Long books for a long weekend

As we head off into our final, glorious Summer Friday (sniff), I’ve got some grand plans to read my little heart out this weekend.  I’m hoping some lovely weather will mean reading somewhere outdoors and catching up on a tiny bit of work reading.  Mostly I’m looking forward to sinking into one or more of the many books teetering on the end of a table in my living room, calling out to me to read for pure, unadulterated pleasure.

None of those books are especially hefty tomes, though occasionally those taunt me from my shelves—the books I bought to prove to myself I don’t have the attention span of a gnat but am too scared to crack open, because I don’t want to be wrong.  Now Flavorwire sees fit to join in the finger pointing with this list of 10 books that they actually dare me to finish.  (What did I ever do to you, Flavorwire?)  Of them, War and Peace, A Suitable Boy, Cryptonomicon, and Infinite Jest are already on my To Tackle list—and have been since at least college.

What about you guys?  What’s the longest book you’ve ever actually finished?  I’m going to say it must be The Stand for me.  Back before I became an English major and then publishing professional, I used to feel a tremendous need to finish anything I started.  In publishing, that’s a virtual impossibility, but as a teenager I opened The Stand, never really liked it that much, and refused to stop reading till everyone had slowly plodded their way to their inevitable doom.  I actually think I probably could have walked to Vegas myself in the time it took me to get to the end of the book, but I made it.  And I’m still a little scarred from it.  I’ve never really been able to become a Stephen King fan after that.  I probably should’ve started elsewhere.

Are there any books you’re putting off because their heft is too daunting, waiting for some magical fictional future in which you’ll have endless time and patience?  Maybe this long weekend is the perfect time to give it a go.

And is there anything on this list you’ve read that’s worth struggling through?

Enjoy your weekends, and I hope you have some fun planned to see the summer off properly!  Me, I ‘m heading to the most exciting museum exhibit of all time at the Museum of the Moving Image, since I am an avowed Jim Henson Super Fan.  You’ve been warned, Astoria!

15 Responses to Long books for a long weekend

  1. Will Overby says:

    I think I was most proud of finishing Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. In the fifteen years since I read it, I have caught a couple of movie versions (never seen the musical), but none of them quite captured the epic quality of the novel. The thing that haunts me from that book are two small orphaned boys (very minor characters) who show up pitifully for a few pages and then vanish from the story; I still want to know what ultimately became of them.

  2. D. A. Hosek says:

    Hmm, does In Search of Lost Time count as one book? If not, I’d say it was Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. The first 500 pages were kind of slow, but it picked up in the second 500 and by the last 500 I couldn’t put it down.

  3. Leslie Streeter says:

    Richard Wright’s “Native Son” was more than 500 pages, and although there are longer books, there are very few that disturbed me as much, that demanded my attention and my heart for that long. I read it as a high school junior in Baltimore, and then again in an African-American Studies class in college. I was amazed by how many of my classmates hadn’t heard of it. But once they read it, there wasn’t anyone who wasn’t moved (and since this was during the Rodney King riots, everyone understood that so many of these issues were still very, very real.)

  4. Susan Tyler Hitchcock says:

    I read _Moby-Dick_ over and over because I taught _Moby-Dick_. I love that book — it is poetry in a novel — but I would never have finished it if I didn’t have to teach it to others. Works better than being assigned it as a student. (Which is the way I read the other extraordinarily long novel I read, _Ulysses_.)

  5. DBurks says:

    I am glad to hear you say The Stand was boring and long. I still do not understand why it has so many fans. Like the books Flavorwire mentions I can not see why their editors let them get away with it. If some one sent you a query about The Stand would you give it more than thirty seconds attention?
    The very best long books I have read belong to Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I do not know how he managed to get them published, but they reward the long hard slog to finish them.
    Just as Solzhenitsyn is required to understand 20th century Russia so Tolstoy is required to understand 19th century Russia. War and Peace is definitely worth reading, but do it slowly so you have time to reflect on the very complex characters and their very peculiar society. For something lighter there is Dostoyevski. I am reasonably sure I spell Russian names differently every time I write them; Tolstoy is the only one I can be sure of getting correct.

    • Lauren says:

      I probably would actually be intrigued by a query for THE STAND, but I seriously doubt I’d make it to the end of the manuscript considering it took me many months to finish the book–months in which I stared angrily at it on my bedside table for weeks at a time, unwilling to open it.

      Solzhenitsyn is where we differ, I’m afraid. If I could have back the 37 years it feels I spent reading about building a brick wall in ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH, I’d be very happy. I know it’s a classic and plenty of people love that book, but it is very much not my cup of tea. Like THE STAND, I’ve been holding a grudge against Solzhenitsyn’s other works since.

    • Amelia says:

      You’ve really captured all the esseinatls in this subject area, haven’t you?

  6. Robin Weeks says:

    I’ve read Gone with the Wind–but didn’t realize it was that long! Wow.

    More recently, I’ve read Brandon Sanderson’s 1001-word tome The Way of Kings. Excellent book.

    I keep thinking I should read War and Peace, just so I can say I did… but then I’m not all that interested.

  7. Suma says:

    Happy Reading!

    Atlas Shrugged – was the longest I’ve read while in school. It was quite intense.


  8. Clix says:

    Does Lord of the Rings count? I know it was published in three volumes, but IIRC Tolkien is on record saying it’s one book.

    If I can’t pick that one, then it’s probably either The Name of the Wind or The Wise Man’s Fear. I think the second one was longer than the first, but they’re both pretty hefty.

    When I was younger, I really enjoyed my dad’s copy of James Michener’s (sp?) Centennial. I think that was the first book I liked that I thought of as “really long.” And I KNEW it was really long because we had it in paperback, and the spine was kind of curved because there were soooo many pages!

  9. Hillsy says:

    I have the opposite problem. I struggle to be interested by shorter books; most of what I own is 500+ pages (Someone mentioned Way of Kings, the other 4 books of Sanderson’s I’ve read 4 others and he is really brilliant). Makes me crease up when you hear people describe a 100K word book as being “epic” fantasy.

    Longest I’ve ever read will be one of Peter F Hamilton’s, or the Stand. Technically, Hamilton’s Nights Dawn Trilogy is 3 400K volumes of the same book, so I guess it could be counted as a 1.2m word novel. Though I guess if you take that attitude then the Wheel of time series is up around 4m with one book to go. All utterly, utterly brilliant (save crossroads of twilight which even Robert jordan admitted was a mistake).

    I think there’s a stigma attached to lengthy books; people instantly think they must be 50% garbage. Not so: what the author is often trying to achieve is a level of immersion you just won’t get elsewhere – the problem is when it goes wrong it manifests in word count which are not necessarily poorly written.

    • Lauren says:

      I think some genres lend themselves to great length, chiefly those that require intricate world building, so it makes a lot of sense that a fan of high fantasy would prefer very long books. I tend to tire of world building quickly, and the inner lives of characters and ornate sentences (my favorite aspects of literature) tend not to be best expressed at tremendous length. It can be done, of course, but it’s usually ill advised.

  10. christi says:

    I would say Mists of Avalon. The copy I own has 876 pages. It was my favorite book for years, and I read it again and again. Granted, I rarely re-read the last several chapters since they kind of drag on and aren’t as exciting as the rest of it.

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