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We've got your back. With the Tough-O-Meter, you'll know whether to bring extra layers or Swiss army knives as you summit the literary mountain. (10 = Toughest)

(6) Tree Line

This book is, as the English say, chock-a-block with literary and historical references. While you can read and enjoy Caged Bird without understanding its wide-ranging allusions, you should probably get a double Ph.D. in English lit and history before you sit down with it.

Just kidding. (Whew.)

Even if you do have that double Ph.D., there's one particularly tough aspect of this novel that can't be conquered by book smarts: it's filled with graphic depictions of child sexual abuse and rape, along with other scenes of children engaging in sexual activity. This can be tough to stomach, to say the least.

But even with these difficulties, Angelou gives us a moving and entertaining story that's well worth the challenge.

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