Monday, January 12, 2015

The Chunkster Challenge

Currently, I'm in the midst of two Big Fat Books -- how do I manage to get myself into these situations?  It started a couple of weeks ago, when I pulled Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell off my TBR shelf on a whim.  It was a dark and dreary day, and I wanted something that seemed like it would match my mood.  I got sucked into the story right away, but it's not what I'd call a quick read.

I also started listening to The Pickwick Papers on audiobook -- it's 25 discs, more than 32 hours of reading!!  The print copy from the library is about 800 pages of teeny tiny print.  My commute to work is pretty short so I've barely getting started. I'm keeping track of my progress with a print volume, but I've only completed about 120 pages worth so far.

That being said, I thought that was a pretty good excuse to sign up for the Chunkster Challenge.  The rules are extremely flexible -- there is no minimum amount of books required, plus audio is okay.  I think the only requirement is that the book be at least 450 pages.  You don't even have to have a blog!

Just for fun, though, I decided to make a list of some of the Big Fat Books from my TBR shelves I'd like to complete this year.  I've narrowed the list to an even dozen, since I think that's pretty manageable.  Besides my two current reads, I'm also including books that are still on my Classics Club list.

1.  Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (782 pp) .  It's slow, but it's just wonderful.  I'll be sad when it's over.

2.  The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.  (801 pp).  One of the last works by Dickens on my to-read list.  However, I'm kind of underwhelmed by it so far.  I haven't given up though.

3.  No Name by Wilkie Collins. (748 pp).  I can count this as the 19th Century Classic in the Back to the Classics Challenge.

4.  Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell (528 pp).  This can count as the Classic by a Woman Author.

5.  New Grub Street by George Gissing (576 pp).  I read The Odd Women by Gissing a few years ago and really liked it.   I'm trying to expand my knowledge of Victorian writers beyond Dickens and Trollope.

6.  A Dance to the Music of Time (First Movement) by Anthony Powell (718 pp). This one is actually an omnibus of three shorter novels.  Also, the margins are really wide, so I don't think this one will take that long.  Can count it as my 20th Century Classic.

7.  Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson. (556 pp). Another omnibus.  This was one on my TBR Pile Challenge list back in 2013, and I never did get to it.

8.  The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope.  (794 pp).  Volume 3 in the Pallisers series.  Of course, before I read it, I'll have to read:

9.  Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope (752 pp).  Volume 2 of the Pallisers!  I loved Can You Forgive Her? so I'm really looking forward to this one.  Could also count this one for the Name in the Title category.

And to make it an even dozen from the TBR shelves:

10.  All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard (592 pp).  The final volume in the Cazalet series.  I read the first four in 2014 so I'm looking forward to this one, though I'll be so sad when I've finished it.

11.  Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.  I've read so many books set during WWII, I feel like I should read more books set during WWI.  And it's a little shorter, a mere 483 pages.

12.  The Quincunx by Charles Palliser (787 pp).  This one is almost 800 pages of tiny print, and it's another big fat historical novel -- this one's set during Victorian times, so it might be just the thing after I finish Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell --  unless I decide to read a bunch of short books first.

 So tell me, bloggers -- has anyone else signed up for the Chunkster Challenge?  Which big fat books do you want to finish in 2015?  And am I completely insane to read two 800 page books at the same time?


  1. I guess I should not promise anything, but Pickwick should start to whelm at some point. It is perhaps useful to remember that it was not originally meant to be a novel but somehow became a novel as it was being published. It is a great feat of improvisation.

    1. It definitely feels like a bunch of linked short stories so far. I'd heard it really picks up when Sam Weller arrives, so I'm going to be patient.

  2. I am LOVING Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell! The audio is fantastic, and I have it on all the time I'm cooking, cleaning, exercising, etc. For some reason, I don't find it slow at all - perhaps because the narrator is so wonderful! But it IS something like 25 or 26 disks. I'm on disk 11 right now. I imagine it'll take me a month to listen to it all, but I don't mind that one bit! :)

  3. The Pickwick Papers was the first Dickens that I read, and really the first Victorian lit. I had been intimidated by it, partly I think just by the size of the books, & I remember how surprised and pleased I was to find it so readable. Of course I am glad to see Trollope on your list! Lark Rise To Candleford is great fun, and an easy read.

  4. I loved Birdsong. It is amazing. I know the year is early but so far it tops my list. I hope you like it.

  5. I should sign up for this challenge but I'm trying to control myself this year. I have Ulysses in the works and I think I'm going attempt Infinite Jest, but we'll see. I made it about halfway through The Pickwick Papers, but got distracted. I hope to pick it up again soon. Good luck with your journey through it!

  6. Good luck! I did it last year, but really cut back on my challenges for 2015. I'm currently reading a chunkster and don't think I could handle more than one at a time, but one on audio does seem more manageable :)

  7. A couple of weeks ago I found four of the Pallisers books in lovely OUP hardcopies in a second hand book shop…so I bought them and then went on line to buy the missing two in the same editions. They look so pretty on my shelves. I want to finish the Barchester Chronicles before I start them however. I will be reading (hopefully) Frameley Parsonage for the Back to the Classics 2015 Challenge (19th century category) so then after that, only two more to go.
    I loved Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell too and as I just commented on Thomas on my Porch’s blog, I finished A Dance to the Music of Time last year and really enjoyed it. I also read Birdsong last year…I didn’t love it, so I will be interested in hearing your opinion on it.
    I also have the Quincunx on my shelves, but haven’t tackled it yet. But it sounds good!

  8. Those are a lot of big fat books. I like chunksters myself because I like really getting into a fictional world and spending time there and getting comfortable with the inhabitants. I love Pickwick--I listened to it in winter 2013/14 and loved it. Enjoy!!! One of the Goodreads groups I belong to is group reading New Grub Street, and I wanted to join in but can't find the time right now. I'm also trying to explore other Victorians besides the giants. I never did finish Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell --wasn't the right book at the right time for me, I think.

    Enjoy the challenge and happy reading!

  9. Yayyyyy to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell! I'm pleased you're enjoying it -- it's one of my all-time favorite books, and I reread it surprisingly often considering how long it is. Are you excited for the BBC miniseries? I AM.

  10. I had not heard of the Chunkster Challenge. I do read many thick books. Your list is intriguing; I would like to read the Anthony Trollope series you mention.

  11. I enjoyed a combo listen/read with Jonathan Strange. Isn't there a movie coming out! I haven't quite recovered from a Chunkster Read since the 1970's when I read the entire Forsyte Saga!
    I have only two big books which I must read. The first is The City of Trembling Leaves by Walter VanTilburg Clark (since I live in Reno, NV) and the second is The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Read, which my mil used to say was the best book she ever read!!! She actually bought five used editions so each of my children could have their own. One of my dtrs. started it but felt it was more a "book of boring" but sometimes those are the best!

  12. Wow, those are some big books! I always like reading how you describe and try to read less well-known classics, I learn a lot from that (and wish very hard I had more time to actually read some of those...)


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