Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Frankenstein

5. Frankenstein

Mary Shelley

List created by

Allan Burnett
Allan Burnett

Allan Burnett is an author, historian and performer based in Scotland. His books include William Wallance and All That and Invented in Scotland--Scottish Ingenuity and Invention Throughout the Ages. When he's not writing, he can often be found at castles, abbeys and libraries telling tales of historical battles, murders and romance.