Tuesday, April 12, 2011

For the love of big books

I'm currently in the middle of the 850 page epic New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd. So while this post is partly serving as filler until I can write about something I've read, it's also going to be a brief reflection on that beloved genre of novel: the chunkster.

I find that there are few reads more satisfying than when you finish a big 500+ page book that was just incredible and completely sucked you in.

Yet, the chunkster read is a risky one. You may get 250 pages in and realize you don't like the characters or the plot. Or you get bored. Or you don't have the time to commit to it. Or, worst of all, you finish and there's an unsatisfying ending that just makes you say, "THAT'S what I spent so much time to get to???" But finish a worthy chunkster and, oohlala, you just want to dive right into the next—if you can bear to move on beyond these characters you now know so well, that is.

Some BIG BOOKS I've enjoyed:

  • Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann — This main character had some ISSUES, but I somehow got sucked in anyway.
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett — Yes, I know...me and everybody else.
  • When Everything Changed by Gail Collins —Nonfiction and oh-so interesting!
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell — I read this in high school and felt oh-so-freakin-smart carrying this massive book with me everywhere I went.

Some BIG BOOKS that have made me go UGH:

  • The World As I Found It by Bruce Duffy — O.M.G. Let's not get into it about this one again, m'kay?
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel — I didn't really go UGH, but I can't say I really enjoyed it either. It was just meh. 
  • The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami — Umm....WHAT? This inspired me to never read anymore Murakami. Sorry, Murakami fans.

Some BIG BOOKS I'm still waiting to read:

  • Roses by Leila Meacham — Generations of a family in Texas? Sounds like Dynasty! Yes, please!
  • Coming Home by Rosamund Pilcher — I have this in mass paperback format and haven't gotten around to reading it yet, partly because I'm almost too embarrassed to carry it in public. It looks like an awful romance novel, and I have to look cool on my L train commute.
  • Swann's Way by Marcel Proust — Ha, this has been on my list since 10th grade and an episode of Gilmore Girls, so let's just pretend like it won't be another 9 years before I even consider reading it.

Seeing as how this is a genre that ALWAYS perks my ears, what are some of your favorite BIG BOOK reads??


Rachel said...

omg, not swann's way!!! I had to read it in college and I wanted to shoot myself every single time I turned a page. It's awful. Do not waste your time.

Jenny said...

Ooh I look forward to what you think! I think I made it to maybe 300 on that book and never got back to it. I really liked it though, LOL... just got overwhelmed with how much there was.

J.C. Montgomery said...

Two that come immediately to mind are Shogun and Pillars of the Earth. It's because of these two I don't shy way from large books. Although I'm staring at Atlas Shrugged right now and am rethinking that position.

Kari said...

Haha ok, based on that response, it may be time to knock this book off my to-read list. Because let's be honest, I only wanted to read it in the first place because I wanted to be such a smartypants like Rory Gilmore.

Aarti said...

I'm sorry you didn't like Wolf Hall, so maybe you won't like my favorite clunker, which is Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety. I LOVE that book. I am glad to hear you liked When Everything Changed, though, as I have the semi-prequel to that on my bookshelf to read- America's Women. I have been eying it a lot lately without picking it up, so I think its turn may come up soon. I don't know what the definition of a clunker is, really, but there are a lot of massive books that intimidate me, but then I end up enjoying. Now that I have a Kindle, maybe they won't scare me with their weight so much!

Booklineandsinker said...

i've read a few hefty books in my day, including the help and gone with the wind. in high school i was big into stephen king--it was over 1,000 pages but i managed to slog through. now i tend to enjoy chunksters as audiobooks. i love to listen to the same book for a few weeks, especially if i love the narrator. i'm heading out on a road trip tomorrow and have justin cronin's the passage (read by scott brick) at the ready!

Steph said...

I normally am scared of big books but one that I recently read and enjoyed was A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Loved it! And I raced through it in about 4 days, even though it was almost 700 pages.

East of Eden is also a great chunkster, as is All The King's Men (though it is on the slimmer side, I admit!).

softdrink said...

A Discovery of Witches was 700 pages?? I read it on my nook, so I didn't realize. Plus, it's a page turner (screen flipper?).

And I was going to say East of Eden, too. It's the first one that came to mind. And the Woman in White was a pretty decent read.

I'm very happy to see no one has mentioned Moby Dick or The Brothers Karamazov!

Kari said...

I've been thinking about reading Gail Collins' first book, but I think I should've read them in order!

Heavenisabookstore said...

Does the Discovery of Witches count as a big book? I really enjoyed that one and the fact that it wasn't a quick and easy read. I thought the Help was hilarious and sad all at the same time. Great post!!

Kari said...

Oooh I love East of Eden! That's another one on my 'good chunkster' list...had forgotten about that! I haven't read Grapes of Wrath though.

Why isn't Ulysses on your list?????

Kari said...

You and Steph both mentioned this Discovery of Witches book, and I've never even heard of it! May have to check it out now...