Whenever you look through a list of 'top 100 books of all time' they are always challenging literary books. Now although i am not arguing with their artistic merit i was wondering if anyone thought that its more of a matter of 'lifes too short' and that you should read books that you enjoy rather than books that are 'good for you'.
(Note. I know that you can enjoy challenging books, but i'm asking if you should plug away reading books that are not much fun but seen as great. e.g. Ulysses)
Depends what the intention of your reading is. If you're reading just as a means of escape, for fun, or for light relief, then yes you should probably read easier, fun books.
Personally I like more than just the plot in a story, though. It fascinates me to look at the language an author uses and how they manipulate it for their means, to look at the depth of the world they have created and explore the sources of it, the reasons why certain things have been written. Seeing how 'the greats' do this puts a smile on my face just as much as books like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy made me laugh.
I like to read semi-challenging books because when I finish them I feel like i've conquered something. Also, challenging books often have more cultural relevance or information of value contained within them. I love to learn about certain topics and though I may find a book on a topic hard to read, I will at least try to get through it. Ofc, I need my trashy novels on occasion too!
I agree with you to an extent, there is no point in starting at the beginning of a 'Top 100' list and forcing yourself to read all the books to the end if you don't enjoy any of them. Life is too short for that. However, I think that a lot of people can really enjoy 'challenging' books if they give them a go and persevere. Most of these books are known as great for a reason. A lot of 'great' books take a bit more effort, but I think you get a lot more back. Reading a Dan Brown (no offence to anyone who enjoys these, I can't bear them) is quick entertainment with not a lot of lasting effect, but reading a classic potentially takes a bit more time to get into, but gives more in return. So yes, there is no point forcing yourself to read things you don't like all the time, but a bit of making yourself try things, and sticking with them, can be really worthwhile. I started reading a lot of 'great' books in the last few years, and whilst at first I think I found a lot of them challenging (in very different ways), I have really grown to love literature and the little bit more effort that it took has been so worthwhile. I think enjoying any kind of 'art' takes some effort.
To be honest, the main thing I notice about top 100 lists is that they are mostly full of dystopian future novels or historical novels about poor families. To say that the point of these lists is so that people who have read them all can feel educated about themselves, it seems odd that they lack so much diversity.